Friday, July 22, 2022

Day 122: Geysers! Geysers! Geysers!

August 20: I woke up, yet again, to rain. Ugh. I was really getting sick of this rain stuff. Nevertheless, I had a solid 20 miles of hiking to do and plenty of sights that I wanted to check out, so I didn't linger particularly late and was on the trail and hiking by 7:10am.

The trail followed around the edge of Shoshone Lake, and I found myself wading through knee-deep water at water crossings where the log bridges were in disrepair. At times, I worried about sinking deep in the mud and losing a shoe, so at one point, I re-laced my shoes making them especially tight. And I tried to hop over the muddier sections where I could. I'm happy to report that I did not lose any shoes to the sucking mud.

The bridges across the swampy areas had a lot to be desired. You can't tell from this photo, but this bridge is broken in the middle and if you put your weight on it, it'll sink two or three feet into the water.

And then the trail headed through the Shoshone Geyser Basin--right through it! There was lots of bubbling water and steam and the occasionally small geyser exploding 5 feet high, and I had it all to myself. Despite the rain, I loved it. It might not be as visually spectacular as Old Faithful, but it felt much more intimate without the crowds--like it was my own private little event.

But I pushed onward. A little while later, the rain stopped--at least for now--and I put my umbrella away.

The Shoshone Geyser Basin looked like the end of the world was upon us!

A few hours later, I took a short off-trail jaunt to check out Lone Star Geyser which is my favorite of the geysers. The geyser erupts fairly predictably every three hours or so, and it's big enough to be fairly impressive. And, because it requires a hike to get to, there's never a large crowd. There are always some people around, but never a large crowd.

The problem I had was that I had absolutely no idea when the next eruption was scheduled to happen. I didn't know if I would have to wait one minute or the full three hours before the next one. There are apps and websites that will tell you when the last eruption happened and when the next one is expected, but I hadn't gotten a cell phone signal of any sort since I left Dubois 5 days earlier so I had no way to check what was happening before I arrived.

Although when I arrived, absolutely nobody was there, so I felt reasonably confident that an eruption wasn't imminent. If it was, at least a few people would have already shown up.

There is a register at the geyser for people to write in eruption reports: how long they lasted and any other details that someone thinks is pertinent, so when I arrived, I immediately flipped it open to check what the latest reporting sightings were. The last entry said there was an eruption at 9:45am, and it was 11:45am when I arrived, which meant I had about an hour to kill until it erupted again at about 12:45pm. Perfect! Plenty of time for me to cook one of my dinners for lunch. It was time for lunch anyhow and it kept me feeling productive while sitting around for an hour with nothing better to do.

I was a bit surprised, however, when the geyser started erupting at 12:02pm--I noted the time so I could write it in the register later. This was much too early to be a regularly-scheduled eruption, and I later read that the Lone Star Geyser usually has "minor" eruptions shortly before the main event. This was the minor eruption, but it certainly looked impressive in its own right! It lasted until 12:06pm--only about 4 minutes--and I quickly whipped out my camera to take photos and film it. I wasn't ready, though, and dinner was cooking and argh! I can't do all this at once!

But I had the minor eruption completely to myself. A show just for me. =)

This is just a "minor" eruption of Lone Star Geyser.

After the geyser died back down, I went about finishing my lunch. I decided to wait around until at least 12:45pm when the next "main" eruption was expected even though I didn't know about the "minor" eruptions and for all I knew, it was the major eruption. But I still needed to finish my lunch and clean up, and by the time I finished, I only had another 15 minutes to wait. I may as well wait! So then I pulled out my Kindle and read my book.

As the eruption time approached, so did a few small groups of people. They clearly knew when the next major eruption was expected--there were several small groups of people arriving within a half-hour window. It couldn't have been coincidence!

And at exactly 12:31pm, the major eruption started. A little bit earlier than expected, but there's always some variability in these things, and wow! This time, it shot twice as high in the air, probably 30 feet or more. The water just kept gushing and gushing out... for about 20 minutes in all, although growing less energetic as time passed. Eventually the geyser started just spitting out steam before finally going back to sleep, not to awaken again for another three or so hours. (Except, most likely, a minor eruption a half hour before the main event.)

Lone Star Geyser's main eruption!

I felt quite satisfied and rested, but it was time to continue hiking. I picked up my bag and headed back to the CDT and onward to Old Faithful Village.

My first stop in the village was to the post office. I had mailed food to myself here that would get me the rest of the way to West Yellowstone. I was disappointed, however, when I arrived to find that the post office was closed for lunch. So I had to wait around for 10 minutes before it re-opened for the day and picked up my package.

Rain had resumed by the time I reached Old Faithful Village.

