Two weeks ago, Day 7

Rain, rain go away, come again some other day.

 Preferably after I get home, but oh, well.

Yes, I woke up to more rain two weeks ago today. I drove back into the park, anyway, of course (it’s about thirty miles from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful), and parked Kestrel (my car) near the lodge. Still feeling optimistic about the weather at this point, I packed up my daypack with all the necessities for a day out in the geyser basin, including, but not limited to, my Kindle, my journal, and my cross-stitch (some geysers must be waited for, sometimes for up to three or four hours).

Fortunately, my daypack is waterproof and I have a good raincoat. My first stop was in the visitor center, to check the eruption predictions. Old Faithful itself goes off often enough that one can often catch it in passing while headed somewhere else, but Riverside only goes off every six hours or so, Castle every nine to eleven hours, and the Grand, that pinnacle of predictible geysers, erupts about every seven to eight hours, so if I wanted to see them, I needed to know when to go sit and wait for them.

Eruption predictions are never on the minute. Grand, for instance, has a three-hour window, which means that it’s most likely to go off up to an hour and a half on either side of the prediction time. Riverside and Castle were predicted to have morning eruptions, and the Grand wasn’t due to go off till late afternoon.

Anyway. About the time I left the visitor center, the sky opened up. Not quite raining in sheets, but in the five minutes it took me to walk from the visitor center to the Old Faithful Inn, I was fairly drenched where my raincoat didn’t cover me, and the visor of my hood was dripping.

Still, as I peered through the murk over towards Old Faithful, I did see Lion Geyser erupting in the distance. But I really didn’t want to get any wetter, so I used the zoom on my camera to get this shot.

The sign says Old Faithful.  The actual geyser in the distance is Lion.
The sign says Old Faithful. The actual geyser in the distance is Lion.

And instead of sitting out in the rain waiting for things to erupt, I went into the Inn and found myself a cozy spot and caught my journal up after several days of ignoring it. Not exactly what I’d had in mind, but there are much worse places to be stranded.

The 85-foot-tall, 500-ton (according to Wikipedia, at least), four-sided fireplace in the Old Faithful Inn, with its hand-forged clock.
The 85-foot-tall, 500-ton (according to Wikipedia, at least), four-sided fireplace in the Old Faithful Inn, with its hand-forged clock.

An hour or so later the rain let up and I finally went out into the geyser basin. I walked out as far as Castle Geyser, which had apparently gone off during the rainstorm but was still bellowing (and I mean bellowing — the sound is pretty impressive) steam.

Castle Geyser, bellowing steam in the distance.
Castle Geyser, bellowing steam in the distance.

I turned right and headed across the bridge towards Sawmill, which was churning away as usual. I know the “real” geyser gazers don’t think much of Sawmill because it robs energy and water from other, rarer geysers like Tardy and Penta, but I like Sawmill, for its chugging sound (hence the name) and simply because it looks like it’s thoroughly enjoying itself.

Sawmill Geyser on the left, and what can only be Tardy Geyser on the right, unless I'm mistaken, which is possible.
Sawmill Geyser on the left, and what can only be Tardy Geyser on the right, unless I’m mistaken, which is altogether possible.

Most geysers do. I can’t help anthropomorphizing them that way. I just can’t. I’ve never met a more cheerful geologic phenomenon than a geyser, and that’s just the way it is.

A view of Geyser Hill from the old road.
A view of Geyser Hill from the old road.

I strolled around Geyser Hill, past Giantess (one of the biggest geysers in the world — and also one that I’ll probably never get to see because it erupts so seldom) and Beehive, which is not an officially-predicted geyser, but can be caught occasionally because it’s got what’s called an indicator, which is a small geyser off to its side that often starts erupting just before Beehive itself does. I’d missed it this morning, but here’s what it looks like from 2008, in much better weather, when I didn’t miss it.

Beehive Geyser, 2008, from the viewpoint across the river.  Note the tiny people on the boardwalk next to it.
Beehive Geyser, 2008, from the viewpoint across the river. Note the tiny people on the boardwalk next to it.

Then it started raining again, and it was past lunchtime, so I went to what’s affectionately known as the Lower Ham (Hamilton, although it’s no longer owned by the family) store, and ate lunch at the counter there. That lunch counter/soda fountain has been there a long time, by local standards. The store itself was first built in 1897, and Charley, who was still Chuck at that point, ate his last meal in 1959 there before he inadvertently time-traveled back to 1877 in Repeating History. It’s also where James first went looking for his son just after Chuck disappeared and met Jo in Finding Home. An important place, the Lower Ham store.

This isn’t my photo, but I wanted you to see what it looks like.

Homesick cover 300

Then again, so is the whole Upper Geyser Basin, so far as I’m concerned. My short story “Homesick” takes place here, too, and one geyser in particular is very significant in both Repeating History and “Homesick.”

My only eruption of Old Faithful on this trip, taken from the shelter of the Lodge porch.
My only eruption of Old Faithful on this trip, taken from the shelter of the Lodge porch.
A blue bird (not sure of exact species) which was hanging around Old Faithful just before the eruption.  The rain started again a few minutes before the geyser went off.
A blue bird (not sure of exact species — ETA, my birder friend Katrina says it’s a mountain bluebird) which was hanging around Old Faithful just before the eruption. The rain started again a few minutes before the geyser went off.

It took the rain a while to let back up again, alas, although I did catch what turned out to be my only view of Old Faithful from where I’d walked back to the Lodge (as opposed to the Inn), and by the time it did, it was getting close to four in the afternoon, Grand’s predicted time. Of course, given the window, it could have already gone off, but I didn’t have anything to lose except the time and a little shoe leather, so I headed back out one more time. Except for the rain, this was a pretty normal geyser basin day for me. Out and back and out and back, watch this geyser and that, have a thoroughly good time.

Anyway, when I got back out to the Grand, there were still a fair number of people sitting and waiting. My spirits rose. And, lo and behold, less than ten minutes after I sat down, guess what happened?! Grand’s pool, which had already been overflowing, started generating little waves, Turban (a kinda sorta indicator) went off, and away Grand went! I think that’s the shortest amount of time I’ve ever waited for the Grand.

This is my alltime favorite photo of the Grand, taken in 1999 during the eruption that inspired Repeating History.
This is my alltime favorite photo of the Grand, taken in 1999 during the eruption that inspired Repeating History.

And it was. Grand, that is. Just one burst, but it was a good long one, and that was enough to make my day. Make my trip, actually.

Especially since I always think of the Grand as Charley’s geyser. It was a crucial half (the other half being an earthquake I’ll tell you about tomorrow) of the phenomenon that sent Chuck back in time to become Charley in Repeating History, and it also caused Charley’s son Will and — okay, this may get confusing — Will’s five-year-old grandson Chuck (yes, that Chuck) to witness something in “Homesick” that changed their lives forever.

The rain didn’t start back up yet again until I was back in my car and headed back to West Yellowstone an hour or so later, either, and that was a good thing, too.