Yellowstone National Park – Day 5: Grand Prismatic

On our last day in Yellowstone, I woke up so sad. I didn’t want to leave Wyoming, I didn’t want to go back to New York, and I especially didn’t want to go run another gosh dang marathon. We had planned to leave the park at 1:00 PM, so we had the whole morning to explore. We didn’t want to venture too far from the park’s west gates, so we opted to stay in the south east section, turning onto every drive and taking every short trail we could find.

First up, we went to Fountain Paint Pots, a short and busy boardwalk trail. As soon as we got out of the car, we were directed around a bison who had chosen a spot right next to the path for his morning rest. His proximity to the trail meant that we had to get within ten feet of the massive beast in order to continue walking. We walked around a large bubbling paint pot, several thermal pools and a few frequently erupting geysers. It was a lovely start to the morning.

Before our trip, the only thing I knew about Yellowstone was that it was home to Old Faithful and some sort of rainbow pool situation. Old Faithful was already checked off the list, now it was time to discover what was so special about that other place. We pulled into the very crowded Midway Geyser Basin parking lot, looping around a couple times before finding a free space. This is one of the most popular boardwalk trails in the park, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why. After passing the enormous, though now dormant, Excelsior Geyser, Turquoise Pool and Opal Pool we came to the edge of Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the United States and third largest in the world.

The boardwalk hugs the edge of Grand Prismatic, hovering over terraced pools that mirror the surrounding mountains. From this angle, you can see the bright red-orange border surrounded by hues of red and blue steam. If Yellowstone was a hit show on Broadway, Grand Prismatic would be its leading lady (or lad, #pride). Between the 200 grizzly cub pictures and this rainbow pool, I’m not sure how there was any memory left on my camera.

While we were frozen on the boardwalk, mouth agape, a fellow tourist let us know that there was an even better place to see Grand Prismatic from a view point along the Fairy Falls Trail. So, we left Midway Geyser Basin and drove one mile south to the Fairy Falls parking lot. I don’t remember any signage for the Grand Prismatic viewpoint, but we had no trouble figuring out where to go. The walk is moderately steep, but not very long and a perfect overhead view of the magnificent rainbow pool makes it well worth the trek. The vibrant rainbow is hard to make sense of in such a setting, but apparently, the vivid hues are caused by heat-loving bacteria. The deep blue center, however, is too hot for any bacteria, so when sunlight hits the water, it scatters mostly blue light, which is reflected back to our eyes.

After Grand Prismatic, we were getting low on park time, so we stayed in the car and started checking out the scenic drives. On Firehole Lake Drive, we found a great geyser that is predictable like Old Faithful! We didn’t stop because we were afraid the wait would be too long, but as we pulled away we could see a hearty eruption in our review mirrors. The drive circles around a few hot springs and a scenic lake, then spits your back onto the main road. Heading north, we turned onto Fountain Flat Drive, which took us along a river buzzing with fly fisherman, then past a large herd of Bison and their calves relaxing in the sun. Our last turn off before leaving the park was onto Firehole Canyon Drive, a gorgeous loop that drops you deep into the canyon along a river. After one sharp turn, we noticed an Elk and her calf rehydrating along the river. I went to snap a snap a picture, but my SD card was full. So while that mom and her baby were being all cute together, I was deleting a handful of the 3,000 grizzly cub pictures…only the blurry ones, of course.

On our way out of the park, we kept our eyes peeled for one last animal, or maybe even a Bald Eagle. We saw a few ducks and a crane (been there seen that), then in our last few minutes, we saw two Canadian Geese crossing the river with three petite goslings. If you enjoy baby animal sightings, do yourself a favor and take a trip to Yellowstone in the spring!

As we crossed the gates to exit Yellowstone, we listed everything we still wanted to see, but hadn’t had time for. Jonathan and I could have stayed in that park for months, walking every trail and identifying every bird. In fact, he spent the entire week trying to convince me to move to Wyoming. We tried to imagine when we could come back and realistically, it will probably be a decade from now, maybe even with a couple of kids in tow. We look forward to sharing our memories from this trip and making new ones next time around, but until then, we have about 500,000 Grizzly cub pictures to keep us content.

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