No, it's not the title of my new fantasy novel. They're the three hikes I did in two days which combined with the long hike earlier in the week may have ended my hiking season.
I just love the way the light seemed to make these flowers glow. I'm not positive I remember where I found them but I believe it was at a bathroom break on the way to Fairy Falls.
I always feel like I'm taking a risk when I try putting a name to something (and I care about the beauty a lot more than the name anyway) but I believe these are fringed gentians, the official flower of Yellowstone.
Both of these waterfall hikes start near geothermal features. The Fairy Falls trail passes by Midway Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring.
Other than that, most of the hike itself is fairly dull, traveling on an old road and then through a regrowth area burned in 1988.
But here's what waits at the end.
If you click on that photo you'll see a guy in the middle bottom of the photo to give you an idea of scale. Or you could just wait until I tell you that the water falls 197 feet.
Here's a look at the bottom portion. The water splits into so many streams that it barely makes a ripple in the pool at the bottom.
These were growing nearby.
We took a shortcut through Biscuit Basin to get to the trail to Mystic Falls. I've probably posted photos of these before, but in case you weren't paying attention:
Sapphire Pool is one of the most beautiful, deep in both color and depth, but it's not easy to get a good photo because of the steam. This is the best I managed this time.
We took the long way around to Mystic Falls, doing a climb which at the top has a view of the Old Faithful area in the distance. The trail brought us out close to the top of the 70 foot falls. I think I would have appreciated it more if we'd taken the trail along the river in the next photo and had a long approach to and view of the waterfall.
It was hard not to appreciate this nearby yellow columbine, even if I didn't get a very sharp photo.
The next day I climbed Elephant Back with a Yellowstone Association guide. They offer many natural history programs in the park, including some free ones to employees like me.
The first part of the hike is through predominantly lodgepole pine forest like this. I've encountered more hikers with bear bells in the past few days than I did all last year.
These trees have very shallow root systems and blow over easily in the wind. Based on the number of sawn trees, someone spends quite a bit of time keeping the trail clear.
The upper part of the trail is a series of sharp steep switchbacks with fewer trees to stop your fall as someone found out when he dropped his wife's camera. As usual, no photos from that section as I was just watching my feet and the loose gravel on the trail.
There's a view in one direction when you reach the top--fortunately it's in the direction of the lake. The big yellow building in the second photo is the Lake Yellowstone Hotel--a fancy, popular, and expensive place to stay.
There weren't many flowers on this hike, but I did spot this little beauty on the way out--the fairy slipper or calypso orchid.
On the way back from town with a coworker Friday evening, we found many cactus flowers in bloom near the Rescue Creek trail. I didn't have my camera then so I took a short walk this morning to try to find some closer. I found many other flowers but no cactus so was planning to try another direction in a couple days.
Now I'm not sure I'll be making that hike or any others any time soon because this afternoon I discovered the sole of my plantar fasciitis foot very swollen and tight. Oh well, I've fallen behind on my reading anyway.
The Hood, the Had, and the Fugly
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