Happy Fourth of July!
We were up and moving earlier than yesterday so we could enjoy more time at Yellowstone and we had an earlier dinner reservation at one of the only restaurants with outdoor seating. On the way out to the park, we stopped by Pearl Street Market to pick up lunch so we could enjoy a nice picnic in the park. Our first stop in Yellowstone was to the Upper Geyser Basin to see Old Faithful. The geyser erupts around twenty times a day roughly every ninety minutes, give or take a ten minute variation. When Old Faithful erupts, the height can vary from 100-180 feet and the eruptions typically last from 1.5 to 5 minutes. The geyser viewing area was very wheelchair accessible and dog friendly. We pulled into the parking lot with perfect timing, not knowing when Old Faithful was going to erupt again, as we had to wait to arrive for cell service to check their Twitter feed. Within fifteen minutes we had our viewing spot and Old Faithful erupted. It was really amazing!
Here are some facts about geysers: Yellowstone’s geothermal features are constantly putting on a show. The 10,000 hot springs, mudpots and fumaroles, plus 500 or so active geysers within the park comprise more than half the entire world’s thermal features. You’d need to search two or three other continents for as many geysers as you can see during a single afternoon around Old Faithful.
A few main ingredients make geysers possible: abundant water, a heat source, a certain kind of plumbing system and rock strong enough to withstand some serious pressure. The layout of any one geyser’s underground plumbing may vary, but we know that below each vent is a system of fissures and chambers, with constrictions here and there that prevent hot water from rising to the surface. As the underground water heats up, these constrictions and the cooler surface water “cap” the whole system, keeping it from boiling over and ratcheting up the underground pressure. When a few steam bubbles eventually fight their way through the constrictions, the result is like uncapping a shaken up soda bottle when the released pressure causes the soda to spray.
This area of Yellowstone was much more crowded than the day before! WOW! After Old Faithful we headed toward the Biscuit Basin Trail to view the colorful Sapphire Pools. As we approached this area, there was something this time about a sign that said “it was unlawful” to have a pet on the trail, that held me back. I took Pawley and let Will and the kids go exploring. After thirty minutes I realized we were getting into another time crunch with dinner reservations and we still had not had our picnic. Once they got back to the car, we realized we were close to the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is what we really wanted to see! We chose to eat lunch after walking to the top to get an upper view of the spring, foregoing a picnic so we would not be late getting into town for dinner since we needed to allow time to drop Pawley off.
This trail to the top overlook was long and right when you think you are close, the turn up becomes very steep and not wheelchair accessible. Will turned around with Anna Cate and Eli, while Betsie and I climbed up for a view. And to be honest, the view wasn’t that great, but the Grand Prismatic Spring was gorgeous! When we all got back to the car, we started eating our lunch and I told Will to drive over to the lower viewing point, that has a complete wheelchair accessible boardwalk to walk all around the spring. The line to get into the parking lot was out on the main road and not moving, so we left. Shortly, down the road, I said, forget dinner as this is too amazing not to see and since we are eating lunch so late, we would not be hungry anyway. Everyone was really excited and we were able to slow down and take it all in. Now, the line to get into the parking lot was still a nightmare, so we parked on the road as we noticed a lower trail we could walk to take us to the boardwalk area.
Anna Cate certainly loves her off roading wheelchair experiences and I think Will enjoys the challenge just as much. The boardwalk was great for anyone with a disability! And masks were definitely required as there were so many people. The stop at the lower viewpoint of the Grand Prismatic Spring was worth making the decision to turn around! The springs were incredible! And when the wind blew you had gust of really warm air followed by cool air.
Here are some facts about the Grand Prismatic Spring: Essentially, what keeps a hot spring from becoming a geyser is a lack of constriction in its underground plumbing. Like their more explosive cousins, hot springs consist of water that seeps into the earth, only to simmer its way back up through fissures after it’s heated by hot volcanic rocks. Unlike in constricted geysers, water in a hot spring can circulate by convection. Rising hot water displaces cooling surface water, which then sinks underground to be heated and eventually rise again. Thus the whole mixture keeps itself at a gurgly equilibrium. As it rises, superheated water dissolves some subterranean minerals, depositing them at the surface to form the sculptural terraces that surround many hot springs.
The vivid colors that characterize hot springs and their terraces can be attributed to minerals like sulfur and iron or to thermophiles. Thermophiles are microorganisms that thrive in extremely high temperatures. Blooming in thick bacterial mats, they convert light to energy, like plants, and their bright photosynthetic pigments help give hot springs their rainbow hues. In 1965 a microorganism called Thermal aquaticus, or Taq, was discovered in the Lower Geyser Basin. From it, scientists extracted an enzyme that revolutionized molecular biology, ultimately making possible both DNA fingerprinting and the mapping of the human genome. NASA is among those performing research in the park today, studying thermophiles to gain insight on extraterrestrial life.
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the world’s third largest hot spring measuring more than 370 feet across. Oh it was simply amazing!
From here we slowly started our drive out of the park stopping along the way at various pull off areas for more pictures. We had surprised the kids with Fourth of July cupcakes for our ‘picnic’, so we were still finding a fun spot to relax and enjoy them. And did we!
Right after we jumped back into the car, it started raining a good steady rain. The temperature went from 82 to 51 in minutes! Once we returned to the RV, Eli, Anna Cate, Pawley and I stayed back to start thinking about dinner (none of us were that hungry) and to relax while Will took Betsie into the town to scope out the shops. Betsie also found out fireworks were going to happen at the base of Snow King Mountain around 10:00 pm, which is the mountain we face at our RV Resort! While they were out I also put up some Fourth of July decorations to make the evening festive.
We had a light and fun dinner of campfire nachos! They were a hit!! Not too long after we finished were we outside with chairs and blankets watching an incredible fireworks show. It has been years since Anna Cate was up this late to watch the fireworks and she loved it! Being able to see them from our RV Resort was an unexpected surprise to a very fun day. Fourth of July 2020 will be one we remember for a long time!