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Observations for 19 and 20 July

Finally saw the reactivated sputs by Grand. These are in the exact same place as the sputs of the early 1980s, but their behavior has changed.

Back then they were pretty much active all the time up to a Rift eruption,which would kill them. Sort of like the way Percolator behaves even today. But now they only erupt for a few minutes. The activity, especially from the leftmost one,which probably is at the location of the original Sputnik, was going at least two or three feet high at one point. Also of interest is that the water starts out a muddy gray, only to turn clear as the eruption progressed. A good sign that they are still cleaning a decade or so's accumulation of debris out of their vents. And based on this behavior, I'm even more convinced that this is North Triplet we're seeing.

I also learned that an umbrella is no protection from Beehive when there's a still breeze right at you. I had a circular dry spot on my front, but my pack and legs were soaked. Fortunately, the day was warm and sunny, so it only took a few hours to dry out completely.

On Saturday Castle also pulled one of its pause eruptions. It really didn't look like it wanted to start, and after about 4-1/2 minutes, it finally quit. After determining that it was definitely quiet, I waited for the mass of people to leave and then followed them. But before that, I remarked to several people that it was known to restart at any time. I got partway down the hill when I heard it erupting, again. So after about a seven minute pause, it restarted and continued with the major eruption. And it was no surprise to learn that it did have the minor eruption during the night.

Otherwise it was a pretty dull weekend, but the point was to field test my new iPhone geyser-log program. In that regard, I was successful, as I got over four pages of notes on bugs, enhancements and things that just weren't going to work the way I had expected. Now to spend the next few weeks fixing all of them.

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Not this weekend

Well, until 09:01 Friday morning I'd intended to visit the Park this weekend. That was when Mary Beth Schwarz called with the news, mostly bad.

Based on the few intervals there've been, when I heard that Fan & Mortar had erupted Tuesday morning, I figured that this weekend would be a perfect window for the next eruption. I also figured that the odds were better that it'd go long (like late Sunday) or during the middle of the night while I was there. If there was a short, I thought that it would be while I was driving into the Park. I never expected an interval a full day shorter than previous. That's a nasty way to return to the mean.

But this does fit one trend: F&M, when they wake up, don't do slow starts. If they are going to have short intervals, they start in with them immediately. If there're long, then don't expect them to short up as the summer progresses.

Oh, well, maybe next weekend.

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Observations for 06 July

A morning of watching Fan & Mortar do nothing much persuaded me that I might as well head home. Plus I followed my rule of never letting Grand suck me in when heading out.

It was nice of Grand and Rift to keep Grand's eruptions synchronized so that at least two of the three eruptions per day took place during dark, or semi-dark conditions. This despite it being the time of year where it's dark for only about 7 hours.

But I was wondering about one thing. On my first night trip out to Grand I encountered a coyote in front of the Lodge. This morning it appears that it had found all the stuff one of the cabin guests had left outside, and scattered some of it about. Which got me to wondering. Years ago, every evening I'd hear over the radio scanner that one of the Protective Rangers was about to do a "food security" sweep of the Lodge cabins. And it wasn't unusual for them to make contact with someone just about every night. I've seen a lot of coolers and grills and other such stuff out in the open in the Lodge area. When did they stop the sweeps, and who gets sued when a food-related wildlife incident occurs? (The woman at the front desk when I checked out also said that the Rangers had finally collected the carcass sitting on the plastic bag behind my cabin. It'd been pretty well picked clean, so there wasn't any smell.)

One advantage to having the bison herd in along the Madison River is that people in the outbound lane have already seen bison, and aren't as likely to cause the two mile long backup that they had of all the people arriving in the Park.

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Observations for 05 July

Yesterday evening Mary Beth Schwarz warned me that she'd seen the old bull bison who hangs around the area in the open space between the Lower Ham's Store and the Inn.

As I'm headed out for the middle of the night Grand, I stop at the top of the slope headed down to the Store to pull up the hood on my jacket. Off to the right, I hear some crunching sounds. The MagLite reveals that it's the bison, slowly making its way toward the Inn. Fortunately, it paused far enough from the trail that I could scoot on past.

Later that morning, the bison was busy again. This time marking his territory, leaving two large gooey hazards on the bike trail cutoff in front of the lift station and gas station. I saw it put down the second hazard, and it was almost like it was positioning itself before release.And since it's the time of year where there's not much rain, the bison's handiwork could be there for weeks.

Because of the quick trip, I did something I normally wouldn't do. When a call went out that Fan & Mortar had had the activity which is indicative of a possible eruption (River vent pause, Main vent splashing), I left Grand. Normally I'd just hope for the best, that Grand would cooperate and erupt soon, or that Fan & Mortar wouldn't erupt at all. If they did, then I'd just rationalize that I would have plenty more opportunities.The worst case is to leave, and end up seeing neither.

