Mark and I had discussed several ways of getting to Coffee Pot. In 2005 we had crossed Broad Creek at 4B1 and tried to get to the high ground early. What we learned from that is that there are at least two and maybe three large drainages that must be crossed. That wasted a lot of time and was very demoralizing. This time we elected to stay in Joseph's Coat until we got to the bend in Broad Creek where the creek leaves Joseph's Coat. We would then make a beeline to Coffee Pot.
So with that in mind we crossed over the hill outside of camp, pausing just long enough above the little waterfall in Broad Creek to have a look at Broadside Geyser. There is a fumarole above the area that is steaming, but we do not see Broadside erupt. Broadside Geyser is at creek level some 25 feet downstream of the falls. We continue through the forested area until we come to a shoulder of crumbly and decayed rhyolite. The ground here is open and there are a couple of small thermals in the colorful rocks. On the ridge above us to our left we can see the steam from other fumaroles and mudpots.
As we pass through the area Dianne comments on the old elk skull on the little island to our right. I stop at the confluence of Broad Creek and the unnamed thermally creek to show Laurie where we stopped during our trip in 2003. This is also the creek that the girls could hand-hold if they needed to leave Joseph's Coat without Mark and me. The water from the thermally creek seems very warm in the cool morning air. There are plenty of small frying pans along its bank. As we head around the Joseph's Coat Promontory I point out "Spring No. 2", a very active spring not far from the confluence of the two creeks. Rick Hutchinson had given this spring the designation in his 1976 report on the Joseph's Coat area. Further downstream we can see the well-worn runoff channel of Scorodite Spring. There is no water flowing this time and Scorodite is a shadow of what it must once have been. Across the creek we see several fumaroles in the hillside. One of these is The Whistler, misidentified on topographic maps as Whistler Geyser.
We have now traveled about a half mile from camp and we have missed all of the hard terrain that slowed us down in 2005. After some discussion we settle on a place to cross the creek. Mark figures out a way to hop across on rocks, trusting his Gore-Tex boots if he missteps. The rest of us elect to put on our sandals or water shoes and cross that way. Lori and I have to put on moleskin anyway, so we do not mind taking off our shoes. It is one of the little bonding rituals we share. Dianne decides to take her gear across in two crossings. I think that she secretly enjoyed the water on her feet and ankles. Mark helps coach her across the first time. After that she knew that the creek wasn't much more than calf high in the deepest area.
Getting to Coffee Pot is a lot of work. The way is nearly all uphill and the area did not burn in the 2002 Broad Creek fire. So we have plenty of deadfall to negotiate. Sometimes we go through, sometimes we step over, and sometimes we make a long detour around the deadfall and underbrush. All the while we keep going uphill. If we stop for a break Dianne hurries us along by imitating our friend Leslie. "Suck it UP," she says and when she says it she sounds just like Les. It remains a running joke for the remainder of the trip.
Mark makes many corrections with his GPS because we keep drifting off course as we get through the forest. And to make matters worse, the terrain has a way of leading you where it wants you to go. After what seems like too much time we seem to be getting towards the top of something and I keep a sharp eye out for anything that looks like a thermal area. Finally I spot the bleached white that I am looking for and everyone seems a bit cheered.
Coffee Pot Hot Springs is a wonder all by itself. We always regret that we do not have more time to spend here. The lower portion of the thermal area features several hot springs, mudpots and fumaroles grouped tightly together. During my research I was amazed to find that Rick Hutchinson had found dissolved pyrite in the springs. Fool's gold! When I examined my photos from 2005 I could clearly see the "gold leaf" on the sand surrounding the springs. The springs themselves are often fairly large, some of them 4 to 5 feet in diameter. They bubble and splash to maybe two or three feet and emit a lot of steam, even on a hot day.
When reading the reports Dianne and I were fascinated by a spring that Hutchinson described as erupting nearly horizontally in a southeasterly direction to nearly seven feet. When I read that I could not imagine where it might be because I thought that I knew the area that Hutchinson was describing. But when we got to the springs Dianne and I were delighted to actually identify the spring on the north side of Coffee Pot Creek and to see it behaving much in the fashion described by Hutchinson.
I have never been down creek at Coffee Pot so I made it a point to get around the thermals and follow the creek down to some boulders. There are several of them in the area and I have never seen them before. From this area I am able to see nearly all of Upper Coffee Pot laid out before me. I have never visited the area, but even in lower Coffee Pot is it possible to hear the eruption of a large periodic steam vent. I am sorry to say that it seems far less active than when we visited in 2005. We had wanted to visit Upper Coffee Pot and see if we could get some intervals on the steam vent, but time and bad luck prevents us. I hope to make Coffee Pot itself a destination sometime in the future and I hope to have leisure to explore it without the time pressures of getting to Fairyland.