Yellowstone was awesome, as always, with so many highlights to note in my three days spent in “the park” from May 31-June 2. Last Sunday night was especially amazing in the Old Faithful Upper Geyser Basin, with the following night being pretty spectacular as well.
Late afternoon last Sunday, I stopped by to visit Midway Geyser Basin, home to Grand Prismatic Spring, Turquoise Pool, and other unworldly thermal features. My friend Virgia, who is now an interpretive park ranger in the Old Faithful area, had mentioned seeing grizzly bear tracks in some of the outflow channels there, and it was cool to see so many of them, so close to the boardwalk, and wonder how grizzlies and other wild critters navigate these places without getting scalded or killed. Every year, some undoubtedly do, though. In many years the same goes for people who illegally venture off area trails and boardwalks over thin and geologically unstable surfaces.
Later that night I saw an indelible sunset while waiting for Old Faithful Geyser to erupt. Billowy banks of marshmallow-shaped clouds piled atop each other, maroon, silver, creamy white, auburn, dreamsicle orange and darker colors all shifting as the sun’s last rays dipped and then vanished over the northwestern horizon. When the geyser erupted, its sunstruck waters blended with the multi-hued sky, its steam phase following, dark and swirling in the dusk, lurking like a funnel cloud does as it touches down to earth.
The following night I had overheard a geyser gazer talking excitedly while galloping at full speed along the boardwalk on the far side of the Firehole River. Beehive Geyser was about to erupt, he said, and he encouraged me to get there fast if I were to catch its eruption. Geyser gazers, or “geyser geeks” as they are sometimes called, are enthusiastic fans of thermal features. Most are long-term seasonal volunteers who share their observations with National Park Service interpretive rangers, while providing a visible and vital presence to discourage vandalism and other maltreatment of the park’s vulnerable natural resources.
I never saw Beehive erupt that night, as I was too cold from standing around in the persistent rain waiting for it to go, but from that vantage point I saw Castle Geyser erupt for over twenty minutes, followed by its wildly voluminous steam phase. Several minutes after Castle got going, Grand Geyser, the tallest predictable geyser in the park, erupted in the distance, and not too soon afterwards, Old Faithful went again.
Beehive is one of my favorites, and I was bummed that I wasn’t more prepared to wait for it to erupt on its own terms and timetable. But that’s what I like about Yellowstone the most. We don’t come first, even with three million of us visiting the park in most years. The land, its non-human inhabitants, and its ecological and geological processes do here instead.