We enjoyed a nice breakfast at the Tumbleweed Café and then we were on the road to Osprey Falls. We were in for a treat. We got there and met up with some researchers involved in a national wetlands assessment program. We schmoozed for a bit, using our ecology know how, yayy knowledge, then we were off on the hike. Initially, we were surrounded by a wetlands ecosystem. Although it didn’t even come close to comparing to New Jersey’s highly productive wetlands, these were reminiscent enough to remind us of our state’s unique diversity. Soon enough wetlands were replaced by meadows as we climbed slightly in elevation. We did not see any new flowers, but the mixes and matches of them all were beautiful. The way the wind blew across the plants had them glimmering, making them appear in some kind of synchronized dance. I’m sure if I stayed there for a bit I could be hypnotized. Next up, we came across some young pines, none of them were higher than 12 feet tall. At some point, a fire must have cleared this forest. Since we don’t know how fast the lodge poles grow, we couldn’t take a guess how old they were. Dan suggested that they were possibly from the 1988 fires which burned ferociously. A lot more of Yellowstone would later appear the same way, trees about the same height all around the park. Whenever this fire happened, it did a lot of work. But again, fire is very important to an ecosystem, it is when people are in danger that everyone gets up in arms about it. Dan was wondering how different this place looked fifty years ago, before the fires, or even further back when Roosevelt came through here. How much looked different? How much looked the same? Within the foliage we found a male grouse (suspect it is a “Dusky Blue Grouse”, but we’re not entirely sure). A fowl about the size of a chicken, grey in color. Upon its chest, it had two patches which were inflated when the bird called out. Whether it was a territorial display, mating call, or whatever, it followed suit and produced the typical sounds, “ooon, ooon, ooon”. You can make the sound if you say ooon, while keeping your mouth shut and mimicking a yawn. I had only seen this bird on nature specials but it was a real treat to actually see it in person. Once we got to the highest point in elevation along the trail, we thought the rest would be chump work. We were wrong. The following path was the steepest, narrowest trail we had traversed so far. It definitely made getting to the finish even more worth it. It was a hassle when we came across some hikers going in the other direction. One group had to step aside, but there wasn’t much room for that. As we neared the bottom of the hike, we saw the rapids a little ways in the distance. This part of our journey was shaded by rocks and trees, something we highly valued. After a few camel humps of dirt, I looked up and BAM we saw the waterfall. We didn’t even hear it, it had snuck up on us. I ran out of the shadows to meet the hydraulic beauty. Dan followed suit. It was 150 feet tall, with powerful surges of force crashing upon the rocks below. Sprays of mist were sent everywhere and they felt glorious. This was a site to behold. We stopped here for lunch and took a lot of photographs. Speaking of photos, quick break from the hike for a sec to explain why we haven’t uploaded our hundreds of shots. We can only upload them when we have internet, which is not that common. And when we do have internet, one photo takes about 3 minutes to upload. It is horribly time consuming and so we will have to pick our favorite shots. When we are back from the trip, Dan will upload all of them and you guys can check em out then. Back to Osprey Falls, which ironically we did not see any osprey. We saw a fellow hiker had climbed some rocks to get right up to the falls, so we figured we had to try it. There was a path, it was steep and narrow, and you had to grip the rock wall to stay up. You did not want to fall down this part. It was really fun actually, definitely an adrenaline rush but it was this type of activity that I knew I wanted to perform on this trip. After about five to ten minutes we reached the falls. The mist became a lot more powerful, getting all of our clothing damp. We took some more pictures, and Dan noticed that behind me the mist created a beautiful rainbow. I had some fun taking pictures with it. I’ll wait until we post the pictures to explain what I did, but I definitely incorporated my type of humor into it. Once we got our fill of the waterfall, it was time to head on back. Sweet Clyde was this a workout for our calves. It hurt, it hurt a lot. But we had to keep on truckin and head home. We passed a couple along the way, a husband and wife I presume. The wife, much to our amusement, seemed rather terrified of the heights. We got some amusement out of that heh. Getting back to the car, we were starving and promptly made ourselves dinner. Our campsite was right along a river, and we got to see an osprey attempt to catch some fish. Dan and I had only witnessed this behavior in David Attenborough documentaries and such, but we dug seeing it right there in front of us. The bird never did catch anything, but that was okay. It was still pretty cool.
