The last time I was in the Park late in the season was 1995. That year I spent a week here around 20 October or so. It was also a year that the road between Madison and Fountain Paint Pots was getting a major reconstruction, so I had to go around via Lake and Craig Pass. The last time I've been here in November was in 1983, which was a week after the Borah Peak Earthquake. Was here hoping to see earthquake effects in the thermal features, but it seems either we missed them, or that all occurred later during the winter.
As I approached Pocatello shortly after sunrise, I could see the fog bank to the north. From there until north of Rexburg it wasn't so much fog as a very low cloud cover. Visibility along the highway was fine, but I couldn't see the tops of tall cell phone and antenna towers. North of Rexburg, as the altitude increased, the fog thickened too, just enough so that by St.Anthony, all I could see was just the roadway.
That was when I first noticed the snow. By the time I reached the bottom of the Ashton Grade, all the trees were white. By the top of the grade, it was winter. A low gray sky with occasional fog all the way to Targhee Pass.But the road was dry and I never had to slow down except for the seven 45mph zones through Island Park. Then I crossed the Divide at the pass, and suddenly it was puffy clouds in blue sky. I've noticed that having the weather suddenly change when crossing the Divide there happens a lot.
The road from West Yellowstone to Madison was mostly dry pavement, except in those sections where it was shaded by unburnt trees. The road south from Madison, though, was mostly white, especially in the northbound lane. Fortunately I was in the southbound, where it was wet, sloppy pavement except where shaded. But I still decided that I should get some use out of my 4-wheel drive, and slowed down quite a bit for a number of what could have been icy curves.
The afternoon in the Upper Basin started out mostly overcast and a bit windy. But as the day progressed, it got sunnier, and the wind did seem to not be as much of a factor. By the end of the day my face felt warm from the windburn.
Being in the Basin and in the developed Old Faithful area this time of year is a bit strange. Especially this year. Because the NPS shutdown for the first half of October, all the concessions and accommodations were closed. With the recent storm, and no services, this meant almost no one was in the Park. I would have to guess that I knew over half the people I saw out in the basin, and most of them were either West Yellowstone residents, or people like me who were here for the closing weekend. It was a lot like being out at night, except you could see and it was a lot windier than it usually is at night.
Grand cooperated, and I arrived at the start of the predicted window. It waited long enough for a crowd of almost a dozen geyser gazers to be there for the one-burst eruption. Shortly before Grand, Castle and Oblong had eruptions, too.
Afterward, waited around for an eruption of Penta, as the Sawmill Group looked promising, but nothing came of that cycle. Farther down basin spent some time at Giant and at Fan & Mortar, then finally caught an eruption of Riverside.
With a Fountain time from the morning, a few of us went out there to catch the next eruption, and to hope that we'd get lucky and see Morning instead. (A multiple eruption with Fountain would have been a steamy mess.) Fountain started erupting just as we got to the steps, almost perfect timing. The eruption itself was less than 35 minutes long, so it seemed like there would be no reason to go out for the next one.
When I decided to visit this weekend, I decided that I would forego nighttime Grand eruptions unless the conditions were good. Tonight was good enough, with overcast helping to keep the temperatures from going too low. Also, Suzanne wanted to try out her new spotlight, and with the new moon conditions and no one around to see us playing the light around, I was out there.
As it turned out, the spotlight is amazing,and something I hope doesn't catch on. Fortunately, for now, at least, it costs several hundred dollars, so definitely not an impulse purchase. But Suzanne was able to illuminate a Daisy eruption from Grand. But even then, so much of the foreground is illuminated that you can be blinded by things nearby (like railings and benches.) What this light is good for is illuminating unusual activity, like they did with one for Morning. Or in the future, activity, Giant. It would also be useful to see exactly what is going on with Fan & Mortar or a Giant hot period, if used judiciously.
As for the Grand eruption, we only ended up waiting for a Turban interval. Grand had a definite false pause at the 8m20s mark, and then the eruption only lasted for 9-1/2 minutes. I'd really like to understand why some one burst eruptions are so short, and others last for almost half again as long.