Day 82, to Madison Campground: Gone geyser gazin' - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

July 13, 2022

Day 82, to Madison Campground: Gone geyser gazin'

Dani gives a thumbs-up while standing within 20 feet of Sawmill Geyser as it erupts, shooting a jet of water so high that I failed to capture all of it in the frame of this photo. The geyser's stream is shooting from the center of a beautifully blue circular pool.
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Wednesday stats

Start: Grant Campground, Yellowstone National Park

End: Madison Campground, Yellowstone National Park

The Daily Progress: 40.8 miles

Cumulative climbing: 1978 feet

Cumulative descent: 3048

Elevation at endpoint: 6800-ish feet

Ice cream flavors: A frozen fudge pop, if that counts

Lodging expenses: $22 for hiker/biker camping for two (the first campground of three at Yellowstone to charge us per person)

Food expenses: $40-ish for breakfast at Old Faithful Snow Lodge, plus 5 for snack in afternoon

Dani's daily digest

A coyote chorus woke us before our alarm. We listened to their song from the snug warmth of our sleeping bags. I love hearing coyotes. I imagine howling with friends feels as good to a coyote as getting drunk and singing Piano Man in a crowded bar feels to a human. 

This is the first day of my third week on Chris's tour. We are still negotiating how to start our days. I like to get on the road as early as possible; Chris enjoys a more leisurely morning. Today we found a compromise that seems promising: 5:30 wake-up, 7:30 departure, a full breakfast about 20 miles into the day. 

Motivated by the promise of breakfast, we biked the first twenty miles at a business-like pace. Some folks in a Jeep cheered for us as we plugged up a big hill. We crossed the Continental Divide twice. There was road work along the route, and at one point, we had to follow a pilot car uphill through a construction zone with a line of cars crawling behind us. STRESSFUL. I biked so hard I thought my heart was going to explode. I probably managed to go four miles per hour.

Breakfast fulfilled our expectations. Next order of business: watching Old Faithful erupt. Let's just say, after 150 years of being Yellowstone's star attraction, Old Faithful knows a thing or two about putting on a good show. The eruption was predicted to occur at 12:08, give or take 10 minutes. At 12:06, the geyser teased the crowd with a few small blasts of water. The crowd electrified in response, collectively thinking "here it comes....!" The geyser then steamed for about 15 minutes, with declining intensity. The crowd began to wonder if the splashes were all the eruption we were going to get. Some folks walked away. Then at 12:22, we got what we came for. Water blasted into the sky. The crowd cheered. The eruption lasted several minutes, so long that most people turned around and walked away before the geyser stopped geysing (which amused me). 

After the eruption, we puttered around the visitor center for an hour. When we emerged, a dark, threatening storm hung in the western sky. We stashed our bikes under an overhang in case of rain, but decided to set off on a walk anyway, since it looked like the storm might miss us.

I really enjoyed our stroll on the Upper Geyser boardwalk. The threat of rain kept the temperature down and the crowds away. We got to see Old Faithful erupt from a different (and less crowded) vantage point, we had an up-close experience with Sawmill Geyser's eruption, and we were lucky enough to catch the dramatic eruption of Grand Geyser (and his little sidekick, Vent! Love you, Vent!), which was totally mesmerizing. Like fireworks but even better. 

Here's a video of a few seconds of Grand Geyser erupting, spouting streams of water and stream in varying upward directions, often creating short-lived jets that are remarkable reminiscent of fireworks shooting into the sky. At left is Vent Geyser, reliably shooting one constant stream upward.)

It's astonishing to me that there are so many geysers packed together in such a manageable space. It almost seemed like a showroom for geysers, like you would walk around, consider the strengths and weaknesses of the different options, and then choose the most optimal model for your budget to be installed on your property. It also reminded me of a casino. So many attractions vying for your attention -- which one is going to result in the big payoff? My final thought about the geysers and other geothermal features: my brain strongly conceived of them as beings with personalities. 

After our time at Old Faithful, we got on the road, stopping to appreciate the geothermal features at Black Sand Basin and Biscuit Basin. By the time we were stepping off the boardwalk at Biscuit Basin, it was getting late (6:15), and dark clouds hovered on every horizon. We still had fifteen miles to go before reaching the campground. Chris asked, "do you think you can bike 15 miles in 45 minutes?" I said, "no, but I'll do my best."

And so, for the second time today, I found myself pedaling so hard that I thought my little heart would burst. But we did it! We made it to camp shortly after seven, thanks to the grade, the wind, and the valient efforts of my little heart.

We did not make it to camp dry, however. For the last five miles we pedaled through raindrops so large I thought they were hail. But we were still pretty lucky, it was not a heavy rain and we made it to camp wet but not soaked.

At the hiker-biker site we met a convivial and international group of cyclists eating dinner on a picnic table protected by a sturdy tarp. There were two couples about our age, one from the UK, the other from France. There was also a Dutch couple in their 60s. The rain stopped as we ate, and after dinner we pitched camp and passed out. 

Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 3,029 miles (4,875 km)

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