JT whined a bit (she is not a morning person), but decided that it was for the best, so long as she didn't have to drive. Anyway, I went to sleep just to be awakened at 5 am by JT and KW...who were both awake, perky, and fully dressed. Apparently they'd woken themselves up at 4:30 am. CRAZY!
We got into the car and KW kindly made the hour and a half drive in pitch dark to Old Faithful.
Old Faithful is close to deserted at 7 am off season, just saying...
It was quite cold and not many people were out. There were various rumors as to when it would erupt, but it was hard to tell since the official clock hadn't been updated from last night. So we all sat around being like, "Is that it?" "Is that it?" "No."
Another amusing moment was finding this sign. I love how tortured the kid looks, although there's part of me that thinks this might just be convicing kids that going off the boardwalk is a Fun Adventure!
We were amused by a raven that hung out near us and kept playing with a rock of some sort, making a very odd noise. We had no food, so not sure why he hung out with us....we saw another in the parking lot who looked like he was trying to ride a motorcycle. Ravens, man....
After a bit of waiting, we were rewarded by Old Faithful going off!
It looks less amazing on camera, since you can't see the size or the duration. It went off for maybe 5 minutes and is around 100 feet high, so it's quite impressive indeed. I wish I'd gotten a few pictures with one of us in front of it just to show how freaking enormous it is.
More Old Faithful!
With the geysers visited, we went off to our next stop - Grand Prismatic Spring!
(You'll notice, if you pull out a Yellowstone map, that we aren't doing these strictly in order. This is because we wanted to make sure that we hit the big attractions first so we'd have smaller crowds. I feel like we were rewarded. We pulled out of Grand Prismatic - then Fountain Paint Pots - just to see tour buses pulling up behind us. So we got them practically to ourselves. Lucky us!!!!)
The approach to Grand Prismatic/Midway Geyser basin stars with a colorful run off that, um, reminds me a lot of visiting chemical plants and mines. Sorry Grand Prismatic.
There was then a bubbling pool of the bluest water. It's gorgeous, but again, I'm not sure I *want* to know the chemicals that caused it!
Grand Prismatic itself felt a bit meh. It's amazing for its size, but you can't really *see* it due to the steam and how it's huge. I guess you used to be able to hike up to an overlook, but it's been closed off. Boo. Still, it's pretty at an angle.
I personally preferred some of the smaller pools, like this one, where you could see the colors more clearly as they're smaller.
From there, we headed up towards Fountain Paint Pots. But there was also a cool little turn off for Firehole drive, which we went up. Good thing! I think some of my favorite memories are from there!
A small blue hot springs just sitting by the side of the road. I love the colors and the textures of the cavern underneath.
A rainbow over a mud geyer. Because it rained a fair amount, but was generally sunny, we got a LOT of rainbows during our trip. A good sign? Sure!
As we were driving along, we saw this little guy going and raced to see it! It apparently goes off once a day, but lasts about 3 hours, so we hadn't had to race. Still, it was a gorgeous little guy, spraying about 10 feet in the air out of a distinctive pink cap.
There were tiny geysers like this everywhere as the water frantically bubbled about us. One was aptly named "Young Hopeful Geyser", I guess with the idea that maybe all little geysers hope to grow up one day to be big.
Many of the trees showed this cool "bobby socks" pattern after dying in the hot, acidic mud.
Firehole drive dumped is off right at Fountain Paint pots, so we wandered around the boardwalk, looking at them. You will not be surprised to learn that they are amazing!
Me outside Fountain Paint Pots.
I felt like Grand Prismatic and Old Faithful are BIG and kind of impersonal. Fountain Paint Pots, instead, are rather small and fun. (JT liked them best out of everything.) They really felt like they rewarded just sitting around and looking at them for a bit, seeing what they'd do next.
The gray one was amusingly bubbly.
Right next to it was a bubbly red one. Interstingly enough, we saw a lot of the gray mud/red mud duo. I wonder why?
Jet geyser, going off along the boardwalk. It actually sprayed us. Wee!
This one (Clepsydra Geyser) has an amazing yellow and green base.
We left Fountain Paint pots and backtracked to Black Sands Basin and Biscuit basin. More pretty pools and geysers here!
I find the little ones that are trying to be super cute!
