Day 5 - Grand Teton to Yellowstone: Old Faithful

Highlights: Old Faithful, bison, sunset on Firehole Lake Drive

I'm not a grouchy mamma! We fixed the sleeping bag problem last night by zipping together two bags, so Phoebe and I slept in a double sleeping bag on a twin mattress. Yeah, that was much better.

Today is our last day in the Grand Tetons. We barely scratched the surface, but Tristan and I figure if we really wanted to, we could come back on the way home during the second week of our vacation.

We continue north along the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway (see what a few million gets you?) and voila, 20 minutes later, we're at the entrance to Yellowstone!

Lots of pullouts along the road with views of Lewis River, Lewis Falls, a lot of stuff here named after Lewis and Clark, though they never actually set foot inside the park boundaries as they had bigger fish to fry - they needed to find the Northwest Passage.

After driving across the Continental Divide 3 times, our first big stop in the park is naturally Old Faithful. It's by far the most crowded, developed, un-National Park-like place in the park. But you have to go. You can't not go. In fact, we'll end up visiting it twice.

As we drive thru the huge parking lot searching for a place to park, we can actually see Old Faithful and it's spouting off! I had this brief thought "OK, we've seen it, now we can go." As I said, it was a brief thought.

The great thing about Old Faithful is you don't have to wait very long for the next eruption. Intervals between eruptions was anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes and predictability was extremely high with only a +/- 10 minute window. That's really a very short time when you compare it to some of the other geysers that might go off every 8 to 12 hours with a 3 hr window, or some that are not at all predictable. If you're a geek like me, check out which gives you all the numbers you need about time between eruptions and predictability of all the major geysers at Yellowstone.

Of course, the other way you can predict Old Faithful is to watch for the crowds massing around the geyser. If someone were to do a time-lapsed video of the area it would be almost comical as people stream towards the seating area in ever greater numbers, hitting a peak as the geyser erupts and then immediately after, the whole place empties out as fast as you can say Old Faithful.

Since we had just seen Old Faithful go off (and the seating area was empty), we and the Jordans had time to enjoy a picnic lunch and afterwards, I even had time to walk the entire circuit around Old Faithful to check for good photo vantage points.

The southside is most crowded since it's closest to the parking lot. We went over to the north side and sat on the boardwalk to watch the show. She's definitely a beaut and over the course of our visit, having seen most of the major geysers in the park, I will come to appreciate Old Faithful even more.

Besides Old Faithful, another must see is the Old Faithful Inn, located just a few hundred yards from its namesake geyser. It was built back in 1903-04 with logs and other materials gathered inside the park.

The lobby soars 92 feet high with a "crow's nest" at the top.

And the 2nd floor balcony is a great place to relax with an ice cream cone and enjoy the view of Old Faithful.
Finally, we get back in our cars and head further north to our campsite at Madison. We'd made reservations, hence showing up at 4 or 5pm was not a problem. However, without a reservation, some campsites are filled by 10am!

Anyhoo, setting up camp and cooking dinner is not the end of the day for us hardy travellers. We've still got umpteen geysers, mud pots, pools, springs and fumaroles to see. It's off to Fountain Paint Pots, Midway Geyser Basin and the Firehole Lake Drive where the light is fantastic from dusk to sunset. My favorite is Fountain Paint Pots where there's hardly anyone around at this time of day and Clepsydra is practically constantly erupting.

There's the algae colored runoff:

And sunset reflected in the pools of Great Fountain Geyser:

We even stopped to examine an elk carcass on the side of the road:

Finally, it's time to return to our camp and call it a day. But, ummm, don't forget to watch for bison in the road on the way home, honey.

Day's mileage - 66 miles; 12 hrs mostly sightseeing (maybe 2 hrs driving)

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