Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Yellowstone: More than just Old Faithful

Yellowstone needs no introduction. It has got to be the most fascinating place on earth, given the on-going geologic activities. I have been wanting to go since learning about it in geography class.

And now that I am staying in the US, I no longer think that Wyoming is as remote as Mars. The perks of being on this side of the globe!

So the Fearless Three (Dad, Mom and I) decided to do a budget trip to Yellowstone. Dad has just retired, Mom has retired, and yours truly is unemployed. We decided to take on the long road trip challenge.

We would fly from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, Utah, making a transit at Phoenix, Arizona. Then we would drive five hours up north to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The route would cut through Idaho. Five states in a day. Beat that!

Needless to say, we were exhausted by the time we arrived at Elk Refuge Inn at Jackson Hole. It wasn't as grand as the villa we have stayed on our Fairmont trip, but it's a decent lodge and our loft came with a small kitchenette, two beds, a toilet and a dining area.

(Note: We would have loved to stay within Yellowstone but there were no more vacancies when I called. A word of advice - book way in advance!)

The next morning, we drove two hours into Yellowstone via the Grand Teton National Park. As we drove in from the south, we were shocked to find snow all around. We even saw blocks of ice floating on Lewis Lake. It was hilarious because we were totally dressed for summer!

And then we finally arrived at the Old Faithful! We reached just in time. The world famous geyser was about to erupt; there was a commotion and people were running as we parked. We ran alongside the crowd to witness the first eruption. I was expecting a wall of water to spurt out, and hence was a little disappointed that it was small and didn't last long.

We were in the Old Faithful Visitor Centre, planning to go to our next destination when a hailstorm announcement came. Talk about sudden climate change. A moment ago it was all well and sunny; the next moment we were trapped indoors. I had to brave the storm to get our jackets because it was freezing.

The storm took more than an hour to pass. It was near the timing of the next eruption, so we decided to wait in the rain for the Old Faithful one more time. This time, she was really late. 10 minutes... 15 minutes... then VROOM! A gushing wall of vapour and water!

This is what we are talking about!

After witnessing the spectacular eruption, we decided to hang around the Upper Geyser Basin and do the 2.8-mile round trip to the Morning Glory Pool. It was awesome walking on the boardwalk, enjoying the sights of geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles boiling and spewing vapour all around us.

Mother Earth is breathing and we are standing right on her nostrils!

We also said hello to the thermophiles. These organisms thrive in extremely high temperatures, and they give pools like this their pretty colour. Isn't it awesome?

Before leaving the Upper Basin and ending our first day at Yellowstone, the Riverside Geyser gave us a grand performance, shooting a tall column of water up in the skies for over 15 minutes. This gave us enough time to snap as many photos as we could, and then enjoy the geyser just as it is.

Pretty rainbow there, hein?

To be continued...

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