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Soda Springs Observations for 2021 April 23

Found a feature that really does erupt "every hour on the hour."

Site of the Soda Springs Geyser

This is the CO2 geyser in Soda Springs, Idaho. It's located in a small city park off the main street, behind the businesses, and about the same distance from the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

The eruption we saw started about 54 seconds after noon, and lasted almost exactly eight minutes. There appears to be a perpetual spouter erupting to about a meter when the upper vent is quiet. It wasn't as tall during the eruption, but after the eruption seemed to be perhaps twice as high.

The eruption comes from a nozzle above the spouter. I didn't try to measure a height, but estimated it to be around 15-20 meters. Both the start and the end of the eruption are abrupt. At the end the water was still falling well after the stop.

The travertine mound it has built up is an impressive, a dark orange lump that wouldn't look too out of place at Mammoth. It seems to grow pretty fast, as over on the side it's been removed because it was starting to encroach onto the nearby cemetery. The boardwalk near it is heavily encrusted with mineral deposits, and there was even a mineral encrusted snowbank off to one side.

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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 150 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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Bulger's Hole 11 July -- 18 August 2011

In the extended section of this posting are a series of images taken of Bulger's Hole from 11 July through 18 August, showing
how it has changed over the weeks due to its eruptive activity. In most cases a series of three photos were taken from three
different locations along the walkway in an attempt to show more detail.

Continue reading "Bulger's Hole 11 July -- 18 August 2011"

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Shoshone Geyser Basin for 29 July

Spent the day on a trip to the Shoshone Geyser Basin. Haven't been there in ten years, so good to be back. Was with a small party of gazers, who left at various times in the morning, with various levels of experience there.

I met the other in my party, Suzanne Strasser, at the Lower Ham's store, where we got to witness the dawn eruption of Beehive at 05:08. A nice little sendoff. From there it was drive the bikes to the trailhead at Kepler Falls and bike in to Lone Star Geyser. Thanks to a rainstorm the previous night, there were still lots of puddle along the way, but only a couple which spanned the width of the trail. From a visit by some others the previous day, I knew that the odds of seeing a eruption was low, so we didn't hang around, but headed right out at 05:50.

The trail is not in the best of shape. We encountered seven downed trees, one quagmire and two missing bridges. One, which is the final bridge across the head of Shoshone Creek, disappeared years ago. Now missing is the bridge prior to that, about 100 yards apart. So on the way in, we got to take off our shoes and socks twice in quick succession and that water is cold.

It was also earlier that I've usually gone back there in the past (usually mid- to late-August, so there was a lot more greenery down next to the trail. So despite dry creek crossings, my pantlegs were still wet almost to the knee. The wildflowers were much better than I remember, and Suzanne even found strawberries along the way (About the size of a small peanut, but tasty.)

Collapse feature near Little Giant

Collapse feature near Little Giant

Collapse feature near Little Giant, morning and afternoon

We finally entered the basin shortly before 09:00, with our first stop a quick jaunt over to see Double and Little Giant. Both were sloshing about quite a bit, but what quickly caught our attention was the feature to the west of Little Giant. I do not remember what it looked like before, but today it was long, fairly narrow collapse in the sinter. And that sinter was visibly bouncing. As water came up from underneath, it pushed at the slabs in the vent, moving them only a fraction of an inch or so. In a couple of cases it appeared that the slab was still attached, as no hinge crack could be seen, while the overhang danced up and down. This is apparently new activity, not seen by any of our party before, and I sorry to say I don't expect to see it should I ever visit again.

So from that it was south along the creek to Soap Kettle and Triple Bulger. Soap Kettle still shows no signs of any discharge, although it was sloshing around in its bowl. The back blowout vent of Triple Bulger old splash to a foot or so.

Shield and Gourd were both active, while Minute Man was still about an hour or so away from its next cycle. #11 seemed inactive, as the cone, other than a trickle matching the incoming Shield runoff, was dry. A good place to have breakfast.

When I first looked at Five Crater, it was active as I've always seen it, with an eruption of sorts consisting of water slapping the the top of the perforated shelf containing the vents, causing water to squirt through. By that time the other party was arriving, so we waited for them to catch up to us, and then we joined them as they looked those features. This time Five Crater was actually erupting, with water being forced by steam through the vents.

Next was to visit the Orion Group, where nothing much was erupting. Union Geyser even has a small, foot high tree growing on the platform beside the southern vent.

A few of us waded across the creek, while others decided to risk the fallen trees a bit farther south. While they were catching up to us, I took the time to deconstruct some hot-potter engineering, scattering rocks and setting some wood downstream.

Next up we walked through the trees and approached the Western Group. First we enchanted the sluiceway from Boiling Cauldron, which seemed longer and more extensive than I remembered. It is in turned fed by the ornately lined runoff channel from Boiling Cauldron, and includes a number of small spits.

Boiling Cauldron itself seemed unchanged, just as noisy and colorful as always. Nearby is Cream Spring, where are visible the bones of a bison that went down the steep sides and into the spring.

