Soda Springs

I was scared by the boiling rainbows and sulpherous steam. I almost threw up in a geyser. I took pictures as buffalos stepped around the truck - as did every other person with a camera, phone, or, in one case, an ipad awkwardly held out at the beast's nose. Yellowstone was truly dynamic, as proven by the walking guides detailing the movement of hotspots around the park that threatened to burst under the pavement and boil our feet. Wooden walkways, driven into the thin crust between boiling mudpots, creaked under foot. I held Jason's hand in the spray from acidic droplets.

The transmutable Earth was exhilarating.

That morning we crossed through Yosemite on our way South out of the park. The landscape changed from sparse, burned trees, to lush evergreens and sheer mountains until we reached the flat flood plains of Idaho.

Jason stopped at every historical marker.

In one instance, we drove miles out into farmland to see revolutionary irrigation that trapped and suspended water above its natural canal to irrigate elevated crops. Local teens were jumping into the pipe for a waterslide across the chasm. At another spot, a sun-fogged plastic sign detailed the history of a local lava tube. We hesitated at the graffitied entrance but a passing woman called across the road at us to walk in. Two thin, wooden boards served as a walkway into the damp cold of the lava tube. Bats and swallows shifted in the moisture.

I was finishing off a box of poptarts when Jason pulled into Soda Springs. The geyser's parking lot was tucked behind a bar.

The Soda Springs Geyser was man-made, according to its mineral-encrusted sign. In the process of digging for a natural hot springs to power a local spa, construction diverted the power from a nearby geyser and sent boiling water rocketing into the sky. The town decided to use the geyser as a tourist attraction and tapped it. Swirling old-timey writing announced eruptions every hour, on the hour.

Half an hour to go until the eruption and we had been sitting all day, so Jason and I decided to stretch our legs. I excused myself to the tourist office bathroom. The office itself was deserted but I found two water-logged girls giggling and washing their hair in the bathroom sinks. They stopped talking when I walked in but quickly roped me into their conversation as I washed my hands.

"Have you seen the geyser yet?" the smaller one asked.

"No, but I want to."

"It's pretty cool. You can stand in it."

The larger girl crossed her arms and stared at me. "How old are you?"

Confused, I told her I was twenty.

"So you're in college?"

"Yes."

"How old do you think I am? Don't tell her, Cheyenne."

"Are you," I judged her round face, "twelve?"

She shook her head. "Eleven. Close, though."

"How old do you think I am?" said Cheyenne, the small one.

"Twelve?"

Cheyenne half-way smiled.

"So you're in seventh grade?"

"How do you know that?"

"I'm a good guesser."

Cheyenne leaned back against the sink and proceeded to tell me about seventh grade. Her boyfriend was in ninth, so watch out. She didn't like her counselor, though.

"I'm not in counseling because I did anything bad." She held eye contact with me. "I didn't do anything bad. Something bad happened to me." Those pale eyes didn't blink. "Do you know what I mean?"

I nodded.

"It starts with R - A - P - E."

Cheyenne's larger friend nodded. "Boys are bad around here."

Cheyenne was still watching me. "You bite your lip when you're nervous. I do that too. Are you nervous?"


The Soda Springs Geyser was a bright orange due to the cultivated bacteria clinging to it. Jason and I sat on a wooden bench that had been bleached white by acid. At the top of the geyser was a red metal box. It clicked and the geyser started bubbling up. After exactly eight minutes, the red box clicked again and the geyser stopped. It was well-trained.

The End

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