On our full day tour of Yellowstone park, we'd started north and covered nearly three-quarters of the Grand Loop road. So after a camp stove breakfast, we set out in the other direction to see the sights along the rest. Our first stop was the West Thumb Geyser Basin, at just about the most southwestern point along the road. This basin was many miles away from any of the others we'd seen, and bordering the Yellowstone Lake. This made for a few differences in what we saw.
For one, there was a lot more green growing in and around the basin:
For another, a lot more of the springs in the area were of a striking, pure color:
And then of course, there was the backdrop of the lake. A few of the geysers were even out in its waters:
We left West Thumb and traveled west, along the southern stretch of road that we'd taken back and forth to Old Faithful a few times already during the trip. (We even stopped there again briefly, at the general store, to get fresh ice for our cooler.) From there, we curved north.
We took a detour along another one-way side road, Firehole Lake Drive. It offered a few sights, including the Great Fountain Geyser. A sign told us that might erupt during a four hour window later that afternoon, but we weren't at all inclined to wait around. So we headed up the main road to the Midway Geyser Basin.
There are essentially only two things to see there, but they are big ones. There's the Excelsior Geyser Crater, a large pit that was too filled with steam for me to take a picture one could make sense of. And then there's the famous Grand Prismatic Spring:
I was a bit disappointed, I'll confess. I knew I wasn't going to get an aerial perspective, but I was hoping for a view at least somewhat more elevated and a little more like this (something I stole off the internet):
I mean, come on. How cool is that?
Now, you may notice from my picture the hill rising behind the spring. We could see a few hikers making their way back there for a higher vantage point, but we weren't really sure how they'd gotten there. No trail head was marked anywhere we'd seen. Getting back there was going to require some searching and a hike of probably several miles. We talked briefly about doing it, but I said we should just move on instead. For one thing, we had other things on our list still to get to, and for another, my left ankle was starting to bother me just a bit.
The evening we'd arrived, I'd been stung on that ankle by a bug or something. It was just one bite among several I'd picked up before we took to regularly applying the bug spray, and so I'd thought nothing of it as we'd gone all over Yellowstone and back the day before. But it was right on the ball of my ankle and was rubbing just a bit against the top of my shoe. This morning, it was starting to irritate me just enough that if we wanted to go on a hike, I wanted to save it for something we both really wanted to do. (Maybe that petrified forest trek we'd decided against the day before?)
So, pushing thoughts of my slightly tender ankle from my mind, we returned to the truck and headed for our next stop. (But if any of you have a Yellowstone story of hiking the hill behind the Grand Prismatic Spring, I'd love to hear it and, hopefully, see the picture.)