There are some places in this world where it is impossible to NOT take a gorgeous photograph. Yellowstone may well top the list of these places. There's so much going on, the wildlife, the unusual landscape, the varied terrain. It helps a little if you know something about your equipment, and if you're shooting at an interesting time of the day or year.
Our first planned stop of the day was the Artist Paint Pots. Since our time was so limited we were forced to a certain extent to stay close to the road, but we planned our more "touristy" stops early if we could to avoid the crowds.
The NPS website has this to say about the Paint Pots:
"Artist Paint Pots is a small but lovely thermal area just south of Norris Junction. A one-mile round trip trail takes visitors to colorful hot springs, two large mudpots, and through a section of forest burned in 1988"
I just learned that the area was closed in 2008 when a woman fell through thin crust at the edge of a trail into a previously unknown thermal area and received burns on her ankle and leg. Yikes!
Anyway, we arrived in the area around 8 am (another wonderful thing about digital photography, every file is time and date stamped!) It was early enough and still cool enough that the steam rising from the vents was clearly visible, and as a bonus, backlit by the sun along parts of the trail. I can't get enough of these skeletal trees!
The trail climbs up towards Paintpot Hill and allows for an awesome view of the fissures below. Oh all the colors and textures! I believe the peaks in the background are are Mount Holmes and Trilobite Point.
Life in an area like this is tenuous at best. Animals like bison are known to sometimes fall through thin soils into these thermal features, especially in winter when they're trying warm themselves. Plant life doesn't fair much better, sometimes becoming overwhelmed by advancing mud and waters. The Parks Service tested the water the woman mentioned above fell into and it had the acidity of vinegar. Not too much will grow in that!
I can't get enough of the views of the area. Looks like the end of the world.
This muddy vent looks a little dried up.
So here I imagine is where the place gets its name. I was fascinated by the blorping and belching of these muddy bubbles. The smell was a bit offensive, very sulfury. I felt like I was staring into the lab of some giant mad scientist.
Oh the scenery here! I could have spent days in this place, so unusual and otherworldly. The trees and grass and lichen growing so daringly close to these vents, tempting fate.
Unfortunately we were on a schedule, and only stayed here for about an hour. I would love to see this place in winter, or on a chilly, frosty fall morning.
One last shot.
Next: an elk up close, and the search for moose continues.