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Ring or Circle of Fire Tour

A Way to See The Best Features of Yellowstone Without Driving or Getting Lost


View Summer, 9-11-2001 - and then the 2nd time down the ICW & 2010 Yellowstone and Hawaii & Bermuda on greatgrandmaR's travel map.

There is an area of the world called the Ring of Fire. It is a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

This Circle of Fire Tour is a tour run by Xanterra who also run the hotels at the parks. It is not run by the NPS. This is a full day tour, and travels along the lower portion of Yellowstone's figure eight road system.
Map of the Circuit

Map of the Circuit


The major sights include the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, and Norris Geyser Basin. It did not include the Mammoth Hot Springs area

Friday, 11 June 2010

Remember I had ordered box lunches for the next day because the tour was scheduled to leave at 8:15 and get back about 5. J. was in the shower when the wake-up call came at 6:30. He said was alternately freezing and scalding. He didn't see the bathmat (which was on a towel rack) so he used a towel.

This time when we went down to get our lunches and breakfast, I went down the steps one level and went across the breezeway and over to the balcony that was on the main lounge so I could look down. We got to breakfast about 7 and there was no sign of the box lunches.
Lobby Old Faithful Inn

Lobby Old Faithful Inn


We had the buffet breakfast which is served from 6:30 am till 10:30 am. - J ate more than I did, but he was listed as a child for $5.95 whereas I was charged $11.50 as an adult.
Taking a picture of his breakfast

Taking a picture of his breakfast


He had bacon, sausage, potatoes and eggs, and I had bacon, oatmeal with raisins and some fruit.
My $11.50 breakfast

My $11.50 breakfast


We did eventually get our lunches which had a sandwich, a drink, chips (mine didn't have the chips), a box of raisins, and a cookie.
Clock on the fireplace

Clock on the fireplace


We waited in the designated area of the lobby, watching the comings and goings of the various tour groups. There was a little clockwork sculpture that sat in the lobby and seemed to have no function (it wasn't a clock).
Moving sculpture in the lobby

Moving sculpture in the lobby


The round thing at the top rotates back and forth. Just an interesting clockwork type thing. I had made a dinner reservation but the earliest I could get was 8:45. I heard a lady say she had canceled her 7:30 reservation, so I went and switched mine to 7:30.

J was taking photos with his phone and trying to send them, but the signal was so bad that he just ran his phone down - a phone that normally lasted a week, had to be charged every night. He also does not have a watch and uses his phone as a time piece. I remember when we were here in 1948 that my dad got a list of the geysers and possible times of eruption - this time there was only this clock at the front desk and it did not seem to be very accurate.
Old Faithful Geyser schedule at the front desk

Old Faithful Geyser schedule at the front desk


We sat there until our guide came and he said he needed our ticket. When we checked in, nothing was said about a ticket, so I had to go over to the desk and get one. Meanwhile, J went out to take more photos of Old Faithful.
Old Faithful

Old Faithful


Since I was so long getting the tickets, I did not get a front seat in the bus to take photos. We sat on the left side of the bus. As we drove out, I saw that my trunk lid was wide open on my rental car. I do not know why. I knew it was the right car because the ranger at the entrance had given us a hang tag warning not to get too near to bison, and I could see that hanging there. There was nothing IN the trunk, and I couldn't do anything but hope that someone would close it if it rained. It was closed when we got back. If I did not have a photo of it open, I would think that I had imagined it.
Open Trunk of my rental car

Open Trunk of my rental car


On the way to pick up some more people for the tour, we went by Kepler Cascades again and this time I got out to take some pictures.
61650685806561-Cascades_sig..ional_Park.jpg Kepler Cascades

Kepler Cascades

Pennies that people have thrown on rock

Pennies that people have thrown on rock


They were named for a 12 year old son of Wyoming's Territorial governor, and they were a favorite stop on early tours of Yellowstone.
River downstream from cascades

River downstream from cascades


There was a man with a bad leg sitting behind the driver so he could stick his leg out into the aisle, and I asked if I could sit next to him and that way I could sometimes get shots out of the front window.
My view from behind the driver

My view from behind the driver


Later I moved over to an empty seat on the right side of the bus - everything interesting seemed to be on the right.
Shoshone Lake

Shoshone Lake


After the Kepler Cascades, we picked up the people from Grant.
Grant Lodge

Grant Lodge


At Grant the visitor's center has information on Fire in Yellowstone. I went in to look at the gift shop but didn't buy anything.
444555915808407-Entrance_to_..ional_Park.jpgEntrance and Small gift shop inside

Entrance and Small gift shop inside


Bus waiting for people at Grant

Bus waiting for people at Grant


Then we went back to West Thumb to go over toward Yellowstone Lake. We didn't have time to stop at the West Thumb thermal area and J and I didn't get back to it, but that was one of the few ones that we missed.