Following that we spent most of the rest of our time in the North Group, watching and waiting for the numerous geysers there. It was also time for lunch, and to continue Shoshone lunchtime traditions.

As we entered the group, we saw an eruption of Lion Geyser. I'd earlier seen it erupt from the other side of the creek, so we had a double (or single?) eruption interval just under two hours. The interval turned out to be double, and we saw it right on time. It still sends out that little squirtgun droplet over twenty feet from the vent.

Velvet Geyser in eruption

Velvet Geyser in eruption

Velvet Geyser, in eruption

Velvet Geyser was also active. I didn't take any timing notes, but the eruptions came quite regularly every 10 to 11 minutes or so. We did see one minor eruption, which a few minutes later was followed by one of the larger eruptions we saw, one that several times pushed water out to top of the levee of gravel it has built around itself.

We had lunch in the insufficient and moving shade near Hydra Geyser. While the water levels were high, we didn't see any activity. Across the creek, Minute Man was having a series, but I didn't want to wade across the creek any more, so watched it from there.

Bead Geyser was also active, and we saw two eruptions about 2 hours apart. Nearby Knobby geyser seemed inactive, only putting out a trickle of water.

Terracette Spring is located next to Bead, and show that there is a connection between the two. An eruption of Bead drains Terracette completely, only to have it fill back up within a few minutes.

Frill Spring did not erupt for us, but it sure did try. We watched it for a good 20 minutes have splashing a good 1/2 meter high which on occasion seemed to sudden surge up to a meter, and in about any other geyser, would have signaled the push that starts the eruption. But it would die down, only to try a few minutes later.

By that then, it was time to leave. It would be a while for Bead, or the next Minute Man series, Hydra wasn't promising, and Frill would be a while also. So waded across the creek below Minute Man and headed back. We did stop at the collapse near Little Giant, where everything was quiet. In some ways the collapse was just as impressive still as moving. The temptation to touch had to be resisted, as it looked like it could just all fall apart if we'd done that, and it's better to let the geyser do that.

The bugs hadn't been bad in the basin, but as we got higher approaching the pass, they got worse. Mosquitoes buzzed everywhere, but the repellants seemed to be doing their job. I did discover that mosquitoes can drill through a couple of layers of clothes when the clothes are stretched tight. Several times I felt a tingle on my shoulder, looked over and made sure another one died.

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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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Old Tardy's Drain

Thanks to both Beehive and the bear closure, I was slow in getting downbasin for the morning Grand prediction, and so saw the start from north of Crested Pool. But as I walked toward the eruption through the Sawmill Group, I noticed something that hadn't been there when I left last July: a small hole near the point where the Old Tardy and the Crystal Spring runnoff channels combine.

Old Tardy Drain

Old Tardy Drain

Old Tardy Drain

Old Tardy Drain

Old Tardy's new drain, 2008 May 18

Once the Grand eruption ended, I got the chance to examine it more closely. From the lack of a splash zone, I quickly decided that it was not any sort of explosion feature. The erosion was clean, but was also fairly deep. I assume it was something that broke out a few weeks to several months ago. So I was a bit surprised when Scott Bryan told me that he hadn't noticed it just two days earlier. This implies that the opening was only a few hours old.

The opening is about 15 to 20 cm across, and a nice round shape. From the walkway, it appears to be undercut and layered in a manner similar to those openings that have over the years appeared across the walkway from Scalloped Spring. Early Sunday morning it could be seen steaming gently, but that could have been the result of all the hot water pouring into it. And a lot of hot water poured into it. During the Old Tardy eruptions that I saw, I would estimate well over half, but less than 90% of the water that would have gone into the runoff channel went down the hole instead.

Back in 1990 I sketched out maps of all the features in the Sawmill group, and on the one for the Old Tardy area I noted a couple of areas of steaming ground. One of these developed into the small slit in the runoff into Oval. (Which was spitting nicely during the Penta eruption Sunday morning.) Another one of these corresponds to the area of this new hold. So it's not really new, just that the lid has finally been removed. But unlike other holes in the area, this one has all that water flowing into it.

All that water is going somewhere, and, at least for a while, having a considerable effect on down below. That water has to go somewhere, and as it moves, ti will be causing erosion like that in the gravel on the surface. This could cause further holes to the surface to develop, or break into the plumping system of some of the other features of the area. But most likely I would expect we'll see nothing obvious. Still, it'll be interesting to see what happens next. We know that Slurp is a part of the Sawmill Group, and this drain lies between it and the rest of the group.

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Waiting for Giant

During the height of the summer season, the wait for an eruption of Giant can attract quite a crowd, one that slops out of the Monkey Cage and all the way back to the main walkway. For some people, like me, that's a sign that it's time to find alternate places to wait.

The key to picking a place is to make sure you won't miss anything. WIth the radios, this has become a lot easier, as one no longer needs to be in a clear line of sight with Giant's platform. But a lot of people don't want to rely on the reports of others, so they tend to stick to places in easy reach: Oblong and Grotto. Grotto may not have a clear line of sight, but it does have shade, and on a hot day, that matters.

