Tuesday, August 07: Yellowstone
“I was so cold that…”
The forecast for yesterday was highs in the upper 80’s and lows in the mid-50’s, with occasional showers. So that is what we had planned on. Unfortunately, the reality was that it was almost solid overcast for most of the day, so the temperature never exceeded the mid-50’s, and then the clouds dissipated around sunset, so radiational cooling set in.
The net result was that overnight, the temperature dropped to around 40, which is a far cry from the mid-50’s. The short answer is that we froze.
I had a down bag rated to 40, but that was assuming that you were wearing a thermal layer, hat, etc. I went to bed with just my underwear. Michael had on some pajamas, but just a light fleece bag. Amy had just a shirt and her fleece bag. I was probably in the best shape of the lot of us.
As opposed to all of our previous nights camping, I started out the night inside of the sleeping bag. At first I was fine. Sometime between midnight and 2am (I forget exactly when), I woke up cold and with a full bladder. I also noticed that Amy wasn’t next to me. I figured that she had hit the bathroom, but after a while she didn’t come back.
I eventually put on my fleece shirt, pants, and sandals, and I got up and hit the rest-room. It was pretty darned cool out. On my way back, I noticed a light in the car, so I went to investigate and I found that it was Amy. She had gotten cold in the tent and had migrated to the front seat of the car.
I went back to the tent, took my pants and sandals off, but left my shirt on, and got back in the sleeping bag. I have a mummy bag, so I eventually pulled the hood up over my head, so that only my face was exposed. I found that this way I was marginally almost warm enough to sleep. I dozed, dreaming of being cold.
A while later, Mike woke up and complained of being cold. I took out my down jacket, zipped it up partially, and wrapped it around his sleeping bag, so that he would be a bit warmer.
The short answer is that none of us slept very well last night (Amy is dozing in the car while I’m typing this). This morning at breakfast, we were all telling “war stories”. It was almost like, “You think you were cold??? I was so cold that...”
However the sun is now out, the sky appears cloudless, and the temperature is rising. It is already up to the mid-50’s.
At the Old Faithful Geyser Basin, Amy wanted a quick nap, so Mike and I went and then returned a bit later to get Amy.
We screwed up the planning just now. I had assumed that Amy would doze in the car until I returned. But she dozed for only a little while, waited a while, and then left in search of me. So when Mike and I got to the car, Amy was gone.
I had talked about killing time in the visitor’s center, but then I changed my mind and went to the lodge. So the obvious place to look for Amy was at the visitor’s center. Just as we got there, however, there came an announcement over the PA system that the beehive geyser was going to go off in about 10 minutes (it only goes off once per day more or less), so people might want to go out to see it. We joined the throng.
I got in place, and as I’m waiting for the geyser to erupt, Mike sees Amy further down the walkway. So we were reunited.
We caught the second half of the movie (they start it shortly after Old Faithful (or in this case Beehive) goes off. We got a quart of water at the car, bought some sandwiches, and started off on the trail that runs past the geysers and other thermal things.
It is interesting being downwind of a geyser when it erupts (or downwind of a steam vent), particularly when it is sunny and hot. Suddenly you are enveloped in this thick, moist, humid, very warm air. If you are lucky, it is also tinged with a sulfurous smell. It is like some giant foul beast was breathing on you just before devouring you. I do not find it particularly pleasant. As you walk further and get out of the other side of the plume, the air which used to feel warm now feels cool and refreshing.
One quart of water was not enough. It was by then getting a bit hot and sunny, although not nearly as hot as down south. We used up the water only 1/3 of the way along the trail. We found it hard to imagine that only 8 hours earlier we had been freezing.
Mike’s main interest was to visit the Morning Glory pool, which fortunately was at the far end of the semi-loop (we went out on the boardwalk and back along the bike trail).
When we visited the Riverside geyser, we found that it was predicted to erupt between 6:35 and 7:35 (i.e. 7:05pm +- 30 min). The timing and geometry was such that this would be a good candidate to get rainbows from, so I was eager to return at that time. Unfortunately, it is at least a mile’s hike from any of three access points.
