September 9, 2021
I feel like I have to begin the blog for this day with a huge confession…
I did not watch Old Faithful erupt on this trip.
Whew, now that my confession is off my chest…
It is geyser basin day! Chasing all the geysers, all day long! Naturally, I got an early start, as early mornings in Yellowstone are my favorite. First, the landscape is all steamy, and second, the record crowds would be a bit less (September 2021 would set an attendance record I would come to find out).
I worked my way down to the Midway Geyser Basin, where I made a quick stop even though its not like Grand Prismatic Spring is very visible in the mornings due to the steam. This geyser basin is darn near impossible to visit later in the day unless you have a level of patience that I do not have for waiting for parking, or walking down from the highway.
After my jaunt around Midway, it was time to explore Biscuit Basin, which is one of my favorite geyser basins. My main goal was to get to Mystic Falls. When I visited last summer, I hiked up to Mystic Falls in the late afternoon, which meant I was shooting into the sun at the waterfall. I knew the morning would be better in the lighting aspect, so I was super excited to head one of my favorite waterfalls. But of course, I had to explore some hot water first, which included “yogging” (running without actually running as I call it, because I’m clumsy and running sounds a bit too dangerous around boiling water) towards a playing Mustard Spring which I spotted from across the boardwalk. Of course, a watched pot never boils, and it stopped playing once I was in front of it and I finally gave up watching.
Okay, enough hot water for now! I enjoyed the first bit of the short hike up to Mystic Falls with a couple from the east coast, before my fast walking and ability to breathe at the altitude of Yellowstone caused us to go our separate ways. I once again chose the most direct route to the falls, foregoing the overlook loop to save my feet for a long day of hustling to geysers.
After enjoying some quality waterfall time, it was back to Biscuit Basin to enjoy some more thermal features, and then it was onto Black Sand Basin. This geyser basin I had a short trip to in 2020 due to a thunderstorm that rolled in and dumped hail, so I was looking forward to taking my time this trip under sunny skies.
Black Sand Basin is named as such due to black sand made from obsidian that is found in the area (but alas, I do not find it to be too black sandy). Right near Old Faithful, it doesn’t seem to get nearly as much attention, though it has several gorgeous pools and Cliff Geyser, which erupts on the banks of Iron Spring Creek. You can access this basin from the Old Faithful area, and it is about a one mile walk from Daisy Geyser. Or you can be like me, and drive there and park in the nice parking lot!
Black Basin in the sunshine (yay for no hail!) wrapped up, it was time for Disney World… I mean, the Upper Geyser Basin, which is home to Old Faithful. I grabbed some gas and then found a parking spot in the massive expanse of cars and RV’s. There’s solid cell service here, so I called my parents, and then popped into the visitor center for passport stamps, before realizing I forgot my hat and water bottle in the car. I hustled back to the car and grabbed my forgotten items.
I snapped a photo of the geyser prediction times and was pleased to see I would be able to geyser chase some new ones. I was in the window for Castle so I yogged in that direction, with one detour around a bison (the park rangers don’t mess around in Disney World, they make sure you don’t get anywhere near the fluffy cows).
Oh Castle… I baked in the high altitude Wyoming sun for 90 minutes and you never erupted, just a few splish splashes as the crowd waited impatiently. Castle is becoming less predictable, and it never did blow. Thankfully Beehive Geyser did give everyone a show in the distance! Yay, new geyser eruption for me!
I finally gave up on Castle (which worked out as it never erupted that day), and got treated to Sawmill Geyser playing for the first time in years (I think since 2017!!), with Tardy Geyser getting in on the action, too. I know the big geysers are the main attractions, but I like these smaller ones a lot, especially if they’re not regular players.
I made my way over to Grand Geyser which was gathering a crowd, and found a spot to sit on the boardwalk above the run off channel (and in the shade!). My biased review that is if you’re going to see a predicted geyser in the frontcountry, you should opt for Grand, as it is absolutely spectacular! Yes, more spectacular than Old Faithful!!!
After Grand, I watched Sawmill a bit more, and then wandered a little around Geyser Hill before heading back to Disney World, I mean, the area around Old Faithful. I stopped by the photography store for more passport stamps, and got in line for a snack. Sadly there was no huckleberry ice cream to be found, but I did get a huge flatbread pizza and a huckleberry float.
My feet were tired and I was battling my blisters from the day before. I was hot, and just overall tired, and debated going to see Riverside Geyser. Then I realized it was closer to hike from the Biscuit Basin parking lot to Riverside Geyser than to get there from Old Faithful, and that I shouldn’t wimp out on my final geyser chase of the day. Back in the car I jumped, and drove up to Biscuit Basin where I nabbed a parking spot and crossed the highway.
(Wait, why didn’t you watch Old Faithful, Heidi? Honestly, it was just way too peopley for me. All the benches were packed shoulder to shoulder, and I just didn’t want to sit in that crowd in the sun. And with seeing Sawmill, Beehive, and Grand, I was satisfied with geyser chase thus far.)
Previously I had walked up this part of the trail to Artemisia Geyser, so I looked forward to going the whole way. I was treated to following a couple who stuck their hands in multiple hot springs, learning that they are all really hot at the beginning before completing the rest of the hike in solitude. The sun was not in an ideal spot for photos, so I mostly strolled along and enjoyed the sights without a camera in my face.
I had about an hour wait at Riverside Geyser, but I had shade to wait in, and enjoyed chatting with a couple from Howell, NJ, nearby where I had lived, hyping up Iceland as a place they should go and complaining mutually about the traffic in the park.
Riverside Geyser is very predictable, with an interval of about 6.5 hours. Though I had debated coming to watch it, I definitely recommend making the time for it as its unique and offers a chance at a geyser-bow photo opportunity.
A successful day of geyser chasing complete, I headed back to the car and began the trip north back to Madison Campground. Another “fun” evening of Madison Junction travel awaited me. I timed it this trip, and it was 40 MINUTES to go 1.5 miles. 40 MINUTES. Luckily I had some Cheez-its and trail mix in my car so I could snack. Absolute ridiculousness. Like the previous day, I drove the last quarter mile on the wrong side of the road so I could get into the campground.
This would be my final night at Madison, which I was a little sad about as it is in such a great location for all my geyser chasing, but I also really didn’t enjoy my campsite too much since it was so close to others so I was happy to make a change and hopefully have a bit more space and privacy. I chatted with the gentleman from Flagstaff across from me who told me how he comes to Yellowstone twice a year for two weeks at a time (so jealous!), and then delved into dinner (which I didn’t photograph as the packet of chicken I used made it not look appetizing but it was delicious otherwise!). I did take a quick walk down to the Madison River, but didn’t stay long as someone was blasting some music ridiculously loud and it was ruining the whole experience (and to be fair, the sun set). I think there was still traffic backed up trying to get into West Yellowstone by the time my head hit the pillow…