Another day, another early start but just enough time to stop off at the Cathedral of St Helena, an impressive red roofed Catholic Church in the heart of town. The red roof and ornate double spire made for a good photo against the morning sky.
In the town we decided to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Centre, in the hope of seeing these majestic animals up close after yesterday’s fleeting glance.
The Centre is home to seven grizzly bears and a number of wolves, all who have had to be removed from the wild due to humans. Most have been too familiar with garbage and have become scavengers, posing a risk to visitors – others are the orphans of hunters.
The Centre is small but excellently maintained, giving you up close views of the animals in outdoor enclosures. Every day Rangers hide food as part of an enrichment programme to stimulate the bears, giving visitors a chance to watch the bears digging and foraging in the rocks or swimming the river and pond.
We entered the Park through the West Yellowstone Gate; our Annual Pass once again doing the trick.
Our first stop was at the Lower Geyser Basin and the Fountain Paint Pot – series of small steaming geysers. The smell of sulphur was overpowering as we made our way along the wooden boardwalk. The landscape was littered with dead trees amongst bubbling ponds – some grey and muddy, others shades of blue and orange. At the far end of the boardwalk a particularly active Geyser sprayed water 10ft in the air, casting a plume of steam 50ft into the sky.
We continued south towards Old Faithful, opting to pass the Midway Geyser which was packed – from the road we could see boiling water pouring off the geysers into the river but thought nothing off it.
Shortly after we arrived at the iconic Old Faithful Geyser which had been one of the must-see stops on our whole travels. Old Faithful is not the biggest nor the most regular Geyser in the Park but it is the biggest regular Geyser. It erupts every 90 minutes give or take ten minutes – the stream of vehicles rushing out of the car park indicating we’d just missed it!
The silver lining of our long wait was that we managed to get a parking space and a front row seat – while we held the seat Jamie bought us some lunch. Gradually the seating filled up, people crowded in behind us, some sat on the floor at our feet and others just barged their way onto our bench.
With the crowds assembled and wedged in, Old Faithful erupted pretty much to the minute on schedule. She spouted water 20 or 30 metres in the air, casting a cloud of cold steam over us. The eruption was decidedly low key, absolutely no vibration or noise.
After just two minutes it was all over. Whilst a must-see, it was somewhat underwhelming and perhaps our expectations had been a little high.
After the ‘show’ finished we browsed the gift shop and museum and saw some spectacular photos of the Grand Prismatic Geyser at the Midway Geyser Basin which we had earlier by-passed because of the crowds.
We headed back in the wrong direction and battled the queues into the car park. From a small footbridge we could see the stream of steaming water, rolled down a small bright orange bank and into the river. Above the bank sat two massive brightly colours Geyser pools – the furthest one being Grand Prismatic.
Unfortunately due to the level of the boardwalk it was almost impossible to take in the the full colours and beauty of the geysers, and fit them into a photo.
Pleased with the results we continued our drive south to our Lodge, through Craig Pass and out of the South Entrance of Yellowstone and into Grand Teton National Park.
After a pleasant drive through Teton we exited at the town of Moran and found the Hatchet Lodge where we’d be staying for two nights. The log cabins made a nice change from roadside motels and we opted to have some dinner and drinks there.
The rooms themselves were large and comfortable and with two nights we had a chance to enjoy a few drinks and get a lay in, in a comfortable bed!