Two Boys

Rocco Paperiello


This is the final Part IV of a four part story. (See Part I for Index). It is a story about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.

If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence six. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.

Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.

Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.

Rocco Paperiello

PART IV -- Graduation and College

Chapter 102 -- Where Heaven and Hell Meet

At Norris, Jade and I set up our tent at the campground there. We had only intended it as a stopping over point on our way to Old Faithful since to get a camping spot you had to get there quite early. But then we met this old lady there, a Mrs. Decker, who was staying all summer. She said she was from Minnesota and that she had stayed there all summer last year waiting for a geyser, called Steamboat, to erupt. And the same this summer. We thought she was a bit nuts -- that was until she described Steamboat Geyser, the magnitude of its eruptions, their normal rarity, and finally that it was now erupting every couple of weeks. Jade and I talked it over that night and we decided to stay there at least until we saw the thing ourselves. Mrs. Decker's enthusiasm was quite infectious.

Words can't really describe the amazing thermal areas and geysers that Jade and I saw during our stay. After having set up camp, Jade and I followed Mrs. Decker over to the adjacent Geyser Basin, getting there just in time to take a short tour around the place given by Bill Lewis, one of the ranger naturalists there. We were introduced to quite an assortment of beautiful springs and geysers. The colors were amazing, and the setting in the middle of the forest with Mount Holmes and Trilobite Point sticking up in the near distance was stunning. Also quite engaging were the actual geysers which spouted from both spring filled basins and from sintered vents opening up through the ground. Among the features that were pointed out to us during that walk were the Devil's Bathtub, Black Cauldron, Tantalus Creek, Sulphur Pit, and a number of other names evocative of the hotter nether regions. Bill Lewis mentioned the earliest visitors had a penchant for giving these kinds of names. But with the striking beauty and wonder of the place Bill stated that this was possibly the place where Heaven and Hell meet.

Of course small slices of heaven can be found elsewhere. Exploring Jade's body that night in the near total darkness was a bit different. There were absolutely no lights anywhere near our tent and we didn't use ours.

"Hay White-boy. How can you be sure you can find the right parts? It's quite black in here."

"Black is the right word." A sudden low shriek came from the vicinity of Jade's head as I poked him where he'd feel it most. "I think I can manage, even if your skin is so black it blends in with all the other nothingness I can see at the moment."

Of course the sense of touch was all we needed as we made tender love for quite some time. All thoughts of Yellowstone and geysers vanished for a couple hours. Jade gradually took over command as we both suddenly got too aroused to be "tender" any longer. And it was quite obvious that Jade had no trouble in finding my parts either. I had all I could do not from making enough noise to alert the neighbors that there were two gay boys in the tent next to the number 22 campsite sign.

The next day, Mrs. Decker insisted she give us a "proper" tour of the basin.

"Tosh. Bill's a dear but you can't really get to know the place proper in a one hour tour. I'm going to show you all the small things that no tourists usually pays any attention to. You two college fellows are in for a real education."

Mrs. Decker gracefully showed us around the entire geyser basin giving us a lot of names for features that weren't on any sign posts. We toured the two main sections of the basin, one called the Porcelain Basin which was mostly open with hundreds of vents and springs packed into an open and mostly barren plain surrounded with small hills, and a Back Basin with scattered features and its trails meandering through a pine forest. Three different forks of Tantalus Creek drained the entire area.


Porcelain Basin -- Guardian Geyser in eruption

While information was incoming at an amazing rate, somehow Mrs. Decker also managed to draw out our life stories. At east the expurgated versions. She had been intrigued with Jade's hooks but was polite enough that she never did ask how come he lost his hands. She also said that she rarely had seen any `colored folk' in the park at all. I wondered about that and Jade and I later talked about it and I just figured that most Negro families just couldn't afford the trip.

We were shown all manner of springs, pools, and vents, big and small. Some of the most insignificant looking cracks she assured us had spouted geysers during what she called a "disturbance." An uncommon episodic event that could last as long as several days when all "hell breaks loose." Many geysers perform almost constantly while many others almost only show their "stuff" during this period.

"But alas, the big giant, Steamboat himself, quiets to barely a whisper, and takes days to recover his energy."

