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Mickey Hot Springs Observations for 2021 April 21


Mickey Hot Springs isn't on the edge of nowhere, it's right in the middle. It was about 175 miles from Winnemucca, and the last 30 miles or so was on gravel road.

It was windy the whole drive, but fortunately we arrived mid-day on a cloudless day, so it wasn't too bad. Had never been there before, so discovering new features was fun.

The "Morning Glory Pool" was overflowing slightly into the bathtub dug into the runoff channel. Below that, down slope we could hear the activity before we could see it. There are two noisy fumaroles at the north end of the active area. South of them were a number of erupting and overflowing features.

There were two small pools separated by a meter or two which were intermittently erupting to about a half meter. The one of the east (#28?) had a large splash zone, implying stronger activity, while the one on the wet was overflowing nicely, and probably the primary contributor of much of the runoff to the south along a well defined channel. In addition, above it was another smaller, unconnected pool which occasionally burst a few centimeters high. That, it appears, is the "Mickey Geyser", #23.

Erupting features


The other splashing vent appears to be the southern end of #26.

The fumaroles were #27 and #30, the latter appears to be larger and more active than what I saw in photos taken earlier.

We saw evidence of dead mudpots, but nothing recent. Large areas between the northern area and the active features were covered in a fine, white power which seemed like something produced by mudpots.

Perhaps it's due to the isolation, but the area was free of the usual trash and casual vandalism I've seen in most other thermal areas. There are some obviously engineered catch basins for bathing, but they are at least not modifications to existing features or runoff channels as far as I could tell.

Also, it's worth noting that we had excellent cell phone data connection (Verizon) in the area.


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Steamboat Springs Observations for 2021 April 18


Steamboat Springs is long gone. There's now a fence right along the property line, restricting access to the BLM portion of the terrace. This means that only those features on private land are accessible without crossing the fence, which separates #10 from #42, for example.

Sign on fence blocking access to thermal area.

Not that it matters. All the vents are dry, and there's no evidence of any activity anywhere. A few of the cracks have plants growing in them. Perhaps on a cold day there might be whiffs of fog coming from hole.

The vents themselves are mostly recognizable, although I didn't do a full inventory. For some reason there is a long, capped pipe sticking out of #42w, perhaps there's a thermal probe of some kind down there.

Vent of #42w and #42 in the background.

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Long Valley Observations for 2021 April 17


Passing through Long Valley, Calif., so Suzanne and I had to visit Hot Creek. My last visit there was thirty-five years ago, so things have changed. We spent a bit more than an hour there.

The walkways and access is now completely different. Back then, there were trails down near the creek next to the erupting features, and a bridge across the creek. Swimming was also permitted back then. This time the area is fenced off, and signs on the road announced that the area was closed at night.

The previous visit, all the activity was on the south bank of the creek. One of the craters was erupting as much as seven or eight meters high, and there were several other hot pools near it. Those craters are now all dead, with the geyser showing greenish water well below the rim.

In line with those craters, on the north bank was where there was activity, There are three pools that were not there during the previous visit, two of them hot and blue. They appear to be on a linear trend line from the old activity. The water levels of the blue pools were different, with the higher pool, about a quarter to half meter higher. It was continuously pouring water into the lower pool, and all three were pouring that water into the creek. We saw no change in the flow during our visit, although one time, due to the way the runoff can be hidden by the surrounding ground, I thought it had quit because I couldn't hear the runoff.

There were also at least two areas that appeared to be convection in the creek itself. Again, didn't notice any change in the brief time of our visit.

On the way out, stopped at the Casa Diablo powerplant. It too is changed, not surprisingly. The old US-395 road is now blocked off, and where the old hot ground and steam vents were on the northeast side of the road is now occupied by a generator complex. There's no good views of the area. Within the fenced in area, near where the old Casa Diablo Geyser used to be was something steaming heavily. This activity seemed to vary, but again, fences prevented any good views. There is still one area of thermally altered ground open to the west of the complex.


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Waiting for New Crater/Steamboat


Since the start of the latest period of activity of New Crater/Steamboat, I've managed to see fourteen of the eruptions, all from the start, and all from my chosen viewpoint (platforms or the bridge). The amount of time waiting for each has varied considerably. I've seen enough eruptions that some statistics on the waits can be gathered.

First, there are two ways to determine how long is a wait. It can either be the amount of time waiting for an eruption since the previous eruption, or the amount of time waiting since the last observed eruption. Going by the first, I've waited 24 times, and didn't see anything ten of those waits. Only three times did I see an eruption on the first day of waiting after seeing the previous eruption.

Since I have seen eruptions from the start, I don't feel the need to wait in the cold and dark to experience a lot of noise with not much of a view. So I'm not going to arrive much before dawn, and will clear out around dark. (That I'd rather drive as little in the dark as possible, especially in the evening, is another factor. I have no desire to encounter a bison on the road.)

The amount of daylight varies depending on the season, but even in October there can be as much as nine hours of daylight. In June I have put in close to fifteen hour days.