The driver guide told us that there were three main kinds of trees (all conifers because it is the taiga biome). The most common is the Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). The other two are Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) but they are in the minority. These are darker denser looking trees
3d8a24e0-c22a-11ea-b700-7b590612ffae.JPGLodgepole pine and Spruce (Spruce is the darker tree)

Lodgepole pine and Spruce (Spruce is the darker tree)


and need shade to get started. Lodgepole pine needs sun, and the lower branches die off when the upper ones shade them. So the climax forest of Yellowstone is spruce and fir. There is also some aspen, which has the white bark, but when the elk and deer eat the bark, it grows back darker.

The trees never rot, so they stay standing but dead until something causes them to fall down, and then they just lie there. We could see this from the plane coming in. The guide explained that in this area there were no bacteria to decay the wood. He said that the last big forest fire was 1988 and that the lodgepole pines that make up the majority of the forest had two kinds of cones - one kind is only "activated" by fire. So after a fire, these cones automatically reseed the area.
Road leaving Grant -dead trees not rotted

Road leaving Grant -dead trees not rotted


It was hard to take photos of the trees from the bus although we both tried. I did get a good one of some dead trees where their needles had all turned red. It looked like an autumn scene on the east coast.
Dying trees - look like fall in the spring

Dying trees - look like fall in the spring


Next we had a stop at the Lake Hotel. It's a completely different architecture than anything else in the park and has a marvelous view.
418444375808553-Another_view..ional_Park.jpgView from the hotel - Mountains between the trees

View from the hotel - Mountains between the trees


The driver/guide explained to us that the road used to follow the lake and the first view of the hotel was as you came out of the trees.
Lake Hotel through the trees

Lake Hotel through the trees


But the traffic was too much for that road, so now the first approach is from the back looking at all the fire escapes, outbuildings, parking lots and garbage bins.
Current entrance to the Lake Hotel

Current entrance to the Lake Hotel

Cabins near the Lake Hotel

Cabins near the Lake Hotel


Although it doesn't look like it, this hotel is actually older than the Old Faithful Inn as it was built in 1891. It's not rustic hotel.
Lake Hotel

Lake Hotel


The original hotel, built for a the Northern Pacific Railroad was a large three-story structure described as 'barracks like' with projecting bays at each end. The architect of the Old Faithful Inn, Robert Reamer, redesigned the hotel in 1903 - adding the ionic columns, extending the roof in three places, and adding the 15 false balconies,
Facade of the Lake Hotel

Facade of the Lake Hotel


which prompted it to be known for several years as the "Lake Colonial Hotel." A number of further changes by 1929, including the addition of the dining room, porte-cochere, and sunroom as well as the refurbishing of the interior. After it was refurbished it was put on the National Register of Historic Places.

At the rest stop here, J. went down and took some photos of the lake
edge of lake

edge of lake


793518875808556-Snow_capped_..ional_Park.jpgLeft his photo - Right my photo of him taking photos from the Lake Hotel

Left his photo - Right my photo of him taking photos from the Lake Hotel


and mountains beyond. Yellowstone Lake is the largest lake at high elevation in North America. It is a natural lake, situated at 7,733 ft. above sea level. It is roughly 20 miles long and 14 miles wide with 141 miles of shoreline. It is frozen nearly half the year. It freezes in late December or early January and thaws in late May or early June.
324689235804911-Bus_at_the_L..ional_Park.jpgBus at the Lake Hotel and License plates

Bus at the Lake Hotel and License plates


There was a large chance of snow or rain later in the day so the guide wanted us to make as many stops as possible, so the next place we went was Mud Volcano and Dragon Mouth Spring. But first we had a bison photo-op-stop.
556755855810011-Unzoomed_sho..ional_Park.jpgUnzoomed and zoomed Bison on the slope

Unzoomed and zoomed Bison on the slope


While over 60 different kinds of mammals live in Yellowstone, most of what we saw were the Bison. We stopped for Bison Photo Ops four different times on the day of the Ring of Fire trip. Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. The two large herds are one of the few herds free of cattle genes.