Some geysers erupt from fissures in the rock with barely any sinter coating at all, and others from colorful pools. One geyser we were shown erupts every several hours from three vents, two horizontal and one vertical. Opal Spring spilled out onto a series of rippling terraces, while Arch Steam Vent showed no water at all but just a lot of puffing. A strange unnamed geyser erupted from a vertical crack in a rock wall and most of its considerable eruption was even directed slightly downward with only a small portion shooting at an oblique angle as far as 30 feet. Mrs. Decker said that it only erupted in that fashion about every four days. Another, Bear Den Geyser, currently dormant, would erupt out of a huge hole at the base of a colorful rock wall in the hillside. Another erupted from a series of crack vents which radiated in erratic fashion outward from a small heavily sintered pool. Steamboat itself erupted from two huge gaping vents emerging from the middle of a hillside. There was a coating of a creamy sinter all around. While most geyser basins had alkaline waters, many of the features in the Back Basin at Norris were actually acidic and the sinter there was strange. Echinus was so named because of its peculiar spiny sinter encrusting the rocks.

Mrs. Decker also commented on all the color. "The deep blue of the pools is from the refraction of light. The pastel shading of some are usually due to all the silica in suspension. Some of the colors, especially in the hot out flow channels, come from the bacteria growing in the water. The cream and yellows in the hotter water and the orange and red in the cooler. The green and black is from algae. In one runoff channel she pointed to some long cream colored fiaments, some as long as a foot, and declared it was a bacteria!"

Then Mrs. Decker picked up a small rock from a cooler runoff channel. The top side was a rich vibrant green, while the underside was red shading almost to a reddish purple at the edge.

"That is from a mineral deposit common here but not in the other basins. Both colors are from two similar arsenic compounds called orpiment and realgar. And look at this spring over here."

The bottom of the spring was covered with a beautiful sort of powdered yellow sulphur.

We eventually meandered back to where Mrs. Decker pulled out from behind a few trees a folding chair and a small cloth bag with some melting ice and drink.

"I'll be here if you two need any further questions asked. I am now going to wait for the big giant to come to full life." She was speaking of Steamboat which was quite visible on the hillside above.

Later that evening we even joined her there bringing with us a couple of our own folding chairs which we had purchased from a camper about to leave and not wanting to lug them away. We all three had books to read and conversation was only intermittent. Near dark Mrs. Decker told us to be quiet and still. All the other people had vanished from the basin. She pointed upward. And to our amazement we saw a number of large birds circling above. They were dark with white spots in about the middle of each wing.

"Nighthawks," Mrs. Decker announced. "Quite common in the basin. If you come back after dark you will also see quite a number of bats. Now lets be very still for a few minutes and look at the ground."

Soon we saw a small lizard which chanced its way across the bare ground. And soon another.

"If you sit real still on the ground they will even walk right across you. They are called a Sagebrush Lizard. This species is quite rare worldwide, but common in some of the thermal basins in the park.


Sagebrush Lizard

Almost four weeks later we were still there. Although we did take several day trips to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, and Yellowstone Lake, we had been concentrating mostly on Norris Basin for a number of reasons including the obvious one that Steamboat had captivated us as it had Mrs. Decker. We had to `move' a couple of times since there was a rule that you couldn't stay at a campsite for more than two weeks. But nobody said anything when we merely just changed campsites. In fact Mrs. Decker got special privileges and had parked her small trailer the whole time at one spot right next to the big meadow where we frequently saw elk grazing. She even asked us over for dinner on occasion.

Mrs. Decker was quite a nice woman, who had lost her husband several years before. The few times she spoke of him this moment of sadness seemed to come over her. But she then changes the subject and is all vitality and good humor. Both Jade and I had gotten pretty close to her in just a short time and we both felt frustrated at times that we could not be totally who we were around her. We had talked about it one evening after a minor incident earlier that day. You probably could not even call it an incident. Just a sad moment for us and then there was another thing that Jade pointed out that made it just a bit sadder.

It was the day that Jade and I had stationed ourselves in front of Echinus Geyser to see if we could do a better job of predicting it than the rangers. We had moderate success. The biggest problem we at long last noted working from all the data obtained over the past several weeks, was that although the next interval depended very much on the previous duration, this ratio of interval to duration gradually oscillated over about a 10 to14 day period. Whereas a 4 minute duration yesterday would produce (about) a 53 minute interval, today it might produce a 55 minute interval. Other than this continuous variation, the actual ratios of interval to duration were remarkably consistent. When Bill Lewis showed up late morning with a small group of tourists he mentioned to them that they should stay since the predicted time was 11:15 a.m., just 8 minutes away. Jade and I had determined it to be closer to 11:12 a.m.

