We were fortunate enough to hook up with some experienced "geyser gazers" who took us on a little back-country hike of some Yellowstone thermal features. After that nice treat, they joined us at the Upper Geyser Basin where they provided more knowledge and guidance as to which geysers would be erupting while we were there.
Today, our last full day in Yellowstone this time around, we had plans to meet up with Janet & Lew. Janet found our website a month or so ago, and invited us to join them for a private backcountry tour of some Yellowstone mud pots, springs, and geysers.
You see, they have been coming to Yellowstone for, if I recall correctly, 26 years and they are "geyser gazers". So they have a lot of experience and knowledge of thermal features in the park.
We left the campground at 7:00 a.m. this morning to give us plenty of time to make our 9:00 a.m. meeting. We added a little time cushion for possible wildlife sightings, wildlife jams, and other possible delays.
We had our usual elk in the campground and in Mammoth Hot Springs. Then a couple miles outside of the village, we saw a huge bull elk - it made the twelve-point bull we've been seeing quite often look small.
In the first wide open meadow of the day, the morning colors were lovely.
Continuing on, we saw quite a few more elk and some distant Bison. Then, at our meeting location, one of those distant Bison walked toward us, crossed a river, and then stopped and stared at us as if to say "Of all the land in Yellowstone, how did you manage to park in my exact path?" or maybe it was simply "Whaddayoulookinat?".
Janet & Lew showed up right on time. We did our introductions and soon we were off.
Caution: It's dangerous to explore backcountry thermal areas on your own, so it's best to have a guide that knows where to go to show you around.
We started with a series of mud pots since they read that Linda could watch them for hours and Janet is the same way.
With yesterday's rain, the pots were extra "liquid-y" and hot mud was blooping everywhere.
At one stop, we came upon a series of mud "volcanoes".
The miniature volcanoes were erupting all around and the soft mud was flowing down the slopes just like lava.
We were all quite amused and entertained. I had to wander away to get the others to finally leave and move on to something else.
Next, we went to look at geysers and springs next to a beautiful river.
Just like Linda loves the boiling mud, I am a sucker for these clear-water hot springs.
After about two and a half hours, our tour ended. We wanted to go check out some of the other thermal features in the Upper Geyser Basin (where Old Faithful is located) that we hadn't seen yet. Lew & Janet decided to meet us there to continue our private tour.
A few of the larger geysers are predictable if you know when the last eruption occurred. The information can be gathered from the Visitors Center, but it was much easier with Lew & Janet as they just asked the other geyser gazers they know.
We walked past Castle Geyser ....
and the very unique Grotto .....
on our way to Riverside Geyser which was scheduled to erupt within an hour window. Riverside is popular because it sits right on the edge of the Firehole River.
While we waited, we watched Osprey and an American Dipper. And we talked to a nice family from the Canary Islands off the northeast coast of Africa.
Eventually, Riverside Geyser erupted.
The eruption went on for several minutes.
From there, we walked a bit farther to Morning Glory Pool, one of the most famous features in the park.
As pretty as it is, it has lost some of the bright blue color it used to have due to tourists throwing things in over the years and blocking the vent thus making it cool down.
From there, we walked to "Geyser Hill" and checked out many of the features. This is Giant Geyser, ....
the second tallest in the world when it erupts. Unfortunately, it's very unpredictable.
This is Chromatic Pool.
We've heard Beehive Geyser is a good one (shown here with the Old Faithful Inn in the background), but it was on, I believe, a twelve hour schedule.
We walked the boardwalk checking out more geysers and springs ...
and admiring the brilliant colors.
After completing a loop around Geyser Hill, it was time to go and wait for Grand Geyser. Grand is the largest "predictable" geyser in the world, and this year it has been on a more frequent schedule of five to six hours.
It has an "indicator" geyser next to it called Turban Geyser. Turban goes off about every 20 minutes, and Grand only erupts if Turban is erupting. After sitting through a couple of cycles of Turban, Grand put on a show for us.
Grand's eruptions last eight to thirteen minutes, and it was quite fun to watch. Glad the timing was right.
After our Grand finale, we bid farewell to our guides with a big "Thank You" as we all headed back to the parking lot.
It was a great way to finish off our time here in Yellowstone.