Thursday, May 3, 2012

April 29, 2012. Yellowstone. Part 2 Of 5.

I love this landscape.

There's a fresh dusting of snow on the higher trees.

To reach Yellowstone Plateau from Mammoth Hot Springs, the Corps of Engineers in 1885 built a wooden trestle along the sheer wall of the "Golden Gate"  (named for the light-colored volcanic rock).  The alternative was the direct route through Snow Pass, scene of many carriage breakdowns.

"So steep is the climb that if the tailboard of a wagon falls out... the whole load is promptly dumped out in the road."

The route through Golden Gate saved a half-day's travel up the plateau.  Since 1900, two different concrete trestles have replaced the rickety wooden structure.

I'm partial to waterfalls.

Snow field.

These mountains are part of the Gallatin Range,
which is located in Montana and Wyoming
and includes more than ten mountains over 10,000 feet.
The range was named after Albert Gallatin,
longest-serving US Secretary of the Treasury.
The range extends 75 miles,
and these are the southernmost peaks
in the northwestern section of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

This is Electric Peak,
the highest peak in the range,
at 10,969 feet.

Quadrant Mountain.

This is Sheepeater Cliff, named for the Shoshone Indians 
who lived throughout this mountainous region.
Their use of bighorn sheep earned
them the name " Tukadika" or "Sheepeaters."
The cliff is basalt lava that formed "columnar joints"
when it cooled nearly 500,000 years ago.

More thermal spots.

This is Roaring Mountain, a barren, furrowed, white ridge,
rising 400 feet from the base and containing
a dense pocket of thermal features.
It was named for the numerous fumaroles
(vents or cracks in the ground from which steam escapes)
 on its western slope.
The steam results from ground water
being warmed by heat from the magma
in the Yellowstone Caldera.
The number of steam vents has decreased
since the beginning of the twentieth century.
During the early 1900s, the fumaroles were loud
enough to be heard for several miles.

Roaring Mountain is a living landscape.
Amid its steam and sulfur-rich gases,
microscopic organisms are hard at work.
This barren slope, inhospitable to humans,
is the perfect home for Sulfolobus acidocaldarius.

Sulfo = sulfur-eater
Lobus = round or lobe-shaped
Acido = adapted to living in an acidic place
Caldarius = a hot place, such as a cauldron

Sulfolobus acidocaldarius are very hardy residents
of Roaring Mountain.
They live on hydrogen sulfide gas escaping from below.
They consume the gas, thereby helping to convert it into sulfuric acid.
Billions of these thermophiles live here,
wearing away the mountain.
The acid breaks the mountain's volcanic rock into clay,
accelerating erosion.
Sulfolobus acidocaldarius help shape Roaring Mountain.

Roaring Mountain is formed of rhyolite,
a volcanic rock that is 70-75% silica.
The rhyolite at Roaring Mountain
formed from a volcanic eruption 
that occurred sometime during the
Pinedale Glaciation,
about 30,000 to 12,000 years ago.

 The magma is this area is closer to the surface (1-2 miles)
than in other locations.
As rainwater and snow percolate down
through fractures in the rocks,
the warmth from the magma heats it up.
Hydrogen sulfide gas from the magma 
dissolves in the water.
The hot, now acidic, water,
rises back up to the surface,
dissolving the rhyolite rock and removing the minerals.
It leaves behind an aluminum rich clay
called kaolinite.
The acidic water runs off the mountain.

Chemotrophic organisms can be found close to the vents.
These organisms use chemicals for an energy source.
Farther downstream, green photosynthesizing algae
can be found in the acidic runoff.
Phototrophs, or photosynthesizing organisms,
use solar energy as their source of energy.

I so 'cited.
My first bear!!!!!!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Yellowstone.
Norris Geyser Basin.

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