Yellowstone Hike - Day Two: MR. BUBBLE!

DAY TWELVE – Saturday July 21

Wes and I woke, and Jenn slept in a little. Wes took a bath in the river, which I thought was too cold. The mosquitoes were out in force that morning, and they were driving us nuts. We heard some guys walking by and went to chat with them. We asked them if they were on their way out today, and when they affirmed they were, Wes asked them if they had any bug repellent they could spare. One guy gave us his small-but-half-full bottle of Repel 100, which has 95% deet. Woo! THAT helped, but we still tried to ration it. (For perspective, the typical "Off!" brand you might buy for about $5 has between 10-25% deet. A small bottle Repel 100 costs about $10. ) We were going to offer to buy it from them, but he just gave it to us. We resolved to keep asking anyone else we ran into, but no one else had any. It ended up being a non-issue anyway. We kept rationing, just in case, but we had plenty.

A word on mosquitoes, and this thought inspired by comments made by my Uncle Ken and Aunt Teri (Jenn's parents) when I visited them later on in the trip. When we get to Heaven, I gotta ask Noah why he didn't kick them out of the ark. I'll bet you all my money they didn't buzz HIS ears! I thought I would ask why he let them on in the first place, but he'd probably wink and say, "And disobey God?" Checkmate.

We decided not to go into the effort of making breakfast. We liked the campsite, but the bugs were a major annoyance even with the repellent and we wanted to get moving. We broke down camp, ate some Cliff Bars, and got moving.

Thankfully, we had only 4.7 miles to go today to the next night's campsite, but we'd be adding the 5 mile roundtrip to Mr. Bubble on top of that. We planned to take lots of breaks.

One came early as we arrived at Colonnade Falls, a beautiful double waterfall, so named for the shape of the rocks the water has cut on either side of the main falls.

Here's a bunch of pics for perspective:

Love that blue tint of the water.

Obviously, no one was holding the camera for this following picture. We tried several ways to set the camera down on a rock or log and couldn't get the right angle. We stacked some rocks up, but they were still too low. So I improvised with a stick, using the rocks as a base, my hat for surface area, and made a monopod.

Yellowstone MacGyver, that's what they call me.

I picked a small flower while at Colonnade Falls, and put it in the back of my hat. I asked Jenn, "Do I look pretty?" But she hadn't heard. So later, when she discovered the flower and took a picture of it, she told me that it was actually illegal, and that if a ranger saw me, I could get cited. So I set it down. Awwwwww, man!

Documentation of my crime.

Up the river a little ways is the Cascades, a short run of rapids that leads down to Colonnade Falls.

Then we came to another waterfall, which I dubbed Spray Falls, because there were wind pockets swirling around the bluff across from it, which brought lots of the water spray up there. For such a hot day, it was very refreshing.

Wes and I getting sprayed. Despite the look on my face in the moment frozen by the camera, it was great.

Here's a bunch of that waterfall, each a different shot closing in on the rainbow it created.

The mighty travelers.

A bit later we forded a river, and based on the map I had, I knew we would have to ford another one before we got to our next camp. When that next ford came up, it proved to be a challenge.

It doesn't look like much, huh?

Well, we should have gone straight across, but off to the right (just out of camera shot) there was a sloping bank that seemed easier to get up and out. So Wes started off that way, warning us that the water was extremely cold. I don't do well in cold. I'm the guy who inches his way into cold water at the beach, letting each new area of skin get acclimated to the temperature until I get all the way in. I've always preferred that to the complete system shock of diving in. So when I entered this water, it was shockingly cold. I let it get to my calves, then my knees, slowly, but as I worked my way forward, I began to feel how really very cold it was, and as I stood there for a moment to let my legs get used to it, I could feel my muscles numb. I realized that if I didn't just GO and power through it, I would have significant trouble continuing to move at all. My legs felt like they wanted to shut down, so I just started sloshing my way across after Wes.

Wes, however, had gotten up to his waist, and was stuck, because under the surface there was a huge flat rock blocking his path, and it was very slippery, so he couldn't step up on it or on the rocks around it. The current was moving fast enough here that losing one's balance would be bad. You wouldn't drown or get very far downstream, but you would travel a little with the flow.

Wes being sorta stuck in front of me allowed me to weave my way around him and find an easier way, so when I got to the bank, I was able to help direct he and Jenn. And I'm not blaming Wes for the steps he took. That's just the way it worked out. Did I mention the water was cold? Of course we learned that the orange signs on the trees were there to mark the path. Duly noted. We did, after all, have to ford this bad boy again on the way out. I wasn't looking forward to that.

Lessons learned by experience. Did I mention it was cold? Just checking.

We'd walked just over 3 miles to that ford, and had another 1.7 or so to go until our campsite. When we got there, we took an extended break, checked out the area, and ate some lunch.

Jenn puts her feet up.

We decided to eat some pre-packaged tuna for lunch (Starkist Tuna Creations). This stuff has been vacuum sealed in foil packs and flavored. I was a little hesitant because it was warm from being in Wes' pack all day, so I suggested submerging it in the river for a while. I tied the packages to a tree, put a rock on top of them, and let the river cool them for about 10-15 minutes while we busied ourselves with setting up tents. When we got too hungry to wait any loner, we pulled the now slightly chilled tuna and opened the packages. It was deeee-licious.

