Our third day in Yellowstone was a day of short trails but breathtaking vistas. We started with a steep descent down a series of switchbacks to what was quite possibly the most jaw-dropping panorama in the entirety of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This great canyon was carved up to 900 feet deep and half a mile wide by the Yellowstone River, and its walls are colored by the spewing of the surrounding hydrothermal features. All in all, its a ridiculously gorgeous site rivaling even that of the legendary Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Later in the day, after thoroughly exploring the north and south rims, we drove around the park to the west side to view the rest of the Norris Geyser Basin. The remaining section was dubbed the Porcelain Basin and consisted of much more colorful thermal features than the rest of the basin. Living in these thermal features are a host of tiny heat-loving microorganisms called Thermophiles. These are some of the most extreme living conditions on Earth, and scientists study these conditions to better understand similar deposits and the possibility of life on Mars.
Last stop for the day was Mud Volcano Area – a cesspool of churning rank. The sign at the head of the trail reads, “Pungent sulphur smells hint at the seething, muddy hydrothermal wonders you will encounter on this trail”. At times, while walking this short trail, Angela and I were overpowered by sulfuric clouds. What a strange corner of the planet!