Yellowstone – an American Safari (Part II)

Yellowstone Day Two:  Today we went up the western side of the park, branching off to the left at West Thumb.  Heading out early, we made a beeline to Old Faithful before the larger crowds moved in.  The majority of the world’s active geysers are in the Upper Geyser Basin along the Firehole River, where Old Faithful is found.  Geysers and hot springs are formed as a result of heated magma underground which superheats rain water once it seeps below the surface.  The hot water then rises to the surface through underground cracks.  Temperatures can exceed 199 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watching the eruption of Old Faithful is a park tradition and the most popular tourist attraction there, so it gets packed with people.  The geyser (currently) goes off approximately every 90 minutes.

Nice wooden bench seating on the boardwalk surrounding Old Faithful Geyser…

The viewpoint for Old Faithful is located just outside the Old Faithful Inn, which makes for nice accommodations or a nice rest stop along the route.  The Inn provides both a quick-serve cafe and full-service restaurant.

Just as important as seeing Old Faithful erupt early in the morning is getting out on the boardwalk trail to the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin.  The walk to Morning Glory Pool (the end of the trail) is approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip from the Inn, and well worth it.  It is an easy trail, partially paved, partially wooden boardwalk.  If you’re here in the summer, it’s hot.  Bring an umbrella and don’t be afraid to be “that person” that walks around under an umbrella in the sun.  You will thank me.

Converting my scarf into a sun shade…

Take the paved trail from the Inn’s parking lot to the left, towards Castle Geyser.  As the park service will warn you, DO NOT wander off the marked trails.  The week we were there, a young man ventured off the path and fell into a hot spring and died.  But have no fear, as long as you stay on the marked trails, you will be just fine.

At Castle Geyser, take the wooden boardwalk to the right.

Castle Geyser’s large cone is a sign of old age, where water deposits have built up over thousands of years.  Because of these silica deposits, it has turned the area into a thermal desert, killing trees and turning them white.

Continue along the boardwalk, past many varied thermal features, staying to the left on the other side of the Firehole River.  Crested Pool is almost constantly boiling which prevents bacterial growth resulting in the clear blue water:

And, our namesake, Belgian Pool:

Chromatic Pool:

Stopping for a rest along the way…

More thermal desert…  The vivid colors in and around thermal features are created by microscopic organisms, which survive and thrive in environments toxic to us.  These organisms have been revolutionary in scientific research and are still being studied.

At Grotto Geyser (in the distance below), turn right to get back onto the paved trail.

A longtime favorite of park visitors, Morning Glory Pool is the prize at the end of the path.

This path is one way in – one way out.  Rather than taking the turnoff back towards the boardwalk route, we stayed on the paved trail the whole way back for a change of scenery (and slightly faster route back).

Leaving the Old Faithful area and heading north, you will pass several other Basin areas, including Biscuit Basin with Sapphire Pool:

We skipped Grand Prismatic Spring because of the crowds.  Continuing north along the Firehole River are lots of nice turnouts for a picnic.

Just before getting to Madison, there is a turnoff for Firehole Canyon Drive.  This one-way road takes you to Firehole Falls.

Be sure to stop at the end of the driveway before leaving for a nice little trail that takes you closer to the water.

Look – even mom & dad climbed out to the rocks!

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