Activities, Camping, Hiking, Hot Springs, National Parks/Etc., United States, Waterfalls, Wyoming

Of Geysers & Waterfalls – Day 6: Fairy Falls, Black Sand Basin, and Upper Geyser Basin

Day 6 – August 27, 2020

The day of hydrothermal madness. The day I’d see something like 25% of the world’s geysers in a one square mile area, and the world’s largest concentration of hot springs. In other words, the geyser chase was about to get serious!

It got stormy overnight, and I was awaken several times by the thunder echoing off the mountains around me – which, in a sleepy state, can also sound like a super volcano is blowing up. I stupidly left my camp chair and hammock out overnight, and debated a few times upon awakening what to do, but by then the rain was pouring down hard and it would’ve be futile to stash away the chair and hammock. I awoke really early to steady rain, and ran out to my car for my rain gear, which I smartly packed. After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices! I piled on the layers, rain gear, ate some quick breakfast, and set out in the drizzle to get an early start on my very big day of adventuring.

Stormy Yellowstone morning

This day was not only about geysers, as I’d be chasing Fairy Falls as well on a 5.5 mile hike. Normally Midway Geyser Basin is a zoo, but thanks to my early start and the rain I pulled into a nearly empty parking lot and gathered up my gear for the five mile roundtrip hike. I read the sign about a grizzly frequently the area about eight times as I nervously debated doing the hike. After all, a solo woman hiker was attacked by a grizzly earlier in the summer on this same trail (she lived). Finally I decided just to do it, and set out with my multiple bear bells jingling and calling “here bear, bear, bear,” thankful to see two other girls following somewhat closely behind.

Thermal features near the Fairy Falls parking lot
Midway Geyser Basin
Had to sneak in a glamour shot of Mr. Fozzy in the empty Fairy Falls parking lot! By the end of the hike, he was joined by dozens of his not-friends in the crowded lot.
Here we go, bears be damned!

The fog and rain made for a magical atmosphere as I captured glimpses of the brilliant Grand Prismatic Spring reflecting off the steam. I would match my pace to the two girls behind me, who eventually caught me as I was photographing something and we laughed as it turns out we both had the same idea of traveling together through the forests (and I had the bear spray, which I don’t think they had). I was thankful for these hiking partners as we entered into the dense new growth forest! Power in numbers, especially since it was too early for the crowds to be out.

I literally don’t know what is up with me and geese and thermal features!
Catching Grand Prismatic in its steamy glory!
The colors of Grand Prismatic reflecting in the steam… one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken!!!
The trail to Fairy Falls follows an old road that is open for pedestrians and bicycles until turning onto singletrack-ish at a well marked junction. There is a bike rack at the junction for bicycles, as they’re not allowed on the trail to the falls.

The rain came and went as we hiked towards Fairy Falls, but man do I love the forest in the rain! And soon enough Fairy Falls came into view, and I gasped a happy little gasp!

First glimpse at the lovely Fairy Fall
Fairy Falls is a 200-foot plunge of the small Fairy Creek
In waterfall bliss!
The clouds moved out occasionally to allow some photos with a blue sky.
Steam from the nearby Imperial Geyser and Spray Geyser. I’ll have to go back for a larger hike and see these features! I was in Yellowstone for four nights, and I felt like I missed so much… I have no idea how people go through the whole park in one day!!
Last look at Fairy Falls.

Fairy Falls was absolutely dreamy, and I stayed behind long after others left the area, and enjoyed the falls all to myself. I ate a snack, took photos, crossed the river, took more photos, and enjoyed the sun breaking through the rain clouds. By the time I headed back to the car, there was a steady stream of people hiking towards the falls and I was thankful to have set out early in the morning (and the rain seriously made things awesome).

Met this little guy at Fairy Falls as I was leaving
This area burned during the 1988 fire, but is slowly growing back
New growth from the 1988 fire

I took the detour up the hill to view Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone’s largest hot spring (and world’s third largest) from the overlook. Though there was still a lot of steam, I snapped photos and giggled when some lady announced, “it’s not as bright as the photos I saw!” I broke her heart by stating the word “Photoshop.” (Time of day also impacts the brilliance. It is recommended that a bright sunny afternoon is the best viewing time, but you’ll also be trying to park and view with a million other people.)

