Friday: We had wanted to visit the Mud Volcano area south of Canyon, but a lady at the Camper Services building told us that the area was still closed because of fire danger or damage. We had been lucky that the Grand Loop road had reopened on Thursday, enabling us to go to Grand Teton without a great detour. [The Mud Volcano area reopened on August 26, after our trip.]
I was not tired or sore from the 14 mile hike of the day before, but neither Julie nor Yigal were in the mood for any significant hikes. They did agree to a small hike up a hill behind the Grand Prismatic Spring.
There was some confusion over where the trail started; I had recalled signs to a trail from within one of the geyser basins, but we visited the Midway Geyser Basin and didn’t see the trail. We therefore continued on, finding a parking lot one mile south of the basin. The parking lot was full, but we parked nearby and walked back to the parking lot. The parking lot was adjacent to an old steel bridge that crossed the Firehole River, leading to Fountain Freight Road. The bridge and road were now closed to vehicle traffic, and open only to hikers and bikers.
11:25 a.m.: A hot spring besides the road:
We were now in the right area. We crossed the bridge and walked north along Fountain Freight Road, thinking we would find a trail that would lead us to a nice view of the Grand Prismatic Spring, and that the same trail would also lead us to Fairy Falls, a 200′ waterfall. This was mistaken thinking on our part, and perhaps we were misled by our Moon Yellowstone and Grand Teton, or perhaps we simply misread the book. Reviewing the book now, I realize that it is discussing two separate trails. There are rough unmarked trails that only lead to observation points for the spring, whereas the trailhead for the Fairy Falls hike was farther north on the Fountain Freight Road than we hiked.
11:51 a.m.: We passed two rough trails leading up a hill to our left, but we continued north, reaching a third rough trail that led up a second hill to our left. We realized that we were passing Grand Prismatic Spring, on our right. Therefore, I led the way up the unmarked trail for this second hill, gaining a bit of elevation and indeed enjoying a better perspective of Grand Prismatic Spring:
We saw a man with a camera and tripod on the southern hill that we had just passed, which was higher in elevation. We realized that would present an even better view, and also thought that might be the way to Fairy Falls. We debated descending to Fountain Freight Road, returning south and ascending that first hill, but that would “waste” our efforts of having gained elevation by climbing this second hill. We therefore descended a bit into the valley between the two hills and then began climbing the southern hill. This took us cross-country, but saved us from descending all the way to Fountain Freight Road.
We were in an area affected by the 1988 fire, but I also decided that we were walking on ground that had seen volcanic activity in the much more distant past. At one point I found a nice piece of obsidian, but of course I left it there, per the principal of taking nothing but photographs.
Julie and Yigal made it up the southern hill before me, and Julie snapped my photo with her Nikon D3100. I see that the camera focused on some nearby branches rather than on me, but it’s still an interesting effect. I was wearing my Auburn colors that day:
12:15 p.m.: When we reached the top of the southern hill, we had an even nicer view of the Grand Prismatic Spring than we had enjoyed from the hill to the north:
Grand Prismatic Spring, with Excelsior Geyser in the background:
We met a young man on the hill, also named Charlie, who was working on a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. I gave him one of my business cards.
We looked for a trail to the west, still thinking that we might find a trail to Fairy Falls. However, we realized that the trail on this hill had only led to the viewpoint for the spring, and we began our descent back to the road.
The trail was distinct, but not especially easy, and we went slowly. It would be nice for the Park Service to make an effort to mark the trail and make it a bit friendlier for hikers.
Back on the Fountain Freight Road, we decided not to search any more for the Fairy Falls trail, and therefore returned to the car.
We didn’t do much else that day, paying another visit to Boiling River on the Montana border. With hindsight being 20/20, I wished we had found the time for one or two other things. One-time CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt had named Beartooth Highway in the park’s northeastern corner the most beautiful roadway in America, and it would have been nice to have been able to drive this road. Most of the Yellowstone that we experienced was relatively flat, but there are tall mountains on the eastern side, and it would have been nice to have seen more of them.
Saturday: Julie left us in the morning, driving back to Jackson for her return flight to Pittsburgh (via Dallas). For Yigal and myself, it was our day of rest, and there was little for us to do. Earlier in the week I had purchased a book, Ranger Confidential, and on Saturday I read half of it, finishing the second half the next day, on the flight home. On most days, the temperatures had been in the 40s (or maybe even the 30s) at night, rising up to the high 70s or low 80s during the day. But Saturday the temperatures probably only rose to the 50s at Canyon, and it was raining (and hailing) on and off through the day, so that at times we had to seek shelter in my tent.
Sunday: As Julie was not available to chauffeur Yigal and me back to the West Yellowstone airport, I had arranged to hire a shuttle service. Yellowstone Roadrunner appeared promptly at 9:00 a.m. at our campsite and dropped us off at the airport at 10:30 a.m.
We then flew back to JFK airport in New York, via Salt Lake City.