This Week in Wonderland: Week 39, 2016
19-25 SEPTEMBER 2016
Sorry about being a bit late with this report – I’ve been out of town and then – naturally – swamped upon return. Good to get away and good to be back! (Does it get any better than that?)
PHENOLOGY & GEYSER REPORT
(Phenology is the study of the seasons in nature)
Last week was amazingly full and rich and we’re firmly into fall weather with crisp mornings often warming to shorts weather in the afternoon. The winds have started to pick up a bit more, but one day I was out most of the day and realized how very much I love having the wind play in my hair on a sunny day outside.
Around here a couple of black bears were seen in Cody which happens most years about this time. They follow the Shoshone River down to town and usually make the news. Growing up, I remember Grandmother Jones would send us clippings from the paper when a bear was found in a tree near her house on Canyon.
Speaking of Canyon Ave, a couple of the trees reached their peak during this third week of September. More still need a bit more time. This week I’d characterize the trees in town as being lime-lemon colored.
I’m hearing a Great Horned Owl in the mornings near where I live.
On the 20th, I headed into Yellowstone with the goal of heading to the Upper Geyser Basin and covering as much as I could. So with an early start from town, I ended up seeing a coyote in the field behind the school, and a bison near Eleanor Lake (I take notes of the bulls that head out toward Cody each winter). I was surprised to have a wolf cross the road only about 20 feet in front of my car at Lake Butte Overlook. It was more of a salt and pepper type coat, which – as soon as it crossed over into the downed burned timber, disappeared by simply standing still. Finally located it only 30 feet from the car when it moved. Photos aren’t great, but it was a nice encounter. Pretty sure it was by itself, but I can’t say for certain.
There was a very nice mule deer buck in the softer morning light standing in the sage brush at Indian Pond. A photographer with a lens worthy of that photo was there, and as I passed by he looked over toward me, giving the photographer the shot I would have loved to have gotten. More mule deer were seen in the Fishing Bridge area.
Seeing them made me realize that I have been seeing more mule deer in the area from the top of Sylvan Pass to Fishing Bridge than I used to. I almost always see one or two right around Sylvan Lake which started just in the last year or two.
Cow elk were predictably seen near the Arnica Fire area. On the road near West Thumb there were a couple of cow elk with one spike bull right on the road. This is the time of year they are on the road more than through the rest of the summer season.
We’ve had just about near perfect fall weather most of last week – with the weekend bringing in quite a bit of rain, which makes for some gorgeous fresh snow shots out along the North Fork.
UPPER GEYSER BASIN | Biscuit Basin
Jewel Geyser erupted about every 7-13 minutes while I was there. The eruptions overall seemed a bit weaker than in past years, but still a nice surprise for many as they walked by.
Avoca Spring is erupting a bit more strongly with the vent farther from the corner of the boardwalk. It cycles about every minute up higher, and about every five minutes you’ll get a particularly strong eruption. It’s a nice example of minor and major eruptions.
There’s a smaller vent sort of in the middle of the big loop of the boardwalk at Biscuit Basin that usually doesn’t seem to do much but occasionally spit out some water or steam gently. This is Fumarole Geyser and while waiting for a major eruption of Avoca, I saw a burst of water come up (fully filling the vent) and barely splashing over the edge. My initial thought was that I was seeing East Mustard Spring, but then I located Mustard and realized what it was that I saw.
Walking over closer, the area around the rim of the vent (and that of Fumarole’s neighbor – another UTF: Unnamed Thermal Feature) was wet. I spent a good 10-15 minutes there watching these two and only saw a bit of spitting from them.
UPPER GEYSER BASIN | Black Sand Basin
I drove over to Black Sand Basin where I found Spouter Geyser off. “Cinnamon West Geyser” was erupting, but there was still a very small bit of water in the overflow channel for “Cinnamon Spouter”. (Quotation marks tell you it’s not an official name.)
It seemed Emerald Pool has cooled some, but I did see some good bubbles coming up. The edge that looked hotter recently seems to have cooled off a bit.
A Mountain Bluebird pair was seen in a tree just beyond Emerald Pool – the only Bluebirds I’ve seen in a while.
The most interesting thing I saw was in Rainbow Pool – known to act a as a rare geyser at times. The area around one section of the pool was wet with overflow. Also, there was a nearly perfect circle of water welling up in one section of the pool near that washed area.
It would be fun to jump to the conclusion that Rainbow Pool is active again, but it also could just be making attempts and the water level might simply rise enough to overflow there. Looking forward to hearing reports from there and getting a chance to head back in to spend a bit of time there.
UPPER GEYSER BASIN | Old Faithful Area
Back to the Old Faithful area, I luckily parked in the right spot so I didn’t learn the hard way that the trail to Geyser Hill and around toward Blue Star Spring was closed to add more of the ground up tires as a new path material.
I’m fairly certain this is the result of a recommendation by geologists given in the 2013 Thermal Conference to remove as much impervious material on the ground as possible to allow water to percolate through more naturally. I hear they plan to replace the asphalt path/old road that goes from Old Faithful down to Morning Glory Pool with this crushed and shredded tires.
So I headed around Castle Geyser to reach Geyser Hill to check on things.
Gizmo Geyser was active and I noticed Liberty Pool was clear of microbes on the surface. I waited at Lion Geyser for a bit – it turned out to be at the end of a series and instead of an eruption, it simply roared and splashed a bit. This was a longer series than it’s done in awhile, so paid attention to Goggles Spring and North Goggles Geyser – as when there’s enough energy, a long series of Lion eruptions may drain the system enough to give them a chance at erupting. But no bubbles seen rising, and the overflow from them didn’t change.
Arrowhead Spring was down 4-5″ but water was still visible in the crater.
“The Mouth” was not pulsing anymore.
Giantess Geyser had water in the channel closest to Teakettle Spring – certainly not enough to get excited about, but enough to make a note. Since there have been references to a possible link between Giantess and Ear Spring, I’ve started to check this overflow in Giantess’ with Ear’s behavior. It turns out this time (a second time this season) Ear Spring was completely calm. Normally it bubbles and spits up an inch or two along the edge with occasional bubbles rising in the middle. Calm is unusual for this spring.
But this is only the second observation I’ve seen (or heard of) for this. Just another small question I have – could this (or a few others) be some sort of indication of Giantess gathering energy? Maybe or maybe not. I’m just drawn in by yet another question, so check this every time I’m on Geyser Hill as curiosity pulls me in to learn more.
The basis of this question springs from information in Park Geologist/Naturalist George Marler from his 1973 report:
“…at times the temperature will stay a degree or two below boiling for several weeks. During these periods the minor flow from the spring ceases.
During two, and possibly three eruptions of Giantess, Ear is known to have boiled up with resultant heavy overflow. The third instance alluded to occurred sometime during the winter of 1956-57. In the spring of 1957 the flanks of Ear showed there had been earlier heavy overflow. The evidence is highly suggestive of underground connections between Giantess and Ear.”
Find a question and let it trigger your curiosity – that’s where the fun begins.
While my passion of documenting the natural wonders of the greater Yellowstone area, including thermal features, I hope what I share here inspires you to explore the world around you and take a few notes.
Be Outside • Take Notes
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