Grand Prismatic Spring was first described by trappers in 1839. And I think it is absolutely WEIRD!
Microbial mats of Grand Prismatic
Nature blows my mind. Like…. how is this real?? I know how it’s real thanks to microorganisms, but still. Crazy we have this on Earth!
Grand Prismatic Spring’s microbial mats . Apparently from what I’ve read, they’re more green in the winter months.
Taking a selfie with this really weird thing
Dramatic clouds are dramatic
Yep, nope, still think this is just weird!
This jet flew overhead while I was walking back to my car, which I thought was a bit strange? I hadn’t read the news in days, so I had the thought, “Did the world end? Are we in war?” as I walked.

Next up was the Black Sand Basin, a small geyser basin with (you’ll never guess it…) black sand from obsidian which I managed to tour almost completely right before the skies unleashed a torrent of hail. I made it back to my car with seconds to spare, and I swore as I watched the hailstones bounce off Fozzy. Black Sand Basin is part of the Upper Geyser Basin, and is linked to the Old Faithful area with trails. About one quarter mile of boardwalks take you around some stunning thermal features. I didn’t catch everything in this area due to the storm that rolled in, and by the time I wrapped up the main Upper Geyser area, my legs were cooked and the crowds were too much to go back. Next trip!

Map of the Black Sand Basin area
Cliff Geyser, a frequent erupter. Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake are steaming in the background.
Jagged Spring. A site of one of Yellowstone’s hot spring fatalities (morbid, I know….)
Ragged Spring, splashing away. Ragged is near Jagged.
Iron Spring Creek
Unnamed spring found a bit east of Green Spring. I think “Watercolor Spring” would make a good name!
An unnamed perpetual spouter in the foreground, Cliff Geyser behind it
Run off into Iron Spring Creek
Emerald Pool
Emerald Pool
Cinnamon Spouter
Another angle of Cinnamon Spouter
The scientifically named perpetual spouter UNNG-BSB-5… BSB?? Backstreet Boys? “My geyser’s back, alright! Am I thermallll? Yeahhhh. Am I deadlyyyy? Yeahhhh? Am I everything you need you better spout your water now! Everybodyyyyy.”

Wow. Okay. Let’s pretend I never did that, okay?

The next few photos I was unsure how to identify them properly… both Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake have stunning color profiles, but the steam and stormy day didn’t play nice with me, and I really didn’t do a good job at photographing everything at this basin (so sad). I was not sure what photo is which, but I think I have them figured out with Rainbow first, and Sunset second. I really credit http://www.volcanic-springs.com/ for helping me identify all the wonderful thermal features I saw on this trip!

Rainbow Pool. The boardwalk was rerouted in 2013, and you can still see some of the faint marks from the old one in the lower lefthand corner. Little details like this helped me with sorting out my photos properly!
A moody Sunset Lake shortly before the skies opened up and left me scrambling for cover.
Sunset Lake. And goodness I need to clean my camera’s sensor…
A quick, terrible snap of Spouter Geyser while I was running back to my car, which was active during the time of my visit.

Because driving away would’ve just increased the velocity of the hail hitting my precious car, I waited it out until the hail turned to rain, and I jaunted across the highway to the Old Faithful madness. I suited back up in my rain gear, and set out for some huckleberry ice cream, and judging everyone looking miserable with their lack of rain gear (I’ve gotten more use out my rain gear in Wyoming than I ever thought I would when I purchased it all for Iceland originally). Ice cream scoops and a large coffee in hand, I enjoyed my “lunch,” and then set out to the Old Faithful viewing area to await the big show. While waiting I called my parents and loudly heckled tourists, and made sure to ask my parents “Do you think the rangers will turn up the water pressure really high so I can get some good photos?” loudly enough to draw chuckles from some around me. ‘Twas a good time!

