Day two in Yellowstone we started with a visit to the Norris Basic Geysers (#4). This, as you may be able to predict from the name, is right next to our campground. We arrived pretty early and were among only a few vehicles in the lot when we got there.
The area has two major walking loops – the first one we did was Porcelain Basin and the second was the creatively named “back loop”. This area was largely devoid of plants with only a few dead trees poking up through the mineral deposited ground. There was steam coming up from vents, fumaroles, geysers and springs all around us. Overall there’s a wide variety even among the individual types of formations – some are crystal clear , others are milky white with dissolved limestone, others red, some just look like pools with some nice colors around the edges, others are constantly bubbling or steaming, others are violently erupting at short or long intervals.
The Fountain Paint Pots are, as you might gather by the name, the bubbling springs with high dissolved mineral content. They were relatively thin and bubbly when we were there, but apparently later in the summer they dry up more and either become thicker or dry up all together.
The next stop near the Lower Geyser Basin is the Grand Prismatic Spring – this is the one that makes a lot of famous aerial photos with the blue-green-yellow-orange-red fade out as you get further from the center. As mentioned in the previous post, this is governed by the temperature and the bacterial colonies which can survive at the various temperatures. It was pretty hard to get good pictures of some of the springs in this area because they were so huge and with the hot water hitting the cool air, the steam clouds obscured a lot of the scene.
The last stop for the day was at Old Faithful (#6). This might be the biggest town on Yellowstone and it took us a few minutes to find the visitor center and areas of interest. We walked into the visitor center five minutes after the ‘next’ scheduled eruption which hadn’t gone off yet and walked out to the geyser just in time to see it spout, which lasted maybe two minutes. This is clearly the most popular geyser in Yellowstone and the one that everyone talks about. It had bench seating going about 90 degrees around all of which was packed.
We walked around the loop there seeing the other geysers in the area. One of the most impressive was lion geyser which was erupting for a good 10 minutes while we were there, and given how close we could get to it (we could have gotten drenched in geyser rain if we had wanted to) was maybe more grand overall than old faithful. About the time we got back to Old Faithful it was minutes from erupting again, so we stuck around to watch for a second time.
On our way out of Old Faithful area, we considered stopping for food, but they didn’t have outlets to charge stuff so we just made sandwiches (hummus, cheese, egg, pita) and headed back toward Norris Campground.
We started to head for Hayden Valley to look for dusk wildlife and came upon a herd of elk crossing the road. We got back to camp late, a good bit after sunset and went straight to bed.