On the drive to Yellowstone the day before my hike, my “change oil” light came on while I was on the road, and I promptly realized that I had no goddamn idea of how to change the oil in a car. Not the faintest inkling. So I asked the almighty Google, and got a little overwhelmed. I had no tools for this, never even seen the underside of a car to find out where the oil should drain out (something my father should have but did not teach me). So unfortunately, I shelled out 78 painful dollars to get my oil changed at the Yellowstone Service Station. That’s what I did in the morning before actually getting to the Yellowstone part of Yellowstone.
Of course I saw Old Faithful first, a short boardwalk from the visitor center that had eruption times conveniently posted on a board inside. Apparently, there is even an app to tell you these times as well.
It erupted a few minutes before time, and I had luckily squeezed in between the tourists camped out so that I could get a good look (these people had set up with lawn chairs to see it like it was a freaking parade). There was an empty square of boardwalk right at the edge, which I promptly fit my butt into and crossed my legs.
The eruption went surprisingly high, and immediately disappeared into billowing white steam coming off it into the air. I took a short video, and watched the rest disperse. Just what I’d expected really, but still fun to watch.
I then drove to the Fairy Falls trailhead, lucky to find a parking spot in the late morning. The short walk to the Grand Prismatic Spring was clogged with people, but the fight was well worth it.
From the overlook, an unbelievably bright pool simmered and steamed down below. Acid-aqua and sulfur yellow, umber orange and ocean blue in the middle of this stark gray-swirled plane. The most beautiful water I have ever seen, although I couldn’t approach closer down on the actual boardwalks due to the perpetually full parking lot over there. A better view from above anyway, I think.
I carried on to Fairy Falls through the somehow volcanic-looking woods. I brought bear spray and a knife, and clipped my noisy keys to my waist after seeing the plentiful warnings of large predators in the park.
Through the (surprisingly quiet and peaceful) woods, I reached the falls.
The small, narrow gush from up above careened over the precipice, fanning out as it fell through the air to crash and cascade over the lower cliff face, pooling and misting where it landed. It was so tall I could barely get all of it in the frame of my camera.
I went further on to Imperial Geyser, another 0.6 miles out. But as I walked, I was viciously and constantly attacked by horse flies that bit down sharply and left huge welts. So I snapped a couple uncomfortable pictures of the small bubbling geyser and hurried back, probably looking crazy once again to the hikers I passed (who appeared somehow unaffected by the damned flies).
I went back to the main complex around Old Faithful, and walked around the very expensive looking Old Faithful Inn. I felt very out of place inside with my dirty clothes and muddy boots after spending the last 20 or so days in my tent. I sort of hoped that when I was old, I would end up with too much money like these people staying at the Inn, so that I could stay there too.
I settled down on a quiet picnic table next to Snow Lodge with some pre-packaged food from the park’s general store, and I wolfed it all down. Successful day, I would say.
If I hadn’t had the oil change nonsense happen with my car that morning, I would have gotten to the park much earlier, and maybe had the chance to get into some of the fuller parking lots. Yellowstone is a very popular park (rivaling the crowds at Yosemite, which I would know later), so it would be worth it to get up before dawn to see this place.
While I allowed myself one day to visit this park with the time I had, a thorough experience of this place would take at least three days. My visit to the Grand Prismatic Spring and the Old Faithful complex was a small chip out of the expanse of the park. After all, it takes one or two hours to even drive across Yellowstone (obey the speed limits, please. There is wildlife. You will hit it.)
Next time I come back, which I really hope I will, I’ll head up to Mammoth Hot Springs (it looked really interesting!).