But some locations are just too remote and too long a walk to be a good place to stay. And that place is called Geyser Hill. Grand is about my limit for fast walking distance, and it does have the advantage that, while the vents on the platform are obscured by trees that survived the 1988 fires (bad planning there), you can see Mastiff, so not wholly dependent on someone with a radio to find out when to move in.

Bicycles can also play a part. They shorten distances, especially when there's someone with a radio at Giant. Fan & Mortar have their adherents, because with a bike, they are almost as close as Grotto. The same could be said for Riverside, but without the beeping lights, Riverside just isn't that entertaining. Castle works, too, and from there you do have views of just about everything else of interest in the basin.

I've found that either walkway at Daisy works pretty well, but neither is perfect. The southern side has a good view of Giant, but the place to sit are limited by the lack of boardwalks. The north side has plenty of places to sit, but no good view. Even so, I've always preferred the north because of the proximity to Splendid (and, like Grotto, the afternoon shade, too.)

With the bikes and radios, one can range even farther afield. Anyone who really wants to see Beehive eruptions as their preferred Giant waiting activity must have both, and be willing to settle for the view from the other side of the Firehole. But once that hot period starts, getting down to Giant is easy. You can even wait well into the hot period before moving, just to make sure it's not a false alarm. I know from experience. In 2001, after weeks of what seemed like Giant's platform was preforming a little script with events all happening at the same time, we finally got a hot period that was different. I was in the cab of my old Datsun at the time, but when Dave Leeking, who was the only person down basin that evening, started to report deviations from the script, I realized it was time to move. (And who wants to to have to admit that they ignored Leeking the one time it mattered?). I was able to round the bend and pass the last stand of trees just as Giant began its eruption. Not only that, but I later learned that a group of people sitting on the Ham's Store porch, when they saw me take off, realized that maybe it was time to move, and so arrived much sooner than otherwise.

Then finally, one can always wait back in your room in the Inn or cabin in the Lodge. Last year I was already up and about when the call came in that the expected post-Grotto Marathon hot period had started. it took me a few minutes to finish my preparation, so I was only in front of the Lodge when the eruption started. But on subsequent occasions, I found that by having everything ready to go. I could be down by Castle by the time the call announcing the end of the hot period came on.

Of course, it's been a while since one could wait this close.

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Not Splendid

Well, it appears that whatever that was, it wasn't Splendid, as T.Scott Bryan reports that the slime around Splendid is thick and alive, and the marker from previous years still in place. And I was so looking forward to having a nice, quiet place to wait for Giant eruptions this summer.

This demonstrates one of the problems with observing geysers from unfamiliar locations and under unfamiliar conditions. It can just be hard to tell sometimes what's going on, especially when the geysers themselves are acting a little different. Combine all three, and sometimes all one can say is, "I saw something weird, and I have no idea what it was." Spend enough time in the geyser basins, and you will never stop seeing steam clouds you can't quite place.

The problem is worse with the camera, as it affords only a limited field of view, and if the operator doesn't pan around or widen the view, one can have no idea where exactly it is pointing. And it's from a vantage point from which almost no one has spent any time in person.

Back in the mid-1980s during one of Splendid's active periods, I put in quite a bit of effort keeping an eye on Daisy's intervals. (This was pre-radio days, mind you. It wasn't until 1986 when I was able to say in a CB borrowed from Railey that I "saw something erupting in the Giant Group.") Since I was staying in the Box behind the Lodge, an ideal vantage point for these frequent checks was the fencing to the west of the Lodge, not to far from where the camera is now. For every predicted eruption I'd head over to that same spot, wait a few minutes for the Daisy eruption, then go back to what I was doing. If I didn't see Daisy after 5 or 10 minutes, it was time to head down basin, or at least the the Visitor Center to learn if it had had a short interval. I know that on several occasions, gray stormy days with the wind pushing steam in different directions, I couldn't be sure what I was seeing. Sometimes I relied on the fact that the length of the eruption matched Daisy's 3m43s average in order to not have to make that wet trip down basin. Conversely, a two minute duration was good news, and it meant that it was time to head down. (And if it hadn't been for these frequent Daisy checks, I'd never seen that eruption of Big Cub.)

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The last couple of days Kevin Leany, a frequent viewer of the realtime Old Faithful webcamera, has noticed some unusual activity when the camera has been pointed down basin. He's noticed on a couple of occasions a water column where "water was splashing about twice the height of the trees in the foreground." He's fairly certain that it's not Daisy, as "I have seen some Daisy eruptions on the cam before, but this one seemed to be much higher and it went for about 10 minutes."

Due to a bear closure of the entire Upper Basin, it appears that no one will be able to get down there and see if the slime around Splendid has been killed off, which always happens during these reactivations.

Splendid has been dormant since the winter of 1997-98. During the 1980s and early 1990s, it was not unusual to have a few isolated Splendid eruptions in the springtime. (Memorial Day weekend seemed to be quite common, usually observed while waiting at Grand.) So even if these turn out to be the first eruptions observed in a decade, it doesn't mean Splendid will be active this summer. But the fact that it can still erupt is always good news.