Then Jade did something which totally surprised me. In fact it was something more like what I would have done. When Bill Lewis stopped talking, Jade placed the Norris Basin leaflet they handout against his forehead and pretending to go into a trance, announced aloud: "I predict. . . it's getting clearer. . . clearer. . , yes! Echinus will erupt at 11:11." And when a few people laughed Jade added: "and 45 seconds."

I suddenly got envious. "Damn!" I was thinking. "I wish I had thought of doing that!"

Of course there is a sort of grey area when you declare the actual start of the eruption, so with just a tiny 'fudge' Jade's prediction was right on. People clapped. Bill soon came up to us and asked: "Was that just luck or did you guys figure out something?" Bill was chuckling. And we told him what we had discovered. Then he wondered if this 10 to14 day cycle could be discovered elsewhere -- say with Sreamboat!?

The eruption of Echinus was typical and lasted 4 minutes and 28 seconds. The seconds were important to predict the next eruption. This we also explained.

Jade and I meandered over toward Arch Steam Vent -- which we were surprised to find out has had rare eruptions -- and Crater Geyser with the crowd and Bill Lewis. Finally we got back to Mrs. Decker just in time to witness an eruption of "her" geyser which she was delighted to expound on at length. Jade and I sat in our chairs which we had left there earlier that morning and Mrs. Decker introduced us to a very young couple. About our age.

"Rocco and Jade, this is Mike and Sharon; they are on their honeymoon."

There were three big smiles. And then an impromptu kiss. And another more passionate one. Mrs. Decker gave a discrete "coughing" noise, and they came up for air. We talked a while and when they finally left, Mrs. Decker, with this enigmatic smile, announced: "Isn't young love marvelous! It's love that we need more of in this world." Mrs. Decker then began a lecture on "true love" as opposed to all the terrible things which some people were getting into these days.

"My husband used to speak about this a lot since he had been a Professor at the college in Duluth." (University of Minnesota) Mrs. Decker then proceeded to expound on all the terrible "loveless sex" going on there on campus. "One of the worst things he discovered was two male students actually 'living together' if you know what I mean. It was so deplorable." Then with a look of gratification she announced: "My husband got them expelled!"

Jade could tell that I was getting more upset with every word. At the end, sensing that I was about to say something that I would definitely regret later, he pulled me up and told Mrs. Decker that we had agreed to catch another camper going into town to get us some provisions.

As I said, we talked about this 'incident' later that evening. "Jade, when those guys kissed right out in the open, Mrs. Decker was so pleased even if she pretended to be scandalized. And it hurt so much realizing that it could never have been us. We seem to have to keep our lives in separate compartments. I so HATE the BIG LIE, even if it is just on certain occasions, with certain people. And I even entertained the possibility of telling Mrs. Decker about us. She seemed so open minded and so completely nice. I SO want to be able to live openly. You think this will ever be possible?"

Jade sighed along with me and rejoined: "I suspect my answer would be the same it was the last twenty times you asked that question. You really need an answer?"

We sat there holding each other and talked about this topic in general. Then Jade made a comment about something I had not considered. "White-boy, I had been thinking that in Mrs. Decker we had found a really good friend. I had gotten to know her and really like her in just a couple weeks. In fact I was thinking about getting her address and asking if we could keep in touch. But now?" Jade just let the idea hang.

I was not able to think of a reply, and that was certainly not the usual me. And that led to another thought and giving Jade absolutely no warning, clobbered him with one of our pillows.

Eventually, after a somewhat long period of wrestling, and then undressing each other, and rediscovering just how making love with a person is SO much better when you truly love each other, it was Jade who followed one of my remarks about "young love" with a non sequitur.

"OK White-boy, what was being clobbered all about?"

I explained about my spot of envy when it was he, and not myself who came up with that prank with the geyser prediction that morning. And our conversation eventually got to the topic about how it seemed lately that Jade and I were almost trading personality quirks. "It seems to me Jade that you are picking up all my best idiosyncrasies."

Jade definitely smirked, and replied: "And, I can barely believe it, but you seem to actually take time to think before you do something outrageous these days."

We fell asleep in our usual position with my lying half on top of Jade. Even if during the night we usually move into a number of alternate positions. Sometimes by morning we discover ourselves quite 'tangled.' Along with the bedding.