Old Faithful’s cone steaming
Seen from Old Faithful, another geyser erupting. Not sure which one to be honest? Giantess?
Another view of Geyser Hill from the Old Faithful viewing area

I have a horrible confession… I was disappointed by Old Faithful. I thought it would be… bigger? I know, it’s awful. I hate to even admit it. Apparently, the rangers did not up the water pressure on my behalf, LOL!

Meh. Haha. (Before anyone gets offended, Old Faithful is still cool as hell, but for some reason I was expecting bigger!!)
Old Faithful doing its thing
OK, Old Faithful looks big here!

After Old Faithful, I went to the visitor’s center and snapped a photo of the geyser prediction times (I never had good enough cell service for the NPS app to work) and realized if I hustled, and I mean HUSTLED, I could make it to Daisy Geyser right before it’s predicted eruption time. I spun up my little legs as fast I could go without actually running (I draw the line at running towards a geyser that erupts on a schedule), and hooked up with a Russian couple from Chicago who had the same idea in mind.

I thought I had a chance to see Castle… missing the “am” next to the time. Luckily Daisy was a “pm”!
Hustling past Castle Geyser in its steam phase
Run off from Castle Geyser

We made it to Daisy, and I took my spot on the bench when a large family wandered up (I mean, there was like… 5 or 6 kiddos in the bunch) and asked when it the predicted time was, and wouldn’t you know, eruption! I found Daisy to be much more spectacular than Old Faithful, sorrynotsorry.

Daisy Geyser before eruption
Comet Geyser
Daisy and Comet Geysers erupting together
Daisy Geyser has a characteristic “lean” to its spray.

So it turns out this family was a bit of a “lucky charm” when it comes to geysers. It was fun, but then kind of turned creepy in the most charming way! They told me that the day before they walked up, and Steamboat Geyser (the world’s largest geyser) erupted. Then this day, Daisy erupted as they walked up. As our walking paces matched, and I ran into them throughout the day… I was treated to a Spa Geyser eruption (apparently super rare) and Giantess Geyser, who awoken from a long slumber. So… to the lucky geyser family, thank you for making my visit that much more hydrothermically special!

Colorful thermophile mats in the Daisy Group

After Daisy Geyser, there began the rest of my 6.5 mile adventure to see 25% of the world’s geysers in a single go (though I was not able to catch them all erupting because kidnapping a family of 6 or 7 would’ve been hard). Sticking with my new tradition, I photographed anything and everything, and the photo captions will say it all. (Also, I really should’ve been smart and used my backpack with my hydration bladder in it as I was so thirsty by the end of my adventure as all I carried was my small shoulder sling with rain gear and bear spray, and my camera. Be warned… prepare for a trek if you’re going to enthusiastically visit every hot springs in existence!)

