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Aside from the encounter with a coyote and the giant mosquitoes, the trip to Biscuit Basin was quite pleasant

Living the Wild Life

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Photos: Bill Schiess |

As I was taking pictures of the biscuit-like formations in the hot pools of Biscuit Basin, I was interrupted by a shout of, “Coyote!” by my wife. She was the first of our group of six to see the light-colored wild dog headed toward us with its nose testing the ground. When it got to the boardwalk, it jumped on, ran on it a little way before jumping off and disappearing between the hot pots.

“Did you notice that our group and one other couple were the only ones that noticed the coyote?” my wife commented. “Just goes to show how quickly things in the park can happen. You have to be in the right place at the right time.”

As we started the 2.4-mile trek up the Mystic Falls’ Trail, I thought of that as I stopped to take pictures of a Golden-mantled ground squirrel as it chewed on a mushroom it had found. It was just one of several that we saw and was the only one that did not come begging for food from their two-legged visitors.

The trail was an easy one with gradual ups and downs with a few exposed roots to trip on if you carelessly drug your feet. The flowers added to the beauty of the hike with the trail acting as a dividing line between the lower flowers, made up mostly of Yellow Monkey-flowers and Common Indian paintbrush, and those above the trail. Alpine sunflower, Mules-ear wyethia and large clusters of Roundleaf harebells.

The only unpleasant experience of the hike were the mosquitos. I had forgotten my bug spray and every time we went through a marshy area or in the shade of some evergreens, they would attack us. They sounded like a herd of misguided chainsaws and appeared to be almost as big.

The four-layered Mystic Falls was beautiful as the Little Firehole River cascaded over the cliffs from the upper Madison Plateau. We took time to eat a snack, rest and watch a family of American dippers flittering in-and-out of the white water rapids below the falls.

An afternoon breeze helped with the attacking bugs on the way to Biscuit Basin, but the boardwalk was a welcome sight as the Sapphire Pool erupted. It was nothing like nearby Old Faithful, but it was still beautiful.

During the 1959 Yellowstone earthquake, the Sapphire Pool violently erupted destroying many of the large “biscuit” formations that surrounded it. Some of those formations have begun to form again in some of the surrounding pools.

After eating our lunch and watching Old Faithful explode (while practicing social distancing), we traveled past Yellowstone Lake to check on the Harlequin ducks as I was the only one to ever see them. We were not disappointed. They had increased from six to 10. We were also able to watch several large cutthroat trout jump the rapids as they migrated back to Yellowstone Lake.

The predicted rain began to fall as we drove through Hayden Valley, but the bison and the elk still showed up to give us a thrill as we headed home. No bears this day but other days will come. The long enjoyable day ended with a great meal at Ponds Lodge in Island Park.

A warning for all that would like to make one of a dozen day hikes around Old Faithful: do not forget your bug spray — or bear spray as one woman got swatted by one this week. Even by wearing a long-sleeved shirt, the mosquitos were able to penetrate to my old skin but the “sting stick” worked well.