Posted on

Observations for 26 May

After several long Grand intervals, it would have been nice to not have seen the steam cloud as I drove into the Han Store parking log. Then again, 8.5 hours was about average until the other day, so I could have been out there earlier. With all the yelling of geyser times as (or before) eruptions start, this would have been a nice time to have had something besides silence, too.

When I stopped for gas in Idaho Falls, I discovered that despite my attempts to avoid them, I managed to pick up some bison deposits from the Madison entrance road. Nothing as bad as last year, but I'll be visiting the car wash as soon as I can to remove them.

Posted on

Observations for 25 May

When I came in from the night, I was thinking that if it stayed clear, it looked like we were in for some significant fog. It was already starting to form in some areas. Instead, tday started out looking like it was going to be a continuation of yesterday, with a solid gray sky that had to rain. But by about 08:00 it had already broken up, so what we had may have been just the fog I expected, but a bit higher. From Lower Ham's, I could easily seen the fog banks of Midway and Lower Basin to the north, but there also people said it wasn't that bad.

One thing people don't realize is that a Rift delay doesn't always happen after Rift starts. Sometimes the delay is that wait you have from one West Triplet eruption without a Rift to the next one where Rift starts. This morning, though, we just had a long wait between West Triplet eruptions for no good reason. And while last night's two burst eruption was far too short, this morning we had nearly three minutes that could and should have been broken up.

Overnight, around 04:30 there were a series of small (1.9 to 2.9) earthquakes centered in the Lower Basin, somewhere between Thud Group and Porcupine Hills. It was felt by a few in this area, as well as campers at Madison. But it appears they had no effect that was visible.

On the other hand, the monitor confirmed that I did see a second minor at Castle last night, and we didn't get the major until 12:48. Despite the winds (from the north) Daisy's intervals dropped below 2 hours. And Beehive reminded people that just because the last few indicators were over 15 minutes doesn't mean it still can't toss in a 6 minute one.

The rest of the day was filler time. Daisy was having intervals below two hours, and Grotto started another marathon. Oblong wasn't reported, either. While waiting for evening Grand, Penta looked good like it did the other day, but once again, just as Penta was about to start, Sawmill took over.

The pair of coyotes who tried to harvest marmots behind Grand the other day were back during the evening Grand wait. They made two attempts, the first of which seems to actually have some planning, or at least appeared that way. The first one crossed the boardwalk between Rift and Belgian, and slowly made its way along the base of the hillside, right next to Grand. All the while the marmots were chirping, but the coyote seemed to not mind or care. A few minutes later the second appeared. This one quickly ran up the hill a ways before trying to snatch a meal. No such luck. About an hour later one of them appeared on the northern edge, again without success. In any case, it appears these two know that there are meals to be had behind Grand. Now if they can only acquire them.

Grand itself first waited for Rift, then for sunset before erupting. As it seems happens way to much to be mere chance, the eruption occurred on the last possible Turban before darkness. As it was, we even had a little light to see the way back. The eruption itself was another eleven minute long one burst, notable only for Turban and Vent continuing instead of their usual pause.

Posted on

Observations for 24 May

An overcast night turned into a gray, dull morning. Grand was there, somewhere, inside all that steam, and Castle would have been much nicer if it had been backlit by the rising sun. But there's no rain with these clouds, which is an improvement over many Memorial Day weekends I remember.

In the dark I thought I heard frogs croaking off in the distance, north of Castle. Years ago that swampy area north of the lift station was their home. The racket they made would cease when people got close, and then one year they just disappeared completely. Would be nice to get them back.

Also, I noticed how it is possible for things around here to improve instead of get worse. Years ago there were problems with the lights from the buildings and parking lots. Over the years it was the Lodge, or the Inn parking lot, or Lower Ham's or the gas station. One year it was so bad that I could see my shadow on the trees by the trail at Rift. That's no longer a problem. There are still lights in from all those areas, but they are unobtrusive and do not detract from the nighttime experience. (Although I must admit I don't know if that's also the case on Geyser Hill, with it's direct exposure to the developments.) I hope the new Visitor's Temple creators resisted the temptation to illuminate their masterpiece, although I have my doubts about that cupola on the top.