As I said, almost four later we were still there. The entire place was amazing. And it was not just Steamboat. I was captivated by all the geysers and thermal features with their endless variety. And not just the big ones. I was just as delighted when I saw a small one erupt that we had not seen before.

And I also realized something else. One night about three weeks into our stay I made the observation to Jade: "Jade, I just figured something out."

Jade of course cooperated: "Figured what out?"

"Why I like water falls so much."

"I can tell another `Rocco-ism' coming. Please explain."

"Well, water falls are nothing more than upside down geysers." I laughed a lot more than Jade did. He needs to work on his sense of humor. (He says I need to work on my sense of logic).

A while later, we were in our tent, having just engaged in our usual late evening past time. By now I was easily able to accommodate Jade's rather large member. And I loved the feel of him still in me as I lay in his arms afterwards.

After our usual just laying with each other, basking in our `after-sex-glow,' and each probably in our own sort of thoughts about how fortunate we both were, I suddenly realized how happy I was at that moment. And then tried to dissect exactly why. Many thoughts came to me, but I finally thought then about how close I had been to actually NOT going on this vacation.

"Jade, I'm quite amazed that you actually had to talk me into this trip. I was all for going back east again to work the summer for Uncle Bill."

"You had been mentioning for years your desire to see the Rockies and Yellowstone in particular. And I couldn't see why we couldn't just take a real vacation together. We don't need the money. We got plenty saved. If need be we can work next year."

"You've said that fifty times."

"As I remember it, you didn't take a lot of arm twisting. I think it was your usual preoccupation with getting money for our education -- of which I convinced you we didn't need more. At least not so much that we couldn't at least just enjoy a couple of months together having fun."

"I guess I was just too much in the habit of always thinking about our need to get money for our future, that I didn't realize our `future' was already here. And that you were definitely right."

We had seen many of the spectacular geysers in the Norris Basin but by far the most tremendous was Steamboat. It was in a class all by itself. And we got to see it twice. The first time was under ideal conditions. The water column hit the sky. It erupted out of twin vents side by side. One part arched to the north and I figured hit at least 400 feet, while the second was more fan shaped and spread out to the east, over 200 feet high. The water flowed down the hill in a veritable flood. I was so excited that I couldn't stop sharing my excitement with whoever happened to be next to me. I think I hugged at least twenty people that day. Everybody was going crazy during the eruption with excitement. Later that night I felt a few big bruises on my back and side. Jade had really embraced me during that phantasmagorical display and his hardware did a good job on me. He doesn't realize his own strength sometimes.

The second eruption we just watched from closer up and I was overawed by the immense power of the thing. The air was literally vibrating.


Steamboat Geyser -- the second time

Later that evening we were at Mrs. Decker's trailer and Jade and I had decided to treat her to a meal we had prepared. She had this tiny stove with two burners and we made Jambalaya. She had never had it before. It was from one of Mrs. Webster's recipes and I really enjoyed making it. Mrs. Decker enjoyed eating it.

We had used almost the last of our food and needed to go into town the next day to get re-supplied. The last time we did this we got into the town so late that we decided to just stay there for the night. We had driven up this large hill behind the small town of Gardner, Montana and reached a small camping area. It was free. But I froze that night.

"Damn Jade, the next time we do this remind me to engage my brain before we take off with almost no camping gear and only light jackets. I froze last night in spite of lying on top of you most the night. Just laying a sleeping bag on the ground is not enough."

"Well, you were the one too stingy to spring for a cabin for the night. And also the one who said you didn't want to drive the 30 some miles back to Norris since it was so late. So we both froze."

"But 14 dollars for one night is exorbitant. No one charges that much for one night. And how could I expect that after being in the 90s in the daytime, it could get into the 40s at night?" And I was only exaggerating a little bit.

"Well let's see. Apparently, the places in THIS town do charge 14 dollars a night. And one thing we might have done was remember how cold it got at Norris sometimes at night. And how about me? I was so stiff it took me a half hour to be able to move my legs."

A big exaggeration. "OK smart guy, how come you didn't talk me out of it?" Jade didn't answer. I felt then that he was at least half responsible for a dumb decision.

This time, we had asked Mrs. Decker if she needed anything, and she gave us a small list and five dollars. We bought out the store and even bought a few steaks that we put on ice in our cooler. Good thing the campground sold ice from this huge black machine.

