Saturday, April 23, 2016

Nighttime Trip to Old Faithful

For those who don't know, I grew up in West Yellowstone, MT and so have enjoyed some wondrous times in Yellowstone National Park.  One of the best Park experiences I have ever enjoyed was this last Wednesday evening.  It's very early in the season for the Park but they have some roads open for vehicles and free admission for National Park Week

On a whim, Joann and I decided to go to West Yellowstone Wednesday, arriving there about 8PM.  I always stay at the Ho Hum Motel on Canyon Street so we checked in there with the evening ahead of us.  Joann suggested that we just go into the Park for a while and that is what we did.

Lots of buffalo to see as we head up the Madison and then the Firehole, going to Old Faithful as the sun sets behind us, shining it's golden light ahead.

That golden sunset light highlights the geyser steam as we approach the Lower and Midway basins, making those steam columns starkly stand out against the sky and the backgrounds.  A fabulous view of "my" world and one that I have only seldom enjoyed.  The air is fresh and clean except maybe for that ghostly scent of Geyser sulphur.

We arrive in the Old Faithful area just before 9PM and I park in an empty parking lot.  During the summer season it's sometimes hard to find a parking slot around Old Faithful Inn but tonight, we are the only ones here.  I've never seen this before as even when I come in this early in the season, I'm always here during the day when the tourists are active.  A new and very nice experience for me.

No way to tell when Old Faithful Geyser is supposed to make an appearance so we just hang around the Inn and the visitors center as it gets darker around us.  But, there is that big Rocky Mountain Full Moon to the East that will take over for the fading sun.  The temperature fades a little with the sun and I'm glad I wore a jacket.

The silence isn't quite complete.  To the north, the murmur and growl of the geysers here in the upper basin, including the splashing and growling noises from the closest, Old Faithful Geyser itself.  To our south, the faint hum of furnaces and other machinery in the buildings around the Old Faithful complex.  Still, the overall feeling is complete isolation and aloneness.  The solitude, peace and quiet is pronounced and I breath in the slightly chilly air with pleasure.

The noise from Old Faithful Geyser becomes a little more pronounced and there are slight thumps heard from underground.  Obviously, the time for action is growing nearer.  That big bright moon shows the area in detail and the steam from the geysers, not only Old Faithful but the others in the nearby area, shimmers in the bright moonlight, enhancing the view and really setting off the steam columns. 

A nighthawk flies overhead, keening as it goes and Joann says: "I wonder if he's trying to tell us
something."  The nighthawk flies over us once again and then flies away.  Moments later, hot water starts splashing out of Old Faithful and the "scheduled" eruption begins.  Boiling water shoots skyward with a roar and the whole event is lighted by the clear moonlight.  The water and steam shooting skyward are shimmering and dancing in the moonlight as this powerful display of nature unfolds before us!  How many times has this scene repeated over the past thousands of years?  I'm privileged to have been able to witness this one time and to be in the company of my best friend in my most revered area.

This marked some firsts for me.  I've never before:  Seen empty parking lots at the Old Faithful Inn area;  seen the boardwalk/viewing area at Old Faithful Geyser empty of people; watched Old Faithful Geyser erupt in the moonlight.

This was a trip I'll always remember.  Thanks for the great idea Joann!

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