When most people think of Yellowstone they think of one thing - Old Faithful. When the last explosion happened, it created a lot of interesting "piping" under the ground that created hot springs, geysers and mud pots. Depending on what the soil is underneath and if there is "an obstruction" it determines if it is a geyser or hot spring (you need an obstruction that creates pressure for a geyser), or if it is a mud pot or hot spring (the type of soil and how much silica, etc).
We decided to start our tour at nearly the south end of the Geyser area at Old Faithful (West Thumb is true south end but we would do that on Day 4). There was an 8:30 tour with a ranger so we headed for that. Given it was a 30 minute drive, we started to drive while the kids were still waking up a bit. I had 2 of them dressed but we were still in our morning routine, which meant I had to make breakfast on the way. The menu was frozen waffles, toast or bagels, so nothing could spill (like milk in cereal) while the RV was moving. I had the toaster out and was doing well...until...Arnie screams "BISON" at the top of his lungs and slams on the breaks. The toaster went flying (thankfully I had just started so no plates around...but they are plastic of course), I went flying and the kids loved every minute of it. Here is a pic of our nice friend that nearly ended our life by being in the middle of the road before 8am when my husband is still waking up.
We made it just in time to the walk. The boardwalk was very full, as Old Faithful was due to go off around 9am and it is 8:35 at this point. O.F. as we will call it goes off every 88 minutes give or take 10 minutes is what they say. No other geyser in the entire park is that reliable, hence the name. Others are bigger, louder, higher, etc but you don't know exactly when they will blow. About 15 of them throughout the park have signs in front of them that says "we think this will go off between x and y" and that interval is usually at least one hour if not more. Our ranger this time was Brenda, and it was her first time giving the tour.
She was very good. We learned that the 300K gallons of water that comes out of OF has to fit through the equivalent of a 4 inch pipe...now that is pressure. That the bee hive is the tallest geyser in the park. That lion, lioness and family are called so because they roar when they burst. We learned more about the silica (found in glass) is what gives the white color around it and hardens forming the rings and what looked like stairs at Mammoth. The colors around it are from the bacteria that can grow and which ones grow depends on the heat of the hot spring or geyser. The hotter they are, less colors.
We got around the boardwalk into good viewing area to see O.F. The kids thought it was great. Here is a pic of her at her highest while blowing.
But the best part was when we were watching it Brenda turned towards Bee Hive which was about 5 yards away and said "oh, the indicator is going, that means it might blow." And sure enough it did, so we got to see OF and Bee Hive, which is taller than OF (and I think she said the tallest) blow at the same time, which like never happens. And we were so close we got the mist of it, it was beautiful, even saw a rainbow. I guess it was first timers luck for Brenda. Here are Bee Hive pics.
We walked the entire boardwalk at this basin and took some pics of other ones, I can't remember all the names but here are some good pics.
We did a quick stop at the Old Faithful Inn, the oldest inn in the park. Most of the villages have some sort of non-camping accommodations. Usually a lodge in the main villages of each park, but also cabins, and other places as well. I think there were 3-4 in OF area alone. The lodge was quite pretty but old for sure, really dark wood, and fun to walk up the very crooked stairs, you had to lean heavily to not loose your balance. Here are some pics from the lobby area.
Next we went to Middle Geyser basin to see the Grand Prismatic spring, which is often in pictures of Yellowstone because it looks like a rainbow. This area was HOT and the steam was hotter. You got chills the minute the wind changed directions (even though it was 78 degrees out) because no longer was a pool over 200 degrees blowing on you. The kids loved being in the steam. The Prismatic basin was beautiful, you don't get the full effect from the ground ,but it is still really cool. Check out the pics.
We stopped by a lake to have lunch and the kids swam a bit. Then we decided to take a bike ride up to Goose Lake so we got all the bikes ready and headed off. Along the road there were some small hot springs and mud pots that we discovered. As we walked up to the Mud Pots it burped a bit and got some on Claire's foot, and it was HOT...she jumped around a bit but was ok after a little while. It sure was cool seeing one up close though.
The lake was very pretty, and had these beautiful little blue insects all over the grass. I hope you can see them in the picture. Of course lots of birds too. It was a nice place to rest and head back. We didn't see the grizzly and cubs the entrance sign warned us about but we did see a coyote (but he was too quick for me to get a picture) and these cool looking birds, almost like a crane of some sort.
Off we headed to Norris geyser basin, our last stop. On the way up we had another "animal traffic jam" where we were dead stopped for 25 minutes. It ended up being for three bison. Not sure why we were stopped that long, I hope they just sat in the road, because THEY ARE EVERYWHERE and you don't have to stop for them! The leader of the pack of 3 is pictured above, a nice big male. On we went, now behind schedule as we wanted to be at the campground by 6:30 which is when we expected the Coldiron's. We got another few miles and another stop, but this time worth it - three bull elk grazing just across the same river we swam in. These guys were beautiful to watch. Our viewing was ruined a bit by a crazy man who crossed the river and got too close, very selfish of him, and the entire audience tried to tell him, but I don't think he spoke English. He was within 5 yards of them, totally disturbing them.
So, we got Elk but skipped Norris basin as it was late. We pulled into the campground just before 7pm. Given the poor cell service, we had not heard from the Coldiron's and vice versa despite sending texts. But it all worked out. As I sat in the RV waiting for Arnie to come out of the office, I see Travis walking up to the building, they pulled in about 15 minutes after us. The kids were so excited, and we looked forward to catching up over a Pasta dinner. Until tomorrow.