I woke up this day exhausted and not wanting to leave one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in at the small campground at the base of the Grand Tetons. The day before I hiked twelve miles through the Tetons, so I wasn’t looking forward to the 6 mile hike at Yellowstone this day. Nevertheless, I got myself up and headed to breakfast. After breakfast, we all loaded into the vans and headed back to Yellowstone National Park for the second time since departing on out ten day trip around the state. Our first stop was the Grand Prismatic Springs. These famous hot springs are one of the most popular attractions at Yellowstone. There were lots of people milling about, appreciating the vibrant colors of the spring waters. We of course stopped to take lots of pictures! The water was bright blue and the rainbow effect created by the bounty of bacterial colonies living in the spring was a super cool sight. Despite there being a lot of people, I didn’t’t mind the change of pace. I think its nice to be in a touristy area for a little while, makes me feel like I’ve rejoined civilization after camping in the wilderness for so long.
After Grand Prismatic, we embarked on a 6 mile round trip to fairy falls and other lesser known hot springs. This is where I turned into a not-so-happy camper for a little while. It was hot this day and I was in no mood for a hike, but I went anyway. I’m glad I did. When we arrived at Fairy Falls, my mood instantly brightened. It was so magical. The waterfall was super tall and fell over a cliff face into a beautiful pool below. We sat near the base of the falls and had lunch. It was so relaxing and it cooled all of us down. There were lots of extremely friendly ground squirrels that had no qualms about going right up to people in a sneaky attempt to steal food. To be fair, I watched it work on multiple occasions in the 30 minutes we spent at the falls. Fairy Falls was definitely my favorite stop of the day. As we were leaving, I did half fall into a creek, but at least it cooled me down!
Now back to the hike. We continued on a flat trail for a few more miles until we hit more hot springs, geysers, and mud pots. It was nice to be able to admire these amazing geothermal features without a ton of people around. After talking about the ecology of the bacterial colonies and other organisms that make up the geothermal ecosystems in Yellowstone. We sat in the shade to talk about fire ecology. Fire ecology is one of the most important topics in western forest management, especially as wildfire severity and frequency increase due to climate change. Fire recovery can be slow and Yellowstone is a perfect example of that. We can still see fire damage from the 1988 fire as some parts of the forest still haven’t recovered. Post-disturbance recovery is going to be more important as disturbances increase in the future.
After an hour of learning about fire ecology, we hiked back to the van to head to Old Faithful, a Yellowstone staple. When we arrived, we had about an hour before the geyser was predicted to go off again, so we did one of the group’s (or at least my own) favorite activities: shopping! We hit lots of the gift shops located near Old Faithful to pass the time. Once it was closer to the eruption time, we all went to sit on some fallen trees near the geyser. They were pretty good seat. Once the geyser went off (it was 15 minutes later than predicted, not very faithful of it), it was pretty amazing. It shot way higher in the air and lasted much longer than I was expecting. I understand why its so popular amongst tourists!
After that we got dinner and headed back to the campsite. I was happy to get to crawl into bed again! Overall, it was a great day, full of awesome experiences. The next day we were heading home, but I was super excited to visit a buffalo preserve on our way back to Laramie (it was really cool). I’m so glad I got to go on such an amazing trip and learn so much about the geology and ecology of such a cool place like Yellowstone.