Until around noon or so it was a dull, gray day. Then the hints at dawn that the clouds might break became reality. Sort of. At least the sun came out and things warmed up, but also got windy. It only lasted an hour or so, and then it was back to dull gray, but the wind didn't go away. After the mid afternoon Beehive eruption, the promised afternoon showers finally materialized. Enough to dampen the roads and walkways, but not much else. And even that didn't matter as by then there wasn't anything much going on. (Well, unless you had an uncontrollable urge to see Oblong or Grotto start.) Besides, it's not a Memorial Day weekend if there's not at least some rain.

The rains appeared ended by the time Castle was due, and the weather radar maps showed that there should not be any more heavy showers after that. Unfortunately, because of the rain I was a bit slow getting out to Castle, and saw the start from the parking lot. I got there just in time to get a duration on the minor eruption.

The weather radars were wrong, as there was one last shower as I arrived at Grand as the last light faded. Just enough to wet things down one last time and to make sure I had to put on all the rain gear. A West Triplet eruption with neither Grand or Rift accompanying it let me know I'd be there a while too. Was there long enough to catch the next eruption of Castle just before Grand, at least I thought it was Castle.

So after a long string of steady Turban intervals, suddenly Turban starts when I was expecting to hear the first trickles of overflow. Yep, Grand is reaching into the past and letting me know that it can still have sub-sixteen minutes Turban intervals that lead to an eruption. Because of the dark, I have no idea what went on out there, but assume it was a very good, early fill. Then one more reminder of who is in charge-- a two burst eruption lasting less than nine minutes. After all that wait, I really wanted that third burst. But that also meant that Vent and Turban never stopped, so I was back at the parking lot within half an hour.

As for Castle, I'm not sure what I saw. It sure looked like major activity in the three or so minutes before Grand, but when I walked by, it was quiet. I may have got to witness a pair of minor eruptions in a row.

Posted on

Observations for 23 May

Looking at the weather predictions for the next few day, I decided that today would be my only real chance to be out for a nighttime Grand eruption. Besides, Castle was also predicted for the same time frame, and there was even a chance for Beehive. So worth the effort. But what kind of interval to expect. Decided to compromise on getting up at the 7 hour mark.

The night before a small herd of bison was hanging around the Lower Ham's parking lot. (Such that when I arrived at the end of Grand, I thought I might have to wait to get to my truck. So when I pulled into the parking lot in the dark, it occurred to me that I might need to take that into consideration when I biked out. I know there was a least one bison out there somewhere, as I could hear it snort both when I left and when I came back.

It turns out that I wasn't out long, either. When I arrived in the parking lot, I thought I heard a thumping type sound, but dismissed it as Sawmill. Walking up it was obvious that Sawmill wasn't erupting and hadn't erupted recently. West Triplet was erupting, and hoped that it was the reason that the Grand area looked so steamy from Castle. Nope. I arrived during the post eruption pause, and thanks to the steam, I had to finally hear the deep rumbling of an empty Turban vent to be sure.

Wasn't a complete waste of time, as Castle did start as I crossed the bridge going out, and was going into steam on my way back.

The bison herd that hanging around last night was still in the area in the morning, all spread out in the meadow between Castle and Old Faithful. I noticed that it looked like some of them were headed towards crossing the river and invading the Sawmill Group. So I headed out for Grand a bit earlier than I would have normally, but I was also hoping for a short interval. As it was, most of the bison went elsewhere, although about six or so did wander downriver past the Scalloped Springs and Witches Cauldron.

Next morning's Grand was a classic example that the Rift delay can come before the eruption of Rift. Based on Rift's intervals, I was hoping that Grand would get in a eruption and then we'd get the West Triplet and Rift eruptions. We did, but about two hours later than it could have. West Triplet was erupting as I arrived, and quit shortly thereafter. At about that time, Rift was steaming heavily, and it looked as if it was going to start, but didn't. The next Turban interval was a little over 24 minutes long, a sort of half-hearted delay. After that, there was nothing more to do than to wait out a series of mediocre Turban intervals until it was time for the next West Triplet.

