Our morning started early with a chilly walk to Old Faithful. The sun had not yet risen and though the clouds and fog limited our visibility, it did not limit our excitement. The geyser is named accordingly because it is predictable, and faithfully erupts. Unlike the other geysers that function together like a family, this one lives on its own with a single water system. This allows the pressure to build up on a consistent basis.
We next met Ranger Rita and assisted her in the collection of geyser prediction data. We measured the time and temperature in order to predict the next eruption. We learned just how hot and dangerous these amazing geysers can be.
After lunch we continued to learn about thermal features of the park. We were amazed to learn that water flows at a rate of 4000 gallons per minute at Excelsior Spring. This constant flow is what helps the Fire Hole River stay free of ice, thereby providing animals in the park with a source of water. A few feet later we saw the famous Grand Prismatic Spring. This thermal feature is famous for its astounding, rainbow-like appearance from above. The pool is a clear, Caribbean blue with the edges characterized by hues of green, yellow and orange which are actually algae and bacteria growing on the pool’s edge. Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the park and spans 370 feet across.
We rode a bit further in our snowcoach to Fountain Paint Pots. These mud pots are often called paint pots as they vary in shades of black, cream, grey and even pink due to the dissolved iron. The pools resemble vibrant pottery.
Our senses and emotions were overloaded today! We took in many sounds, from the gurgles of the paint pots to the bass thumping of Black Sand Pool that we could feel as well as hear. At Black Sand Pool we lay on our backs and experienced nature as it spoke to us through its thermal heartbeat. This experience moved each of us in different ways. It was a unique opportunity to be in a group, but also to be alone in Yellowstone.
The word “family” comes to mind when reflecting on today’s experiences. The majority of geysers that we saw today are like a family; their thermal activity is interdependent. Our group of 12 also acts as a family; we have our leaders who guide us, and we each have our own roles yet we work together to support each other. At the end of today’s journey we unintentionally joined a family of bison (a large one at that!) as we encountered them on the road and we quickly realized we were at the bottom of the pecking order!
Written by Bethany, Donna, Jessica, and Stephen