A few days later we decided to extend our explorations. Jade and I drove the short distance to a place called Elk Park. (Where we didn't see a single elk). We hiked into a small thermal area called Artist Paint Pots, but figured most of the pots must have dried up or changed enough, that we didn't see much there. There was this one small spring spouting from an area that was coated with red colored iron oxide, but there wasn't much there that held our interest. We then continued on into another somewhat larger thermal basin around the hill about two and a half miles from the road. Bill Lewis, a naturalist ranger we had met a number of times so far, had directed us to this area called Geyser Springs where he said the average visitors never ventured. The main basin was much smaller than Norris, and only had a few geysers, but its charm was compelling.

Just as we got out of the trees at the edge of the basin we heard a loud noise and there at the other end, about a football field away, was a rather large geyser erupting. There was so much steam it was hard to tell, but Jade insisted it had to be sending up at least 4 or 5 different jets.

The eruption only lasted a couple of minutes and by the time we reached it, it was all over. I hoped its interval wasn't too long.

We walked around the geyser and saw that it indeed erupted through a whole pile of rocks that appeared to have collapsed from the hillside above onto the geyser itself. They were heavily coated in colorful sinter.

Jade sat down on a nearby rock and said: "This must be what Bill told us he and another naturalist, Richard Frisbie, were calling Rock Pile Geyser.* The name would sure fit."
[ * Today this is called Avalanche Geyser, or a name resurrected from 1800s by the current park historian Lee Whittlesey, Oblique Geyser.]

When we had heard the other ranger's name I wondered if his family had anything to do with the Frisbie Pie Company.

I was still looking around at the tumble of rocks when we heard a small noise nearby. We looked up and saw water splashing up from a bowl at the edge of the hill that curved around this entire end of the basin. It was only about 50 feet away so we went over to investigate. We walked around its small boiling basin that I judged to be about 10 feet across. Water was being frequently boiled up and sometimes splashed as high as 10 feet. But the activity almost never entirely stopped.

Jade remarked: "I think that this is the one that Bill said they were calling Necklace Geyser.* See the noduled rim around the whole thing, and those sintered covered rocks at the bottom could be its jewels?"
[ * Today this is called Big Bowl Geyser.]

We watched for a short time when we heard a steam roar from Rockpile. It was starting again. I doubt if it was more then 10 minutes since the last eruption. It started out mostly as steam and then quickly started sending water into the air from at least a dozen openings in the rocks. It seemed pretty powerful from this distance. I wanted to see it close up and as I went to run over to it, I stepped onto what looked like firm ground but was more like quicksand. I yelled as hot water surrounded my ankle. I quickly pulled off my sneaker and sock to get the hot water away from my skin. Fortunately I got only a couple blisters but realized we had both better be more careful.

We stayed there and ate our lunch, and eventually watched at least another half dozen eruptions of Rockpile Geyser. Later we explored and found another area of the basin to the south and at a slightly higher level. In an area of heavily sintered boiling springs, we found a small boulder that had a fracture almost splitting it in half. It went downward at an angle. While sitting nearby, watching a beautifully sintered pool occasionally boil up a couple of feet, I heard a few squeaking sounds behind us. We went to investigate and there, in this crack, almost hidden, were a bunch of baby bats. We called this Bat Rock, and the pool Bat Pool.* I mentioned to Jade that maybe we could convince Lewis and Frisbee to add that name to their maps.
[ * In fact, this pool and this rock have these names today. However they were given by Mrs. Milida Vacuda in 1978.]

Beyond this area, in the trees, we found a number of additional springs, though most of these had little or no sinter. There was one furthest south that constantly spouted black water about 10 feet high. But little water actually escaped its muddy basin.

We spent much of the day there when I remembered another small geyser that Bill had mentioned. "Jade, do you remember that other geyser Bill was talking about that he said was near the base of a small rounded hill northeast of here?"

"Sure, in fact I still have the map he drew for us." Jade searched around in his small day pack as we started calling our converted book bags, and pulled out a book inside of which was a hand drawn map. "There it is, near the base of what's labeled Gibbon Hill."