After Grand's second burst, the pool refilled and stayed up and sloshing for about a minute. Too long, it turned out, and we had to settle for two nice bursts, the second one much higher than the first. After that, it was West Triplet and Rift, as expected.

While waiting for Rift, I notice a large bird circling overhead. Too big to be one of the osprey (one of which came over Grand yesterday with its catch). Binoculars showed it was an eagle. I never saw its wings move, but it kept circling higher and higher until once when I looked away I couldn't pick it back up.

Oblong had been full since first observed in the morning, and by the time Rift started, that was close to seven hours. So I decided to take advantage of having nothing to do to put in an hour when an eruption there was likely. My hour was about up when we got the eruption. There were some audible thumps, but nothing that I felt, and the height of the surges did not match the impressive activity I've seen from Grand. So it was time to trudge back to Castle and get my bike and take care of more mundane activities, like eating. I had just unlocked and mounted my bike when the call came out that water was visible in Beehive's Indicator. Great timing. So I walked back to Sawmill (which was in a Deep Drain mode eruption) and over to Geyser Hill. The wind was ideal, no one on the walkway got wet. That also meant I was able to station myself right in the shadow of Beehive's water column to get a nice backlit eruption. Then it was back to the bike. Again.

A few hours after Beehive, the clouds came. No rain, other than a few droplets on the windshield, but it was a definite mood change from the previous days. While waiting for the evening Grand, I got to swat my first mosquito of the season. I'd prefer that to be the last, but know I won't get that lucky unless it rains for the next few days.

That evening Grand eruption took place shortly after sunset. It wasn't as annoying as those far too many times when it seems to wait and erupt on the first Turban after sunset, because the clouds obscured the sun. It was dead calm at the start, so we got a huge base surge at the bottom of Grand's water column. There was till enough light to see the full height of the second burst, too. (For the first time in years, the one burst eruptions I've seen this trip constitute less than 50 percent of the total. Toss in a couple of threes in and I might even get to 2.0) Grotto was still active as I left, meaning it was twelve hours into a marathon eruption. I want it to be still erupting at dawn.

Posted on

Observations for 22 May

I like heading out at dawn on a cleaqr, calm morning. Sure it's cold, but that also brings out the steam from every little warm hole.

This morning I knew that Grand wuold have gone well before I got out there. Unless, of course, it had a really long interval an, which would mean that I still made the right decision in not going out to wait for hours in the cold and dark. What I didn't want to see was Vent and Turban. I got my wish, as the pool was near but below overflow. I did see the overflow start at around 06:30, which put the eruption at around 02:00. Perfect, as that put the next eruption, most likely, before noon.

Another reason I was out there was to check on the Sawmill Group. Definitely wanted to catch a Penta if I could, and at first it looked like the group was going to oblige. Sawmill overflowed for a bit, then dropped, but Penta never really had the look of an immenent eruption. The surging over the bottom vents, though, was an encouraging sign that I might want to be around for the next cycle.

Since it was still early, I decided to take advantage of a loop around Geyser Hill. On a hot, crowded afternoon, Geyser Hill isn't all that pleasant, but in the cold morning, it's well worth the time. I did get to wait for an over 80 minute Plume interval, and saw a few new holes I hadn't noticed before, but otherwise, it looked unexciting.

When I returned to the Sawmill Group, I noticed that there was evidence of Churn eruptions.The gravel near the boardwalk was wet and there were puddles. Churn itself was well below overflow. But the group was rising, and again everything looked good for Penta. The water levels rose nicely, and as Spasmodic started to overflow and the back vent to erupt, Penta started to sputter from its main vent. A little while later, as the Penta pool neared overflow, the bottom left vent started to bubble heavily. Another good sign, I thought, until I heard some thumping over to my left. So much for Penta, as it's pool dropped into the vents within moments of Sawmill's start.

Turns out my guess for Grand's previous eruption matched the monitor time, so it was time to shed some jackets, reload the pack and head back out. On my walk back to the Sawmill group I noticed some fresh, wet dog-like tracks on the boardwalk among all the cold springs. At Grand we got to see the makers of those tracks, a pair of coyotes who failed in their attempts to harvest a marmot or two. One failure and they decided to move on.

