Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The "Old Faithful"

As our plane from Denver to Seattle was flying Northwest over the side of Salt Lake City last week, on 15th November 2011,  a thought crossed my mind as to whether we could see the  "Yellow Stone National Park" and a fleeting view of the "Old Faithful".  It is probable that the flight just passed on the edge of the Park area, but there was no way to see the Geyser from 36,000 feet above the ground.  There was no such limitation to the mind and no controls can control its flight.   My memory took me instantly back by six years, when we were lucky to spend a whole day in this National Park and had our "Meeting with the Old Faithful" at 01.05 PM  on 20th June 2005.  I am specifically mentioning the date and time because "Old Faithful" is known for not missing any appointments.

After our stay in Rapid City for two days we proceeded on 19th June morning from Rapid City to a place called Gardiner on the edge of the Yellow Stone National Park.  It was a good ten hour drive with the usual stops for lunch and rest. As we moved from Rapid City towards Gardiner, the scenery changed from greenery to plain lands and then winding roads through the hills as we approached Gardiner. We saw a number of deer on the way and I kept on counting them and finally lost count.

An interesting thing happened on the way. We had stopped for lunch in a rest area and returned to out car to resume the journey.  An elderly gentleman walked up to us and handed over a scarf my wife Geetha had dropped near the place we had lunch.  When we returned to the car after coffee break three hours later,  the same person again came and returned the same scarf she had dropped for the second time.  He asked where we would stop next so that he can look for the scarf and return it to us for the third time!

We reached Gardiner in the evening and after checking in at the Hotel, we went out to the shops near the park entrance to buy some souvenirs.  As it was a Sunday, most of the shops were closed and only two shops were open.  We purchased some souvenirs in them, returned to the hotel and rested after supper. The scenery outside the hotel room was excellent and we enjoyed watching till sunset well past 8 PM.  We got greeting telephone calls from our children as it was Father's Day.   On the 20th June morning we checked out of the hotel at Gardiner and proceeded to Yellow Stone National Park. 

Yellow Stone National Park can be accessed through four gates in east, west, south and north. East, South and West entrances are closed in winter, but the North entrance from Gardiner from which we entered is open throughout the year.  However, snow tires and chains may be required in winter while using this entrance also due to heavy snowfall in the area. There are eight visitors' centers in the park providing necessary information and assistance to the visitors. The park extends to an area of over 2.2 million acres and attracts nearly three million visitors each year. It spreads over an area of 63 miles from North to South and 54 miles East to West.  The gross area of 3468 Square Miles or 8983 Square Kilometers is larger than the two states of USA, Delaware and Rhode Island put together.  One of the main lakes in the Park, Yellowstone Park Lake, itself occupies an area of 87,000 acres.  For a comparison, the entire area of Lal Bagh gardens in Bangalore is 240 acres and the lake alone is 360 times the area of Lalbagh.  A large part of the Park falls in the state of Wyoming (96%) with the remaining  small area belonging to Montana and Idaho states.

The park itself is said to have been formed due to a volcanic eruption some 6,40,000 years ago.  Geo thermal wonders such as the " Old Faithful" geysers are evidence of one of the world's largest volcanoes.  The park has most diverse and intact collection of geysers; hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles (steam vents).  There are more than 300 geysers in the park and it is said to account for over two thirds of all geysers on the earth. As the park has more geothermal features than any other place on earth, this has been described variously as Geyser land, Fairyland and Wonderland!

Geologists say that the rain or snow falling on the earth slowly percolates through porous layers in the earth to depths of nearly 10,000 feet. At this depth the water comes into contact with the hot rocks in the earth's crust and gets heated up to temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit and yet remains in liquid form due to high pressure. This is similar to a pressure cooker and the hot water, steam and gases erupt through holes in the earth forming geysers. Sometimes the eruptions carry different deep and wonderful colors due to dissolved minerals and create a beautiful scene.

We entered the park through the north entrance and first visited the mammoth geysers. These geysers are spread over a very large area and there are eruptions in different places. The land beneath is hot and steamy. Wooden trails have been erected in the area for the visitors to enjoy its beauty, but caution boards are put up not to deviate from the wooden trails as there is danger of thermal eruptions. We saw some wonderful mud pots (boiling mud areas with different colors), fumaroles (steam vents), hot springs and geysers. One of the geysers was named as emerald geyser, due to its color.

One of the major attractions in the Yellow Stone National Park is the "Old Faithful".   Old faithful is the name given to one of the largest geysers in the park and derives its name due to its eruption periodically which is predicted and written on a notice board in the park. It is the first Geyser to receive a name and the Washburn-Longford-Doane expedition named it thus in 1870.  Visitors assemble near the geyser in anticipation of the eruption and enjoy is beauty. We reached there at 12.40 PM.  The next eruption was given on the notice board as 1.08 PM with five minutes on either side.  The "Old Faithful" did not disappoint us and erupted at 1.05 PM and the eruption lasted nearly four minutes.   It was indeed a wonderful sight as the hot water jet suddenly rose from the ground to a height of over 100 feet.

Even though Old Faithful is said to be predictable, its eruption length and height varies from time to time which is said to be due to earthquakes and continuous change in the earth formation. Its average height is said to be 130 feet and varying between 106 to 180 feet. Duration of eruption is said to vary between one and a half  to five minutes and average interval is 94 minutes.  Eruptions throw up 14000 to 32000 liters of boiling water to an average height of 145 feet.  Approximate time of eruption is predicted by the park authorities based on the length and height of the previous eruptions.

After the fantastic sight at the Old Faithful, we visited some more geysers, mud pots and fumaroles.  Steamboat Geyser is the tallest Geyser in the park.  The park is said to have over 300 Geysers and 290 waterfalls.  The 308 feet tall "Lower Falls" of the Yellow Stone River is a showpiece of the park.

Before coming out of the park through the south gate we got a sample of the animal life and on the way back we could see Bison, wild goats and deer. The many wonderful sights of the Yellow Stone National Park and our meeting with the "Old Faithful" are etched in our memory.


  1. Ah, great description. I took some photos when Shubha and I went last year. Spent 4 days there. Was worth every minute.


  2. we are too small to put anything in words for nature in terms of beuty or goodness in some people we come accross occassionally whgich is their nature and they dont change from their good ness

  3. Again we had a round trip to Yellow stone National park as usual a very beautiful description. Very enjoyable.
    P.S. You and Geetha madam enjoyed the tour whereas the Gentleman following you must have concentrated on the next spot to pick up the scarf, poor fellow!