Yellowstone, Part 2

On Wednesday morning, we woke up early and enjoyed hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll in front of the big picture windows overlooking Old Faithful as we waited for it to erupt in the morning light.  We could also see the steam columns rising across the geyser basin as the hot springs met the very crisp morning air.  After OF did her thing, we headed off to explore some of the springs and pools we had skipped the day before.

First up was the midway geyser basin, which features the Grand Prismatic Spring.  This very large spring is mainly covered by its own steam, but when the wind blows just right you can see a vibrant bacterial rainbow of colors along its edges.  This basin has several other blue pools that reminded me of the deep, clear color of precious stones.  And even though it was a cold morning, the heat coming off the ground warmed us right up!

We next wound our way to the upper geyser basin, where our first fumerole and mudpot awaited.  The fumerole was like a natural chimney, constantly emitting steam from underground.  The neat thing was the whooshing roar sound it made as the steam swirled upward.  All of your senses get a workout at Yellowstone!  The paintpot was also noisy, like a large mud bath that bubbled up with loud “bloop bloop” sounds.  This one was a deep gray, and it definitely looked like dozens of gallons of thick paint had been poured on the ground.

Our next stop was the Yellowstone canyon area, on the opposite side of the park.  We took a beautiful detour by the Firehole River along the way and were treated to a tall waterfall and canyon walls of dark, volcanic rock.

It was crazy to think of this more traditional scenery being just up the road from all the crazy science experiments God seemed to be working in the ground nearby!  But we were soon in Norris geyser basin where we stopped to see more colorful paintpots and steamy, roaring springs.

It was after lunch by the time we made it to the canyon.  I had plans for us to hike down this natural staircase to the base of Lower Falls, etc., but we realized all we wanted to do was spend the afternoon exploring other less traditional areas and get back to the lodge for dinner and reading by the fire.  So we stopped at a few of the major viewpoints and were on our way.  We don’t normally blow past sights like that, but the driving loop through Yellowstone is over 200 miles and covering it in two days means a little compromising.  However, the light canyon walls and the roaring falls of the Yellowstone River were beautiful!

To continue our scenic loop through the park, we drove through Hayden Valley on our way to Yellowstone Lake.  This area is known for really great wildlife viewing but, again, all we saw were herds and herds of bison.  Not complaining!  We wound our way alongside the lazily beautiful Yellowstone River, enjoying the softly rolling meadow and clear afternoon skies.

Just before Yellowstone Lake, we reached another sulfuric hot spot and were greeted by the smell of a thousand rotten eggs on a hot street.  The sulfur content of these springs must have been the highest we’d seen, because the smell was almost nauseating.  A lot of people were walking the half mile boardwalk through this area, but I have no idea how they stood it!  We saw a few features near the road and were good to go.

Compared to the other areas of the park, Yellowstone Lake was very quiet.  It’s the largest high elevation lake in the United States and seemed more like looking out at the Gulf of Mexico than a lake.  We got our required giant ice cream cone at the general store and enjoyed the view and lack of crowds.  It was late afternoon by this point, so we completed our giant loop with a pretty, tree-lined drive back to our lodge.

After a quick nap, we had another yummy dinner and parked ourselves on a big leather couch with our books, hot chocolate and cookies.

Following two jam-packed days, it was so nice just to read quietly in our fire-lit lodge, watching the sun go down over the geyser basin.  I could have pulled a cot up next to the fire and been one happy camper!

The next morning was a real treat, and maybe my favorite part of the trip.  We bundled up and headed to the lodge for an early breakfast, thinking we’d watch Old Faithful go off for the first time in daylight.  As we waited, we ended up walking the boardwalk trail all around the area, hot chocolates in hand.  It was magical!  The early morning sun was still coming up, we practically had the place to ourselves as we explored all the beautiful pools and small geysers.  The early morning is my favorite time of day, and I love spending it with Charlie – it just makes the whole day cozy and perfect!

As the time neared for OF to erupt, we hiked about half a mile up to Observation Point where we watched the show from above.  It felt really good to stretch our legs after spending so much time in the car on this trip.  We were too high to hear the geyser, but to see the giant water column explode from the ground below us high into the air was such an awesome perspective.  We had now seen it go off in the early morning, at sunset, and from above – I think we thoroughly enjoyed Old Faithful in all its glory!

We had a long drive home ahead of us, so we packed up, said goodbye to our cozy cabin and picked up some final souvenirs.  We were just in time to watch OF go off one last time, and then we were on our way.  This was such a wonderful trip, and we were constantly surprised at God’s creativity and majesty at every turn.  His imagination as Creator never ceases to amaze us, and Yellowstone is surely one of His “show off” spots!

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