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More about my geyser day

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riverside geyser firehole river

Riverside Geyser (2004)

While I waited for Grand on August 12, 2014, several geyser gazers mentioned that Riverside Geyser was due around 1:30 pm, so I thought (although I hadn’t brought a lunch)—why not stay out in the basin? So on I went to relax in the shade at Riverside and catch its 1:55 pm eruption—a little less rewarding than sometimes, because the wind was blowing the water and steam back at the geyser cone. It couldn’t create a beautiful drape across the river, as I’ve seen many other times. [This ten-year-old photo shows a faint rainbow, something else to look for when you visit. –Ed.]

Just as I approached on the long walk back up the paved road (the former Grand Loop Road), Castle obliged me with my fourth major eruption of the day at about 2:25 pm.

But that was not all! After some sustenance and a rest, I took off again for the early evening eruption of Great Fountain. A few minutes after establishing myself with a book on the viewing bench, my neighbors on the bench and I struck up a conversation. Nine-year-old Emma from Portland wanted to tell me all about her many trips to the park and environs and to pick my brains about what I knew, so the book was put away.

I timed the first overflow of Great Fountain at 6:38 and knew we still had at least 45 minutes to wait, so I asked Emma if she’d like to walk back along the road to see Surprise Pool and Firehole Spring. She asked her father’s permission, and off we went. Like me, she was mesmerized watching the big white bubble of steam rise over and over in Firehole Spring and sometimes burst at the surface. And I had to scold her father for never stopping there on the way to Great Fountain.

Nevertheless, Emma had a one-up on me, when she said she’d been to Oblique Geyser—and I haven’t. I’m more inclined to call it Avalanche Geyser (see “A Yellowstone rock in the Smithsonian, Part II“—but I’ve never been there.

Great Fountain began its significant bursts at 7:21. Never having seen it erupt on the same day as Grand, I had never noted the contrast in their eruptions. Grand pushes up its water higher and higher and continues with constant jetting until it all disappears down its big hole. But it’s always worth waiting a few minutes, because as on this day, it can return with one (or sometimes more) great spoutings; on this day, the second was higher than the first, as I caught on my second video:

In contrast, Great Fountain begins rather tentatively (and may have a blue bubble at its base, but not this time). It seems to die back, then surges up again numerous times. I watched for only 20 minutes but suspect it went on longer.

And so to rest, with visions of spouting waters to last me another year.

CREDIT: The photo of Riverside Geyser was taken by my son-in-law Niklas Dellby on August 5, 2004.

Geyser Day 2014

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Since I never tire of watching Yellowstone’s geysers, this year I gave myself all of one day, August twelfth, for chasing the best eruptions. I was richly rewarded.

Starting early, before the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center opened and posted its predictions, I took a chance that there might be an early morning eruption of Great Fountain Geyser that I could catch, but sitting at its shapely formation for 45 minutes, I saw only small bursts and had to conclude that I had missed it.

Still, delighted to find that my FRS radio worked even nine miles from Old Faithful, I heard that Fountain Geyser (in the Fountain Paint Pot area) had started erupting at 9:12, so I got there as quickly as exceeding the speed limit (just a little) would allow. I was in time to witness the latter part of Fountain’s eruption, which continued until 9:48. Jet Geyser was spouting in all directions, and little Twig Geyser contributed, too.

Red Spouter’s northern vent was acting as a very loud fumarole, and the southern vent was boiling vigorously, showing that the water table is relatively high for this late in the summer, thanks to ample rainfall. A clever new sign at the Paint Pot gives us the “Recipe for Mudpots.”

Fortunately, I had arrived at the parking lot before the 10:00 am crush, when tour buses and the majority of private vehicles make parking next to impossible. (The same was true this August at Norris Geyser Basin.)

Being able to phone the Old Faithful V.E.C. for geyser predictions this year proved its value: I learned from calling (307) 344-2751 (x2) that I might get back to Upper Geyser Basin in time for Grand Geyser, whose four-hour window was given as 9:15 am to 1:15 pm. Sure enough, arriving at Grand at 11:23, I had only a half-hour wait. Just after the second Turban Geyser eruption that I witnessed, Grand began and gloriously lived up to its name. Its two bursts spanned about fourteen minutes, and I was able to record some of the high points on my iPhone. This was one of the highest and most exciting Grand eruptions I’ve seen in recent memory.

What to say about an idyllic three days in the Lamar Valley enjoying and learning more about Yellowstone wildflowers? Even in seasons without so many flowers the valley is one of my favorite places anywhere.

