As we have only 2 full days in the area before heading off to southeastern Utah, we elected to take a bus tour through the Park today so that we could both look at the same time. We're glad we did so, as we saw lots of things that we would have missed without the sharp eyes and knowledge of our tour operator, and in spite of the sub-optimal weather: snow, rain, sun, mist and fog, and geysers, in almost unpredictable order.
The tour went around the Lower Loop: into the west entrance of the park to the loop road, then south through the lower and upper geyser basins (hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, and geysers in abundance), including a long stop at Old Faithful, which erupted on schedule at about 12noon. We then set out on the Geyser Loop, a short boardwalk loop past several geysers and pools on a hill just across the river.
We were very lucky to be on the Geyser Trail just as the Beehive geyser showed signs of erupting. Beehive is a bigger geyser than Old Faithful, but its eruptions are much less predictable, varying between 12 and 30 hours between eruptions. A small linked geyser a few feet away reliably signals imminant eruptions of Beehive within 2 to 10 minutes. We found a spot cross-wind of the geyser, and waited for just a few minutes before it started to spout. And as it reached its peak, the wind shifted, and we promptly found ourselves drenched and running for a dry section of the boardwalk.
From Old Faithful we continued around the loop road, crossing the continental divide twice (from Gulf to Pacific and back), along Yellowstone Lake, up to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and back west towards West Yellowstone. The entire trip lasted about 9 hours. In addition to the geological features, we saw lots of wildlife: wapiti, bison, geese, white pelicans, and bald eagles in particular. No bear yet, but at this time of year they are usually found further north than we were today.
Tomorrow we plan to drive up to Mammoth Hot Springs and perhaps over toward Tower Falls; this will give us the best chance to see bear, though we hope that it will not be too close a sighting! On Tuesday we'll drive through the Park and south past the Grand Tetons into Jackson, then head back into Idaho and to suburban Salt Lake City.