Everyone's heard the expression "to pull an all-nighter." Well, the French equivalent of this is "faire la nuit blanche", which literally translates as "to make a white night." However you say it, that's exactly what Ryan and I did recently one night: we made a white night in Yellowstone by staying up all night to watch geysers erupt.
One thing we've come to love doing on this trip is getting up late to view and photograph the dark night skies, including the moon, stars and milky way, and to see the sunrise. Yellowstone's many geothermal features (aka geysers, hot springs and more), combined with a perfectly timed waxing gibbous moon that set part way through the night, offered us a full night of geyser viewing under either pale white moonlight or starlit skies, and capped off by a lovely sunrise.
With the moon now tucked behind the horizon, we were treated to a brilliantly dark night sky, the perfect backdrop for stop #3: Riverside Geyser. Riverside lives up to its name indeed and is unique from other geysers in that it erupts across the river it lies along out of large cone right at the river's edge. Here, we set up our chairs and waited for the third act, entertained by many shooting stars, an old star wheel from my college astronomy course, and the gradual crescendo of subterranean rumbling that resulted in another dazzling show of hot water and steam.
It was now around 3am and the late night was giving way to early morning as we made our way to Castle Geyser. On the walk there, we encountered Grotto Geyser throwing an absolute fit of eruptions, enhanced by the echo of scalding hot water thrashing about just beneath the surface. Finally, the crack of dawn forced us the bid farewell to the Milky Way, and gave rise to an eerie show of steam, bubbling mud and the awe-inspiring 45 minute gusher erupts out of Castle Geyser's giant, ancient cone.
By this time, I was bundled up tightly in my sleeping bag (temperatures were somewhere in the low 40s) while Ryan diligently kept watch shooting away at his camera. The features around Castle Geyser, combined with the early morning color palate evoked my curiosity - is this what Earth looked like in pre-historic times? Needless to say, Castle Geyser was the perfect ending to a perfect night. Or perhaps, the perfect beginning of a new day. Our White Night had concluded - we made it to dawn!
While we weren't the only people watching in the early night at Grand Geyser, we were solo in our all-night endeavor, accompanied only by the inspirational beauty and wisdom of the stars above and the earth below. This was such a unique and fun way to see some of Yellowstone's best known attractions, and definitely a great way to avoid the crowds - definitely give it a try!