As Josh The Pilot and I dodged the bison in Yellowstone, we managed to swing into the parking lot of Old Faithful before darkness fell across the land. We sat patiently in the rain and the cold as our umbrella considered its life’s purpose inside the rental car.

I was absolutely furious at the weather– not about it, mind you, but at it; I’ve tromped around more than one mountain in my GenX existence, and in July, one brings a jacket to wear in the morning and evenings, because one will experience a chill in the pre-dawn and post-sunset hours.

One might not expect, however, 40 degrees at lunchtime. That is what happened, in the middle of summer, in Yellowstone. The guidebook lied; the National Park Service temperature forecast lied; the ten-day forecast lied; everybody and every thing lied, lied, lied– but, I figured, we could depend on this natural landmark that’s been known to humanity for the past century or so to Be Nature at the exact point we were told it would Be Nature.

It was not. Old Faithful also lied; the ten-minute window for its potential eruption came and went, and we grew tired even of casting pitying glances at the parents next to us trying to convince their two preschoolers that the giant water event would happen any second now, and perhaps even more quickly if it sensed they had stopped whining.

It happened over 20 minutes past the window the rangers posted; several times we saw steam and small cascades of water near the center of the cone; this always amounted to nothing, and even the birds who’d bailed out of the area at eruption time began to look cynical. The steadfast social media mavens continued to aim their phones at the cauldron, because what was another 15 minutes of video featuring the backs of heads.

We had but a tiny window to catch dinner. The hotel was an hour away. It was pouring. A short but intense discussion took place, all of which was driven by the fact that I was cold, which has long since in our marriage functioned as an unacceptable state of existance. I would have been a terrible Old West explorer and turned around at the first lost wagon wheel and I’m perfectly fine with that.

So Josh and I began making our way back to the parking lot with our ineffectual umbrella, and it was at this point that Old Faithful at last decided to express itself.

As it happened, we were standing exactly in the center of the landscape, in a far better position to watch the water from the ground join the water of the sky than we had been earlier. It was a long eruption, one that dared to further encroach upon our driving time, but the thing finally got over itself and we took refuge in the Visitor’s Center, where the rangers, with zero sense of compunction, were posting the times for the next eruption.

Meanwhile, in some bison-free part of the country, the Reds were losing, which was also probably the fault of the whenever-I-feel-like-it water event. Half an hour in the pouring rain for 33 years: Waiting is difficult, especially if we don’t know if we’ll ever see any payoff.

Nature’s Bellagio had dared to interfere with the timings we humans were attempting to place on it, and it served us right. In our attempts to corral 8,400 gallons of  boiling water to our schedule, we doomed ourselves to frustration. Sometimes the rookie doesn’t perform when he’s called. Other times he smacks a home run in his first MLB game because such a thing seems easy.

Either way, there’s no messing with the timing of the planet. We can buy, sell, trade, rehab, and shuffle all we want, but if we try to rush the show, we might just end up missing the whole thing.


12 Responses

  1. MBushskbum

    Mary Beth, your essay certainly made me smile. I grew up in S Central IN as a huge Reds fan who then spent the late 70s working in Yellowstone – reading the Billings paper about Gary Redus’ amazing 1978 season in the Pioneer League. We moved to MT in 1990 and haven’t looked back except that thanks to the internet I can pursue my passion of following the Reds.
    Your comments about the weather and the timing of Old Faithful were spot on. Nature will do what Nature is going to do, we just need to be prepared, relax, and enjoy it! Thank you. Mike

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      You’re kidding– what a great story! I love tales of people who chuck it all and explore past the Mississippi. Hoping to add Montana to my list of states soon. Beautiful country.

  2. Mark Moore

    We lived for nearly 20 years in Grand Rapids, Michigan where that behemoth of a lake could “barf up a storm” on any given summer day, especially in the latter part of the afternoon and into the evening. Life in Raleigh for the past 15+ years provides a similar propensity for “severe storms possible” on any given, extremely humid summer afternoon. Clear blue skies are never a guarantee of no rain.

    Many of us have expressed the thought that baseball is a funny game, mostly due to the unpredictability of things. My first game in DC was delayed (a mere 30 minutes) due to strong storms in the area, though nothing but a sporadic sprinkle ever fell on me in my seat whilst waiting.

    I suppose unpredictability is also life … and so we live though it because we have to. Good stuff again, MBE. Hope your trip was fantastic and the Urban Assault Kilt got some time in the spotlight.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      “barf up a storm” is the best possible way to describe anything in Michigan.
      And yes, the Assault Kilt was deployed on an AM hike 🙂

  3. LDS

    Excellent MBE, I hope the Reds FO reads this column. Stick to the plan.

  4. Jim Walker

    I guess today was my lucky day. I tuned in here just in time to get the urge to look for an online stream of Old Faithful and “arrived” at the stream just as a +/- 20 minute window was starting.

    For several minutes a steady rising and ebbing of steam was going on punctuated by a few belches of water barely making it above the surface.

    The most interesting part of this prelude was watching the reaction of the gathering humans along a walking/ viewing path in the far background. Which of the small parties taking flight following a belch really thought the belch and increasing steam were a main event; and, in which groups did some knowing person seize the opportunity to just move the group on down the road???

    About 8 minutes past the end of the “window”, the full eruption let loose and the masses subsequently moved on and the camera panned to a nearby field where another geyser is predicted to erupt soon.

    I guess watching geyser watchers beats watching tar boil in the street. RIP Jim Murray.

  5. Votto4life

    Great article. My wife and I are going to Yellowstone this October. It’s just so happens we will be there during the World Series. When I booked the trip the Reds had just lost 100 games and I couldn’t imagine there would be a conflict, now however…

      • Andrew Brewer

        Mosquitoes slack off in Alaska starting in August, but they are in full bloom now ! I ate enough of them this year to start wearing a head net. Much more relaxing that way.

  6. Andrew Brewer

    Yes, Nature will take its course. But how do we explain the nature of Baseball or what is happening with our Redlegs this season ? After a meteoric rise to first place which included a streak of 12 wins, they now lose two crucial games to their interdivision rivals by the score of 1 to zero. That’s in back to back games. Some will just say that’s baseball, but I have a more scientific approach to understanding this dilemma. It’s called Chaos Theory. And if chaos theory is accurate then those two abberant occurences are just that, and the Reds will soon return to playing the kind of baseball they are accustomed to… These two events do not presage the end of a spectacular season…