My trek through Yellowstone National Park continues, passing by several geysers.
For the third day in a row, I started hiking around 7:30. It was a bit cool out, but it didn’t take long to feel it start to get warmer as the sun rose. The forest was a bit damp from yesterday’s rain, though with the sun shining brightly, it didn’t seem like that would last long.
As the trail drew closer to the western short of Shoshone Lake, fog from the lake spread, making it somewhat misty out.
After a short stint on the sandy beach of Shoshone Lake, the trail diverted through a rather unpleasant swampy area. My shoes and socks quickly became soaked.
Once through the swamp, the trail joined the Geyser Basin Foot Trail, entering the Lower Geyser Basin. Going through an area with hot springs and thermal vents, several signs warned hikers to stay on the trail. Rather than grass, the ground near the trail was bleached white from years of hot water scorching the dirt. I passed by a couple of small hot springs, and then, as I turned a corner, a small geyser erupted right in front of me, spewing water several feet into the air.
I stayed and watched for a couple of minutes as the Minute Man geyser went through a recharge time of about 30 - 60 seconds between eruptions. It was, I think, the closest I’ve ever been to a geyser.
A little further up the trail, a hot spring drained directly into Shoshone Creek. Earlier, I’d passed over the creek, which was warm with steam rising from it; that was probably a result of this hot spring and the others in the area draining into the lake.
I passed a few more geysers and bubbling pools, and wondered how many lost cell phones there were hidden out of sight.
Leaving the basin, I began a gradual uphill into forest, following Shoshone Creek upstream. After crossing it (and getting my foot wet in the process), the trail left Shoshone Creek and moved towards Firehole Creek. In a swampy area near the creek, a trail crew was working to replace one of several very long boardwalks.
A little while after, I took the detour to the Lone Star Geyser, which was lightly steaming when I arrived. I joined Fuck-It in the shade near a couple of benches and a stand with a log book recording the geyser’s eruptions. (Velveeta arrived shortly after.) Maybe about a dozen other people were also already there.
Shortly after I got there, Lone Star began a minor eruption, intermittently spurting water a few feet in the air, and continued to do that for roughly half an hour. Most of the people that were there when I got there cycled out over that half hour. A few had checklists of the geysers in the park, and seemed to be in a hurry — they came, they saw the geyser do something, and they left. Despite signs warning people to stay on the trails and away from the vent area, a guy wandered around behind the geyser, easily in the danger zone of a major eruption. A group of nine came, stood around for a couple of minutes and left; they were about thirty seconds away from missing the start of Lone Star’s major eruption, which lasted for half an hour and sent water and steam dozens of feet in the air.
Fuck-It, Velveeta, and I remained at Lone Star Geyser until a few minutes after the major eruption ended. All in, it killed about an hour and a half of time by the time I got back to the CDT, but the geyser was doing something nearly the entire time we were there, so it was well worth it. That said, darker clouds were starting to accumulate in the sky, and we still had almost fourteen miles to go to our campsite tonight. (This was still doable, it’d just be late evening by the time we got there, especially since we still needed to resupply in Old Faithful Village.) The three of us decided to meet up at a restaurant in Old Faithful Village to plan our next move: Velveeta has a friend that works in the park, and we might try to meet up with them instead of going to our campsite, if the timing works out.
The dark clouds brought thunder directly overhead, and I hiked the three and a half miles to Old Faithful Village as quickly as I could, hoping to stay out of the rain. Fortunately, none fell, and I arrived at the Geyser Grill after a little more than an hour. Inside, it may have been the most packed restaurant I’ve seen on the trail, and I had to stand in line for a while to actually place my order.
Velveeta arrived long after I’d finished eating. Fuck-It was nowhere to be seen, but we managed to track him down, and he quickly arrived once we told him where we were.
While we were waiting, I’d checked the weather for tonight, and it seemed as though it was going to be fairly awful. Just in case, I checked the price of a room at the Snow Lodge, which was every bit as outrageous as I expected it to be.
We relocated to a picnic table outside the restaurant, while Velveeta tried to get in contact with his friend. Fuck-It complained of problems with his feet (a recurring issue for him; it was why he had been stuck in Pie Town for over a week when I was there), exacerbated by his boots, which were very worn out since he’d been using them for nearly all of Colorado and Wyoming. (He had replacement boots sent somewhere in Colorado, but they arrived too late to both that town, and a later town he had them forwarded to, and then they got lost entirely in Winter Park.) He’d been trying to get new boots since, but nothing that was available that he’d tried on worked for his feet. He hadn’t tried on a pair of my Merrell Moabs yet, so I let him try mine, and he decided on the spot that he needed to get that exact model and size.
Velveeta was successful in contacting his friend, Joe, who would meet us in a few hours after he finished with work. Our 24 mile plan became a 14 mile day, as we abandoned plans to camp at our assigned campsite for tonight. At this point, we wouldn’t make it there before dark anyways, and we still had yet to resupply.
Now needing to kill some time before Joe arrived, we walked to Old Faithful, getting there just as it began to erupt. I’d expected the viewing area to be absolutely packed with people, but there really weren’t all that many people there. It wasn’t clear why; perhaps a bad weather forecast chased people away; or effects from the massive flooding in north Yellowstone in June. Or maybe late August was starting to be out-of-season. In any case, the lack of people made it easy to get a good view.
After leaving Old Faithful, we got ice cream, and then went to the general store to resupply. The store was rather expensive, but I only needed two more days of food to make it West Yellowstone.
Joe picked us up around 7 pm, and took us on a long drive to Grant Village; we set up camp, and then set out trying to find food. Unfortunately, pretty much everything was closed — it was late on a Sunday evening — even the staff bars Joe tried to get us access to. So we just went back to our campsite and hung out at the picnic table for a while. Joe gave us some beer and snacks he had in his van, and offered to pick us up tomorrow morning to take us back to Old Faithful Village.
During our drive, there was some rain, and it briefly rained while we were at the picnic table, but it wasn’t anything near what I expected given the weather forecast.
Now about 625 miles into my current pair of boots (last replaced in Grand Lake), I ordered a new pair of boots, a new model of the boots I’ve been wearing since the PCT, as well as a new set of tips for my poles, to be sent to West Yellowstone. Since Fuck-It was in need of boots as well, I ordered him a pair, and he’ll split the cost of shipping.
Tomorrow, we’ll return to Old Faithful Village, for our last day in Yellowstone.