Approaching Punch Bowl Spring
Punch Bowl Spring
Punch Bowl Spring
White Pyramid Geyser Cone
Another look at Comet Geyser as I circled back to through the Daisy Group
Grotto Geyser and Rocket Geyser erupting
Grotto Geyser’s cone is supposedly constructed with geyserit4e coated tree trunks
Square Spring in the background, and Culvert Geyser in the foreground
Crossing the Firehole River
Fan Geyser
Spiteful Geyser (the enticing blue pool), with Fan Geyser behind it, and a steaming Mortar Geyser to the left.
Norris Pool
Morning Glory Pool. This is a sad case of vandalism, regardless of how pretty it looks. Objects thrown into the pool have clogged the vent almost completely, which in turn has blocked the supply of hot water. As a result, the types of thermophiles growing in the pool have changed and the cooler yellow ring is broadening. The NPS has failed to unclog the vent several times.
OK, this might be weirder than Grand Prismatic.
Closer look at Morning Glory Pool
Riverside Geyser cone. This geyser erupts about every 6.5 hours, but I wasn’t able to catch it.
Spa Geyser
I got wet from this one! Spa Geyser apparently is a sporadic erupter, so happy I saw it! (Thanks lucky geyser family!) It’s eruptions are usually tied to long eruptions of Grotto Geyser
Variable Spring
Another view of Grotto and Rocket Geysers
Giant Geyser is the second tallest geyser in the world, but alas, it’s very irregular
Bijou and Catfish Geysers cones
You know you’re irregular when you get a sign!
Looking back towards Giant Geyser
Following the boardwalk to all the geysers of my dreams
Oblong Geyser
Close up of Oblong Geyser’s sinter
Oblong Geyser and Firehole River
Chromatic Pool in an “energized state.” Chromatic and Beauty Pools share a water supply that can shift between pools. The hotter, “energized” pool will have more vibrant colors, and the other will be a bit more dull.
The non-energized Beauty Pool
Beauty Pool
Wave Spring
East Economic Geyser
Economic Geyser, named as such because during its active days, all the water ejected drained back into the vent.
Topsoil Geyser looking a bit empty when it comes to water
Grand Geyser group
Run off from Grand Geyser group
Turban Geyser
Bulger Geyser seen from the viewing area for Grand Geyser
West Triplet Geyser in the foreground
Bulger Geyser
Belgian Pool, named as such as a Belgian fell into it and then died in 1929. Crystal Spring is seen in the background, with Spasmodic Geyser in the way back erupting.
Old Tardy Geyser
Spasmodic Geyser. Probably one of my favorites!
Oval Spring
Closeup of Spasmodic Geyser
Spasmodic Geyser
Thumping Hole Geyser
Penta Geyser
Twilight Spring
Churn Geyser
South Scalloped Spring
Crested Pool.
Castle Geyer’s cone
Closer looked at Crested Pool. Before there were handrails in this area, a child fell into the nearly boiling pool in 1970.
Liberty Pool
UNNG-CGG-6
The historic Old Faithful Inn
Lion Group Geyser Complex, which includes Little Cub Geyser, Lioness Geyser, Big Cub Geyser and Lion Geyser.
North Goggles Geyser
Goggles Springs
Lion Geyser (foreground) and Lioness Geyser (background)
Giantess Geyser waking up and saying hello after over six years of slumber! The previous eruption had been in January 2014.
Sponge Geyser with Giantess Geyser erupting in the background
Heart Spring
Depression Geyser
Half of Scissors Spring
Beehive Geyser
Improbable Geyser
Big and Little Anemone Geysers
Closeup of Big Anemone Geyser
Even closer close up of Big Anemone Geyser
Big Anemone Geyser erupting
Sulphide Spring
I’ll always get a kick out of these signs
Infant Geyser
Vault Spring in foreground, and Giantess in the background
Teakettle Spring
Topaz Spring
Pump Geyser
Pump Geyser
Pump Geyser
Wildlife tracks through Pump Geyser’s run off
Doublet Pool
Doublet Pool
Doublet Pool
Doublet Pool
And more Doublet Pool…
Last Doublet Pool, I swear!
Aurum Geyser
Beach Spring
Beach Spring
Solitary Geyser is a short walk up the hill to the observation point over the whole Geyser Hill area.
Solitary Geyser closeup
Solitary Geyser eruption
Firehole River
Grand Geyser erupting in the distance as I was headed back to the visitor’s center

After my trek, I made my way to pick up my passport stamps (pre-stamped once again and handed out by the photography gift shop), debated more ice cream (I resisted), and headed back to my campsite to enjoy my final evening in Yellowstone. I forget how many steps I earned for the day, but it was about 12 miles of walking that I logged with my Garmin watch, and that wouldn’t have included Black Sand Basin and walking from my car to the ice cream shop and to the Old Faithful observation area. It was tiring, but so rewarding! Back at the campground I watched tent campers try to remedy flooded, soggy tent situations as I tried to remedy my soggy camp chair and hammock situation, and prepared to pack up in the morning. The campsite next to me was a family from Michigan, and I enjoyed the last few days of sharing my adventures with them and giving them travel tips while in Yellowstone and on their journey home, so I chatted them for awhile. Luckily I was able to get my hammock to dry quick enough to enjoy some reading time after my plate of mashed potatoes and Dinty Moore stew.

New camping meal experiment – instant potatoes with a can of stew dumped on top. Success! Definitely have used this one again while camping. Balanced meal? Hell no, but I’ll always approve of potatoes on potatoes. Also knocked back an Einstök Lime & Juniper Pils – so much yum!

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