We hiked back to the Inn, very thirsty, got something to drink, and then got some icecream. We then made dinner reservations. Our choices were 4:45 or 5:45. The former was a bit early (we weren’t sure we would be that hungry), but the latter made seeing Riverside more iffy. Eventually we selected the latter.
We drove to the two other loop trails (much shorter) near Old Faithful. Mike sat in the car for the first one but joined us for the second. At the first one, Amy was amazed at the number of people wading in the river next to the bridge, next to the sign that said no bathing in the springs or rivers. At the second one, there was the most amazing, large, deep blue pool. It was one of my favorites from that basin.
The battery for Amy’s camera died at the first of these two basins. We didn’t have a spare, so I charged it while driving to the second. That was only a few minutes, so she only got a few pictures out of it. We gave it a better charge after the second one.
We had brought a power inverter (converts car power to 120 VAC) to power one of Mike’s games during long drives, but it is proving invaluable now. A number of chargers (e.g. for Amy’s camera battery) only work on 120v, so without the inverter, we would be hosed while camping. So I am very glad that we bought (and brought) one, although it does seem somewhat silly (and inefficient) to convert 12VDC to 120VAC, just so we can convert it back to 6-12VDC in the charger.
We got back with just enough time to get some ice for the cooler and then get to the restaurant at our scheduled time. Dinner was a more hurried affair than I would like, but we got done around 6:20. Amy and Mike started hiking to Riverside, while I ran back to the car and got Amy’s and Mike’s cameras, and then went back and caught up to them.
I walked faster than Amy and Mike, and I was relieved that when I got there, lots of people were sitting around waiting. That means that it hadn’t fired yet. Amy arrived a while later, but she said that Mike had done on a bit further to Morning Glory.
Fortunately, while I was waiting, I noticed that my camera’s flash card only had space for 6 more photos, so I changed to my backup card. I didn’t want to be messing with that during the eruption. I think the reason it filled up was that I took several videos during the day,
We waited maybe a half hour, when I noticed Mike joining us. He was amazed that our geyser hadn’t yet fired, but I guess it was waiting for him, because it went off about 30 seconds later. Riverside is a long one; it runs for roughly 20 minutes, so we had plenty of time for pictures. We did get some rainbow shots, but I think they were only so-so.
We hiked back under a setting sun. I hiked ahead so that I could do the Daisy loop without slowing them down. A quarter of the way around, I saw a bunch of people seated, waiting, next to Daisy, but there were no time estimates posted, and I didn’t want to wait. I continued around the loop, and around the 3/4 point I found more people waiting for Daisy. Just as I passed them, it went off.
I had thought that the 1/4 point would have been better, as I might have gotten more rainbows, but now I think that the 3/4 point was better as I was able to shoot the geyser with the sun behind it and shining through.
I got back to the main trail expecting to find Amy and Mike near the junction or ahead, but I didn’t find them. I looked back up the trail, but they weren’t behind me either. I figured that they must have been hiking faster than I expected and were well ahead of me, so I hurried along towards the Inn. I never caught up with them.
I checked the car, and they weren’t there, so I started back-tracking. I thought that maybe Mike had opted for the boardwalk rather than the bike path or something. Eventually I saw them coming down the trail. It turns out that they had done the Daisy loop as well, and had been at the 1/4 point when it went off. On one hand, I hadn’t needed to go ahead; I could have stayed with them. On the other hand, I think I had a better angle than they did.
I left them by the Inn and walked back to the car so that I could drive it around and save them some walking. I got to the car OK, but I couldn’t figure out how to get around to the Inn. It turns out that the entrance driveway is not from the Old Faithful parking lot area. But I eventually made my way there and picked them up.
On the way back (after sunset), I was surprised by an Elk on the road, but fortunately it was in the other lane and not my lane (and it stayed there as I passed it).
We charged Amy’s camera battery on the drive home, and then I started up the hyperdrive to back up my completely full flash card. That is a pain because it takes an hour and a half (I can back up Amy’s or Mike’s in about 6 minutes).
We got ready for bed (with more cold weather gear), and hit the sack. A while later I got up to find the backup just finishing, so I could shut the inverter down.
It was a warmer night than the previous one, and we were better prepared. I started off with just a hat and socks in the sleeping bag, but halfway through the night I put on my orange fleece shirt. That was fine through the morning.