After some splashing around and exploring the river near camp (which was dramatically warmer than the previous ford), we decided to seek out Mr. Bubble. Which meant more walking. Yay. Actually, I was pretty refreshed by the tuna and the river, so it wasn't really an issue. Word was that Mr. Bubble was just over 2 miles away. What was an issue was something I have forgotten to mention. I was breaking in a new pair of hiking boots, and was blessed in that I only had one blister so far, on the pinky toe of my right foot. But over the 12 miles we'd hiked so far, it had become pretty large and rather painful, the shoe pinching it in just the right place. I couldn't complain too much, because Wes was dealing with 2 or three huge ones that were wide open and raw. So I tried to keep my grumbling about it to a minimum, but I still suspect I mentioned it too often.

During the course of the day, it had popped itself, so before we headed to Mr. Bubble, I wrapped it up. After taking only a few steps, I knew I'd never make 5 miles to Mr. Bubble and back on it. I loosened the wrapping, and decided to give it a try.

We walked up the trail, and began to see the evidences of nearing the hot springs area, with steam arising out of the river and small discolored streams leading into various sized pools of sulfurous orange and white hues. There was beauty in the ugliness of them.

A stream feeds a pool. Ah, earth tones.

This pool showed how the heat of the springs below basically peeled up the layers of the pool floor, creating some weird looking shapes. It was like a hot springs Rorschach test.

Just like Mexico, don't drink the water.

We came upon the sign where the trails meet, and gave us some perspective about how far we'd come in the last two days.

Old Faithful anyone? No thanks.

It was at this point the trail diverged another way, into a valley populated by hot springs. And I mean Hot springs. The temperature outside was easily in the high 80s, maybe hotter. Now we were walking on a path surrounded by steaming ponds emanating heat waves that you could pass through like intangible walls.

Hey, Wes, step in and see if it's hot.

One of the larger pools.

On the path, I almost stepped on this butterfly. He was kind enough to flap his wings a few times so I got a few pics of him. Sadly, this slightly blurry one was the best. (Then again, it could be a moth; what do I know from butterflies?)

Speaking of insects that were originally another type of bug, we next discovered this gorgeous caterpillar.

Are you thinking Heimlich from "A Bug's Life," too?


In fact, there were two, and this was the smaller one. The other one was on a leaf, and while I took pictures of him, Jenn took pics of the smaller one. Both bugs were brilliant.

Jennifer said, "Do you know what your mom called caterpillars?" (For those who don't know, I lost my mom to suicide when I was 9, and my knowledge of trivia like this is practically non-existent.) So when I answered, "No, what?" she said, "Petapillas." I loved learning that. It was a neat little connection to my mom that I hadn't known.

Strange that I'm typing this today, August 15, the anniversary of the day my mother chose to leave this world. I surely didn't plan to delay these blogs until now, but there it is.

Jenn said her mom (my Aunt Teri) told her that. Jenn's dad, my Uncle Ken, is my mom's brother. My side of the family was distant from theirs after my mom died (I'll get into that in a future blog when the trip takes me to Colorado), so now it's a blessing to be reconnected with them; and for us to share the same faith.

The rest of the trip, whenever we passed by flowers like this, I looked for petapillas. And jokingly said how gypped I was that we didn't see more.

Finally, we saw a lot of steam coming up from around a bend, and wondered if it was the not-so-famous Mr. Bubble making it. What we found was just amazing, a hot spring feature of such rich natural colors, it was really astounding to behold in person. At first, we thought it was Mr. Bubble, but we realized that it much be putting out 200 degree heat (at least) and there's no way one could sit in that, as we had heard one could do in Mr. Bubble. We snapped a bunch of pics, and I later dubbed it Grandpa Bubble.

With Wes in the foreground, for size perspective...of Grandpa Bubble, we know how big Wes is.

I was very tired by this point, but Jenn and Wes were determined to find Mr. Bubble, so I sat in the still-hot shade while they walked up the trail a bit further to see if Mr. Bubble existed. I also took a moment to catch a video of Grandpa Bubble in action.

I marvel at the coloring of the rusty orange, vibrant green, and snow white mixture. It's both an ugly mash and so cool because it's natural. And is it just me, or does the coloring of this thing remind anyone else of the Horta from Star Trek?

Jenn and Wes returned to say they had found Mr. Bubble! It was about a quarter mile away, so we walked over to it. And there he was.

It may not look like much there, but it was kinda neat. A nice little pool right next to the river, like a hot tub next to a pool, with a big bubble, well, bubbling non-stop in the middle. Wes and Jenn prepared to get in, but I didn't see the fascination. It was very hot outside, why get into hot water? I waded into the cool river and splashed around a bit, and then took some pics of them communing with Mr. Bubble.

Wondering if they should try to get closer.

I guess that's a Yes.

I had no desire to get in there, so I stood on the edge of the pool. What was really neat (and very strange to feel) was the alternating temperatures of the currents. Because the pool was fed by both the cool river and this hot stream next to it...

...made for sudden temperature changes. One moment you were standing in very cool water, and the next an underwater wave of heat would travel by you for a few seconds. And I'm talking heat; this water had to be 110 degrees, just like a Jacuzzi. Then cold water would come back and suddenly hot again. It was wacky.

Here's two satellite shots:

When we were done, we hiked back to camp and made dinner. It was getting dark, and I was done. Jenn and Wes talked about wanting to wake very early and hike back up to Mr. Bubble in the morning. They were going to set their alarm for 4:30am. I said I was going to sleep in. We were still undecided about going the full 12 miles out the next day, or going back to our final campsite (Jenn had reserved 3 nights just in case) which was back at the section of the river we dubbed the watering hole. As before, they were in favor of going all the way out, I was not (I'd done 7 miles Friday, then 9.7 on Saturday...I didn't think I'd be able to do 12 on Sunday). We again decided to table the decision until we got back to the watering hole, and then decide from there.

Darkness surrounded us, and Jenn and Wes talked as I fell asleep.