Shortly after sunrise, the group enjoyed a mostly private viewing of Old Faithful erupting at precisely 7:17 a.m. The geyser is famous for erupting at a (mostly) regular interval and its high sprays do not disappoint. Afterwards, we enjoyed a hike in the Upper Geyser Basin, seeing several other thermal features including surprise eruptions from Spasmodic and Sawmill Geysers. We had a rare opportunity to talk with one of the park’s geology crews that was out in the basin collecting data from meters at the features. They talked with us about the research they are doing using the data, and how they are responsible for collecting items that fall away from the safety of the boardwalk.
The basin’s landscape could be likened to a moonscape — white geyserite covers the ground and little plant life. Trees that surround the features are bleached white over time by geyser spray and by soaking in mineral-rich water through their roots. Don’t let these features fool you! They are filled with microorganisms called thermophiles that thrive in the heat. Soon afterwards, Andy taught us about the bioprospecting of these creatures and how they have been used in scientific research since the 60s. This research unlocked the door to DNA sequencing, the Human Genome Project, medical advances, and other practical applications.
The morning was rounded out with a visit to the visitor center and the Tribal Heritage Center. The Tribal Heritage Center showcases the arts and crafts of indigenous tribes whose culture and history are tightly interwoven with the park. Today’s artist-in-residence, a Shoshone and Arapaho woman, shared her intricate beadwork with visitors. She explained how the patterns and colors in the beadwork have meaning to the garment’s wearer. One more viewing of Old Faithful and ice cream and then we were off!
We stopped at Fountain Paint Pots for a brief walk to see various thermal features including Celestine Springs, Leather Pool and Red Spouter. What makes this spot special is the proximity of the different types of thermal features to one another. We also spotted a coyote carcass near a geyser, reminding us just how volatile these features are. After lunch, we explored Obsidian Cliff and learned about how Native American tribes used the precious resource from Becqui. In addition, Scott schooled us on how invasive species are impacting native species in the park. The day was finished with our arrival in Gardiner for the night and a final group meeting. During the meeting, tears were shed, goals were revisited, regrets were let go, and connections were deepened as we shared the immense impact the trip has had on each of us. Conversation continued over dinner as we prepared to leave this transformative experience with hearts full of gratitude and joy.