Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lesser Known Yellowstone –Shoshone Geyser Basin

How many footsteps are in a mile? If I had a nickel for every step I have taken getting into and out of the geyser basins of Yellowstone over the past four summers, I would be a wealthy individual. Include the eighteen round trip miles involved in accessing Shoshone geyser basin and I could retire comfortably right now. I would spend my golden years driving across the geology of the continent while towing the glamping camper of my dreams.

On the way to Shoshone geyser basin, hiking buddy Brian (aka "Tater") poses and points.

There are various schemes to choose from in order to access the geyser basin. Some folks hike the round trip in one day. Eighteen miles in one day? In my dreams! I am not as young as I once was, and have never been the fastest hiker on the trail, anyway. I like to stop and look around (all those rocks!), not just blast past to get from point A to point B. There needs to be a lot of daylight available for me to pick this option. If I owned a canoe, I could paddle the breadth of two lakes and portage part of the channel that connects them. A horse or llama pack trip would be nice, but I have neither horse nor llama.

Canada geese conga-line their way across Shoshone geyser basin.

Another option is to backpack, and set up camp at a designated site outside the periphery of the geyser basin.
Home-sweet-home for a night in grizzly bear country - eek!

Campsite 8R5 on Shoshone Lake

According to The Geysers of Yellowstone, Shoshone geyser basin is one of the most important thermal areas in the world. Its small size is what packs its wallop. The basin contains over 80 geysers, more than any other place on earth except for the remainder of Yellowstone, the Valley of Geysers on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, and El Tatio in Chile. Not bad for an area that is barely 1600 ft by 800 ft. In addition to the geysers, there are also widespread mud pots, frying pans, and acidic pools found between the main geyser basin and Shoshone Lake.

In 1839, trapper Osborne Russell described a geyser he called “Hour Spring” because of its regular eruptions. Not surprisingly, nothing exists today that is known to be that same feature. The geologic surveys of the 1870s and 1880s studied Shoshone geyser basin extensively, and most of the names of the features were given during this time. It was not until the 1960s, though, that detailed maps and studies were made of the region.

Brian ponders the scene
These days, Shoshone geyser basin is not so much Lesser Known Yellowstone as Less Accessible Yellowstone, which made it all that much more special when I finally got there. If it were easy to reach, everybody would show up. Getting there required a serious expenditure of effort that, for me, was worth every step.We had the place completely to ourselves for the afternoon.
I still would not mind having all those nickels, though.

On the trail in Shoshone Geyser Basin

Reference: Bryan, T. Scott, 2008, The Geysers of Yellowstone, 4th ed.

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