The Grand eruption itself was very nice. What little wind there was pushed the steam an spray back onto the rocks and towards Rift. Considering that usually at that time of day the wind has picked up, and is blowing the steam to the north, it made for a nice backlit eruption without all the steam of early morning. And of course, Beehive's Indicator started during the second burst. Unlike yesterday, I decided that I'd had enough exercise for a while, and watched the eruption from the bridge. Again, the nice wind conditions made for an impressively tall column.

And then, what to do? Time to take advantage of the time to visit Daisy, then it's nap time. Today, perhaps thanks to the lack of wind, the Daisy intervals were a little over two hours.

The evening Grand was preceded by a not unexpected Rift eruption, but if Rift is having a delay effect, this time it only added about 45 minutes. During the wait we got to see a second Oblong for the day, an interval that was identical to Grand's: 9h17m. The one burst eruption was nice, thanks to the lack of wind and low sunlighting. At one point it was so calm that Grand had a small base surge develop and obscure the base of the water column.

The new Visitor Temple is at the stage where they are installing the insulation, so it's covered with white Tyvek making it look like a huge white plastic wrapped block. Or as Paul Strasser suggested, one of Christo's lesser attempts.

Posted on

Observations for 21 May

Let's start this year's visit with a rant.

Every first visit of the season seems to have one thing in common. I get to find out what has changed since I left in the fall. Not changes in the geysers, that's a given. Changes in the way the place is run. Rarely does it seem that the changes are for the better. It's not just nostalgia for the way things were a quarter century ago, either. It seems that every year, there are more restrictions, more inconveniences, more actions which would get businesses cited by OSHA or the EPA, more cutbacks in service. The little things do matter. Sometimes I get the feeling the motto should be "for the benefit and enjoyment of no one but us."

This year has been no exception.

Let's start with the removal of trash containers, like the one at the Lower Ham's. The excuse is that it takes too many hours to service all the trash cans. While that may be true, where will those freed up hours be used? What is the average visitor, who doesn't seen any obvious receptacle going to think or do? I expect another increase in the general shabbiness of that area.

Then there's the large trash dumpster, a replacement for some of removed trashcans in front of the Inn which is blocking one of the paved access paths between the parking lot and the bike trail. I guess it's convenient for the trash crews, but what about those of us who used the bike trail as a bike trail?

Speaking of bike trail. In front of the new Visitor Temple (a monstrosity that will deserve rants all its own...), the cement bike trail and path to Old Faithful is all torn up and closed as a "construction zone". I assume that the powers that be have decided that a new building deserves a pretty new walkway all the way out to the boardwalk. (Wonder how much that's gonna cost...) In any case, the only way between the current VC and the Lodge and the rest of the basin is either on the boardwalk itself, or you have to ride all the way over to the Snowlodge and then behind the Inn. There is simply no alternate route provided. (And I found out the hard way, that plastic walkway at Old Faithful is extremely slippery on a bike.) Can you imagine some business doing this and getting away with it? "We're the NPS. You just get in the way of our job."

All the boardwalks from Biscuit Basin to Fountain Paint Pots are closed, "due to bear management". Bear Management being the all purpose excuse for not bothering to actually provide visitor services in the springtime. This particular closure came about because, supposedly, someone noticed that the bear closure regulations which have been in use for decades include those walkways, and for some reason, now we must enforce the exact letter of them. As opposed to the Superintendent amending those regs to keep those walkways accessible.

Maintenance of course, took that closure opportunity to redo the Fountain Paint Pots walkways. Which would seem, at least, that someone was looking ahead and taking advantage of an existing closure. But as anyone who saw the speed at which the boardwalks were rebuild in the Upper Basin a few years back would tell you, they are not finished, and apparently not even close to finished. So the trail there will stay closed.

"I feel much better now, I really do."

What about the geysers? Both Giant and Fan & Mortar are not going to erupt any time soon. Bious is powerful and continuous. Penta appears active almost every other day, with frequent Tardy cycles in that group. Today Beehive provided a bonus eruption in the evening with a nice wind direction, no shifting, and a full arc double rainbow.