I also tried to buy a sheet of postcard stamps, but the postal worker tried talking me out of them saying that he only had just 10 postcard stamps left. Just 10?! I figured I could wait until the post office in West Yellowstone in a few days. And he had absolutely zero international stamps available for purchase. *shaking head* Come on! Selling stamps is the one thing the post office is supposed to be good at! And in a location with as many visitor as Yellowstone National Park, you'd think they'd have boatloads of people trying to send postcards! Why didn't they have boxes of postcard and international stamps under the counter or something? I've never had so many issues with post offices as I have on this trail, and this just notched another poor score for me.

At least my food package had arrived without any trouble, and I stuffed my newly acquired food into my pack before leaving the post office.

Then I headed over to Old Faithful Geyser. I've seen Old Faithful a few times from previous visits and while it is spectacular, I would have been perfect happy to skip it because--OMG, the crowds! Old Faithful, albeit spectacular, is a horrible experience due to the massive numbers of people that watch it erupt every 91 minutes or so.

But I was working, and I needed photos and videos for Walking 4 Fun. So I'd tolerate the crowds. It was for work. It needed to be done.

I checked when the next eruption would happen. Old Faithful is so popular and iconic, you can find whiteboards all over the village with details about when the next eruption was expected, so I knew the next one was scheduled in another half hour or so. That was a great time to start looking for a seat if you want a front-row seat. If you try arriving at the last minute, you'll have a bunch of heads of all the people in front of you in your photos.

As the eruption time approached, hundreds and hundreds of people were drawn in like moths to a flame. They were loud, noisy and I felt positively claustrophobic. I hated it. I wanted to climb a trail to a viewpoint where I could watch the eruption without the crowds. (Such a viewpoint does exist--I've been there in previous visits--but it's much further away and I wanted close-up photos and videos for Walking 4 Fun.)

Old Faithful sometimes gurgled a bit, like it was gargling with mouthwash in preparation for the main event, and every time there was a gurgle, the crowd would "Ooooo" and "Ahhh!" thinking the main event was starting. I found it a little annoying. 

It started sprinkling, but I didn't take out my umbrella since it would probably piss off all the people behind me. It wasn't raining hard, though. I could live without using it for the time being.

And finally the eruption happened. Water shot a hundred feet into the air and the crowd gasp in seeming surprise. An Old Faithful eruption lasts only for a couple of minutes--relatively short compared to the 20-minute show that Lone Star Geyser put on earlier, but Old Faithful does erupt twice as often.

The hoards and hoards of people waiting for Old Faithful to erupt.

After it was done, the crowds quickly left. I overheard one person commenting to their companion that they had no idea that the eruption lasted so long. She thought it erupted for a few seconds before falling dormant again and was surprised that she could enjoy it for two whole minutes! Which I thought was a bit amusing since I thought the eruption was a bit short! I guess it's all about perspective.

Another person I overheard telling someone that now Old Faithful could be checked off their bucket list. Yep, check it and go home. Please! Now! Go! Go! Go! =)

For the first time in five days, I finally got a cell phone signal, so I found a chair to sit down and catch up with a few messages, emails and make some phone calls while I could.

And by the time I was ready to hit the trail again, over an hour had already passed. Old Faithful would erupt again before too long, and I decided to brave the crowds a second time for another photo shoot.

The main problem with the first one was that it was still cloudy with grey skies, and a white geyser against a grey background was kind of hard to see in my video. The skies had cleared considerably more over the past hour, however, and now there were large chucks of blue sky. I hoped maybe I'd be able to get a better video and better photos. *fingers crossed*

So I repeated the experience, still hating the crowds, but survived to live another day. And this time, the geyser showed up much better in my photos. It actually looked like a geyser now!

Morning Glory Pool

Afterwards, I dropped into the general store where I bought a drink and a couple of snacks. I used the restrooms and filled up with nice, clean tap water. I walked through the Old Faithful Inn and took some photos. Then... it was finally time to hit the trail again.

I followed the trail along boardwalks through all the thermal areas. I saw more geysers and hot springs, and bubbling pools, and steam rising in the air making the ground look like it was on fire. It was awesome.

There were still lots of people around, but nowhere near the massive crowds that cluster around Old Faithful during an eruption. Around the rest of the thermal areas, I felt like I could still breathe.

From one of the boardwalks, I watched Old Faithful erupt for a third time. This time, I was watching from the "back" of the geyser, which still provided some decent views without the crowds nearby, but even from this distance, I could still hear the crowds oooing and ahhing the spectacle. With a nice zoom lens, you could still even get really decent photos of it well away from the hoards of people.

I continued exploring the thermal features of the area until close to sunset at which point, it was time to set up camp.

Except... ugh... my campsite was located about three miles off trail. It was the closest available campsite I could book a reservation for. It was already near sunset now--it would be dark by the time I reached camp. *sigh*

And thus ended another day on the trail....

Early in the morning, I passed the official 2000-mile marker on the trail! Woo-who!

Shoshone Lake

The trail was getting a new bridge installed along this section!

1 comment:

Mary said...

No photos or videos of Old Faithful? I've been there. It's like another world with the colorful, steamy pools! I wish I'd known about that other geyser but we were there as a family group so you can't just take off and do what you want but....