More beautiful pools! This one had a lot of the colors of Grand Prismatic, while being a bit easier to see.
The greens and yellows are astounding. Nature is pretty amazing, huh?
Sapphire Pool deserves its name. How can anything have such amazing colors?
Engrish exists in the US, too!
This one kept trying to escape its basin!
I LOVED all of the little growths below!
After wandering around the Biscuit Basin boardwalk, we headed up a 2.5 mile round trip to Mystic Falls and Biscuit Basin overlook (I'd read that it was one of the top hikes in the park, so figured why not?)
The path was a fairly gentle 3/4 of a mile or so up to Mystic Falls.
Me and KW, at Mystic Falls!
Mystic Falls is lovely, if not extraordinary. It's the sort of falls that would normally be worth a 3/4 mile hike, but maybe not in Yellowstone where there is SO MUCH TO DO.
Then we had another 3/4 straight up a mountain, which rather sucked. It was pretty brutal - not quite mountain climbing brutal, but a little more than I think any of us wanted in our sleep deprived state.
But it was worth it when we reached the overlook.
We got a view of the entire lower geyser basin!
Geysers! In the distance!!!!
All three of us at the top, looking nerdy.
JT looks pretty cute here. I look well...protected from the sun.
The boardwalk below!
Another grand panorama!
We climbed back down (steep - definitely recommend doing the falls first on the loop, if you ever try it, hypothetical reader!) and crossed the boardwalk.
More pretty hot springs.
Then we headed up towards Norris + the artist's paint pots (the last things we had scheduled for the day). It was still early and another recommended hike was the one to Monument Geyser basin. It was about 2 miles round trip, so we pulled to the side of the road and hiked up.
As a positive: there was almost no one there (we ran into a young family that we dissuaded + saw a few other people at the top)
As a con: It was STEEP and rocky and we were already tired. The basin was kind of cool, but after seeing MORE cool stuff, it honestly wasn't worth the hour and a half it took + exhaustion. (Esp. as we could have sent that time/energy at Norris.)
So was it worth it? IDK. I think if we'd had another day, yes. But with the (extremely) limited time we had, it wasn't.
Falls on the way to somewhere - maybe Monument?
Monument Geyser basin. FWIW, it IS cool to go hiking through the woods just to come to this smoking, cratered, desolate moonscape. It's just...there are a LOT of these in Yellowstone. The only really unique feature was this, which was a smoking, um, tube. I hadn't seen anything else quite like it.
Anyhow, now very tired, we made it off to Artist Paint Pots.
Fun bubbly water by the paint pots!
This little guy was going bonkers!
The paint pots from above. See all the pretty colors!
More gorgeous colors!
This mud pool was bubbling in really cool, geometric formations.
A pretty, unnamed pool.
Colorful bacterial mats.
Anyway, the paint pots were fun, leaving us with one last thing to visit - Norris!
In retrospect, we got there too late. We were already tired and honestly, I think Norris probably was the best place we visited, so I wished we'd had more time there. It is what it is. Still, Norris!
Let's start with the obvious - Norris is freaking gorgeous.
There are so many colors it seems surreal.
We started in the aptly named "Porcelain Basin", which was white with pools of vivid blues, greens, and reds.
This one looks like an opal!
Three different colored pools in a row!
More mysterious colors - it's like a wizard came here!
I loved this chemical residue as it almost looks like pottery glaze.
After exploring Porcelain, we went to the Back Basin area.
Another amazing pool.
Steamboat Geyser erupting. At its fullest (every 3 years or so), it's the largest geyser in the park. Right now, it's just doing a little eruption. KW and I left to explore more while JT hung around and saw a larger eruption.
Another amazing rainbow pool. This one was surrounded with benches. We found (from a plaque) that this was because, in the 90s, it used to erupt fairly frequently. In theory, it still could...but hasn't.
More colorful, bubbling pools!
An interesting run off...
Another cool geyser. This one, or one near it was "Minute Geyser" as it used to go off every minute...until jerks who threw stuff in it caused it to be blocked. NO!!!!
Anyway, now having seen a TON of amazing stuff, we returned to our hotel. There we ate bison burgers (to celebrate destroying the animals who kept blocking the road) and got to bed early for the next day. Whoo hooo!!!!