The bison is the largest land mammal in North America. Males (bulls) weigh up to 2,000 pounds, females (cows) weigh up to 1,000 pounds.A bison can run more than 30 miles per hour and also pivot quickly, so don't count on them being slow and clumsy.
753863135808420-First_stop_g..ional_Park.jpgFirst stop- zoomed shot of bison grazing

First stop- zoomed shot of bison grazing


A bull’s head is wider and shaped more like a triangle than the female bison; its “forehead” fur is much thicker, as is the fur on its forelegs; and its beard is thicker. A bison’s massive hump is comprised of muscles supported by long vertebrae; this allows a bison to use its head as a snowplow in winter, swinging side to side to sweep aside the snow. A cow’s horns are slightly more curved and slender than a bull’s. In addition, a cow’s shoulders are narrower than its hips while a male’s shoulders are broader than its hips.

If you see a calf nursing - it's probably a female :)

932957845808540-Map_of_the_t..ional_Park.jpgDanger sign on the bottom of a map

Danger sign on the bottom of a map


Although most of the time I didn't do a lot of the trails, in this case, I went up to the
Mud Volcano

Mud Volcano


Dragon's Mouth

Dragon's Mouth


because that was a short trail and was reportedly - handicapped accessible..
Steam coming off of hot mud

Steam coming off of hot mud


My grandson did the half-mile upper loop trail
The walkway up to the Upper Loop Trail

The walkway up to the Upper Loop Trail


Mud Pot

Mud Pot

K100_5967.jpgMud volcano trail

Mud volcano trail


via Sour Lake and the Black Dragon's Caldron with the guide.
Fumerole

Fumerole


Also in the area was the Sulphur Caldron which can be viewed from a staging area just north of Mud Volcano. The Sulphur Caldron is among the most acidic springs in the park with a pH of 1.3. Its yellow, turbulent splashing waters also there is a large, active mudpot.

There are several major hazards in Yellowstone. One is the animals,
We did not see any bears

We did not see any bears


one is the hot water in the thermal springs. There are also hazards due to breaking through the thin crust over the hot internal features.
Dangerous Ground

Dangerous Ground


You see those signs everywhere. The National Park Service has the following warning on their website: Scalding Water Can Ruin Your Trip. Yellowstone's thermal features, rare among the earth's wonders, are extremely fragile. Boardwalks and trails protect you and preserve delicate formations. You must stay on boardwalks and designated trails. Scalding water underlies most of the thin, breakable crust.
Sign warning you to Stay On Walk

Sign warning you to Stay On Walk


Pools may be near or above the boiling temperature and can cause severe, possibly even fatal, burns. Keep your children close to you at all times; make sure they understand the danger. Pets are prohibited in thermal areas. Swimming or bathing in thermal pools or streams, where water flows entirely from a thermal spring or pool, is prohibited. Where swimming is allowed, swim at your own risk. Thermal waters may contain organisms know to cause infections and/or amoebic meningitis, which can quickly be fatal.

We got back on the bus
100_4707.JPGRiver meanders

River meanders


Next was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone which J. particularly wanted to see. The bus let us off and walked part way up.
I would have made the donation but the box was empty - there was nothing to buy

I would have made the donation but the box was empty - there was nothing to buy


The Yellowstone Grand Canyon isn't the same as the other bigger one in Arizona, and the part that most people photograph are the falls.. This Grand Canyon is of a size to be a bit more comprehensible for a mere human. The river has eaten away at the rock and eroded its way down to a canyon that can be 900 feet down
Down toward the bottom

Down toward the bottom


and measures a half mile across.
Looking across - probably at Inspiration Point

Looking across - probably at Inspiration Point


It is roughly 20 miles long - carved out by the Yellowstone River - it isn't the result of glaciation.
Red and yellow colors 2010

Red and yellow colors 2010

1948

1948


The red and yellow colors are caused when the schist in the rock is oxidized by the water and air - the canyon is rusting.
Upper Falls in 2010

Upper Falls in 2010

100_5988.jpgUpper falls and Bridge from upper falls

Upper falls and Bridge from upper falls

We did both the Upper Falls and then Artists Point to see the Lower Falls. Yellowstone is full of waterfalls. The Upper Falls and Lower Falls are the ones most people think of when they think waterfalls in Yellowstone. But there are many other falls and cascades in the park many easily accessed from the road, such as Firehole Falls, Gibbon Falls, Kepler Cascades, Lewis Falls, Moose Falls, Rustic Falls, and Undine Falls.