The shortest waits were less than a day. In October of the first year of activity I actually had a wait of 2h20m, and in several other cases I got the eruption in the middle of the day or early evening.

On the other hand, I've had long waits. The most for a particular eruption, without seeing it, was early in 2020, when I waited almost 55 hours without success. I've also had other waits well over 30 hours with nothing to show for it.

When looking at just the amount of time put in since the previous eruption, things get worse. I had to put in 154 hours, going back to the start of September last year, for the first eruption I saw in 2020. In the middle of the summer of 2019, there was another 62 hour stretch.

Date Seen? Days Wait Time Total Wait
2018 May 27 Seen 2 19h05m 19h05m
2018 Jul 20   1 9h45m  
2018 Aug 04 Seen 3 22h50m 32h35m
2018 Sep 07 Seen 2 12h50m 12h50m
2018 Sep 17 Seen 1 5h35m 5h35m
2018 Oct 08 Seen 1 2h20m 2h20m
2018 Oct 15 Seen 3 16h40m 16h40m
2019 May 20 Seen 2 12h05m 12h05m
2019 May 27   3 34h45m  
2019 Jul 24   1 12h20m  
2019 Jul 30 Seen 2 15h40m 62h55m
2019 Aug 27 Seen 2 17h10m 17h10m
2019 Sep 03   2 27h25m  
2019 Sep 11   3 37h35m  
2020 May 31   4 54h40m  
2020 Jun 29   2 26h00m  
2020 Jul 03 Seen 1 8h30m 154h10m
2020 Aug 03 Seen 1 3h40m 3h40m
2020 Aug 09   3 30h50m  
2020 Aug 14 Seen 1 9h30m 40h20m
2020 Aug 20   1 9h35m  
2020 Aug 26 Seen 3 40h10m 49h45m
2020 Sep 01   1 13h05m  
2020 Sep 09 Seen 3 30h15m 43h20m
Totals 14 (24) 48 471h30m Ave: 33h40m

That's a total of over 471 hours, not quite ten hours per day, spread over 48 days. Or 33h40m per eruption seen, or 19h40m for each wait.

The whole point of this is that there is no "luck" involved in when a person sees sees so many eruption. I wasn't the only person who spent a lot of time on that platform, and ended up seeing as many or more eruptions. We all put in a lot of time out there.

The wait time for the first eruption I saw also doesn't include the time I spent in 1982 and didn't see anything. It was late August/early September, and I was in Yellowstone for a two week vacation, before going back to work in Oregon. At the time there weren't that many gazers, so Fred Hirschmann, the head naturalist at Norris, let us sleep out on the old middle platform, as long as our gear wasn't visible when visitors were around. His rationale was that it was better to have us out where our locations would be known, rather than our skulking around in the woods and becoming bear bait. (Despite this, at least one person still insisted on skulking about during the night.) I ended up spending about 100 hours, straight, on that platform waiting for nothing to happen. Occasionally would wander over for Echinus, but didn't want to be out of sight any more than necessary.

That was the year some those of us waiting got so tired of the constant repetition of the same questions that we started pinning cards with answers to those common questions on the railing. (A FAQ before the term was invented.)

I finally gave up when I had just a couple of days left in my visit, just so I could see something else erupt. As it turned out, the eruption finally took place about two days after I left. Other than stopping by while visiting Norris for other reasons, I never did wait again until 2018.

So in some sense, I put in about 120 hours for that first eruption, in two sessions spaning 36 years.


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Size Comparison of Thermal Areas


While preparing for another attempt at visiting the thermal areas of New Zealand and Iceland, as well as the western U.S., it occurred to me that it shouldn't be too difficult to compare the sizes of the various area. In The Transactions Vol. 7, T.Scott Bryan does a comparison of the size of some thermal areas. He just presents some basic line drawings, while I figured I could download satellite maps set to the same scale, which would give a lot more details.

The two areas I couldn't include completely are the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins. They are huge compared to everywhere else. Instead I limited them to Geyser Hill/Old Faithful areas and the Fountain Paint Pots. The only other thermal area presented here that doesn't quite fit is Waimangu, where I wasn't able to include the lakeside thermal area.


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Server Update


I've updated the Geysers.Org server, both hardware and software.

The old server was a MacMini from 2007 that had a PowerPC processor. The weblog software was Moveable Type, a system that hadn't been updated since then, either. The last support for it I could find was in 2015. It was getting to the point that I was afraid that I would lose everything if the hardware died, and I couldn't make minor changes to the software because I could no longer find any documentation.

The new one is the latest MacMini, so I probably won't need to do more updates for a while. Using WordPress, which is still being supported, so I can actually make little improvements without breaking stuff.

The old permalinks may be a little flakey, but at a minimum the text and images on them should be available. Links from them are not guaranteed to end up in the right place, so don't rely on them.

If you find other problems, let me know, as it might be easily fixable, or I can find a workaround. Or let you know that it's gone.