We went exploring. It was almost like living in a dream -- a beautiful dream. Every discovery was exciting, and best of all I was sharing it with Jade. After trying to avoid a lot of marshy areas we finally saw a small cloud of steam ahead, about a hundred feet up on a hill in the trees. We followed up a run off channel and found the geyser. It didn't have a name specifically, but Bill said that many people called it the Gibbon Hill Geyser* because of its location. Its basin was a beautifully colored pastel green with yellow around the fringe. It was shaped like a clamshell, with the vent located along the flat edge. It was leaking water into its basin and a small trickle was flowing down its runoff channel. Jade and I took a seat on a nearby log in the shade to wait. The sun was very strong and for the first time in my life, I had actually gotten sun burned. The rangers said that the sun burned more because we were up at about 7000 feet. I decided that I needed a hat with a big brim to help keep my face and neck covered.
[ * This quite beautiful geyser was destroyed in 1989 by a mud slide after all the trees in the area were killed during the great fires of 1988 which burned about 50% of Yellowstone National Park.]

"Jade, I've never seen you sun-burned, but how are you doing now we're up past 7000 feet?"

"Well, it takes a lot of sun, but sure I can burn. It's usually not noticeable, but I can feel it. And I've even peeled a bit. But I haven't had any problems so far."

But I noticed that Jade sought the shade of the trees too. Then the geyser made a small noise and the water started gushing out. In a minute or two the water started slowly rising until we had a small steady column about 6 feet high. I thought this was one of the prettiest geysers and basins we had seen. The eruption lasted at full measure for more than a half hour.

When it was over Jade remarked: "Hey Rocco, lets explore around this hill, I thought I saw some steam coming up over to the north."

We finally discovered an area festooned with small acid pools and spouting springs. It was difficult to get through. There was a big old spring in deteriorated condition and the water within was about a foot below the rim and boiling. Eventually we navigated to the far side of the small thermal area and discovered at the base of the hill what Jade thought the most beautiful spring we had seen so far in the park.* It was about 15 feet across and lay atop a large rounded mound. The water was a deep azure blue within but around the basin, for about one to two feet, there were a mess of shallow side basins with amazingly filigreed sinter edges all over the place. And the colors of these side basins ranged from blue to green to yellow -- all pastel in shade.
[ * This unnamed spring is rarely visited even today but I believe it to be one of the prettiest in the park.]

Jade pulled me tight. "Rocco, I feel like we found our own special spring. It's all ours. This is our secret spot." We embraced at the edge of `our spring.' The world, for a moment, was perfect.

We started back to the road. I decided that the quickest way was in a straight line through the trees to the west. I was wrong.

"OK, White-boy, how come you've got to find every swamp and marsh in the area?"

I assumed it was a rhetorical question and just plodded forward. Or around, or back, or in any number of directions as the marshes dictated. We eventually got out to the road and started walking the several hundred yards back to our car. We were pretty muddy.

"OK, White-boy. The next time you think you're Daniel Boone, I'm going to remind you of this adventure."

I assumed that this didn't need a reply either. Besides, when we started exploring say a desert, maybe my talent would come in handy.

Several of our small side trips took us to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with its two huge falls and amazingly colorful canyon. During the several trips there we probably walked out to every overlook there was. Artist Point was the main place to view the Lower Falls and canyon, and Inspiration Point, about a half mile further down the canyon gave a longer view of the colorful walls. Artist Point had a concrete walk way and rock wall about the lookout area. And I will never again complain too much about sudden soaking thunder showers. The short but heavy deluge just befor we got to Artist Point made all the colors all that more vibrant. When the sun came out the view drew not a few remarks of awe.


Canyon Colors -- Artist Point

While looking in the opposite direction down canyon toward Inspiration Point, I happened to look almost directly downward and noticed a large thermal "bowl" or basin filling and suddenly a small geyser, way down in the canyon started erupting. I dragged Jade over and we were both fascinated by a geyser which hung precariously on the steep canyon wall.

Now Inspiration Point was placed at the far end of open wooden stairs and wooden rail fence. The platform was made of wood and more open. Several visitors did not make the entire way down to the very exposed overlook. But the view was sensational, with the Lower Falls now in the distance.*
[ * Today the viewpoint does not extend nearly so far into the canyon and only part of the Lower Falls is now in view. The small earthquake of 1976 did too much damage to the supporting ground.]