It seems illogical to me that you can't take photos of both falls from the same point. I think my dad tried but did not succeed. Because the canyon bends between the Upper and Lower falls, there is no location on land where they can be seen at the same time. The park service says that the Upper Falls is upstream of the Lower Falls (which makes sense) and is 109 ft. high. It can be seen from the Brink of the Upper Falls Trail and from Uncle Tom's Trail.
Sign showing canyon map

Sign showing canyon map

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone 1948- Lower Falls

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone 1948- Lower Falls

776847075804755-Lower_Falls_..ional_Park.jpgLower Falls

Lower Falls

Lower falls zoomed

Lower falls zoomed


The Lower Falls is 308 ft. high and can be seen from Lookout Point, Red Rock Point, Artist Point, Brink of the Lower Falls Trail, and from various points on the South Rim Trail. The Lower Falls is often described as being more than twice the size of Niagara, although this only refers to its height and not the volume of water flowing over it. The volume of water flowing over the falls can vary from 63,500 gal/sec at peak runoff to 5,000 gal/sec in the fall. My pictures were taken on the south rim near Artists Point.
Bus waiting for us

Bus waiting for us


We stopped for lunch at Canyon Village.
My sandwich

My sandwich


Yellowstone is a huge park and so the Park Service has several different visitor's centers distributed throughout the park. Each one is a little different in orientation so you could go to all of them. At Canyon J had already eaten his lunch so he went through the museum and took photos of the exhibits
Pictures of animals

Pictures of animals

Samples of various kinds of Yellowstone rocks

Samples of various kinds of Yellowstone rocks

Map of Lake Yellowstone - West Thumb at bottom

Map of Lake Yellowstone - West Thumb at bottom

555872975810055-Information_..ional_Park.jpgThree eruptions and the relative volume of each - the little red square is the amount of volume of Mt. St. Helens

Three eruptions and the relative volume of each - the little red square is the amount of volume of Mt. St. Helens


and bought some souvenirs. I ate my lunch in the bus.

We saw a lot more bison in Hayden valley.
100_6033.jpgField of bison

Field of bison

Lying down at second stop- chewing cud

Lying down at second stop- chewing cud


Hayden Valley is a large, sub-alpine valley along the Yellowstone River between Yellowstone Falls and Yellowstone Lake. The valley is well known as one of the best locations to view wildlife in Yellowstone. Mostly what we saw was bison although some people said they saw elk and other animals. The Hayden Valley was once filled by an arm of Yellowstone Lake. and it contains fine-grained lake sediments that are now covered with glacial till left from the most recent glacial retreat 13,000 years ago.
Bison and calf by marshy area

Bison and calf by marshy area


Because the glacial till contains many different grain sizes, including clay and a thin layer of lake sediments, water cannot percolate readily into the ground. This is why the Hayden Valley is marshy and has little encroachment of trees.
100_4751.JPGCyclist - Waiting for the road to open

Cyclist - Waiting for the road to open


Then we went through a construction area which had one way traffic and we could have been held for up to half a hour, but we hit it right and went all the way through.

We stopped at Madison
You are Here

You are Here


and saw the old White buses with the fabric tops.
Canvas top of the bus

Canvas top of the bus

214194095804916-old_style_bu..ional_Park.jpgOld White bus

Old White bus


Their visitor's center also has a Junior Ranger Station. We saw more bison and my grandson has photos of elk.
Third stop - drinking and bathing

Third stop - drinking and bathing

100_6085.jpgELK

ELK

Rushing river

Rushing river

We drove down Firehole Canyon drive
This is a feature on the Firehole River that the driver told us about, but I can't remember what it was called

This is a feature on the Firehole River that the driver told us about, but I can't remember what it was called

100_4759.JPGBank of the Firehole River

Bank of the Firehole River

Gibbon Falls

Gibbon Falls


349fbc00-c22a-11ea-b700-7b590612ffae.JPGNursing calf - last bison stop

Nursing calf - last bison stop

Bison nursing

Bison nursing


and our last stop was Lower Geyser Basin.
Fountain Paint Pot sign

Fountain Paint Pot sign


J. went all around the Fountain Paint Pot trail with the guide
large_100_6129.jpg
Rust colored algae

Rust colored algae

Blue thermal pool

Blue thermal pool

Fountain Paint Pots

Fountain Paint Pots

large_100_6135.jpgMud pot

Mud pot

Dried white mud

Dried white mud

large_100_6138.jpg
and was able to see all four kinds of thermal features - mud pots, hot springs, fumaroles, and steam vents - and of course geysers.
100_4782.JPGMy view of Flats and dead trees

My view of Flats and dead trees


I sat at the beginning of the trail and people watched and bird watched.
Group across the mud flats

Group across the mud flats

Crow walking in the parking lot

Crow walking in the parking lot


Note: I picked this date to go to Yellowstone because it was the beginning of the season with less visitors than in the middle of the summer.
Grandson's picture Old Faithful

Grandson's picture Old Faithful


We got back in time for the people from Grant to see an eruption of Old Faithful before the bus took them back. Our guide did a very good job - and we found out when we got back that we were his first tour. When we got back, the car trunk lid was shut.

