We just returned from a trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Norris geysers were spectacular, as always. Some of the geysers are big and showy; others are small but still impressive.
The picture below is of Steamboat Geyser. Gray stone, dappled with red and brown-colored rocks, surrounds the vent.
In 2020, this geyser erupted 48 times. Water shoots 300+ feet into the air, making it the tallest in the world. This year, once again, we just missed its latest eruption. It went off on May 31, 2021, the day we drove to the park from Bend, Oregon.
Here’s an overview of the basin. If you don’t have time to walk the trails, You’ll get great views from this observation area.
Here’s a view from the trail. There are geysers everywhere you look in the Norris Geyser Basin.
I took these photos from the Phil Brogan Viewpoint. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and other peaks in the distance. On this day, clouds covered them in soft shrouds. The visitor center reopened on May 20, a couple days after my visit. It’s a great place to learn more of this area’s volcanic past.
Here are a couple pictures of the volcanic views from a closer angle.
This 1.1 mile trail winds through basalt lava flows surrounding Lava Butte to the viewpoint.
Last week we visited Crack in the Ground in Central Oregon near Christmas Valley. You may be wondering what exactly this place is. Well… it’s a huge crack in the ground in the middle of the desert.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was impressed by the crack’s picturesque angles and curved surfaces.
There’s a 2-mile trail inside that reaches a depth of ~70 feet below the surface. We took the left path that has a more gradual entrance. It’s in the middle of the picture below. This trail is relatively easy but if you go the whole length, expect to climb over boulders and through some cracks.
But how did this crack get here? It’s an ancient volcanic fissure. I learned in most climates, fissures fill up with soil and rock from erosion. Since it’s so dry here, there has been relatively little filling.
Crack in the Ground sits within the Four Craters Lava Bed. During the Pleistocene, four cone volcanoes were active here. A shallow depression formed when older heavier rock sunk. The fissure opened near the edge where there was tension along a fault zone. This Bureau of Land Management map shows the extent of the lava beds and the location of Crack in the Ground.
The 0.4-mile Trail of the Whispering Pines winds its way through the forest near the visitor center. You get great views of pine trees, Lava Butte, and several nearby volcanoes. This path sits on part of Newberry Volcano, a 1,200-square mile shield volcano.
South Sister, pictured on the left above, is the youngest and most geologically active of the Three Sisters volcanoes. The mountain last erupted 2,000 years ago, but a “bulge” began forming in 1997. By 2001, the bulge grew to 9 inches in height and 10 miles in diameter. Its growth since that time has slowed considerably. Both South Sister and Newberry are regularly monitored for volcanic activity.
When I walked around a corner into a gallery at the Baker Heritage Museum a couple years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Wow, what a special moment! As you may know, I like rocks and this is an amazing collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils.
One of the first pieces you see is a 950-pound crystal from Arkansas. I would love to have something like that in my rock garden.
Two sisters in Baker City, Mamie Cavin and Elizabeth Cavin Warfel, collected specimens for 45 years and donated their collections to the museum in 1983. The 18-ton Cavin-Warfel Collection, together with other donations at the museum, is considered to be one of the best collections in the country. In fact, at one time the Smithsonian offered $500,000 to acquire it.
Cabochons and cut pieces of picture jasper cover one wall. Cabochons are gemstones that have been shaped and highly polished, rather than faceted. Billy Wyatt donated this collection.
Colorful specimens of green malachite and blue azurite are in this cabinet. Both are secondary minerals found in copper deposits. Malachite is one of my favorites and I have a few in my collection. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries donated specimens related to mining to the museum.
During the chilly winter months, I sometimes think of the steam-filled landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. I wish I had a natural hot spring in my backyard. The thermal activity beneath Yellowstone is always producing steamy white clouds.
This view is from the Artists’ Paint Pots trail. Lots of contrasting colors and great views of the steaming basin from the top of the trail.
This is a hot spring near Morning Glory Hot Spring, one of my favorite sites in the park. See the ravens enjoying the warm water?
Grand Prismatic has rainbow colors, layered soil, and lots of steam. Did you notice the bison tracks in the foreground?
The bison spend time near the hot springs throughout the year. Here’s a pair grazing near a boardwalk trail.
Today I’m sharing close up photos of marvelous malachite. According to geology.com, malachite is a “green copper carbonate hydroxide mineral.” The site also refers to its striking green color and that’s why I collect it.
This first piece has a rough texture and interesting shape. For scale, it measures 1.5 x 1.0 inches.
The second piece is opposite of the first – rounded shapes and smooth textures. It measures 3.75 x 1.5 inches.
The following images of igneous rocks up close were taken in my yard near Bend, Oregon.
What’s an igneous rock? Geology.com describes them as being “formed from the solidification of molten rock material.” For example, granite, gabbro, basalt, scoria, and obsidian are all types of igneous rock.
You probably notice some of these rocks have round bubble-like holes in them. These “vesicles” form when gas is trapped within the melted rock at the time it cools and turns solid.
On May 18, 1980, a trip to help band golden eagles at the Yakima Canyon in eastern Washington turned into an unexpected Mount St. Helens adventure.
The adventure begins
I was part of the Young Adult Conservation Corps, working for the Washington Department of Game in Olympia, Washington. We spent most of our time in the office, but we took occasional field trips. One of the wildlife biologists invited four of us to help him band eagles and we were excited to get out in the field.
We piled into John’s Volkswagen van and took off for eastern Washington. John suggested stopping at Crab Creek Habitat Management Area, 20 minutes south of Royal City, to do a little birdwatching before driving south to meet the biologist. We stopped and saw yellow-headed blackbirds, cinnamon teal and other kinds of ducks, a short-eared owl, and two Virginia rails with a newly hatched chick.
It’s time once again for fun with photos. Welcome to Photo Bloopers 4! This is what I do with pictures that don’t quite fit in or turned out weird looking. They needed a few words to make them more interesting. Hope they entertain you!
I enjoy visiting Glass Buttes in Central Oregon to collect obsidian. Did you know there are over 24 kinds found there? Here are photos of obsidian up close. The stones are beautiful in color, but also in form.
The water in some of the springs presents to the eye the colors of all the precious gems known to commerce. In one spring the hue is like that of an emerald, in another like that of the turquoise, another has the ultra-marine hue of the sapphire, another has the color of topaz; and the suggestions has been made that the names of these jewels may very properly be given to many of these springs.
Nathaniel Pitt Langford in Diary of the Washburn Expedition to the Yellowstone and Firehole Rivers in the Year 1870.
Grand Prismatic Spring is the crown jewel of hot springs at Yellowstone National Park. The landscape of Grand Prismatic has all the colors of the rainbow. The cracks and tracks add some interesting texture as well. This 370-foot wide spring is the largest in the United States and third largest in the world.