A Grand Day

I got up pretty early, went and said goodbye to my Vanagon Family, and went in search of another campground. The next one I saw was in a place that has phone and 3G data coverage. It was one of the campgrounds that takes reservations. It was my lucky day. There was a spot for me. I paid my $20, did a drive-by on the camp site, and headed out for the day. It was nice to know that there was a place waiting for me and that I wouldn’t need to worry about finding a place. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable finding spots in forests, but here in Yellowstone, things are much tighter. Campgrounds are at a premium, and if you can’t find one, I guess you’re supposed to leave the park. I could probably stealth park in one of the hotel lots, in a pinch.

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Having thought that the geysers were totally cool, and having missed the two big ones we’d tried for the day before, I headed back up to Old Faithful. The drive there was about 30 miles. It’s pretty beautiful. And it crosses the Continental divide. Several times.

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I told the ranger that I had plenty of time and could just hang out. He said that if that was the case, the thing to do was to see Grand Geyser, the largest predictable geyser on the planet. It was to erupt at 2:00 plus or minus two hours. It was about 11:00, so I went back to Walden, packed a lunch, my guitar, a chair, water, a beer, and a book, and set out for Grand. On the way I stopped and saw Anemone again. It’s a really cute little geyser that goes off every 7-10 minutes. Its little pool fills, it shoots water for a bit, and then all the water falls back down the hole, like a flushing toilet. It’s a blast.

I got to Grand and set up camp. I set my chair down in the shade of a little tree. There are benches there, but my chair has a back, which was nice. I read a while. Over on that side is another small little geyser that was empty when I arrived and later filled up and bubbled a bit. It was pretty entertaining.

I was somewhat reticent to play guitar since there I was pretty close to folks. Eventually played a little anyway. One guy thanked me, but mostly people seemed to ignore me.

After a while, the sun shifted and I moved on over to a spot right in front of Grand, right next to the sign that described its behavior. A while later Paul Horsted, came over and wanted to sit almost where I was because he was trying to duplicate a historic photo. He’s a professional photographer, and re-taking old photos is one of his specialties. On his card, and his site, he has a cool picture of a spot in the Black Hills from 1874. It’s striking that there are a couple of burned trees that are in both photos.

There’s a smaller geyser named Turban, which goes off about every twenty minutes as a Grand eruption is coming. Every time it goes off, you hope that this will be the time the Grand does, but even if it’s not, Turban’s pretty cool too.

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Grand finally went off, close to 4PM, the outside of the expected window. It was pretty darn cool, though. Oh, and Grand has a little friend called Vent, if memory serves, that spouts like sixty feet. Poor little Vent gets not much attention next to a 150 footer.

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After it was over, I ran down to Riverside, which was already in progress, but goes off for a good while.

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After my geyser-watching day, I headed back to my campground, which was nearly an hour’s drive. Yellowstone is big. Even though I’d driven that road a time or two already, it’s still cool to see the stuff again. Also, more driving means more battery charging.

Back at the camp site, I ate some dinner. Sardines on saltines, probably. I went over and talked talk to a group of Canadians at the camp site. I used the “you’re drinking cocktails, so I thought you were my kind of people” line. I was corrected that they were drinking only beer. Subsequent attempts at conversation were similarly squelched. I went back home to Walden.

Next, I talked to the guy next door. He was cooking at the picnic table. We hung out while he cooked dinner. His wife wanted to cook some cookies in the oven, which required running the generator and it was very close to the 8PM no-generators hour. He cranked it up, and shortly, the campground host came around on a golf cart and told him to shut it down. When dinner was ready, I retired to Walden. Shortly thereafter, he brought me a cookie. I thanked him and took it as an invitation and joined him and his wife and daughter at the picnic table until bedtime. It was a nice night.

I got cold that night. My sleeping bag is rated at 55 degrees. This has worked well most nights, but it’s getting down into the low 40s and upper 30s in Yellowstone now. Even with a sleeping bag liner and an alpaca blanket over the sleeping bag, I got cold. The furnace wouldn’t work, perhaps because there’s not enough juice in the battery. This is annoying. I don’t like being cold.

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