Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The Aspen 4 pass loop backpack trip was cancelled due to my sisters sprained back, requiring I find a substitute adventure for us all to go on. The top choice was several days in Yellowstone, the Disneyland of National Parks. I wasn't thrilled with the idea so to make it more palatable I decided to have us focus on the unique geologic phenomena of the park, the geothermal features, more specifically the geysers. My goal was to have us see as many geysers erupt in the few days available. Data is available online on the average time intervals between eruptions for a bunch of geysers in the Upper Basin. The game plan was to stick to the valley Old Faithful was located in.

First stop was the hot spring pool in the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming. A few hours were spent relaxing in the different pools available. The diving board and water slides also provided great entertainment.

After the pool we walked the boardwalk across the large travertine mound built up by the once natural hot spring. The demand for its water has dried up the natural flow, essentially killing this natural feature along the river. Dinner on Cody, WY, the night being spent in a campground just outside the park.

On Sunday we entered the park, heading straight for Mt. Washburn. A 3 mile log trail climbs to its summit, atop which is located a large fire lookout station. Nice views of the whole park laid out below. We were sitting on the rim of the volcanic caldera that has been active for the last million years.

On the way to the campground, we stopped at the lower falls on the Yellowstone River. The classic view is located down the valley looking back up the falls. We stopped at the "brink", the observation deck just above river level where the water flows over the rock ledge, turning into a roaring cloud of spray. A very powerful feeling.

Our camp site for two nights was located on the western shore of the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. No shore front tent site, instead we were located side by side with other campers in the woods. For me, campgrounds have the feel of an apartment building where you are living in close proximity to so many others. I go out into the wilderness to get away from it all, only to be sleeping much closer to people than we normally do at home in our rural community. I disliked it, like so many other thinks on this trip (road traffic!), but you suck it up and make the best of it.

Day 2 was spent watching geysers. A trip to the visitors center to get the latest predictions for the most regular geysers and notes on others reported in to the office by the "geyser gazers". Turn the walkie talkie on to channel 4.5 to hear their chatter on which are showing signs of a pending eruption or when they do go off. That information can then be used to predict the next eruption. The day was spent going from one to the other: waiting, watching it go, and then move on to the next one.

I found this relaxing, my mind focused on the bubbling water, watching it rise and fall in its pool and enjoying the suns warmth on such a beautiful day. I saw seven geysers go off in this small section of the valley during the course of the day, some repeatedly even though they may have been in the distance. This is such a unique location with 20% of the worlds geysers concentrated within this 3 mile section of valley.

Old Faithful Geyser

Plunge Geyser

Lion Geyser

Beehive Geyser

Daisy Geyser

Sawmill Geyser

Firehole River

We received a back country camping permit, the campsite located only a short quarter mile from Lone Star Geyser. Hiked the 3 miles in along an easy trail besides a creek. We watched Lone Star erupt with others, after which we set up camp being sure to keep the tents separate from where we cooked and stored food since we were in bear country. Just the day before we left for Yellowstone it was reported on the news that 3 people were mauled by a bear, one dieing, in a campground just outside the park. Our nerves were constantly on edge.

I watched the geyser erupt 3 times this day between our arrival and sunset, twice the following morning. The geyser gurgles and emits steam constantly, the over topping of the geyserite mound by splashing water signaling the approaching eruption. Suddenly it throws up a column of water that grows in volume and height, marking the main eruption. After 10 minutes there is less water and more steam and the column grows even taller as the steam jets upwards. After 25 minutes all grows quiet, steam gently rising skyward. The pressure builds and the process repeats every 3 hours.

We returned to our vehicle by early afternoon the following day. A couple hours were spent relaxing along the Firehole River, laying down in its shallow water, feeling the pull of the current and enjoying its pleasant coolness, warmed by all the hot springs pouring into it up stream of our location.

We spent that afternoon and evening waiting and watching several more new geysers go off, wanting to see Grand Geyser most which we missed by less than a half hour the other day. One of the biggest in the park. We did see it erupt out of its large pool, happening almost at the same exact hour and minute around sunset as two days earlier. What a glorious view!

Riverside Geyser

Oblong Geyser

Grand Geyser

Old Faithful Geyser

Beehive Geyser

Dinner at the lodge followed by a long drive to our dirty and smoky campsite. It was very late when we arrived so things were quieting down.

The next day we exited the park and drove back to Thermopolis for a soak in the pool and then spent night in Casper, WY at my wifes mothers house. Back in Denver a week after having begun the trip.

Some nights in the campgrounds were spent listening to music when everyone had already retired to their tents. CD player and headphones, cigar and tequila, dancing to the music in the darkened forest.

First up was Van Halens live performance in Amsterdam on June 15, 1979 during their second European invasion tour. Great show, excellent audience recording! A classic Van Halen performance that's hard to beat!

Across time and space
Feeling of unreality
Two places at once

The darkest of skies
Framed by black lodge pole pines
Stars burning brightly

Like freightened children
Occasionally its real
Mostly seeing ghosts

Download it here:

Next up was Echo & The Bunnymen, a live show in West Hollywood on December 6, 2005. Listening to this show put me right back in Liverpool, feeling as though I was once again standing before the stage at last years show.

Monumental show
Natural forces react
With or without us

Stare into the hand
First distracted, then blind
To life around us

I could not find the link to this particular show, so heres thier December 7, 2005 House of Blues show in Anaheim, CA:

Also listened to Killing Joke, their Live at the Forum, playing in London on October 3, 2008. Excellent soundboard recording of their riviting beat and gravelly voiced lyrics, laced with political commentary.

They push and Jostle
Grasp for that grand illusion
World with no meaning

Once upon a time
Half forgotten memories
Story of dull lives

Swims the shallow sea
With its endless distractions
Dreams of somewhere else

Download it here:

Closing with Echo & The Bunnymen's show at the Glastonbury Music Festival on June 17, 1997. Excellent sound, what is probably a soundboard recording.

Download it here:

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