August 1 – 5
We left the Mud Volcano area and drove to the very crowded parking lot at lookout spot for the Lower Falls. We walked out to take in the view, where you can see the bulk of the 20-mile length of the canyon fed by the falls.
At more than 1,000 feet deep and ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 feet in width, It’s a spectacular sight; a long steep walled canyon with scatterings of tree and foliage clinging to the steeply sloping sides. The multi-hued rocks of the canyon result from hydrothermally altered rhyolite (an igneous, volcanic rock of felsic (silica-rich)) and sediments.
The dark orange, brown, and green areas near the river signal still active hydrothermal features and this activity (water, wind and earthquakes) continues to sculpt the canyon. It’s hard to tear your eyes off of it. After taking numerous photos, we walked back to the car and continued on our journey.
We would have hiked out to a lookout with views of both Upper and Lower Falls, but the Uncle Tom’s Point trail and the Brink of Upper Falls parking lot were both closed for maintenance, so we elected to to divert to the parking lot for the Brink of Lower Falls Brink Trail.
This short but steep 600-foot descent took us to the two viewpoints where we could watch the river rush by us to its destiny, the falls.
Like a similar spot at Vernal Falls in Yosemite, you are in position to feel the power of the falling water which reminds you of the all-encompassing strength of nature. Depending on the time of year, anywhere between 5,000-60,000 gallons per second of water plunges 308 feet over the falls.
We hiked back up the trail and drove a short distance to Lookout Point, which offered yet another compelling view of the canyon and Lower Falls. By this time, it was getting later in the afternoon and still a little fatigued from our long hike the day before, we elected to head on to Canyon Village to check out the Visitor Center and market there.
This complex was larger than the other markets in the park; indeed, one of my complaints, minor that it may be, is that the markets are inadequate for folks planning on cooking anything but the most rudimentary of meals. They have a limited selection of meats, virtually no fresh produce and an inventory of items on the shelves that wouldn’t challenge a reasonably well-equipped gas station.
So, we purchased some items for dinner and made a simple meal in camp. It was miserably cold again the next morning and it took quite some time to get warmed up enough to tackle our objective for the day, a long hike recommended to us by a former colleague of mine at UNC Charlotte, Ted, who had loaned us his Sierra Club hiking books.
Our destination would be Fairy Falls and we would end up with around eight miles of hiking at the end of the day.
We parked in a crowded lot at the trailhead and started walking, taking a short detour up to a viewpoint to get a good look at the Grand Prismatic Spring. The largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world, after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica, its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.
Approximately 370 feet in diameter and 160 feet deep, it discharges an estimated 560 US gallons of 160 °F water per minute.
We continued on up the flat trail,
eventually reaching Fairy Falls, where Fairy Creek shoots out over the edge of the Madison Plateau and plunges 197 feet.
We stopped to eat our lunches and were continuously harassed by a pesky one-eyed squirrel, who just wouldn’t give up despite my fruitless efforts to shoo him away.
We decided to go another mile or so to take in Imperial Geyser, which became quite active in the 1920s. Because of its size and importance, a contest was organized to give it a new name. Soon after the name “Imperial” was chosen, the geyser stopped erupting. Today, it erupts again (although infrequently), sometimes reaching a height of 35 feet.
As a diversion, Rendy decided to hike up the steep trail to the top of the nearby ridge, disappearing momentarily, leaving us to wonder if a bear had made a meal of him.
Upon his return, we hiked back out along the Imperial Geyser runoff, eventually returning to the car quite tired after a good long day on the trail.
Fortunately for us, we had a reservation that night at the Grant Village Dining Room. After returning to camp and consuming an adult beverage or two we wandered over at the appointed time for what would turn out to be an enjoyable meal. Our server, Aaron, was a hoot and we would encounter him later on during our stay, but for now, his friendly interaction with us was genuine and entertaining.
We started with a Salted Peppercorn Martini, Cucumber Gin and Tonic, and Calamari for an appetizer. Joanna chose the Mussels and I the Halibut, knowing full well they didn’t pull it fresh from the lake outside that morning. None the less it was all good, particularly given the location and along with a glass of wine apiece, our tab came to $93 without a tip, about what we would have paid at home for a meal of this scope.
The next morning, with temperatures in the mid-30’s, an entirely unpleasant environment to wake up to I figured I’d make a run over to the Grant Village Dining room which opens at 6:30. Rendy was on board to accompany me there to get warm, eat some food and best of all, charge our devices using their electrical plugs. I had a big bowl of oatmeal loaded with all kinds of good stuff (raisins, berries, etc.) for a reasonable $6 which became even more of a bargain when our charming server, Sona, declined to charge us for the couple carafes of coffee we consumed.
Joanna joined us later and it being a lazy morning after our taxing hike of the day before, and with nasty weather forecast for later, we opted to hang out around camp and at the village to escape the elements. It started raining early afternoon, and so we opted to eat a late lunch at the Village, then return to camp where we were visited by a brief but exciting hail storm.
With a short drive down to the Grand Tetons we arose as planned the next day and made our way over to Grant Village for a leisurely breakfast. I went for broke and had a very good omelet with Swiss cheese, onion, tomato, spinach and mushrooms while Joanna had the oatmeal, all served to us by our now friend Aaron. It was a great way to finish up our stay, one we will long remember.
Grand Prismatic Spring: https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/grand-prismatic-midway-geyser-basin