The Geyser Geezers (USA Day 72)
Today being our only full day in Yellowstone, we wanted to make the most of it, so we rose as early as possible and tried to get out into the wilds, to see things with fur, teeth etc. Unfortunately, once we’d taken a shower at the far-off cubicles, tried (and failed) to pick up an internet signal at the registration office and extricated ourselves from all the hikers, we’d missed dawn by about three hours.
Nevertheless, we whistled through the first few miles of the park with real excitement. It was all pretty forested, so bison and bears were few and far between. By which I mean, we saw none all day. What we did see, however, were the geysers.
The road between Grant Village and Madison Junction is busy with cars, mostly because a majority of the awesome tectonic business goes on right there. The park’s mostly part of a caldera, which is land on top of a supervolcano, made soft by parting tectonic plates. Here the membrane between the underworld and the surface is at its thinnest, and that’s why there’s hot stuff popping up all over the place. It’s the devil squirting out of the ground, or so the early explorers of the area probably thought.
Every so often there’s a turnoff leading to a mile-or-so of boardwalk where you can gaze into the steaming blue pools or marvel at the bubbling eggy crevices with names like ‘Heart Spring’ or ‘Castle Geyser’. It’s a little like a zoo, if you replace all living things with cursed holes that shoot, in varying amounts, hot steam, mud, boiling water, gurgling sounds, sulphur smells and interestingly coloured bands of bacteria.
I can’t really explain how cool this is unless you’ve been, but just believe me: it’s truly formidable. One-by-one, the geysers and their siblings display the raw power of Earth’s juicy centre. We were bathed in hot steam, shocked by spitting holes and, in the case of the Beehive Geyser, drenched by demonic subterranean waters that took it upon themselves to shoot sixty feet into the air and then, predictably for some, down again.
Each geyser, spring and pool was unique. We couldn’t help but inspect each one. Tectonic Enthusiasts (I’m calling them Geyser Geezers but you don’t have to) were often audible nearby, spouting facts and figures about their nearby sneezy friends. It’s a bit like Pokemon, I think.
In all this excitement, we also completed one of our cross-country challenges: to see a number plate from every state. Just outside the Grand Prismatic Spring was a car with Hawaii plates, which was awfully exciting and prompted a worrying amount of celebration. (Mission complete, Chamy.)
Anyway, it took us all day to cycle forty miles because we kept leaving our bikes in car parks to gasp at blue holes. By the time we rolled into Madison Junction Campground, two things lingered on our minds:
1. I want a geyser.
2. The most wildlife we saw was one dead deer.
Tomorrow, we cycle West out of Yellowstone and into Montana, which is exciting in a way, but horribly disappointing in another. That TAT, in all its wise glory, has taken us down a highly-populated route in terms of humans, but not so much for the hairier beasts. We don’t even think it was just spotters’ bad luck: there’s a valley up in the north of the park with grizzly bears, wolf packs and about 600 bison. They don’t come down this way because, you know, cars. Unfortunately, we’re a good hundred miles away from that and about to travel in the wrong direction. So it’s with a bittersweet farewell that we head off tomorrow morning. Ta-da!