Thursday, August 28, 2003
The alarm goes off at 6:00am. I fumble for my glasses and turn on a light. I am dreading the decision I have to make today about the Bechler hike. I do a quick foot check. I've got a bad bruise under one toenail and I have big blisters under the callouses in two spots under the big toe and the pads on both feet. This isn't good. I stand and limp towards the shower. This isn't good either.
Sometime after 6:30 I hobble over to breakfast. I have learned that my cushy, cross trainer sneakers are more comfortable than my sandals. Any time I start walking, it takes a few steps to really get going. I vacillate between bailing out of the hike and chancing it that in two days I will be good enough to make it.
The morning I dedicate to cleaning up my gear, drying out the tent and doing laundry. I don't have to meet Jake and Leslie until 11:00am and I know that I don't have to leave West Yellowstone until 10:00 in order to get to the Upper Geyser Basin on time. But I do have to make a decision. I call Laurie and tell her I am too hurt to hike another 35 miles. She decides not to come. I ask if there is anything else she would like to do? Would she like to go without me? She says she did everything that she wanted to do last month and she doesn't want to hike without me. So I will come home on Sunday. If Jake, Leslie, Tim, Betsy and Tonya still want to make the hike, I want to hike out to Lone Star Geyser with them.
I get everything done in plenty of time and as I am walking up to our pre-arranged meeting at the Old Faithful Visitors Center I see Jake and Leslie coming from the other direction. Loon meetings never get this good. I tell them my bad news, but say I still wouldn't mind spending today geyser gazing. We head into the Visitors Center to get the latest times on eruption predictions and then head out. We decide to catch some lunch at the upper Hamilton store (now Yellowstone Store) before heading out to the basins. In the distance we can see Castle Geyser erupting.
By the time lunch is done and we start to head out, Castle is all done. Since Lion Geyser is our first stop and since we are a bit in the middle of things, we decide to get over to Lion via Castle. Castle is now in steam phase, but it's still putting on a good show. So we amble past Castle and then Sawmill Geyser--there's some people there enjoying the show--we make some bad jokes among ourselves. It's a bit sad that we don't give Sawmill a little more respect. Leslie even comments on this as we make our way over to Lion. By the time we make it over to Lion, it is very near the predicted eruption time.
Jake directs me to a spot near Heart Pool where he has seen nice photos of Lion taken. Given the wind direction, moving over there seems like a good idea. Leslie has been carrying an odd item with her. It's a little sewing box. It is baby blue and dainty and decorated. She is working on a cross stitch for her aunt. While she waits for Lion to erupt, Les works on the cross stitch.
I set up my tripod and try to get down low. The sun pops in and out of the clouds. So it's difficult to know the kind of sun we will be getting. I zoom in and out and finally find something with which I am happy. I chat it up with other Lion gazers and let the passers-by know that Lion is supposed to erupt soon. Some stay, some saunter by. Jake runs off down the boardwalk to have a look at Depression Geyser. In a few minutes, Lion begins putting on its show. I take some photos and sit back to enjoy. In a minute or two Jake comes over to take a photo or two from my angle. When the sun breaks through, I take a couple of quick digital photos.
When Lion is done we realize that we have quite a time gap before Grand Geyser is predicted to erupt. I haven't seen Baby Daisy yet, so we start to head towards Morning Glory Pool. When we get to Grotto Geyser we can see that that Grotto's indicator is telling us that Grotto should erupt soon. So we have a sit on the bench to enjoy a little of Grotto. Leslie breaks out her cross stitch again. This time I get a good look at it and Les tells me about it. It is a cat and books kind of thing and is, frankly, nicely done. I think it would be great to have a cross stitch that was made by Leslie and also kissed by geyser mist. That adds to its value.
When Grotto finally begins splashing around, it's clear that the wind isn't going to be favorable for photography, but we have fun watching the eruption and watching those who have gathered to watch. It's funny how a tripod bestows a kind of photographic authority. More than one person wants to take a photo near where I am sitting because of my tripod. I assume that they think I have found some good angle. But I am just sitting. So I send a few of them off to the left where the wind will be more favorable to their photography. Once again Jake takes off to have a look at something else, Beehive Geyser, I think, but he's back in time to catch plenty of Grotto.