Whenever I’m there, I can never get enough of the changing light as you look up the valley to Saddle Mountain and its neighboring peaks or across the river to Specimen Ridge. But this green early summer with bison grazing everywhere is really special.

Also special in every way was the Yellowstone Institute class called The Art of Wildflower Identification. Instructor Meredith Campbell is not just knowledgeable about botany and a fine artist. She is wonderfully qualified to patiently teach us about keying in Rocky Mountain wildflowers as well as about some techniques of drawing and using color. We were using a little booklet that asks us specific questions about the leaves and flowers and (sometimes!) leads us to identify the one we are looking at.

This was my third time for taking this class, but the second was seven years ago, and I need lots of review. Special for me this year were the other members of the class, who included the current Mammoth Clinic doctor (also trained as an architect and capable of lovely flower drawings), several caring people who work for the park service or for the Yellowstone Association, and others with interesting backgrounds and reasons for being there. They were particularly kind to me as by far the oldest class member.

It hardly mattered that it rained on and off for the first two days and the third was sunny—but when we went partway up Mt. Washburn seeking subalpine flowers, we encountered a strong cold wind. You never know what to expect in the mountains.

I am hoping I can soon add a Lamar Valley picture to this post, one taken by Kathie Lynch, who spends so much time studying Lamar wolves that her license plate is “YNP WOLF.” She writes interesting reports about the park’s wolves on The Wildlife News.

In a few days I’ll fly to Idaho Falls for a brief visit with a friend before I drive to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in northeastern Yellowstone for my Yellowstone Institute class. This is a class called The Art of Wildflower Identification, taught by Meredith Campbell. I’ve taken the class twice before and simply loved it.

We start with the elementary botany of flowers, and since for me it’s always quite a few years between these classes, I can use all the review I can get. Meredith also shows us some techniques for drawing with our colored pencils. Then we’re off for three days in various outstanding fields of flowers that she’s found in advance.

Here is a forget-me-not, a sample of the wonderful flower drawings by Mary Vaux Walcott in the 1920s (from page 352 in Yellowstone Treasures):

Mary Vaux Walcott watercolor of flower

—and my best effort at drawing a clematis during the 2007 class:

Clematis by Janet, 2007

Clematis by Janet, 2007

You can see why I need more classes!

A new review

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Last Tuesday, reader Barbara Shaw decided to write a review of the Yellowstone Treasures guidebook on Amazon.com:

We just returned from a Winter in Yellowstone trip and this was a great resource to keep handy as we traveled around the park. Read more

Trip report: Back to the park from Heart Mountain

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Steamboat Hill

Sunlight Gorge

Overall, our side trip to Heart Mountain this summer was very worthwhile, reached by taking U.S. Highway 14A thirteen miles northeast of Cody and turning left on Road 19.

A bonus added to this excursion was that my friends and I returned to the park by way of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, across the beautiful 8,071-foot pass over the mountains and into the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone. The pictures show scenes along the road: Steamboat Hill on the left and Sunlight Gorge on the right. Friend and colleague Suzanne Cane was my wonderful 2013 photographer.

Trip report: Heart Mountain

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I’ve had good excuses to go to Yellowstone Park and environs at least once every year since 1995. That was the year I began researching and writing Yellowstone Treasures. I often try to do something new to me as well as catching my favorite geysers, hot springs, terraces and scenes (like Lower Falls and the Canyon of the Yellowstone River from Artist Point) that never fail to give me goose bumps.

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center People have recommended the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center to me since it opened in 2011, but this was the first time I got to visit [June 2013]. I made it this summer’s new attraction.

The exterior of the center itself is built to echo the construction of the barracks that housed 14,000 people between winter 1942, when a government order displaced all West Coast Japanese from their homes, and the end of that relocation in November 1945.

A movie about the camp explains to visitors why the camp was built and how the internees made the best of their confinement there. You can see mementos and sample family quarters. A knowledgeable docent is available to answer questions as you wander about the center’s displays.

Most impressive to me, in addition to how well these unfortunate people coped with their unreasonable confinement, were two facts. First, about 600 men from Heart Mountain enlisted or were drafted into the armed forces during the war, including the highly decorated 442nd Combat Team. Then, among the interned Japanese were people who understood how to use the barren land around them. They repaired and lined the irrigation ditch from the nearby Buffalo Bill Reservoir, turned it onto fertile fields, and eventually grew 45 different crops—enough to feed the camp, preserve some for winter use, and even send food to other internment camps.

