Yellowstone: A whole lot of steam
That’s all there is to say about it. If anyone ever wants to argue that Yellowstone is not the greatest of the National Parks, well ”bring it”, I say. We’ve spent 4 full days here sightseeing, and the vast variability of the landscape is something I can’t say we’ve ever seen before.
Tuesday we toured Middle and Lower Geyser basins, not far from Old Faithful. Wednesday we went way up north to Mammoth Hot springs. Thursday we went the other way around the loop over to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone… So today, our last day, we decided it was finally time to just kick back a little. Take in some of the geysers right here around the hotel. Right – the hotel is situated in Upper Geyser Basin, which is the greatest concentration of geysers anywhere in the world. So much for kicking back!
Today also started out being a very cold day, one in which we thought we were finally threatened to get snow. But we bundled up and toured Geyser Hill directly after breakfast. (Granted, directly after breakfast was about 11:30, but we’re on vacation here!) We had one geyser in particular to see, so we went there first : Beehive geyser. This is a seemingly little guy, though it has a prominent ‘cone’ which is way more like a 3 foot cylinder sticking about 4 feet out of the ground. But we’d heard much about it being a spectacular eruption. We found it, but it wasn’t erupting… so had to leave it. Right after that, however, both Anemone geyser erupted, at about 4 feet high, and then Plume geyser went at about 10 feet. It’s amazing to have walked by these features that look dead and dormant, only to have them spout to life right behind you. Further along the morning walk we saw ‘doublet pond’ which is just incredibly beautiful because of its ornate edges. It was later I read that this pond is a favorite of photographers.. no wonder! Continuing along the boardwalk we saw many more thermal features. Just as we reached the apex of our walk we looked back and Old Faithful was erupting yet again. For yes, after this hour’s walk and dozens of named features, we were still within sight of the Inn and Old Faithful.
But, we were rather chilled. Returning to the hotel we were told it was 39 degrees out this morning! We could believe it and were very ready for a warm up. So we sat down in the lodge and considered our next outing. We had been recommended to go to Morning Glory Pool, but try as we might, we could not figure out a way to get any closer to that feature than a mile or mile plus walk. Roy wasn’t sure he was interested in that length of a walk, so we finally ended up saying we would start out along the trail and he and Sarah should be welcome to turn back at any point. This trail started out further west down the valley, with Castle geyser. Before we could even get there, however, we looked across the way and saw that a small spout right next to Beehive Geyser was spouting! The sign we’d read there that morning said that Beehive geyser has a fairly accurate ‘indicator’ – another feature that was well synchronized with when Beehive would erupt. The only difficulty was that it didn’t specify that once the indicator spout started to spout, just WHEN Beehive would. Anyways – the side spout continued to go while we walked further down the valley. Eventually it disappeared from sight before we ever saw it erupt.
Down around the corner, however, we had plenty to keep us occupied. Castle geyser is a spectacular cone in its own right. Spasmodic geyser was living up to its name of alternating from a calm pool to one churning with bubbles of steam and super heated water. Then we came to Grand Geyser. Nothing was happening here, and if it weren’t for the dozens of lined up benches we might well have just walked by without reading the sign. Unlike so many of the geysers along the valley, there is no visible cone betraying the presence of a geyser here. There are actually several geysers in the ‘Grand Group’, but the main one is completely innocuous. In anycase, the sign said that Grand Geyser might erupt sometime between 1:15 and 5:15. It was about 2:30… We weren’t about to hang out for another 2.5 hours to see if it would erupt – even if it is supposed to be the largest predictable eruption anywhere.
We moved on, past Beauty Pool and Chromatic Pool - Chromatic pool being far more beautiful to us, at least. Despite it being a very cloudy day it still showed off the brilliant blues these pools are known for, in addition to vibrant oranges and greens and browns to boot. It was striking to then look at the pool through Dave and Sarah’s sun glasses, which were polarized. They really emphasized the color intensities. (Unfortunately the camera didn’t find the difference so striking when I took a picture through Dave’s glasses lens).
Then came Giant geyser – which erupted over 50 times in 2007, and only once in 2009. Most of the geysers here are not on a predictable schedule. Grotto geyser is unique because of it’s unusal shape. The guide book speculates that tree trunks are embedded in the sinter – the mineral buildup that forms the cones for many geysers.
About this time we noticed a great plume of steam coming from ahead on the trail. Indeed, Riverside geyser was erupting. We hurried on down for a treat of another 15 minutes of a spectacular show. The posted estimate for when that geyser was to erupt was 2:50 to 3:50. We arrived just about 3:00, and it was already going. Not long after we arrived, someone from the park came by to ask when it started erupting, promptly called that in to the headquarters, and then posted the estimates for the next time that one should erupt: some 5 hours later.
By this time we were less than 100 yards to the Morning glory pool! Though we’d asked at several intervals, Roy and Sarah had said they wanted to keep going – at least to the next geyser. 1.5 miles have probably never passed so effortlessly. I do have to say that the temperature had risen considerably, so we weren’t quite as chilled to the bone as we had been in the morning.
Morning glory, I hate to say, was a bit of a disappointment. It simply is not as spectacular as an attraction as it once was – because of vandalism. People throwing things into the pool have clogged its water channels, which has altered the water flow in and out of the pool. This has cooled the water temperature, allowing for much less interesting bacteria to take up residence. It is sad, and a lesson for everyone.
This being the apex of our trip, we turned around to head back. And oh boy did things get interesting fast! We were just passing the Grotto geyser, when it started to erupt! Very cool. Further along, the sun peaked out between the clouds so I got an another picture of Chromatic pool.
Then we were back at Grand Geyser. There were a lot more people gathered, and Roy and David were bringing up the rear, so Sarah and I took seats to wait a bit. The pool was just as inscrutable as it had been for us over an hour earlier. While we were sitting there, Ginger called, so I had a little business to conduct. Sarah and Roy decided to continue on as they were both chilled. Getting off the phone, Dave and I decided to give it a few more minutes before leaving. Grand Geyser’s eruptions are known to coincide with its neighboring Turbin geyser. Since we’d seen Turbin erupt earlier, and it was starting again with no sign of Grand Geyser, we were about to get up and leave. But then suddenly a ton of water welled up from the middle of that previously undisturbed pool – and proceeded to explode water way up into the air. Wow. The three geysers right there continued to erupt for about 10 minutes or more, until we decided to head on. We opted for the longer route home, back through Geyser hill which we’d toured this morning.
This route ended up taking us right past this herd of bison. I would have hesitated to walk past these guys, but they were all peacefully sleeping, and I figured they had to be familiar with people tromping back and forth along this boardwalk. What an amazing sight though!
And then.. just as we approached geyser hill, we could hear another geyser going – and it was Lyon Geyser. This one actually rained water down on the boardwalk where we were standing. At this point we were just heading back to the hotel, though we had a little bit of a circuitous route to get there. On the way, we saw the crowds lining up for Old Faithful again, so vowed to keep an eye out. Wouldn’t you know it? The sun decided to come out just in time – and we were able to capture these incredible pictures of Old Faithful against the black clouds that had been hanging out all day.
And.. the day wasn’t over. We went into the hotel and caught up with Sarah and Roy and hung out on the third floor mezzanine for awhile. Dave and Roy played cards while Sarah and I looked through some of her pictures from this past summer up at the cabin. It was a lovely visit, but dinner was calling. Just before leaving for dinner, I glanced out their bedroom window, and darned if the Beehive geyser wasn’t erupting!
LOL. That made for at least 10 major geyser eruptions in one day. Woah.