Yellowstone National Park – more than 2 million acres of erupting geysers, steaming cracks, bubbling mud, roaring waterfalls and fantastic, other-worldly views – spend a day here, and it’s obvious that our Creator had a sense of humor.  Yellowstone, is a joyous, happy, noisome park; the phrase “bubbling over with joy” would certainly apply, as the various thermal locations hiss, spew, bubble and spray.

2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1003 When we began our day, we were surprised to find the truck windshield covered with frost, but it didn’t take long for the sun to start warming up the day, and by the time we reached Old Faithful, the temperature was comfortable.  As we neared the first thermal features of the park, the steamy fog was thick.

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When we were here last year, one small section of the park was closed for road construction, but we knew it was an area we wanted to return to see.

On that visit, we arrived at Old Faithful mid to late morning.  After watching it’s display, we decided against taking the mile plus boardwalk along Geyser Hill, just behind Old Faithful.  That walk was first on today’s list.

Old Faithful gained its name by being just that, faithful.  Thousands of gallons of steaming water thunder into the sky on such a regular schedule that the park personnel can predict the next eruption within a 20 minute window.  We arrived within that window, so decided watching would be our first action of the day.  Having seen its dramatic show last year, we were a little surprised at the display this morning.  Due to the cold temperature of the surrounding air, and the hot temperature of the spraying water, all we could see was billowing steam… lots of it, but the water was completely shrouded.  Still, an impressive 3 minute display:2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1022

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Geyser Hill is dotted with several small geysers congregated in a small area.  You  never know when the one in front of you will decide to erupt.  Capturing photos at just the right instant can be a challenge.   2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1052    2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1064

After circling the hill, we took a few minutes to tour the newly opened Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, an impressive 27 million dollar facility.  As we looked at the many interactive exhibits, a ranger announced that Old Faithful was due to erupt again shortly, so we decided to watch again.  This time, we were not disappointed.  The eruption lasted 3 minutes, and surely reached it’s average eruption height of 130 feet. 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1075 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1077

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From Old Faithful, we drove to Biscuit Basin, containing another circular boardwalk and the trailhead for both Mystic Falls and Fairy Falls.  2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1112 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1102 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1106 

Mystic Falls was our destination.  The round trip is 3 miles, which doesn’t sound like a difficult hike until you consider that you are starting at 7,000 feet elevation and climbing a switchback trail to an overlook more than 700 feet higher.  We found that we had to stop frequently to let our heart rate and breathing slow, but the hike was very rewarding.

 Our hike to Mystic Falls begins 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1114 

From the trail, we could see Old Faithful, several miles away, erupting again.

Old Faithful erupts in the distant center  The trail is steep and narrow

The steep trail finally brought us to the overlook, where the view over the caldera was outstanding.2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1132

The Yellowstone caldera (caldera comes from Latin for "cooking pot") measures roughly 34 x 45 miles.  From the overlook you can see the western wall of the caldera.We are at the very edge of the huge caldera

The trail continues for almost another mile before reaching the falls. 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1142

Mystic Falls probably got its name from the thermal activity in the area.  The 70 foot falls is the only one in Yellowstone that has thermal activity.  Although you cannot see it in the photo, steam was rising from several vents alongside the falls.2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1146

Our return hike took us along the Little Firehole River.

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Back at Biscuit Basin, we admired more of the features along the boardwalk. 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1166 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1171 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1172 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1173

Last year, we to0k the short Firehole Lake Drive and were rewarded with seeing one of the geysers beside the road erupt.  We decided to drive through again to see if there was any activity today.  We were not disappointed.  As we neared White Dome geyser, it began to shoot up water. 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1181

With a cone height of 20 feet, and an orifice of only 4”, it puts on quite a display, and rewarded us with what I thought was one of the best photos of the day. 2010-09-03 - MT & WY, Yellowstone National Park -1185

Finally, deciding our sore muscles needed rest, we headed home, currently 22 miles southwest of West Yellowstone.  Ironically, we never even got to the stretch of the park we set out to see this morning!  Guess we’ll just have to come back tomorrow!

Island Park to Yellowstone

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