I really enjoy having friends visit me up here in the Yellowstone wilds of northwest Wyoming. Some folks tell me months in advance of their plans to come to the Park during the summer. Others contact me out of the blue and announce “Hey! We’re here! When are your days off?”
|Hey! We’re here!|
That was the method used recently by paleontologist Jerry and librarian wife Tracy, two friends from southern Utah who were in Yellowstone for a week. I first heard about their stay in an email from MY TRAVEL AGENT. No, he hadn’t arranged their travel plans. Always in the know, MY TRAVEL AGENT had seen a comment from Dinogami on this blog and told me I’d better reply to it or I’d be sorry.
Their last full day in the Park was my first weekend day off, so my only predicament was deciding which hike to take them on. They had already done most of the easy, major geyser basin/boardwalk areas and a few short hikes, but weren’t in the mood for anything too strenuous. Soon I knew exactly where to take them – Lone Star geyser.
|Ranger Brian joined us on the hike to Lone Star geyser|
Lone Star geyser is part of the “Lone Star Group,” about five miles upstream on the Firehole River from Old Faithful. It is a sweet thermal feature and I enjoy taking folks to see it. Getting there and back is easy, around 5 miles round trip. The entire walk is along the Firehole River, with picturesque bridges here and there, lots of shade, and a path that is one of the few in the Park where you can ride a bicycle.
|I really didn’t mean for the geyser to erupt out of the top of Jerry’s head|
Lone Star is one of only about six geysers (out of over 300) in Yellowstone that is predictable, although the rangers do not monitor it. There is a log book for visitors who witness the eruption to write down the time, but for some peculiar reason this book is located at the geyser itself and not at the trail head. Its interval is always close to three hours and unlike many other geysers in Yellowstone no dormant period had ever been recorded.
|Lone Star geyser erupting in 2012|
The cone of Lone Star is over nine feet tall with nearly vertical sides, making it one of the largest sinter (or geyserite) cones in the Yellowstone. This height is the result of recurrent splashing of the geyser during its quiet interval. During the 30 minutes of its full eruption time (Old Faithful can erupt to a height of up to 140 feet, but lasts for only 3–5 minutes, poor thing) Lone Star will jet water to the still impressive height of 45 feet. After the water gives out the final play of the eruption is a powerful steam phase that can be heard for a mile away, and this is what we encountered as we came sauntering up the trail.
|Crossing the Firehole River|
Upstream from Lone Star the trail crosses the Firehole River again. We puttered around here for a bit, looking at some springs alongside the trail. The “Bridge Group” and “Campsite Group” of geysers are in this area, but since many of the features are away from the trail we did not care to risk life and limb to check them out. It’s not only dangerous and a bad idea but it’s also illegal to walk off trail in a geyser basin.
|Interesting sinter deposit in one of many unnamed hot springs in the area|
At our leisurely pace we had really worked up an appetite so afterwards decided to head to the Bear Pit lounge inside the Old Faithful Inn for a bite of lunch. I must say that this year I was dreadfully disappointed in the Bear Pit. They have changed their menu and whittled it down to half what they offered in past years. A beef burger, a bison burger, and a platter of pheasant sausage (Pheasant sausage? Really???) were the only items offered. They even discontinued the sweet potato fries. Ghastly!
But the company was excellent and the beer was tasty. Afterwards we strolled around the Inn as I attempted to remember all the fascinating trivia I’d heard and forgotten last summer when I took a tour of the Inn. Soon we moseyed over to the visitor center to notify any random ranger of the latest Lone Star eruption time. When we noticed that Old Faithful was predicted to erupt within the next two minutes, we could not help ourselves. Of course we faithfully went outside to watch.
|Old Faithful does its thing faithfully about every 90 minutes|