Tag Archives: Grand Geyser

September 20: All the exploding water I could squeeze into one day

I need to quit showing up at Yellowstone for a couple of days at the end of trips, and devote a whole trip there again one of these days. With adequate advance planning so that where I’ll stay isn’t an issue. Because if I could have found a place to stay for less than $100 a night in West tonight I probably would have stayed there before camping some more, but oh, well. I was thinking about it on my way out of the park this afternoon, and the last time I spent more than three days here at a time by myself was in 2005. I’ve spent a whole week at a time here several times since then, but always with a friend. I want to spend more time wandering around geyser basins waiting for things to erupt.

Anyway. At least I got to do that today. I got up at the crack of dawn this morning (it wasn’t even good light when I pulled out of my campsite) and drove into the park. One advantage of doing that is that there is no line at the entrance station, very little traffic, and I get my choice of spots in the ginormous parking lot at Old Faithful. Yes, it’s still pretty crowded here, even in late September.

Early, early in the morning on my way to West Yellowstone.
Early, early in the morning on my way to West Yellowstone.
Steam! Lots and lots of steam! That's Fountain Paint Pots, and the brown dots are bison.
Steam! Lots and lots of steam! That’s Fountain Paint Pots, and the brown dots are bison.

I packed up my day pack with all the stuff I might need for the day – water, lunch, camera, Kindle (for the inevitable waits), etc., etc., etc. – doused myself in sunscreen, and went to the visitor center to check on predicted eruption times.

Two strokes of luck later – Riverside was due around 11:30 and Grand somewhere between 11:45 and 3:45 so not too late in the afternoon – I headed over to the lodge to get some hot tea, then watched an eruption of Old Faithful before I headed out. And an eruption of Lion, off in the distance. A good start to the morning.

Lion Geyser as seen while waiting for Old Faithful, taken with lots of zoom.
Lion Geyser as seen while waiting for Old Faithful, taken with lots of zoom.
The classic view of Old Faithful.
The classic view of Old Faithful.
Yes, this was taken with plenty of zoom. These two and about half a dozen of their friends were prowling the parking lot in front of the Lower Hamilton store.
Yes, this was taken with plenty of zoom. These two and about half a dozen of their friends were prowling the parking lot in front of the Lower Hamilton store.

I strolled slowly down to Morning Glory Pool (about a mile and a half), stopping to see several more geysers along the way. Castle wasn’t due till about suppertime, alas, so I didn’t get to see it erupt, but I saw Sawmill, which is one of my favorite little (as in about 25 feet high max) geysers, as well as Tardy, which is sort of Sawmill’s little brother.

Sawmill Geyser from across the river.
Sawmill Geyser from across the river, with Tardy Geyser off to its right.

On down a piece, I saw that Grotto, aka the phallic geyser (look at the photo and tell me I’m wrong) was erupting, as was its neighbor Grotto Fountain, the latter of which, to the best of my knowledge, I’d never seen erupt before. Any day is a great day when I see a geyser I’ve never seen before. Trust me.

Grotto Geyser.
Grotto Geyser.
Grotto Fountain geyser, which I'm pretty sure I hadn't ever seen before, so that was cool.
Grotto Fountain geyser.

Then it was on to Riverside Geyser, which is pretty much the most regular geyser in the park (yes, more regular than Old Faithful), and by far one of the most graceful. I took video of it – the first time I’ve ever taken video of a geyser (I didn’t know how to do video until last year, and I haven’t been to the park since year before last). By the time Riverside’s half hour eruption was over, it was time to head over to Grand.

Riverside Geyser.
Riverside Geyser.
Oblong Geyser, as seen from Grand Geyser while waiting for it.
Oblong Geyser, as seen from Grand Geyser while waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  ETA:  Oops.  That’s Daisy, thank you, Lynn Stephens, for the correction.

Oh, Grand. It has a four hour eruption window (that is, 90% of the eruptions happen within that window), and today was one of the 10% of times it was late. While I was waiting, out there in the sun (thank goodness it was only in the low 70s today and breezy), I read, and chatted with my fellow geyser gazers (yes, that’s what we’re called – go check out the Geyser Observation and Study Association – gosa.org – website, if you don’t believe me) and helped explain the Grand’s logic puzzle of a prediction cycle to the newbies (more in a bit), and ate my lunch, and was patient along with everybody else [g].

The Grand finally went off just before 4 pm, two lovely, fantastic, beautiful bursts, and it was, as always, worth every minute of the wait, and every bit of the, okay, the pool’s overflowing, are there waves yet? there goes Turban (Grand only goes off just before or after Turban starts), oh, ptui, there goes West Triplet again (if West Triplet goes off while Turban’s doing one of its every twenty minute eruptions, then Grand won’t go off until at least the next Turban cycle), etc., etc., etc.

It always reminds me of those kinds of puzzles where Mr. Smith lives in the blue house and Mr. Gray is the plumber, but the green house is next to Mr. Jones, so who lives in the yellow house sort of thing.

