08/27 - After staying in crappy motels and shady lodges it was nice to wake up in the historic Old Faithful Inn. The shower head was even at an acceptable (not ideal) height! The building is made from log cabin construction and has a lobby that must have four or more levels of balconies, it is very grand. Additionally, Old Faithful is within full view of many windows and was about a 30 second walk from my room.
After hitting the breakfast buffet at the Inn, I checked out and inquired about the next eruption. ETA was right now +/- 10 minutes. So, I walked out to Old Faithful and a couple minutes later it erupted, right on schedule. From there, I headed out with no real direction. I stopped at the trail-head for Fairy Falls and decided to hike to the falls. I grabbed my camera, my telephoto and wide angle lenses and threw them in my day pack along with some water and bear spray. I believe it was about a three mile hike to the falls and it was hot and sunny out.
On the way to the falls, I noticed a surreal fog in the distance with people coming in and out of view in the fog. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the Grand Prismatic Spring. You couldn’t get to the spring from the trail without melting your boots and probably getting a hefty fine for destroying a geothermal ecosystem. So, instead of that, I climbed the hill next to the trail to get a better look:
This ranks as one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Getting up close to it was equally impressive. As I’m writing this, after having spent another day in the park and seen the Mammoth Hot Springs, I can say that this would be the one thing everyone should take the time to see up close for themselves.
After looking at the spring from up above, I continued on my hike to the falls. Along the way, I emptied my can of bear mace on mama grizzly and her two cubs, but after doing so I realized they were just other hikers coming up behind me. I took off running down the trail before they regained their vision and would be able to identify me to authorities.
The hike to the falls included a small stream crossing which was a little different than any other hikes I’ve been on. It was probably 8 feet wide and four inches deep. Water proof hiking boots come in handy sometimes. When I got to the falls I was disappointed I hadn’t gotten there an hour or so earlier, as it was now shaded, but it was still worth the hike, nonetheless. On the way back to the trailhead I ran into a couple of mountain bikers that were riding from Alberta, CA to Mexico. They made me wish I had brought my bikes.
After leaving the falls I stopped at the next attraction, which included multiple hot springs that drained into the cool river, producing steam as they met. Walking up the walkway produced a unique sensation as it felt like walking through a sauna as the wind blew the steam over the walkway, but then you were chilled as you hit a pocket of air, now covered in steam. It cycled back and forth as you walked down the boardwalk. Eventually I made my way to the Grand Prismatic Spring, which I viewed earlier from the Fairy Falls trail. The colors made by bacteria were unreal:
From there I decided to make my way over to the Canyons area. On the way, I spotted my first elk. Well, actually I spotted a group of people which is your sign that there is some wildlife nearby. She was an Elk cow, and was very tolerant of the swarm of photographers. I pulled into one of the stops and waited as everyone slowly pushed her towards me. She eventually walked right up to the walkway I was standing on and just continued grazing until she moved on.
Eventually I made it over the Canyon Village and grabbed some lunch. The visitors center said the campground still had availability, so I went over and registered and setup camp. Afterwards I returned to the visitors center and got some advise on where to look for wildlife this evening. The spot was chosen, Hayden Valley. There were A LOT of people with the same idea. As soon as I got to the valley I spotted a buffalo and then a herd of them off in the distance. A couple stopped by and we traded scouting reports. They informed me there were river otters down the road further where the big group of people were.
So, I moved further down the road and stopped at a couple large groups of people next to the river, but I wasn’t to the river otters yet. These groups were waiting for the sunset and I think another group was possibly waiting for some wolves that might have been spotted there an earlier evening. I wasn’t going to gamble on some wolves and moved on to the otter. I found the ranger that people told me was with the otters and he said they had moved downstream and pointed towards some photographers further down the stream. He said he had never seen river otters before, so he was quite excited about them. I drove further downstream and at the advise of someone returning from taking pictures, started running to catch them. It was probably a good 1/4 mile run before I got ahead of them.
I never thought about river otters before, when I think otter, I think sea otter. There must have been four to six of them jumping, diving and rolling around in the water. I got a lot of photos of them and took up conversation with a couple of real photographers that were down there as well. They were from Sweden and were in Yellowstone and the Teton’s for four weeks.
After shooting the otters and a flock of geese flying down the river I started heading back towards camp only to find a bull elk with a group of people watching him. Unlike the otters that were bathed in beautiful evening sunlight, this guy was at the bottom of a hill, in the shade, in the woods. I did manage to get some good photos of him though.
After watching him for awhile, I noticed a whitetail deer with a big rack standing not far behind us. Oddly, I believe this was the first deer I’ve seen since entering the park. After leaving the elk and deer I headed back to camp for the night.