So now we head down the old road towards Riverside Geyser and Morning Glory Pool. When we get to the end we leave the paved road at Morning Glory and take the trail past Fan and Mortar and out towards the highway and Biscuit Basin. Jake finds us a nice spot in the shade and we sit down to enjoy Baby Daisy. As always, Leslie breaks out her cross stitch. I am hardly done setting up the tripod when Baby Daisy starts erupting. We are having a very good day. It seems that we no sooner show up at a geyser than it starts erupting. Baby Daisy really does look like a small version of Daisy Geyser. The likeness is unmistakable. Baby Daisy is a great treat because it has been dormant for a number of years. It started erupting again last winter. Krazy Karen skied out to take some photos at my request and they were great to see. Now, finally in the last days of my last trip of the year I have made it out here.
The next geyser we expect to see is Grand. If it is on time, we have plenty of time to get there. So we head back past Fan and Mortar and towards Morning Glory. Fan and Mortar are splashing around a bit and I find it impossible to resist sneaking an extra peak as we go by. After the long walk to Grand we take a seat on the end of the bench. Turban is playing and we are able to gather from the folks around us that we probably won't have to wait long for Grand to erupt. Over towards the middle of the crowd Jake notices Scott Bryan chatting it up with the crowd. Isn't this just the week for seeing Yellowstone authors out and about.
Leslie breaks out her cross stitch and I set up my tripod. It seems like I no sooner get done getting everything the way I want it than Grand begins bubbling up. First it's just a few bubbles, but then the fountain begins to push up and up. The crowd gasps and claps as Grand puts on its show. When the eruption finishes for the first time, Grand receives the appropriate applause. Jake says, "Just wait for this." Grand explodes back into action. The audience squeals with delight. With appropriate dramatic flair, Grand repeats the melodramatic pause and then bursts back to life one last time. [Click here for a video of Grand's eruption. 3.3 megs; 17 seconds. Sorry that it is sideways. When I rotate the video is loses aspect ratio and looks really bad.]
When Grand has completed its spectacle, it is time for us to head back towards Riverside Geyser. So once again I am up and slowly hobbling along until I can get back up to speed. Geyser gazing today has been working right on schedule. But why can't geysers coordinate their activity so we don't have to backtrack so much?
When we arrive at Riverside, its bowl is full and regularly overflowing, but not much else is happening. We know we still have a few minutes before the predicted eruption time. Jake pulls out his chair and his geyser book; Leslie pulls out her cross stitch; I set up my tripod and nervously look at the gathering and darkening clouds. Riverside will be going off at a great time to catch a rainbow across the Firehole, but the sun might not poke through at the appropriate moment. So we wait and chat. Riverside also waits. The predicted time comes and goes. Riverside mocks us by merely splashing and overflowing.
Finally, when it is good and cloudy, Riverside begins to do its thing. The gathered crowd oohs and aahs appropriately. I take a few photos, but I am disappointed that the clouds do not want to cooperate. I keep glancing behind me at the clouds, hoping, hoping. Finally, when Riverside is in steam phase the sun breaks through enough to produce a little rainbow. I take a few photos hoping to capture it a little bit, but the rainbow is hardly classic.
With Riverside is finished we decide to head back towards the Inn. We need to go to the Old Faithful Ranger Station so that we can change the backcountry reservation from my name to Leslie's name. At the backcountry office Leslie gets her first encounter with Ranger Jim. He wants everyone in the party to view the video. We have never heard of such a thing. Leslie argues. She and Jake have a frequent hiker card and so do Tim and Betsy. "The last one is a park ranger," Leslie pleads. Ranger Jim then wants to have all of the card numbers. Jake arrives and shows his frequent hiker card. Ranger Jim finally relents. In a few minutes, Leslie has the backcountry permit. When we get outside, Leslie begins an impassioned retelling of the story to Jake. This is Leslie's first encounter with Ranger Jim. I remember him from last year.
The day is wearing on and it is late in the afternoon. Jake, Leslie and I briefly discuss our plans for the rest of the day. I need to get some presents for the folks at home, so I am heading for some gift shops. Jake and Leslie have other things to do. We'll see each other on Saturday, if not sooner.
So I head over to the Geyser Grill. I want to see if Kristine (Yellowstonegirl) is working. Of course she isn't. Somehow she can tell when I am coming and arranges the time off. So I wander across the hall to take a look at the gift shop.
The light is getting thin and dim as I leave Old Faithful. It has been a good day in the park, even though I arrived late. Even a leisurely half-day of geyser gazing is pleasant with Jake and Leslie. As I am approaching the east gate, though, I notice that my "alt" light is on. This is not good. Either my battery is bad or the alternator is bad. There's nothing to do about it now. It will have to wait until morning. I drive straight back to the motel. I walk over to Pete's Pizza and Pasta for a nice big bowl of pasta. I spend the rest of the evening browsing the book stores.
On to the next day