The Grand!!!
The Grand!!!

Oh, and I got video footage of Grand, which makes me very happy (my comments on the audio portion of the thing are kind of embarrassing, I was so excited, but that’s okay).

After that I needed to hit the road, because the only relatively reasonably priced place I could find to stay tonight (I needed a place with a shower) was 25 miles outside of West Yellowstone, which in turn is 30 miles from Old Faithful, through animal jams and so forth.

I’m in a cute little cabin (with no wifi and no TV, alas, but that’s okay) up by Hebgen Lake, which is rather nice, and it’s on my way home (I still can’t believe I’ll probably be home the day after tomorrow), so that’s worked out for the best. But I do need to plan a whole vacation around the park again soon. I will. Maybe next year.

Aspens in the early evening along Hebgen Lake.
Aspens in the early evening along Hebgen Lake.

Three weeks ago, Day 16

Waiting for things to erupt!

 Actually, three weeks ago yesterday.  Monday got away from me, alas.

Anyway, the weather did a 180 from Sunday night to Monday.  When I woke up the sun was shining and the birds — or were those chipmunks? — were chirping outside my cabin at Old Faithful, and it was positively balmy compared to the day before.

Happily I loaded my backpack with my Kindle, my cross-stitch, a bottle of water, and a notebook, slathered on sunscreen, slapped on my hat, and headed out.

First stop was the lodge, for one of their large, delicious muffins.  Second stop was at the visitor center, to check the eruption predictions and make notes.  Three geysers were predicted for late in the morning — Daisy and Riverside around 10:30, and Castle for just after eleven.  Grand’s prediction wasn’t till the afternoon, at 3:45 (which really meant any time between 1:45 and 5:45 — Grand’s window is always two hours on either side of the predicted time). 

I headed down the paved trail, which used to be the old road before the early 70s when they rerouted automobile traffic out of the geyser basin, only to have a ranger redirect me around a stretch past several bison cows and their calves, and the bull who was apparently keeping an eye on them.  As I made my little detour, I heard the ranger trying — apparently in vain — to keep someone from strolling right up to them who did not realize the danger of getting too close to something that weighs 2000 pounds, can run faster than you can, and has babies to protect.  Yellowstone is not a zoo, folks.  Those animals are wild.

I had been planning to watch Daisy and/or Riverside, but somehow I didn’t get any further than Castle at first.  Castle is great fun to watch, and to listen to.  I hadn’t seen a whole Castle eruption, from the first spout of water through to the steam, which makes a mighty roar, in a long time, so I decided to wait for it.  It was well worth it, as you can see in the photos.  I’m just sorry I can’t reproduce the sound for you. 

I struck up a conversation while I was waiting for it with a lady from Virginia whose first visit to Yellowstone this was.  She queried me about a lot of things, including wanting to know which was my favorite geyser, so I got to tell her about Grand a bit.  Turns out that was my good deed for the day, as I will explain later.

After Castle finished bellowing, she and I walked down to catch the last of Riverside Geyser, and to see Morning Glory Pool.  By that point it was getting to be lunch time, and she and I each went our own way.  I went back to the lunch counter at Lower Ham (one of the two general stores at Old Faithful — the other one being called Upper Ham, short for Hamilton), to grab a quick meal before heading out to stake my bench at Grand.

It really was a glorious day for geyser-gazing.  Other than a few white puffies, the sky was a never ending blue, it was warm without being hot, there was just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable, and the boardwalks were bone dry.  The flowers were blooming, too — I saw gentians and shooting stars, among others.  And, of course there were red dogs (bison calves).  What more could you ask for?

Well…  I ran into Lisa from the geysers email list and we had a nice conversation.  I’d been at Grand for about an hour when Kristin, the lady from Virginia, showed up, with the comment that she wanted to see the geyser I’d gone on so about.  Less than an hour after that, Turban went and Grand overflowed, and then up, up, up it went. 

It was a terrific eruption.  I will never, ever, ever get tired of watching Grand erupt.  There’s something about geysers that makes them look like they are having way more fun than is good for them.  They’re just exuberant.  Playful.  Whatever.  I know better than to try to anthropomorphize them, but I can’t seem to help it.  And when it was over, people applauded, which always just tickles the heck out of me.

I glanced over at Kristin, who was sitting there with her fingers over her mouth and her eyes wide, and after it finished I said, was it worth the wait?  And she said, oh, yes.  Like I said, my good deed for the day.

What was left of the rest of the day after the stroll back to the cabin, which wasn’t much, was an early supper, then one last viewing of Old Faithful, with an eruption of Lion in the distance.  And early to bed.  Because, whether I wanted to or not, tomorrow I needed to head home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you like my travel writing, you might enjoy my fiction set in Yellowstone:

Repeating History, “A GRAND yarn you can’t put down.” Janet Chapple, author of Yellowstone Treasures