Sunday, May 17, 2015

Monument Geyser Basin

Matt and I are systematically checking off the things we want to experience in Yellowstone.  On our last trip we finally checked off the Monument Geyser Basin.  This basin is not so well known or visited primarily because of two factors, in my opinion.  First, there are no brightly colored hot spring pools or geysers that erupt a hundred feet in the air or anything.  Its a geothermal landscape the evokes the lunar and ancient.  Second, there is a darn steep hill to climb in order to get there.  With so many dramatic geothermal areas readily accessible with just a short, flat walk there are not so many takers for Monument Geyser.  Fine by me.
Glacier Lilies
The trail departs from a pull-out about 8.5 miles north of the Madison Junction.  The first half mile or so of the hike is a fairly flat meander along the Gibbon River under the shade of the surrounding trees.  After that the trail quickly starts to climb.  All told its about 650-700 feet elevation gain in less than a mile.  Its pretty intense.   Everything that we'd read about the hike indicated that it would be though so we weren't surprised.  Still, it was a short and strenuous bit.

When at last it leveled out we were rewarded with a lovely view of the surrounding hills with the river trickling through the middle of it all.  I am not sure the overlook would have been worth it in and of itself, but coupled with a geyser basin it was quite lovely.  At the overlook the trail takes a hard right and drops right into the Monument Geyser Basin.  The white, almost-lunar landscape could be seen through the trees as we approached.  Puff of steam drifted off as well.
Monument Geyser Basin is filled with formations that have, over time, sealed themselves shut, for the most part.  There are some fumeroles and Monument Geyser itself still spits and sprays a bit.  It was a fascinating glimpse of the power of time.  The white patch spreading out in the forest that had been building and growing and changing for eons.  Monument Geyser is over 10 feet tall.  Considering that, like coral reefs, sinter formations develop slowly, millimeters at a time, this is an impressive monument indeed.
I could see that if a person wasn't really much into geysers though that it wouldn't have been so impressive.  It wasn't dramatically colored like Grand Prismatic Spring.  It did rocket off over the river like Riverside Geyser.  Still, for a geyser nut like me it was keen.  We had the place to ourselves--aside from briefly sharing it with a foursome.  It was so quiet.  The quiet action of eternity.
Matt and I preformed a little meditation on sound sitting up there.  We sat on some down logs and let our minds loose to wander into the surroundings.  Just the bubble, gurgle, hiss...lulling us into the deepest of relaxation.  I am not sure how long we sat there in that quiet peace actually.  All of the sudden a volunteer Ranger came through and startled us both from ourselves with a friendly, "Hello."  He was hiking with a hand saw--checking to keep the trail clear of dead fall.
We made our way back out the way we'd came.  It was wonderfully downhill the whole way.  The whole thing was only about 2.5 miles round trip.

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