Day 32 – Yellowstone – Old Faithful, Norris Geyser Basin & West Yellowstone

Friday again and our last day in Yellowstone! We got up and packed up, though my head was banging, and set off for our final day in Yellowstone – it was going to be a busy day full of geysers and stuff! We drove the, by now familiar, route between Wapiti and Fishing Bridge before turning right to drive past Canyon Village again and onwards to Norris Geyser Basin. Sometimes the driving is quite quick while other times it can be very slow, for instance when everyone slows down or even stops in the middle of the road to take pictures of bison! By this time I’ve seen my fill of bison and the initial excitement has definitely passed, though I still think they are magnificent beasts, especially the bulls.
At Norris Geyser Basin we got out and did the usual walks around the wooden boardwalks. There are quite a number of interesting features at Norris, and the landscape is incredibly alien and different, making for a very interesting experience. What I find most fascinating about a lot of the features at Yellowstone is that it is of course ever changing. Norris Geyser Basin is especially volatile, and one of the hottest and most acidic hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone. Apparently, every year at Norris, new hot springs and geysers appear and others become dormant. You’d think that with the high heat (some hot springs and fumaroles have temperatures above boiling point) the features would be devoid of life, but there are microscopic thermophiles living in them! These heat-loving organisms are responsible for the different colours of the features you can see in the pictures.
Anyway, enough of the science/biology lesson! We walked through Porcelain Basin which features rainbow colours, hissing steam and the sulphurous smell we’ve come to associate with geysers. We then did the walk through Back Basin where we saw Emerald Spring and Steamboat Geyser which is the world’s tallest active geyser, though it only erupts to its full height of 300 feet very rarely. It was kind of spluttering quite frequently while we were there and I supposed part of the fun of going to look at the geysers is that you never know when it will be your lucky day and you may see one of the rare ones erupt! Everywhere we went you can see animal tracks (bison or elk) as they apparently like the heat in the winter.
After getting our fill at Norris, we bypassed the Artists Paintpots and headed towards Old Faithful. Our next stop was at Lower Geyser Basin, another area with boardwalks and impressive features – as well as gathering rainclouds as you can see from the pictures! As the weather was starting to close in we decided to bypass Midway Geyser Basin and go straight to Old Faithful (in the Upper Geyser Basin). At Old Faithful there were two massive bison bulls right under the information sign, so we just headed in the same direction as everyone else and found ourselves a seat to wait for the main event. We probably waited around for 20-25 minutes for Old Faithful to blow, along with a lot of other people. It was quite impressive and it was good hearing all the other people’s reactions as well, especially the young kids who really enjoyed it. Afterwards we did a quick walk around the geyser hill until we got warned by a ranger that a thunderstorm with accompanying lighting was due to hit at any moment. We headed out to the car and stopped at Midway Basin as originally planned while the thunderstorm raged around us, planning to wait it out and still try and see the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of the more famous features in the park. Sadly, the rain never really let up and eventually we gave up and headed out to West Yellowstone, our stop for the night and literally just outside the park.
Our motel for the night was called the One Horse Motel and was one of the cheapest places we’ve stayed in so far, so I didn’t expect much! It is actually incredibly hard to find hotels if they are not listed with Hotels.com or one of the other booking sites, so I went to Tripadvisor and read some reviews – if you look at the hotels that Tripadvisor can’t provide a price for, it is usually because they are not listed with the booking sites, and they are quite often cheaper options! The motel was a pleasant surprise and at almost half the price of Green Creek Inn the two nights before, a lot nicer, with a fridge, bigger TV, nice toiletries and coffee and pastries in the morning. The people running the motel were also very pleasant and accommodating so it was a good choice in the end. They recommended a pizza place (Wild West Pizza) not far from the hotel so we had pizza, chicken wings and a few beers for dinner, by which time the rain had let up somewhat and it turned into a pleasant evening!
Things I learned today: Don’t always trust hotels.com when they only give you massively expensive options in a town like West Yellowstone, look further even though it can be a schlepp – on hotels.com I couldn’t find anything under $200/night in West Yellowstone, but there are always good independent options out there.

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