A Hot Minute in the Yellowstone Caldera!

Calderi Caldera, everyone!

This morning, I was up super early again because I couldn’t stomach the thought of a visit to Yellowstone without seeing its famous geysers! It was a long haul from Cody, up over the Continental Divide, which splits the United States river system. All rivers on the left of the Continental Divide flow toward the Pacific Ocean, while all rivers on the right flow to the Atlantic! What an incredible journey!

About an hour past the Divide sign, I reached the Old Faithful Lodge, next to the Old Faithful Inn, next to the Old Faithful Visitor Center, in order to see, you guessed it: Old Faithful! Among the roughly 500 geysers in Yellowstone, Old Faithful is by far the most famous, because it is so readily predictable, shooting up to 8,400 gallons of scalding hot water up to 84 feet every 60-110 minutes!

It is single-handedly the most famous feature of the Yellowstone Caldera, and once the predicted eruption times are posted at the visitor center, huge crowds start to gather around this amazing geyser! I was lucky enough to arrive fifteen minutes before eruption, and though it was brief and steamy, it was awesome!

When Old Faithful settled down to snooze, I set off to wander the boardwalks of the Upper Geyser Basin. First I wanted to take a closer look at Blue Star Spring, a lovely blue pool of scalding water that has survived years of abuse! Campers used to use it as a trash can, and when it was cleaned out in 1946, the pile of garbage was six feet long and three feet wide! Please don’t throw trash in these pools! It ruins the experience for everyone!

As I continued wandering, I encountered two more neat geysers: Beehive Geyser and Grand Geyser. Beehive Geyser is a cone geyser that was named by the Washburn Expedition in 1870. Though not nearly as regular as Old Faithful, if you can catch Beehive erupting on its 8- to 24-hour interval, you’ll be treated to a burst of water that’s 200 feet tall! Grand Geyser, a fountain geyser, is the same height but is much more predictable, erupting every 7 to 15 hours! Most of the Yellowstone experience is founded on patience and time, which, when you only get one morning, just aren’t available!

Down the boardwalk, there was a much livelier scene at Grotto Geyser, a super neat fountain geyser shaped by minerals built up on the trunks of trees that used to live here! It was splashing and frothing like crazy, and has been known to carry on between 1.5 and 10 hours per eruption!

At the side of Grotto Geyser, I met a traveler named Pippin and her friend, Thing 1. Normally Thing 1 travels with his friend, Thing 2, but Thing 2 apparently decided to sleep in today. No matter, it was neat meeting another tiny traveler enjoying the spectacular sights of the Upper Geyser Basin!

At the end of the trail, I came across one of Yellowstone’s most famous springs, but also one of its most mistreated: Morning Glory Pool! When first discovered, this pool shone with radiant blues and turquoises, but those colors have since faded to green and yellow. How come?!

Like Blue Star Spring, Morning Glory Pool has been used as a garbage can by careless tourists for years! By throwing countless rocks, sticks, and bits of trash into the spring, people have clogged the bottom and cut off the hot water that had been warming the pool’s blue and green bacteria! Now that the water is cooling, only green, yellow, and brown bacteria can survive! It’s a big shame, though the pool is still holding on to some of its beauty. Don’t throw rocks in hot springs!

With time ticking, I hustled back toward the entrance, pausing long enough to admire the Old Faithful Inn, a national historical landmark completed in 1905! One of the largest log hotels in the world, it gave birth to a new type of building design called “parkitecture,” which incorporates native wood and stone into building design to make it more unique to the park it calls home!

Before I left the park, though, I had to make one more stop at a place that astounds the imagination, the kind of place that still holds on to the splendor that Morning Glory Pool has lost. It’s a place called the Grand Prismatic Spring!

Part of the Midway Geyser Basin, the Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest hot spring in the world and easily one of the most heavily visited! The boardwalk was packed with tourists from all over the world, each straining for a selfie with the brilliant blue water in the background. It was too much! I had to get out of here! Luckily, about half a mile down the road, there was a trailhead that not as many folks knew about. Time to get high!

After a short walk to the vista point, I stared down on the astonishing blue sun that is the Grand Prismatic Spring! Named by the Hayden Expedition of 1871 and painted by Thomas Moran, the spring’s colors were so vivid that most folks who saw the paintings thought Mr. Moran had fudged the colors! Not so! The spring is full of bright blue bacteria that thrive in its 142-160°F water! Who knew that something so small could create something so grand?!

Alas, the 12:00 bell rang, and I had to scram. My flight out of Cody was scheduled for 3:30, and I had a long drive ahead. It was a shame, because Yellowstone is huge! There are so many trails and geothermal features so far from the beaten path, high mountains to climb, and secret lakes to discover! That means I’ll have to come back some day!

My knapsack and I’ll be back!

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