Today’s main adventure was Old Faithful and then Fairy Falls. We packed up camp and then we were off. A while later we finally saw signs for Old Faithful. Parking was cramped like a pack of sardines. It reminded me of trying to find a spot at an amusement park. We kept on driving through the first few lots, hoping to find a spot in one of the back lots. We did, and turns out these spots were the closest to the famous geyser, heyooo! Take that, tourists! We walked over to where the crowd was in the distance, assuming that was where Old Faithful was. We were right. After setting up at a good viewpoint, the geyser starting getting active after two minutes. Some of these folks had been waiting for an hour or more, we just got there and waited for 2 minutes, wooh! The momentous occasion started with some minor discharges out of the geyser. Then there was a brief pause in the action. This all climaxed in a massive eruption of epic proportions. Right away, gallons of raw power were launched outwards, relieving the pressure from deep within the chamber. There was an audible gasp of amazement and relief from the crowd. I felt like I needed a cigarette afterwards. Needing lunch and knowing we had to beat the massive crowd to the punch, we snuck away and found a cafeteria. We knew we made the right decision after the line was out the door a few minutes later. Fully stocked with energy, we set out for fun festivities at Fairy Falls (ohh alliteration). Along the first stretch of the trail we passed by some hot springs which let off constant streams of steam. It was pretty cool because the first third smoked white, the middle area smoked blue, and the end section smoked red. Pretty nifty. About 3 miles into it we came across Fairy Falls. It was 200 feet tall, but it had a very narrow diameter. The water elegantly fell into a large pool at the bottom, all of this had been cast into the shade due to it being after midday. Although we were more impressed with Osprey Falls by all means, this place had a different tone and we understood how it got its name. *Warning, Nerd Moment* I could easily picture Link coming to this pool and collecting fairies in bottles for his journey. We decided to take a different path back, which would loop back to the parking lot. Unfortunately there were no trail markers, but there was only one alternative path to take. About 5 minutes from the falls, we came across some hidden geothermal activity. A large hot spring contained a geyser that spouted every twenty seconds or so. It was pretty fun to happen across this hidden gem. Another part of this area had a series of cracks, depressions, and holes. I could hear hot liquid bubbling from deep within. I also felt the rumbling of the pressure from beneath my feet. If I didn’t know better I would think this was the secret entrance into the Land of the Lost. We pressed on, and after a few miles of hiking, something felt wrong. We were heading in the wrong direction still, and there were no trail markers yet. It was getting late and so we decided to truck it back the way we came. On the bright side, we got a really nice leg workout from this. Getting back to the car, it was time for a drink. We stopped by at some restaurant only to be told that the wait was an hour or so. We snagged some trout cakes next door and waited patiently. After an hour and forty-five minutes of waiting we decided to ditch the restaurant and eat next door at a pub. Now we REALLY needed a drink. We ordered our food and it took ten whole minutes to arrive…if only we knew ahead of time. I kind of fulfilled a childhood dream of mine and ordered a Shirley Temple, with alcohol in it! Check and mate. After we were quite satiated, it was nightfall, and so we headed back to camp. As I was about to go to sleep, I noticed the stars were brighter than I had ever seen them before. Dan agreed that he had never witnessed a night sky quite as astonishing as this one. There were stars Everywhere, and then it happened! I had heard all about this, well I should explain. People have told me that on really clear night skies, you could see an arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. I didn’t even know what that meant, but I knew precisely what it was when I saw it. A smudge of light was strewn across the sky from the edges of my view. It was the arm I had heard so much about. It was a glorious site. With this amazement in our minds, we called it a night.