Yellowstone National Park – more than 2 million acres of erupting geysers, steaming cracks, bubbling mud, roaring waterfalls and fantastic, other-worldly views – spend a day here, and it’s obvious that our Creator had a sense of humor. Yellowstone, is a joyous, happy, noisome park; the phrase “bubbling over with joy” would certainly apply, as the various thermal locations hiss, spew, bubble and spray.
When we began our day, we were surprised to find the truck windshield covered with frost, but it didn’t take long for the sun to start warming up the day, and by the time we reached Old Faithful, the temperature was comfortable. As we neared the first thermal features of the park, the steamy fog was thick.
When we were here last year, one small section of the park was closed for road construction, but we knew it was an area we wanted to return to see.
On that visit, we arrived at Old Faithful mid to late morning. After watching it’s display, we decided against taking the mile plus boardwalk along Geyser Hill, just behind Old Faithful. That walk was first on today’s list.
Old Faithful gained its name by being just that, faithful. Thousands of gallons of steaming water thunder into the sky on such a regular schedule that the park personnel can predict the next eruption within a 20 minute window. We arrived within that window, so decided watching would be our first action of the day. Having seen its dramatic show last year, we were a little surprised at the display this morning. Due to the cold temperature of the surrounding air, and the hot temperature of the spraying water, all we could see was billowing steam… lots of it, but the water was completely shrouded. Still, an impressive 3 minute display:
Geyser Hill is dotted with several small geysers congregated in a small area. You never know when the one in front of you will decide to erupt. Capturing photos at just the right instant can be a challenge.
After circling the hill, we took a few minutes to tour the newly opened Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, an impressive 27 million dollar facility. As we looked at the many interactive exhibits, a ranger announced that Old Faithful was due to erupt again shortly, so we decided to watch again. This time, we were not disappointed. The eruption lasted 3 minutes, and surely reached it’s average eruption height of 130 feet.
Mystic Falls was our destination. The round trip is 3 miles, which doesn’t sound like a difficult hike until you consider that you are starting at 7,000 feet elevation and climbing a switchback trail to an overlook more than 700 feet higher. We found that we had to stop frequently to let our heart rate and breathing slow, but the hike was very rewarding.
From the trail, we could see Old Faithful, several miles away, erupting again.
The steep trail finally brought us to the overlook, where the view over the caldera was outstanding.
Mystic Falls probably got its name from the thermal activity in the area. The 70 foot falls is the only one in Yellowstone that has thermal activity. Although you cannot see it in the photo, steam was rising from several vents alongside the falls.
Our return hike took us along the Little Firehole River.
Last year, we to0k the short Firehole Lake Drive and were rewarded with seeing one of the geysers beside the road erupt. We decided to drive through again to see if there was any activity today. We were not disappointed. As we neared White Dome geyser, it began to shoot up water.
Finally, deciding our sore muscles needed rest, we headed home, currently 22 miles southwest of West Yellowstone. Ironically, we never even got to the stretch of the park we set out to see this morning! Guess we’ll just have to come back tomorrow!