GEYSER SPRING HIKE
August 25, 2006
By Tim Briese
I did not know that a geyser even existed in Colorado until I read about it in Scott Warren=s book A 100 Hikes In Colorado@ . It is located in the southwest part of the state about 35 miles north of Dolores, along a side creek above the West Dolores River. It is nothing like the spectacular geysers in Yellowstone that shoot water high into the air, but it is nevertheless Colorado=s only true geyser.
I was traveling through this part of the state on my way home from a trip to Arizona and had a few hours available one evening for a short hike so I decided to visit the geyser. The hike itself is short and easy, but I discovered that finding the trailhead is not so simple. Following the directions in Warren=s book, I drove 13 miles northeast of Dolores on Colorado 145 and then turned left onto the West Fork Road. The guidebook says to follow this road 20.3 miles to the trailhead on the right side of the road, but that mileage is useful only if one=s odometer is perfectly calibrated to Warren=s, because the trailhead is very obscure! I drove past it twice looking for it, and failing to find it, stopped at a private cabin near where I thought it should be and asked for directions. A helpful elderly woman who happened to be home pointed out the trailhead to me, right on the west edge of her property about 50 yards away.
After the woman pointed this out to me I found a trailhead sign on the southeast side of the road down in a ditch about 40 feet off the road, partly obscured by vegetation. For reference sake for anyone else trying to find the trailhead, here is a photo of the woman=s address on her mailbox, located on the opposite side of the road about 50 yards northeast up the road from the trailhead.
At 6:10 p.m. I left my truck and took off up the trail with my lab Jorie. I hustled rapidly along because sunset was less than two hours away. The trail initially followed a fenced lane through private property, then turned left and went along the West Dolores River for about 200 feet to a river crossing. The water was running low at this time of year so the river ford was rather easy, with a maximum depth of about 18 inches. This crossing might be troublesome at times of high water, though.
After crossing the river I followed a fine trail up easy slopes into the national forest above, passing through scenic aspen groves and flowery meadows. Halfway up the trail I passed a small pool of water about two feet across that held gurgling white water that emitted a sulfur smell, a precursor of what lay ahead. After climbing about 500 feet of elevation gain through the woods I hiked up over a gentle ridge and began a short descent into the Geyser Creek drainage. Soon the geyser spring appeared before me, a pool of milky white water about 10 feet across and 20 feet long, ringed by rocks. A constant gentle bubbling took place in the lukewarm 82 degree water. I arrived at the geyser at 6:40, having hiked a mile and a quarter from the trailhead in a half hour.
Within five minutes after I arrived an A eruption@ began to take place. The water began bubbling up higher, casting a stronger sulfur odor into the air. Water did not shoot high into the air as do classic geysers like Old Faithful, but only 6 to12 inches at the most. The action reminded me of a very vigorous hot tub. The eruption was, nevertheless, curiously impressive. The general water level in the pool rose about 4 to 6 inches, too, and water began to spill over the rocky edge into Geyser Creek, about 25 feet away. I estimated that a couple of hundred gallons of water spilled over the edge of the pool into the creek during the course of the eruption. After about ten minutes the event subsided and the pool returned to its initial gentle gurgling.
I removed my boots and sat on the edge of the pool and soaked my feet in the water, feeling unsure about the safety of exposing much skin to this curiously white, mineral-laced water. I pulled a sandwich out of my pack and ate it for dinner while I waited and watched for a while. Jorie seemed intimidated and unsure about the bubbling action of the water, or perhaps about the strange sulfur smell that hung in the air. She initially inspected the geyser when we first arrived but subsequently shied away from close proximity to the pool, and elected instead to lay about 50 feet away. The geyser has apparently been known and visited for a long time, because I saw the date A 1901" carved in a rock below the pool=s edge.
About 30 minutes after the first eruption a second one began to take place, almost identical to the first but slightly more vigorous. Eruptions are said to occur at regular 30 to 40 minute intervals.
At 7:25 I left and clipped back down the trail. Along the way I noted a fine sunset view of El Diente through the trees, standing grandly off to the northeast about ten miles away. I arrived back at my truck at dusk, a few minutes before 8 p.m. I drove up the road a few miles and pulled off into the woods beside a stream, where I crawled into the back of my truck and went to sleep for the night.
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