Updated January 26, 2021. See the second part of this trip report with photos: https://www.yellowstonetreasures.com/2013/07/15/trip-report-back-to-the-park-from-heart-mountain/.

Grand GeyserNot having traveled with children in the park for a great many years, I learned a couple of things new to me that might be useful for other parents and grandparents to know about. Stuffed animal toys that Xanterra places in hotel rooms and that I have always pushed out of the way to make room for my own stuff are—not surprisingly—a magnet for little ones. My granddaughter Lexi ended the visit the proud owner of a cuddly bison and an even cuddlier black bear!

Be forewarned that the hotels no longer provide cots in your room for kids. But they are happy to loan you some bedding, so we made nests for Lexi on the floor—and she was out like a light in two minutes each night after crawling in with her animals.

One of our most delightful shared experiences was our geyser day at Upper Geyser Basin. Starting by going to the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center at 8:00 am to copy down the predictions for six major geysers, we set out after breakfast to catch the Grand Geyser eruption, predicted to erupt within about one-and-one-half hours of 10:40 am. Lexi did not complain at all about the wait, and when Grand accommodated us at 11:20 (above) and again with a second beautiful burst at 11:37, she was every bit as thrilled as the other hundred or so visitors watching it.

We went on to visit the wonderful pools and formations beyond Grand and were just in time to catch the Riverside Geyser eruption a little after 1:00 pm. Then our party split into two, and, fortuitously, Suzanne, David, and I caught Grotto Fountain and Grotto Geysers erupting on our way to see Punch Bowl Spring and Black Sand Pool. Returning from that extension of the trail, there was Daisy Geyser erupting as we came back to it! Not to be outdone, Beehive’s Indicator was going before we got back to the Inn, and we were able to see the whole Beehive Geyser eruption. Then, for “dessert,” Old Faithful joined the display not long afterwards. What a geyser day!

2013

Yellowstone annual trip report, 2013

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Beehive Geyser, YellowstoneToday I feel like raving about the delights of getting together with family and friends in Yellowstone. I returned about a week ago from a two-week trip that I had been planning (as always) for many months.

My excellent companions for the two-day drive to the park and during my stay were colleague Suzanne Cane and her husband David Cane. Suzanne and I worked together for six years to turn out our translation of a travelogue about Yellowstone written by 1883 Belgian visitor Jules Leclercq. You can read about our book, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders, in the Amazon.com entry for the book. Both the Canes took tremendous numbers of pictures, including this one of Beehive Geyser.

In addition to David and Suzanne, I was blessed by having two of my daughters, Beth and Karen, and my granddaughter Lexi with me for a few days. At six years old, Lexi is the perfect age to begin what I hope will be her lifetime attraction to and interest in Yellowstone and environs. She participated eagerly in all our walks and expeditions to see many of my favorite places, and was thrilled by Old Faithful and Grand Geyser eruptions. And one of my favorite visual memories is of watching Beth and Lexi and David skipping hand-in-hand down a path. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a grown man skip!

Counting the days

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I am counting the days until I leave for Yellowstone country. Ten days from now I’ll get close, but I’ll start south of the park to do some research in a library collection in Provo, Utah, and then visit old friends in Jackson Hole.

Then the real work begins. I have lots of things to check out in the park for Yellowstone Treasures. I suppose no guidebook can ever be declared finished, since it is only valuable if kept up to date with the changes that inevitably occur. Yellowstone is more prone to changes than most areas, what with all those geysers that keep changing their personalities. And parts of the roads may be different from a few years ago, along with other man-made features. Then, too, there are always ways to improve a book in general.

For the next edition I want to bring the writing about the geology of the park up to date. Yes, you would think the rocks would stay the same, but geology isn’t just about rocks, it’s also about how the earth got the way it is, how the geology affects all the living things in the neighborhood, and what may be going on under our feet that will bring about changes. Several types of geoscientists are working continuously to better understand the processes that make Yellowstone so marvelous.

Then, too, I’m always trying to understand what geologists are learning and bring some of it to my readers. Helping me this year is an old friend and PhD (from Brown University) in geology, Jo-Ann Sherwin. My map maker, Linton Brown, is back at work tweaking the maps, sometimes in subtle ways, and my editor and my book designer, daughter Beth Chapple and friend Alice Merrill, are doing their things for better verbal expression and design. With a little luck, we’ll have some new pictures to share, too.

And, of course, the Internet and phone access are both a bit iffy where I’m going, so I won’t try to write blog posts while there. There will be more words from me on this blog before I leave home, though. . . .

[August 2012]