Grand Prismatic Spring, Fairy Falls, Imperial Geyser, & Wolves - Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming
The main goal for today, was to find a great view of the spectacular Grand Prismatic Spring. Walking around the spring doesn't give you the perspective of the massive, colorful spring, so a little scrambling up a hill is in order. Also included in today's sights were elk, bison, a waterfall, more beautiful springs and geysers, and we ended the day with wolves.
Linda chose the main activity today - re-visiting Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin. Actually, the plan was to view the spring from a nearby hillside rather than going to the geyser basin where the spring's brilliant colors are more difficult to see.
On the way out of the campground, there were elk cows and calves lounging among some of the sites ....
and the herd's bull was bugling from up on the hillside between the campground and the village of Mammoth Hot Springs.
It seems he was splitting time with another group of ladies, however, as he was in the village with a different harem by the time we got there. And the orange-vested "elk ranger patrol" was making sure no one approached the animals.
On our way from Mammoth to Norris, Bison were once again showing motorists who is boss. This pair decided to just park themselves in the middle of the opposite lane. They weren't walking up the road, they were just standing in it.
You have to be careful driving around here. Those guys were in a curve.
With no further wildlife delays, we made it through Madison Junction, passed the Midway Geyser Basin, and squeezed into one of the remaining parking spots at the Fairy Falls Trailhead on the Firehole River.
Right by the parking lot is another lovely spring.
Now, the Fairy Falls Trail is 2.6 miles one-way to a 200-foot "dainty" waterfall. But today, we were only going to walk in a little ways, scramble up a hill, and try to find a good viewpoint for the fabulous Grand Prismatic Spring. There is no "official" overlook, but there should be.
We crossed a bridge over the Firehole River which has heated water flowing in from several different springs and geysers.
And we soon passed another small hot spring.
The trail was a wide, crushed asphalt trail. About three quarters of a mile in, we were between Grand Prismatic Spring on our right and a steep hillside on our left. The steam coming of Grand Prismatic was reflecting the water colors - blue and orange steam.
There were several un-named, un-marked trails up the hillside on our left. We picked one and started up. Fortunately, we ran into other hikers that told us which way to go, because I would have veered left when we needed to veer right.
I feared we would have to go up pretty high for a view, but we were pleased to find an open rock not too far up which gave us an absolutely stunning view of one of the most photographed features in Yellowstone.
That, my friends, is Grand Prismatic Spring.
Why there is no official overlook or at least an elevated observation deck or tower in the Midway Geyser Basin is beyond me. But, with a little effort, you can enjoy all the colors of one of the most beautiful thermal features on earth.
We probably spent a half hour up on that rock enjoying the view with others. And we all shared photo taking duties.
We then met Rick from Myrtle Beach, SC. Rick had completed the Fairy Falls hike with his wife, Kathy. But more than the falls, he was excited to tell us about Imperial Geyser another half mile farther from the falls.
We weren't prepared for a 6-mile round-trip hike, but Rick was convincing and he offered to give us a couple of bottled waters to supplement what we had. What wonderful people we meet.
Fortunately, we knew ahead of time the scramble up the hillside might be tough, so we had on our hiking boots and Linda had her hiking poles. That probably didn't matter though as the hike to Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser is flat and easy. Water was the bigger concern on a bright, sunny, warm day and Rick & Kathy solved that problem for us so we didn't have to walk back to the Jeep.
From where we went up the hill, it was probably another quarter mile to a bike rack and a left turn on the Fairy Falls Trail. Hmm. Didn't know we could bike in the first mile. We'll have to remember that.
About the first mile of the remaining 1.6 miles to the falls was new growth lodgepole pine that hugged the trail.
The last half mile opened up a little as it ran along the bottom of a ridge with new growth pine scattered among downed timber. Then we could see Fairy Falls tucked up against the ridge in the shade.
The falls were pretty and probably worth the walk, ....
but two other couples raved about Imperial Geyser saying it may be the prettiest geyser in Yellowstone, and if you get to Fairy Falls you have to go the extra half mile (actually .7 miles).
About a half-mile from Fairy Falls, we came upon a small geyser on the other side of an orange creek.
But we were told not to stop there. Imperial is another .2 miles. We just had to follow the colorful creek which was orange ....
until it turned more yellow as we approached the special geyser.
Indeed, Imperial Geyser is beautiful. It is a combination clear-water spring with multiple colors and a very active geyser which erupts almost constantly.
Imperial erupted for several minutes at a time and then would settle down .... for a few seconds .... before starting up again. We hung out there for another half hour or so before heading back.
Actually, the part of the hike between Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser is the most interesting of the whole thing. So, if you come to Yellowstone and decide to make the 5.2 mile round-trip hike to Fairy Falls, our suggestion would be to go ahead and plan to make it 6.6 miles and go to Imperial as well.
On our way back, just before getting to the parking lot, we saw a mama Mule Deer and a youngster. Pretty cute.
Now, my plan for the day was to get the good look at Grand Prismatic and then continue on and do all of the Upper Geyser Basin which has the highest concentration of thermal features (including Old Faithful). However, I hadn't informed Linda of that plan and when we got there, she wasn't up for more walking after our impromptu hike.
So, we got a couple burgers for dinner and headed back toward Mammoth. Ah, but we weren't done yet.
I had thrown all my fishing gear in the Jeep, so we stopped at Gibbon Meadows in between Gibbon Falls and Norris. It's a wide open area where the Gibbon River meanders through for easy fishing access.
Linda got out a chair and did some reading under some trees beside the river while I geared up and waded in.
Right as I went into the water with my waders, we heard howling from the nearby ridge. We assumed it was coyotes, but as the howling and yelping stopped and started, we thought it just might be wolves.
I continued to fish (without luck) ....
and kept moving downriver where I could hear the howling better.
People who stopped to take pictures of the river in the meadow at sunset also started hearing what we were hearing. As people stayed, that drew more and more cars that parked on the side of the road.
Soon, people with spotting scopes and cameras were coming from everywhere. Within minutes it changed from me & Linda to me, Linda and about 100 others.
Sure enough, in the distance we could see five wolves head out on a hunt. This gray one got close enough to get a couple shots.
Other people that were spread out along the river bank opposite the wolves got good looks at a black wolf, ....
and at this black and a gray that joined up.
In the distance we could see a Bison in the grass and the wolves trotted in his direction. But when the big bull got on his feet proving he wasn't injured, the hunting party wisely by-passed him and continued on out of sight.
Just hearing them was reward enough, but to actually see them trot out on their hunt and call to one another as they worked was pretty darn cool.
As the wolves disappeared and the people started to disperse, I snapped a shot of the river with the nearly full moon.
A couple of weeks ago we were burdened with something or other to do with our truck. Funny how time in the midst of nature quickly makes the big problems shrink in significance.
What a day! What a two weeks! What a life! Glad we decided to live it.
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