We started Sunday off the right way- by enjoying the Sunday buffet breakfast at the inn. We then ventured out in the beautiful weather to explore the southwest area of the park, between the Old Faithful area and the Norris area. We started off by hiking the boardwalk at the Midway Geyser Basin, where the Grand Prismatic hot spring is located. The Grand Prismatic is one of the most iconic Yellowstone features; a pool with changing color ribbons around the edges due to depth and bacteria that live at the edge of the pool. Sadly, because the air was so cool, the pool was sending up so much steam into the air that we couldn’t see the pool. Like, at all. Maybe a little through the steam once in a while. Several other springs were pretty though, and there was a bison chilling about 25-30 yards from the boardwalk, so you could conveniently take your picture with the bison behind you. Then, as we left the area, a herd of bison crossed the river and climbed the ridge to perch among the steam from the hot springs. It was cool to watch.
We then headed to the Artist Paint Pots near Norris, and drove up the road to the craziest parking lot in the park. It was a small parking lot with a bus that was stuck trying to turn around. After several minutes, the guy in the car in front of us got out and helped the bus narrowly back up without hitting a car, tree, or going off the road. Then, we attempted to park, but it was fairly confusing since many people had made up their own spots, which meant some people were parked in. Z and I argued about parking until I moved the car to an outer area. We then had a really nice time hiking the around the Artist Paint Pots. The bubbling mud pits of different colors were really neat, and funny to listen to as they bubbled, gurgled, and plopped. Gemma said it was her favorite part of the whole trip.
We made several more stops and did a few drives, including the Firehole Canyon drive and the Firehole River drive. we checked out a beautiful high waterfall right off the road, where D had fun picking up small rocks and climbing some rocks. We had a really time in the gorgeous sunshine checking out the different thermal features.
We headed back to the Inn to catch a nap and relax a little. Gemma offered to watch D so Z and I could go explore a little bit before dinner. We made the most of our hour and a half and explored Biscuit Basin, Black Sand Basin, and went and took our picture at the continental divide. At the Black Sand Basin, we saw what I think is the prettiest hot spring in the park, the opalescent pool, which had really deep blues and indigo, as well as some reds and yellows. We had a nice time exploring by ourselves for a little bit.
Later that evening after our final dinner at the Inn dining room, Z, D, and I went and hiked around the geysers by Old Faithful. We used the tripod to take some nice family photos with the geysers in the background. There are several really cool geysers nearby the Old Faithful, including the Castle Geyser, that does sort of look like a castle, and the Sawmill Geyser, which erratically and constantly shoots water up into the air. The Sawmill Geyser was Z’s favorite in the park. We walked until dusk, then came around the far side of the Old Faithful Geyser to head back to the inn. As we came around the far edge, we saw a dark shape in front of Old Faithful. It was a lone bison, grazing in front of the geyser as the sun set behind him and Old Faithful. It was a beautiful way to end our time enjoying Yellowstone. And one that couldn’t have better represented the park; with one of its amazing natural thermal features, an example of the beautiful wildlife, and the awe-inspiring surroundings of nature. It was incredible.
In the morning, we witnessed one final reminder of the beauty and terror of nature. As we drove out of the park at 6am, we came around a curve in the dark and suddenly there was a large male elk standing by the opposite side of the road. My heart stopped for a minute as I let off the gas and hoped that the elk would not suddenly want to dart in front of our car. We passed him without incident, but it took a few minutes for my heart rate to return to normal. We made it to the airport without incident, and enjoyed the warm wood and fireplaces in the airport as we waited for our flight. We loved our time in Yellowstone. It was amazing. We hope to make it back again someday, but it seems we always want more time to enjoy the beautiful places we experience. But, Yellowstone will hold a special place in my mind and in my memories.