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  • Writer's pictureErin Nixon

Yellowstone Day Five: Timing

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

It was another early morning, we got up and out by 7 am and headed out to geyser country. We drove through Norris and Madison which we had seen yesterday, and started with the Firehole River Canyon and Falls, which were beautiful in the cold morning air.

We even got to see some osprey nesting along the river.

We continued along the Firehole to where it cascaded upriver and then continued along to Fountain Flat Drive where we stopped and did a short hike to see Ojo Calente Spring, which flows into the Firehole River.

Next we visited the Fountain Paint Pots to see a few smaller geysers and mud pots before finding a parking spot and walking to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. It was still early morning and cold so there was a lot of steam, which obscures the springs, so we took some photos up close and planned to come back later in the day when it was warmer, to hike the trail that overlooks the spring.

Before we left we walked along the Firehole River and found some hot springs just near the bank and got to feel the hot water coming out and making the entire river feel like bathwater. All of the other bodies of water here are ice cold, but this was downright pleasant.

Next was the Old Faithful Geyser Basin, and we all prepared ourselves for the onslaught of people. We arrived around 11:30 and as soon as we walked in we saw that the next anticipated eruption was at 11:46. We walked outside, found a viewing spot, and exactly at 11:46 Old Faithful spouted. Perfect timing.

We continued our walk around the basin looking at several of the other smaller springs, vents, and geysers and made it to the Grand Geyser at 12:22. Within seconds of arriving the geyser went off in spectacular fashion. We got rained on by the condensing steam cloud and then found a spot closer by the center to watch the rest of the 10 minute eruption. It was far more elaborate and amazing than Old Faithful. However, we found out that Grand Geyser only goes off every 7-9 hours and is only accurate +/- 90 minutes. It had just gone off 30 minutes earlier than the rangers had projected and we walked up (randomly!!) seconds before that. Perfect timing again. We all agreed that Grand Geyser makes Old Faithful look boring.

The rest of the walk around the basin, took another hour and we finished up at the Old Faithful Inn, where we decided to have lunch and rest for a bit, because everyone's feet were sore.

We had a nice lunch and then it was time to drive back to hike the Grand Prismatic overlook. We found parking (there were a ton of cars) and then started the 1.5 mile (roundtrip) hike up to the overlook. It was amazing. The steam from this morning had subsided and you could see all of the vibrant colors in and around the spring. The cooler microscopic thermophiles live on the edges creating the brown, orange, and yellow tones and the thermophiles that can withstand the hotter temperatures live deeper, creating the greens and blues as the light hits the water. It looks unbelievable from above.

We hiked back down (feet are killing us) and started the drive back to Canyon via West Thumb -- Yellowstone Lake.

After we passed Old Faithful again the real road construction started. We got held up twice for 30 minutes each time. Somewhere in the middle of the drive we crossed the Continental Divide. Twice. We (finally) made it to West Thumb and drove along the West Thumb extension of Yellowstone Lake as we made our way along the same route we took coming into the park the first day. Significantly fewer buffalo this time but still just as beautiful.

We made it back to the cabin and shucked our shoes after the 26k steps we took on this epic walking day. Later Dad and I decided to drive over to the cafeteria and we shared a plate of BBQ beef and got some ice cream after before heading back and getting some rest.

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