Geysers and Hot Springs
August 24 - Yellowstone NP
Clean and well-rested after a nice night in cozy hostel beds, we awoke to some morning mists. Today we were going north, to spend a day visiting some of the geothermal features in nearby Yellowstone National Park.
We packed into the car and began the scenic drive north, passing by the classic roadside overlooks of the Teton Range (the morning low cloud had since burned off, leaving crystal-clear views). Continuing, we drove along the scenic parkway that connects Grand Teton National Park with Yellowstone National Park. We located a scenic roadside picnic area and had our breakfast in the fresh air and with views of the Tetons.
Picnic on way to Yellowstone
A combination of traffic and construction congestion meant that our drive north into our Yellowstone destination took us nearly until noon. We had driven to the so-called Upper Geyser Basin, one of the several geyser basins full of geothermal features along the park's Firehole River. I had proposed an easy but extremely interesting walk through the Upper Basin.
Yellowstone National Park
After locating a place to park in the Old Faithful complex (not an easy task today), we began our walk, heading south through the Upper Geyser Basin. Immediately we were treated to views of strangely-colored ground, steaming pools, frothing holes, and hissing fumaroles. Yellowstone easily has the largest number and concentration of geothermal features in the world, and this was immediately obvious as we continued walking: there was a geyser or other feature literally every few minutes. They were all named, often with interpretive plaques describing their unique characteristics.
Although the various geysers were perhaps the most interesting features, the various hot springs were perhaps the most beautiful. Different types of algae grew in the pools, varying in nature and color with the temperature of the hot water. This has resulted in some amazingly beautiful formations. Look at the picture of Morning Glory Pool, for example. Breathtaking.
We did an elongated loop of the Upper Geyser Basin, down one side and up the other. On the way back up, we were fortunate enough to spot an eruption of Castle Geyser, which we had passed near the start of our walk and which had now decided to give a show. Not knowing how long the eruption would last, we ran over to it and witnessed its powerful jet up close.
Yes, Brian - you're in the photo
As it turns out, Castle Geyser's eruption was fairly long - long enough for us to decide to move on before it finished. This turned out to be a good thing, actually, for we were treated to a very nice view of the eruption's steam phase from a particularily scenic angle.
The final segment of our tour of the Upper Geyser Basin took us away from the mostly flat valley floor and up a nearby hillside to a secluded feature called (perhaps unsurprisingly) Solitary Geyser. It apparently erupted every few minutes, and so we sat down and waited for it to go. Wasn't much to it, though, with a only a few gurgles and splashes marking its eruption.
From Solitary Geyser, we walked through pleasant forest to Observation Point - a limited viewing area down to the Firehole River Valley and the Old Faithful area. Hiking back down to the valley floor, we crossed over to the Old Faithful Inn itself, passing by the most famour geyser of all - Old Faithful itself. The time wasn't right, though, so there was nothing to see (at the geyser) Instead, we focused on the inn - spending a few minutes admiring its beautiful "National Park Rustic" architecture. We then returned to the car to continue our Yellowstone explorations.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Upper Geyser Basin - click map to view
The day was drawing on, and we only had time to fit in one more short visit - I chose a feature in the Lower Geyser Basin called the Grand Prismatic Spring. This amazing, huge feature is the third-largest hot spring in the world. I'd seen pictures of its amazing shape, textures, and colors, and wanted to see it for myself.