Our 2021 Road Trip #25: Burning Biscuit Basin

Yellowstone's Biscuit Basin!

The heated ponds of Yellowstone: nature’s original steam engine.

Sure, Old Faithful was spiffy, but every ounce of its spewed hot water was the same ordinary color. Elsewhere in Yellowstone, organic and inorganic additives commingle in the waters to produce scintillating effects in multiple colors of the rainbow. Maybe not all of them, but quite a few. I wouldn’t have minded some purple, but the land wasn’t taking requests.


Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. We were each raised in a household that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state family vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. Eventually we tired of some of our self-imposed limitations and figured out how to leave the comforts of home for the chance to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Technically not even 2020 stopped us. We played by the new rules of the interim normal and wandered Indiana in multiple directions as safely as we could. This year the long-awaited vaccines arrived. For 2021 we agreed we had to go big. Our new primary objective was Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles from Indy…

As we drove north from Old Faithful, the next major stop along the highway was Biscuit Basin, a collection of geysers, pools, and various hydrothermal features off the Firehole River. The name was coined back in the 19th century after biscuit-shaped deposits that used to dot the area till seismic activity wiped them all out in 1959. The name persisted because everyone loves alliteration.

All around the basin, thermophiles — defined by one site as “extreme microorganisms” — live within the various portions and create fanciful color schemes that I would’ve thought were mineral deposits, but apparently not. Either way, the area was worth the stop, if a bit uncomfortable as temperatures rose after 12 noon. The air still wasn’t as hot as the springs, but nonetheless discouraged a longer hike for our party.

Firehole River!

The Firehole River runs between the Basin and the parking lot. A wooden bridge leads to the main path.

Biscuit Basin pools!

Two of the smaller pools.

Biscuit Basin yellow.

A rust-colored portion. Again, we’re told to blame the thermophiles, not iron.

Biscuit Basin!

Moving into the spectrum toward more sulfurous tones.

Biscuit Basin swirly colors!

Biscuit psychedelia.

Biscuit Basin tributary.

How does a stream the color of strained peas lead to crystal blue water without ruining it? Thermophiles!

Biscuit Basin fumarole!

In addition to “thermophile”, today you may also learn the word “fumarole”, which is collegiate terminology for “steam vent”.

Biscuit Basin bubbly pit!

Some vents and geysers were more active than others, such as this bubbly specimen.

Biscuit Basin steamy pit!

We were no strangers to Yellowstone’s steams by now, but they had not yet ceased to astound.

Black Pearl Geyser, Biscuit Basin!

One of the named features, Black Pearl Geyser, was on coffee break as we passed,

Black Diamond Pool!

Despite its name, Black Diamond Pool was not dangerously sloped, unless you tried sliding on your butt down into the boiling waters.

Wall Pool, Biscuit Basin!

Also suffering from curious naming issues: Wall Pool.

Humanity of course had to assert dominion over the land by slapping signs everywhere, including this warning updated for the pandemic era.

Biscuit Basin Unlawful and Unsafe!

More signs necessitated thanks to past guests who couldn’t be bothered to read the brochure or who thought papers lie and all the steam was actually dry ice.

Biscuit Basin, do not throw objects into pools!

Last chance for practical advice before the point of no return.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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