Maybe it’s my Florida roots but my mind kept comparing Yellowstone to Walt Disney World. Weird right?—when did this national park ever resemble a musical containing rides involving flying elephants? During my “Geyser Day” traveling the area between West Yellowstone and the West Thumb of the Lake I visited Old Faithful and the huge crowds that shopped, ate, and bought souvenirs around the famous geyser reminded me strongly of the thick crowds that also attended Florida’s most famous theme park.
The Old Faithful Geyser is definitely Yellowstone’s most famous attraction. The huge parking lot stuffed with cars and lined with shops, restaurants, and a beautiful hotel in an otherwise building-scarce park are evidence of its popularity.
Until this point, Boyfriend Shoes and I have not seen an actual erupting geyser so we weren’t sure we’d recognize it until one of us accidently fell in and the coroner wrote the geyser’s name in as the cause of death. Several signs throughout the buildings predict the time of the next eruption (give or take 10 minutes). As the time of the predicted eruption approached, we made our way to the location where every bench and boardwalk bordering the small, stone hill were already conquered by other tourists. Old Faithful puffed clouds and kept looking like it would burst while toying with our emotions as many cameras raised multiple times thinking the eruption was about to start.
Then POOOOF! White water foam and steam exploded into the air as the crowd oohed and aahed. After almost seven minutes of extreme photography, Shoes and I had enough and wandered into the nearby visitor center.
UPPER GEYSER BASIN
While in the visitor center, an intercom voice announced the—voila!—upcoming once-a-day eruption of the Beehive Geyser. We trampled the boardwalk that led us safely over the smooth, stony ground towards an area about 100 feet away from the geyser. Suddenly from what looked like a stone chimney spout sticking out of the earth, the Beehive Geyser exploded straight up higher and more impressive than Old Faithful. Crowds cheered and those who had managed to snag boardwalk space even closer to the geyser came away laughing and soaked from the blowing steam.
After conquering more of the Upper Geyser Basin, we managed to become even luckier tourists by viewing Castle Geyser’s eruption—another once-a-day geyser. When the Castle Geyser was just puffing steam, white smoke streamed steadily out of its large, stone mound created from ages of eruption and sediment buildup. This was the prettiest geyser there because during its eruption, tiny waterfalls of water cascaded down the sides of the ‘castle’ into running streams.
The Observation Deck is a small hike detouring from the rest of the main boardwalk path but offered a great view of the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful in the distance. Although the ascent came fast with 200 feet up in just a half mile, the path was relatively easy and definitely worth the view.
MIDWAY GEYSER BASIN
Where’s the geysers? Perhaps my patience had blown away with the cold air, but I saw many large hot springs there but no geysers… unless they were all sleeping. White steam billowed everywhere and sometimes hid the boardwalk and gave the ethereal feeling of floating in the clouds.
Prismatic Springs was the grandest there and the equally large Excelsior Geyser Crater nearby delivered hints of heated color but only when the thick cloud of steam decided to lay up for a little. Otherwise they stayed shrouded.
FIREHOLE LAKE DRIVE
This is one of those short detour drives shooting away from the main road. Along the way our little Chevy came very close to thin towers of steam rising from the ground as well as silent geysers. BF Shoes and I patiently waited to see if we’d get lucky with both the White Dome Geyser (every 12-24 minutes but it never even splattered in the half hour we sat) and the Great Fountain Geyser (every 8-12 hours) but our luck with timed geysers had run out.
FOUNTAIN PAINT POTS
The Paint Pots was one of my favorite areas because in addition to the now-familiar hot springs (I could recognize one like family now) there were THREE unique sights there. The art pots were basically neutral makeup melted together in small bloop-blooping pools. It was almost comical to see the mud bubbles burst and splash tiny mud drops into the air.
And ARRGH I forget the name of it, but you can hear this steaming vent before you see it. BF Shoes and I aptly nicknamed it “Entry to Dante’s Inferno” because the steam escaping this mini cavern in the ground hissed so loudly and menacingly. It sounded like something ready to explode and the heated liquids inside just burst and splashed threateningly. We quickly moved away.
Finally, the geysers were all clustered in one area and were the coolest to observe. A few of them erupted on occasion, but several geysers like the Morning and Clepsydra Geysers continuously erupted. It was a Bellagio spectacle if the fountains decided to malfunction. It was a water warfare of mines blasting steam into the air.
Like Disney World I quickly learned Yellowstone visitors are quick to stop in the middle of their paths whether in car or foot to ogle sights. SLR cameras rule the electronics in people’s hands and there’s a huge chance you’ll run into packs of Chinese tourists. I’ve also grown accustomed to scanning my sights quickly left and right as soon as I see cars stopped road side or slowing down. Sometimes when I don’t see anything I get confused and question my eyesight, but most of the time I’ve seen wildlife in their natural settings
Meanwhile, click HERE or any of my photos above to be taken to my album.