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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.)
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!)
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.