My Day as a Tourist

I finished my last day of work on Saturday, August 27. On the following Monday, my last full day in the park, I finally did something I’d been meaning to do all summer long. I got up at 5AM, which is quite the accomplishment in itself, but there was good reason for it. I jumped in my car, while the night sky still shone and the sun yet to rise. I drove out towards the Old Faithful area. I was excited for this trip for a few different reasons. One was that it was my first time going to this part of the park. Some of my coworkers were surprised that I hadn’t been out here yet, but I focused most of my attention this summer to my job and to my ministry at Roosevelt. True, there may have been opportunities to turn this trip into ministry, but as I was driving out there, I was glad that it was just me. This trip was also personal. I had remembered the memory book my grandmother gave me and how Yellowstone was always a place that she wanted to visit. In some way, this trip was fulfilling an unspoken promise between she and I. This trip was also a time of worship for me. I’ve spent an entire summer serving the Lord and He has had a busy summer working within and through me. This trip was a recognition of the great things He has done.

As I drive, the sky begins to lighten and as I get out towards that area, the sun has risen a little. My first glimpses of this area are just pillars of steam rising into the sky. My first real stop was Midway Geyser Basin, home of the Grand Prismatic. This is the number one stop on my list and my only “must-see” before I left. As I arrive in this area, the sun is just peaking over the mountain ridge in the short distance. Because it was so early, there are practically no tourists here. There was enough space between the small groups of us that it seems like we have the entire place to ourselves.The cool morning and hot springs produce a lot of steam, billowing into the morning air; the clouds hovering above the pools of color that have yet to shine from the day’s light.  What I didn’t expect was the beauty of Excelsior Geyser in the same area. Its craggy rocks and the clear bright blue water still shrouded in steam was absolutely breathtaking.

After I took in the beautiful sights there, I moved along and parked my car at Biscuit Basin and crossed the road to the trail towards Old Faithful area. I took the rest of the morning and walked down the geyser boardwalks, making a complete loop of the Old Faithful area. Morning Glory and Artemisia were definitely good sights to see. The first geyser action I saw was at Grotto Geyser. It was sending steam up high in the air as I approached it. The water gushing out reminded me a little of those structures they have at water parks for kids to splash them occasionally. I sat and watched it for a while before moving on.

From this point, I had to walk on boardwalks that were there. Because of so much geothermal activity, the ground itself is unsafe to walk on and by treading upon it, the ecosystem could be harmed. It was really weird though. Walking along and just a few feet away from you, there is a pool of water that is naturally boiling. I walked by most of the sights fairly quickly, because there was no way of predicting their times of activity and the ones that could be predicted were not in the window of available time for me.

I finally made it to the Old Faithful area itself but took a side trail that led up to an observation point that overlooked all that area. Along the way, I passed by a place called Solitary Geyser. It was a hot spring that people back in 1915 thought they could harness and so they put a pipe into the water. This action caused the hot spring to start erupting every 5 minutes or so. They took out the pipe, hoping to restore it back, but the eruptions still kept happening. The eruption is really small, no more than 4 ft., lasting only for a few seconds really. As I got there, I just had to wait less than a minute before it went off. I waited around a little longer, not realizing that was the extent of it. Some other people got there shortly after the water had calmed. A few minutes later, it went off again; this time I was prepared with my camera and got a video of it. The other people were not impressed, “Wait? Was that it?” On my way out, I told them that at least that one eruption was bigger than one they had just missed.

After finishing the trail, it was time for the main attraction in this area. Luckily, I had plenty of time to rest for a bit and prepare myself. I had been warned not to expect anything great from Old Faithful itself: “It’s a tourist thing.” “It’s in the middle of a parking lot.” “I mean you got to do it, but make sure you see other things.” Considering that this was my one real geyser that I saw erupt, it was pretty cool. It does tease a lot though. There were so many times, the rumbling would be followed by a quick burst of water and steam and you’re left to wonder, “Is this it? Is it finally going to erupt this time?” When it finally did erupt, the water gushed about and everyone did the very touristy “ooh! ahh!” exclamations. After seeing Old Faithful, I’m definitely curious to see what other geysers would have looked like, but alas, it was not my time to see those. On my way out of the area, I saw the Caste Geyser was already in its window of time to erupt, so I sat down to wait. I waited for nearly 45 minutes and then a volunteer working with the NPS (National Park Service) changed the estimated time to later than I could wait that day. And so I continued my way back to my car.

As I walked back, I walked by some of the very things I passed that morning. It was interesting to be able to see them in the different light of the afternoon. I decided that I would stop by Midway Geyser Basin again to see how different Grand Prismatic and Excelsior would look in the afternoon light. The tourist situation was not as bad as I thought it would be and it was totally worth risking it anyways. The colors were so vibrant. It was a good way to end the day, just as I had started. Then I made the drive back and so ended my day as a tourist.


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