Which is exactly what happened. I got down to F&M just in time for things to die down. I waited to return just long enough that when Mary Beth made the call that the eruption was imminent, I was only as far as Grotto when it started. I could have lived with having gotten as far as the bend of the River. It's a nice view, and I watched the eruption from there. So when it quit after only about 9 minutes, I thought it would also be a great place to see a second burst. Which never came.

The rest of the day was spent watching F&M play around and do nothing. They didn't even try to look like they were going to erupt until about 8 hours after the first false alarm. Then Grand had another short eruption, but this time at least it was a two burst one.

The day did end nicely, however. While we were waiting for the evening Grand, it was obvious that the Sawmill Group was in Tardy mode. Which means that the next cycle has a good chance of there being a Penta eruption. I waited after Grand to see what would happen, telling myself that I could leave after the sun set. I didn't want to get sucked into waiting until after dark for nothing to happen. I was just about to follow through with my promise to myself, as things didn't look that great. Penta had overflowed a bit, but not the flood I remember seeing before a start. Sawmill had also started to overflow, and that's a sign I could do without. But then the left front vent bubbled, and I got sucked in. That's too good a sign, even with less than ideal overflow. There was one more, stronger series of bubbling, along with some bubbling from the right vent.Then the third time, the bubbling continued, with both vents getting stronger until the main vent finally joined in.

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Observations for 04 July

I thought that Thursday was pretty boring, but Friday was even more so.

The day started promising enough, with a predawn but well lit two burst Grand. But then Beehive erupted before I could even go past Sawmill on the way to Geyser Hill. Which meant that the best use of my time would be to head in and take a nap.

The mosquitoes are bad, and aren't going to get better for a while. While sitting next to the dorm trying to upload yesterday's report, I splatter at least two of them who left crimson splotches. Well, I have experience worse. There was one trip coming back from Shoshone where I stopped at the Grand Pass spring only long enough to refill the water bottles. Every time I stopped they were everywhere, being held at bay only by applications of full strength DEET Cutter's. And even then some would get through.

Without a big feature or two to liven things up, these short trips can have a lot of downtime. If I were here for weeks, I'd have some other projects to fill in the time, or maybe take care of those maintenance tasks like doing laundry or cooking a real meal. It's my hope that Fan & Mortar fill that void for the next couple of days, and maybe for future trips this summer.

It also doesn't help when all the geysers erupt within a half-hour period. Between 20:00 and 20:30 we had eruptions of Grand, Beehive, Oblong, Daisy and Riverside. Castle had already gone a few hours earlier. And then the one geyser I wanted to see finish off the list, Rift, didn't put in an appearance, meaning I'd get to deal with it during the night.

My first night in the cabin area, there weren't any parking spaces. So I was surprised that when I got back from Grand, the place was empty, with space everywhere. Around 23:00 I found out one reason why: a large tour group arrived, with the usual dragging of suitcases and discussions of who goes where and banging doors.

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Observations for 03 July

If I hadn't known that it had erupted the day before (at 14:33 on 02 July), I could have been fooled by Fan & Mortar's behavior this morning. Around 06:00, only about 16 hours after the eruption, I got to see a perfect example of post-eruption type activity. The water levels are low, which seems to make the normal splashing and surging that F&M are always doing even more vigorous. During the fifteen minutes I was there, Mortar's Bottom Vent was erupting most of the time, with some bursts to two meters. This produced overflow  down the various catchbasins and into the river. On the Fan side, the Main Vent as the star. As it always does, the surging in the two geysers dies down only to be followed by a quick restart. A number of these restarts were accompanied by Main Vent splashing well above its rim accompanied by explosive sounds. But none of the other signs of high water were there, so time to move on.

Grand appears to have had two long intervals in a row. The second, daytime one was accompanied by Rift. The Turban intervals leading up to the eruption started long but after a couple got progressively shorter until dropping just under 17 minutes. Some of the sputs between Rift and Grand have reactivated, but have only been seen for a few minutes, unlike past years when they could be active most any time.

Giant is dead for now. The platform was mostly dry. I was told that the puddles that I did see were probably due to huge cone-filling surges out the front that look impressive, but mean little. Mastiff is having the same sort of activity, but there are no real hot periods any more. Some day this summer, it's just going to erupt without warning, just like it's done in past slowdown years.

For a short trip, it doesn't make sense to not take advantage of a geyser I wouldn't put in the same effort if I were here for weeks or months. Since it was obvious that Grand wasn't going to be anytime soon, I went to Geyser Hill and waited for Beehive. Perfect conditions, dead calm but warm enough that the steam wasn't obscuring. I was able to stand on the boardwalk closest to the cone and see a double 210° rainbow, and only get wet once. (But the umbrella served its purpose there.) I may even have to visit the Lower Basin.