J did some more trails around the hotel -

Castle Geyser

Castle Geyser

River bank

River bank

Fountain

Fountain

Hot reflections

Hot reflections

Ring around it

Ring around it

Reflections

Reflections

Hot pool

Hot pool

large_100_6177.jpg
Steaming vent

Steaming vent

Crested Pool

Crested Pool

Deep spring

Deep spring

Bubbler

Bubbler

100_6200.jpgMud balls

Mud balls


Scalloped Spring, and many others, and took a photo of a squirrel leaping up a hill. .
Leaping squirrel

Leaping squirrel


He came back in time for another eruption of Old Faithful.
100_6207.jpgOld Faithful

Old Faithful


When I parked near the East Wing, I tended to go in the side door. If I was in the lobby, I would walk to the stairs near our room and climb one set of stairs and then rest or take some photos and then do the rest of the climb to the third floor instead of making the trek to the elevator. If I was in the room, I would go down one flight and then walk across the breezeway and then go down another flight to the lobby. The lobby is amazing. It is almost impossible to do it justice in a picture.

We went down to dinner before 7:30
Crowd waiting for dinner from the balcony

Crowd waiting for dinner from the balcony

Close-up of the balcony woodwork

Close-up of the balcony woodwork


and they gave us a beeper.
Looking up in the foyer

Looking up in the foyer


Drinking fountain chiseled from rock

Drinking fountain chiseled from rock

Side of the Fireplace

Side of the Fireplace


Dinner is served from 5:00 pm till 10 pm but there are so many people here that the restaurant is just about always crowded and there are people waiting. If you don't make your reservation when you make your room reservation, there probably won't be any places for dinner before 8:30 or 9 pm even in early June when the park isn't completely over-run yet.
c201d160-c251-11ea-b0b6-2f57be4d9a20.jpgFire with Old Faithful silhouetted on fire screen

Fire with Old Faithful silhouetted on fire screen


We ate in the old part of the dining room and it was very atmospheric - i.e. it was so dark I couldn't read the menu.
Dining Room

Dining Room


They gave us three rolls (this is a family joke between my husband and myself - he always wonders which of us gets the third roll). My grandson decided to get the buffet which was probably a good idea and cost effective for him as he was still a child according to their rules. He had prime rib, wings and salad.
Prime rib from the buffet

Prime rib from the buffet


But I wasn't really very hungry and I thought the buffet was too expensive for a not-too-hungry person, so I had the
y100_4844.JPGSpinach salad and Chicken pasta

Spinach salad and Chicken pasta


but I didn't like either of them much.

Afterward we went to the gift shop and my grandson bought some souvenirs
Gift shop at the Old Faithful Inn

Gift shop at the Old Faithful Inn

100_4814.JPGTIny marble mug $3.00 and Mini bobblehead $6.99

TIny marble mug $3.00 and Mini bobblehead $6.99

Key rings with spinners - $6.99 each

Key rings with spinners - $6.99 each

Posted by greatgrandmaR 19:44 Archived in USA Tagged hot_springs falls pine geysers bison taiga mud_pots fumaroles steam_vents

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Comments

Beautiful photos.

by irenevt

Thank you

by greatgrandmaR

Most of the thermal features were taken by my grandson - his initials (JTK) are usually in the corner of them.

by greatgrandmaR

Wonderful tour,Beautiful pictures of your day. Alec

by alectrevor

Yes than you -it was a nice tour - and I had my grandson's photos of the things I didn't get to see.

by greatgrandmaR

Brings back great memories of our own time here. We didn't do the tour as we had a hire car and could drive ourselves to all the places we wanted to see, at our own pace, but it seems very good :) After our one night at OFI we spent two in one of those cabins at the Lake Hotel. It was more comfortable (but dearer) and we loved the restaurant and bar there.

by ToonSarah

The Lake Hotel is very interesting - great views. I had a rental car, but I didn't want to drive. Even though my grandson was very good with maps. If I drive I can't also look. And we got a lot of information from the driver more quickly than if we had to figure it out for ourselves.

by greatgrandmaR

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