The Family Stone Part I: Upper Geyser Basin

Posted by on October 9, 2014 at 9:18 pm :: No Comments

My family has not gone on vacation together for almost twenty years. This fall we attempted to remedy that, sort of. Jason and I traveled to Yellowstone National Park near the end of August with my parents and my brother Andrew’s family for an extended weekend overflowing with hydrothermal masterpieces.

Old Faithful is probably Yellowstone's most famous feature. Its show are pretty predictable, every 45-125 minutes, and last 1-5 minutes typically. Old Faithful discharges boiling water up to 185 feet in the air during these spectacular happenings.

Old Faithful is probably Yellowstone’s most famous feature. Its show are pretty predictable, every 45-125 minutes, and last 1-5 minutes typically. Old Faithful discharges boiling water up to 185 feet in the air during these spectacular happenings.

While we were in the Upper Geyser Basin, a buffalo wandered very close to our group. He even kindly posed for us.

While we were in the Upper Geyser Basin, a buffalo wandered very close to our group. He even kindly posed for us.

Isabelle did not fancy walking on her own much so Andrew frequently strapped her on his back like a babe.

Isabelle did not fancy walking on her own much so Andrew frequently strapped her on his back like a babe.

Thanks to our well-timed reservations, made nine months in advance, we were all able to secure accommodations in the Old Faithful area. Jason and I, along with Drew’s clan, stayed in the frontier cabins adjacent to the lodge and my parents resided at the Old Faithful Inn. The cabins were definitely a relic of a bygone era. They by no means were sophisticated. However, despite their simplicity, they were tidy and, more importantly, literally a minute away from Old Faithful and the other geological oddities of the Upper Geyser Basin.

One side of this cabin was ours during our stay. No, it wasn't spacious or super comfortable but it was very convenient.

One side of this cabin was ours during our stay. No, it wasn’t spacious or super comfortable but it was very convenient.

Boardwalks are quite common in Yellowstone due to ground instability, thermophilic organisms, and scorching runoff.

Boardwalks are quite common in Yellowstone due to ground instability, thermophilic organisms, and scorching runoff.

Morning Glory Pool, beautiful at 158 degrees, has repeatedly been the victim of vandalism. Leave it to the idiots of the world to treat a unique and delicate spring like their personal wishing well.

Morning Glory Pool, beautiful at 158 degrees, has repeatedly been the victim of vandalism. Leave it to the idiots of the world to treat a unique and delicate spring like their personal wishing well.

It’s difficult to describe Yellowstone to those that have never been there because it seems unbelievable even as you are witnessing it: the pockets of steam peppering the horizon, the vibrant pools and stinky mudpots, the streaks of living color turning the ground into a rainbow, and, of course, the fickle geysers. The Upper Geyser Basin holds the majority of the world’s active geysers. From Old Faithful, which erupts roughly every 90 minutes, to Giant, which hasn’t erupted since 2010, Upper Geyser’s performers are a fascinating natural phenomenon that will keep you hurrying down boardwalks in search of the next upsurge surprise. During the afternoon we spent in the area, we watched some spectacular steam and spout explosions. Grotto, Turban, Spasmodic, Sawmill, Lion, Anemone, and Old Faithful all showed us their geyser stuff. We were really trying to catch Grand Geyser’s routine too but we missed it by minutes.

Grotto Geyser discharges about every 8 hours on average. Although it only shoots water 10-40 feet, its sinter shell, formed by coated tree stumps, makes these events very cool.

Grotto Geyser discharges about every 8 hours on average. Although it only shoots water 10-40 feet, its sinter shell, formed by coated tree stumps, makes these events very cool.

The Firehole River winds through Upper Geyser Basin forming a strip of normality amidst the remarkably odd.

The Firehole River winds through Upper Geyser Basin forming a strip of normality amidst the remarkably odd.

Sawmill erupts roughly every 1-3 hours. It was named for the humming sound it makes during these events.

Sawmill erupts roughly every 1-3 hours. It was named for the humming sound it makes during these events.

The Upper Geyser Basin was extraordinary. It’s amazing how nature’s genius can transform a little groundwater and some magma heat into an assortment of majestic and powerful spray displays. I wish we had had another day to spend near Old Faithful but we had other park wonders to see. You will hear all about those marvels next week. Will you be able to quell your boiling curiosity until then?

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