Over the weekend the U.S. Park Service closed Firehole Lake Road in Yellowstone because the underlying volcanic caldera coupled with the summer sun had turned it into a soupy mess. This is a common occurrence in the Lower Geyser Basin, which after all sits atop a “supervolcano.” But the roads were firm enough two weeks ago when my family was cruising this relatively quiet 3.3-mile byway north of the tourist-thronged Old Faithful. Every time we got out of the car, it started to sleet, which cooled off the asphalt and made the bubbling cauldrons and steaming vents seem all the more otherworldly. Traipsing the boardwalk near White Dome, which the interpretive sign (see picture below) describes as a “gnarly, ancient cone,” we noticed some water splashing. But after you’ve been looking at dozens of geothermal features all day, this did not seem remarkable. Besides, we were freezing. We hustled back to the car. Just as we reached it, I looked up and to my delight saw a jet of water shooting up from the sinter cone 30 feet into the air. White Dome geyser is temperamental and unpredictable, but when it goes, it goes big, baby!
Here it is about a minute later at 3:04:48 pm
After the initial burst, which lasted about two minutes, the geyser dissipated into steam and spray, and then it was over, as quickly as it had begun. (Although tempted to make a sophomoric joke about a guy I once dated, I’ll refrain.)
I was impressed by the vibrant language in the interpretive signs:
And amused by some of the whimsical, if anthropomorphic, nameplates. This relatively wee gurgling vent was dubbed “Young Hopeful Geyser.”
Tune in tomorrow when we look at more amusing signage and then vent about stupid tourists who need but won’t heed “danger” signs.