2012.07.12 Grand Prismatic Basin and a Side Trip to Montana


It gets cold at night in Yellowstone.  Stephanie and I wear every piece of warm clothing we brought to bed each night.  The two of us got up at 6:00am to get a head start on the day.  Stephanie wanted to start the day with a shower and I wanted to do some blogging.

The thermometer in our van read 38 degrees as we drove down the road to the showers.  It felt every bit of it.  We arrived early and caught the senior who runs the laundry drive up on his scooter while wearing a short-sleeve shirt.  Crazy old man.

 We arrived back at the camp around 9:00, and got the kids up.  Time for breakfast.  Today, it was omelets in a bag.  Throw a couple of eggs and some cheese in a baggie and drop it in boiling water for a few minutes.  Yum!

Stephanie likes to sing a happy song while she cleans dishes.


Our main activity today was to visit the Grand Prismatic Basin.  This is an enormous bacteria-filled pool with brilliant colors.  Rumor has it that when the first explorers of the area took their story of this pool back to the East Coast, nobody believed them.

We also had a hike planned to the Fairy Falls, which is a 200 foot waterfall.  The round-trip distance for the hike was five miles, but we were feeling pretty good about ourselves after yesterday’s hiking experience.

We did not get started until 12:30, and by then it was getting warmer.  The first mile of the hike is very flat and walks along Grand Prismatic Basin.  You can’t see the pool itself from this angle, but you can see the steam rising from it, and the steam was surprisingly colorful.

Starting our walk to Fairy Falls.


A view of Grand Prismatic Basin from our trail.


After the first mile, the crowd thinned out and the trail made its way through a growing pine forest.  I have not mentioned this yet, but every bit of Yellowstone that we have been to through two days is recovering from the forest fire of 1988.  We have literally seen hundreds of thousands of dead pine trees lying on the ground.   It is not very attractive to look at, but it is all part of the rebirth of the forest.

Miles and I walk through the new pine forest.


The hike to the falls and back is five miles round trip.  For the first two miles, Marissa was being a sluggish hiker.  Then around mile 2, she flipped 180 degrees and was spirited the rest of the way.  Mostly, she was singing girl scout songs and not whining about the hike.

Mallory was entertaining herself by counting.  I think her original goal was to get to one million.  She only made it to 12,000 but I would still consider that impressive.

It took one hour to make it to Fairy Falls.  It was worth the hike.  The pool at the bottom of the fall had some great cool water that we wasted no time getting our feet in.

Fairy Falls.


Testing the waters.


Base of Fairy Falls.


Marissa crossing a log. Miles photobombing Marissa. View of dead trees from the 1988 fire.


There were other hikers at the falls as well.  One fellow had brought his fishing pole.  We thought that was a silly thing to do, but in no time he was hauling out a fish from the pool.  He said it was a trout.  I still can’t believe he caught something there.

Fishing at Fairy Falls.


We spent at least a half hour at the falls cooling off and taking pictures.  It continued to get hotter as the day went on.  The walk back was brisk and included even more girl scout songs.

Our plan on the return trip was to scramble up a mountain a ways to get a birds eye view of Grand Prismatic Basin.  On our way, an elk crossed the trail in front of us about 100 feet away.  There was another family standing just a few feet away from it as it crossed.

We made our way to the elk and we took the opportunity to take our picture with it.  Don’t worry, we stayed on the trail and didn’t try to approach it at all.

Elk on the trail.


Elk with a velvet rack.


At last we were able to get our view of the Grand Prismatic Basin.  The hike up the mountainside was pretty slick.  Several of us lost our footing either going up or coming down, but it was worth it.

Our view of Grand Prismatic Basin. Awesome.


Stephanie and the kids.


We finished up the hike in 3 hours.  Not too shabby.  When we got back in the van, the thermometer read 93 degrees.  That would be 55 degrees warmer than when we got up this morning.  Yellowstone’s weather could be considered bi-polar.

Our next stop was the Fountain Paint Pots which is a mudpot formation.  Instead of bubbling water, in some instances you get bubbling mud.  The formation we saw was not that large, but very interesting.

Fountain Paint Pot.


Finally we were through with our hikes for the day.  The crew was worn out and we were headed for West Yellowstone, Montana.  We were in dire need of a battery charger for our camera and a gift shop employee told us to go to West Yellowstone.

The drive from the Fountain Paint Pot to West Yellowstone included a long stretch along the Firehole River.  I absolutely love that name for a river.  At countless pull-outs along the river, cars were parked and the tourists were out splashing around in the water.  It looked very refreshing and we were sorry we didn’t pack our swimsuits.

Our first visit to Montana.


In short order we found a camera shop on the main drag in West Yellowstone and to our pleasant surprise they had what we were needing.

We received an ice cream store recommendation at the camera shop and literally went next door to a local place.  Stephanie got a huckleberry ice cream and it was delicious!

People in Montana know how to make ice cream.


After a final stop in the local grocery store and a t-shirt shop for Mallory to buy a souvenir, we were on the road back to camp.  Turned out to be a 50 mile drive and take about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  We all felt so grimy that by a vote of 4 to 1, we decided to stop at the camp showers and get clean before we went to our campsite.  (Marissa was the lone dissenter.)

We ate dinner at 10:00, but we have become accustomed to eating late.  Tomorrow we change campsites within Yellowstone and see more of the park.


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