Friday, September 4
Did I mention that after that big 10.8 mile hike I did yesterday that I couldn’t rest when I got home? Instead, I dumped tanks, stowed away all loose items in Cas, and hitched up so I could depart early this morning.
No, not for a weekend getaway or anything exciting like that; to get Cas’ new tires put on.
For those new to RVing, tire replacement on a RV is a bit different than on a vehicle. Usually an RV’s tires will age out before they wear out, although for an RVer who drives a lot of miles that may not be the case so do keep an eye on the tread. Depending on who you ask, most people recommend replacing the tires on a trailer or motorhome every five to seven years if they don’t wear out first.
Now, you can’t just go by when the tires were put on for that five to seven year calculation. You should go by when they were manufactured, which could be a whole different story. When I bought my Casita in 2012 I had paperwork from the previous owner saying the tires were purchased the year before, so I assumed they were one year old which would put them at four years old now.
All tires have a date stamp of when they were made, a four digit code that most of the time is inside an oval, it does vary from brand to brand. The first two numbers are the week the tire was made, the second two digits are the year. One of my old tires had a manufacture stamp of 2708, the 27th week of 2008 (early July). They were seven years old! Definitely time to replace.
One might wonder how a person goes about getting tires and such out in the middle of nowhere like this. Well, I ordered new tires from tirerack.com a little over a week ago and after a conversation with my employer had them shipped to the Yellowstone Association warehouse up in Gardiner, MT (much easier than getting them shipped inside the park proper). Then the tires were put on the shipment with the sales goods bound for the Old Faithful store on the next regular delivery day, much to the confusion of the staff unloading the truck that day (I’d forgotten to warn them, oops).
And yes, I did check the date stamp on the new ones (late October 2014) as soon as they came in. No way was I making the mistake of paying a premium for three year old tires.
I’d already spoken with the Yellowstone Park Service Station folks (they run the gas stations in the park, but a lot of their locations also do vehicle and RV repair) and confirmed that they could put the tires on. Once I made sure the manufacture dates were acceptable, I called and set up an appointment which happened to be at 8 am this morning, so in Cas went.
Much to my chagrin, Cas’ old spare tire was a different size than the ones actually in use. How did I not realize this when I was checking age? Good thing I’d never needed it because it wouldn’t have worked very well.
The wait was only a couple hours, after which I drove the 10 minutes back to my site and unhitched, and then walked back to the geyser basin (another 2 miles to add to my total hiking) to take the photos seen in this part of the post. It was a busy day at Old Faithful being Labor Day weekend and all, the park should start quieting down after this.
Thursday, September 10
Originally I was thinking of driving down to Jackson today, but around dusk last night my neighbor called to me from her living room window and asked if I’d like to go hike Lone Star Geyser with her.
This hike was one I’d planned to do ages ago, but my attempt was thwarted by road work in the parking lot. Today the newly paved parking lot is nearly empty when we arrive around 9:30. The trail is wide and partly paved, like the trail out to the natural bridge it use to be a road autos could drive on long ago. Now it’s open to hiking and biking only.
We don’t see a soul on the walk out, but startle a grouse pecking along the side of the trail and are scolded by numerous chipmunks and squirrels that are busy gathering food for winter. Most of the trail is through young lodgepole pine forest which I’ll admit by this time of the season is nothing new, but it does follow the Firehole River nearly the whole way which is pretty. It’s 5 miles round trip to get to the geyser and back.
Lone Star has an impressively large sinter cone that must have took hundreds of years to build up. Its nearest major geyser neighbor (Old Faithful) is about three miles away as the crow flies, hence where the name comes from. Eruptions happen about every three hours although it’s not as regular as some geysers and there are distinctive phases.
During the first phase usually lasting about an hour and a half, the geyser is quiet with only an occasional trickle of steam.
During the next hour, Lone Star slowly comes to life. A rumble becomes audible, the steam becomes heavier, then the flashes start. These mini eruptions become more frequent as the major eruption approaches.
The next half hour or so is the eruption proper. During the first half jets of water spurt from the cone at heights of 35-45 feet, emerging at an angle. Because of where the viewing area is in relation to the sun, this is a good geyser for getting rainbow pictures during eruptions. My neighbor and I didn’t stick around long enough to see Lone Star in true eruption.
The water phase transitions into a steam phase in the second half of the eruption, where large volumes of noisy steam are expelled. The steam slowly tapers off near the end of the eruption, until the geyser lies quiet again.
After getting back from Lone Star I take a drive north to Madison, which I drive past every week when I go into West Yellowstone for groceries, but have not seen yet.
It’s small, as far as Yellowstone villages go. The visitor center and Yellowstone Association park store are tiny, and aside from a building near the parking lot with vending machines and bathrooms there are no other amenities here.
There is an outdoor amphitheater overlooking the Madison River though where ranger programs are held every evening during the warmer months. During peak the program starts at 9 pm, but starting today that time has been moved up to 8 pm, because the days are getting shorter I imagine. I might try to get down here to see one because I bet seeing the presentation on that large outdoor screen would be pretty fun.
Most of the people who come to see the evening program here are going to be campers.
Madison Campground is one of the reservation campgrounds run by Xanterra. It’s got one of the longest run times, opening at the beginning of May and staying open until mid October. It’s $21.50 a night before taxes, there are 278 sites, and it’s at an elevation of 6,800 feet. There are flush toilets and dump stations but no showers, generators are allowed between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm.
There are pull-through and back-in sites available, all look to be paved but some are quite unlevel. The pull-throughs are those curved kind that might be hard for some larger rigs to get into although there is no official max RV length at this campground, most of the back-ins would be too short for me to keep Bertha and Cas hooked up together. I’d definitely go for a site on the outside of the campground if you value privacy, the campground is well forested but there’s very little undergrowth so it’s easy to see your neighbors.
None of the sites are on the river and if any of them have a water view it would be minimal. The river is within walking distance for the whole campground though, and the ones on the south side of the campground wouldn’t have far to go at all. This part of the river is open to fly fishing, which would make Madison Campground a good choice if you like fishing. The cliffs and mountains to the north and south of the campground mean there is no cell signal here (at least for Verizon), but they sure are pretty to look at.
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