The trip we took to see Yellowstone Lake, almost by accident included a trip to a small thermal area in Hayden Valley called Crater Hills. The "accident" occurred when we got into a conversation with a couple other people parked near us who explained where they were headed. We wound up joining them. The main feature of interest there was a sort of "backwards" geyser which drained as the eruption was in progress, and then filled and overflowed the extensive formation below it AFTER it was all over. Most of the features there were quite acidic and the smell permeated the air. I sat down next to a tiny bright red thermal vent while eating lunch and later after my pants were washed, the seat shredded after I had put them on.

And you would think, now that Jade was older and more mature, he would stop clobbering me with his lethal hooks. But definitely not. And he caused the whole episode by laughing as I bent over to tie my shoe and my butt pushed through the now shredding opening. One of these days I will jab at Jade fast enough so that his hook will not connect with any part of my anatomy as I justifiably retaliate for some transgression on his part.


Crater Hills Geyser

The next day, we broke camp and headed back Old Faithful way. We were there for a day right after the first Steamboat eruption and saw Old Faithful of course but also this real beautiful geyser right across the river. It was called the Beehive, I guess from the shape of its cone. That night we slept in one of the small cabins there. Well, we got at least some sleep. I was especially excited that night and showed Jade just how aggressive I could get at times.

Well, this time we got to the campground at Old Faithful, but not in time to get a campsite. It filled so early in the morning. We splurged again on a cabin, and got a camping spot the next morning. The next order of business was showers. The past weeks many of "nature's showers" -- both from rain clouds and from geyser spray -- had pretty well made a shambles out of Jade's hair. Many of the braids had partly undone and some of the beads were now missing. It didn't take much coaxing to get Jade to allow me to eliminate the remaining beads. (I also thought perhaps we'd get fewer stares).

This area was so different from Norris. Here were features rising from massively sintered basins or cones, and several geysers soon captivated our main attention over the next few days. Castle erupted from a huge massive formation for over a half hour to about 50 feet. Riverside Geyser was the most picturesque, erupting at an angle over the Firehole River. Daisy also erupted at a big angle. But my two favorites, beside Beehive which we caught a few more times, was Grand Geyser, and another right next to the road called Artemisia. The formations about Artemisia's pool were quite elaborate. Jade and I agreed that it was one of the more picturesque springs in the park. But we had to make sure not to get clipped by the cars going by behind us. Artemisia erupted from the most elaborately ornamented basin in the park. Or that we had so far seen.



And as the eruption started we felt big thumps in the ground as rising steam bubbles collapsed before reaching the surface. The eruption was a huge roiling boil at times to 20 or 30 feet. It lasted over 25 minutes and flooded the sinter area below the formation. I was so excited watching its massive roiling eruption I almost got hit by a car going by right behind me.

But the geyser Jade liked best was Grand Geyser. And it definitely lived up to its name. We saw it twice in four days. We got a bit lucky since it was not predictable. One interval was two and a half days, while the next was a day and a half. But wow. The eruption came from a big pool and looked like a firework as it continued to climb with overlapping bursts. It hit at least 180 feet and then descended to about 50 to 75 feet, with occasional spikes reaching much higher. Then it stopped after a couple of minutes. There was also a slim column from a different hole that arched away from the main fountain, but it had mostly died by then.

When the geyser stopped I remarked: "That was short."

But fortunately someone was there who knew better. He told us to stay. Less than a minute later up it went again. Again it reached the sky at the start. This process repeated itself another 5 times. Everyone there started chanting after the third or forth burst. We were almost ready to leave, when the ranger we met in Bill's car walked up to the crowd and invited us to walk around to the back behind the geyser. Jade and I of course couldn't resist. While we were populating the rocks not more than a few feet from the basin, the geyser made one more attempt to prove it was indeed `grand'. It climbed up into the air for an additional surprise burst out of a previously drained basin. We all got soaked as the wind was coming toward us. Fortunately by the time the water reached us it was no longer hot. In fact it cooled us off nicely.

Jade grumbled about getting the sockets on his hooks wet, and we retreated back to camp so he could get dried off and get dry sleeves for his lower arms. I had tried to talk him into not even wearing his hooks but he said he felt naked without them on. He added: "Actually it's a lot more than that, and we talked about this lots of times. I feel too helpless without them."

Back on the boardwalk at Giant pretending that it could actually erupt after a 10 year dormancy

I just thought since he didn't really need them a lot of the time in the park, it'd be more convenient. But then a few days later I put my hands in my pockets to see how it would be like not to have the use of hands. I will NEVER make that kind of suggestion to Jade again.

2008 by Rocco Paperiello