Napa is almost synonymous with wine. Step into Napa Valley and you’ll lose count of the number of vineyards and wineries you will see. It had been a while since I had been to California’s wine country and it was beckoning to me but as I was going through a wine-forbidden period I wondered what it had in store for a teetotaller. I did some ‘looking up’ and found that it had several hiking and biking trails and art museums, it had hot air balloon rides and cooking classes. What attracted me this time were some geographical features. I’ve had a fascination for them ever since I can remember and guess what — I had just learnt there was a geyser called Old Faithful Geyser at the northern end of Napa Valley. And then, there was no stopping me.
Soon we were on the road to Napa, again. This time there was no stopping for wine, obviously. Scores of wineries we did pass as we drove into Napa City limits, and passed Yountville and St. Helena. We headed up north to Calistoga, turned onto Tubbs and then turned into Old Faithful Geyser of California.
As we picked up our tickets-cum-postcards at the gift shop and made our way outside to the geyser area, we wondered if we should witness the water spurt first and then have lunch or do it the other way round. It was long past lunchtime and it was nice to see that the picnic tables that the official site of the geyser promised, were placed around the area that looked like the mouth of the geyser. So we decided to pick a table, take the food out and wait for the natural wonder.
Just as we were settling down to our long overdue mid day meal, there was steam signalling that the hot water was almost here. Before the end of the minute, water shot into the air and seemed to get higher and higher bringing more steam with it. The curious onlookers in the picnic area seemed to be mesmerized by what they were seeing. So was I.
After what seemed like 4-5 minutes, the height of the erupting water seemed to diminish till it was a small little fountain and then there was absolute quiet. The visitors seemed to go back to their eating and previewing the pictures they had just taken. And we settled down to eat the burritos and tacos we’d picked up on the way. We were only halfway through lunch when the geyser’s mouth started letting out steam again. And then natural hot water gushed out again and this seemed to happen every 5 or 6 or 7 minutes. I was surprised by the frequency of it. My pre-trip reading had told me the phenomenon occurred every 30 to 45 minutes at Old Faithful Geyser of California. I swear, I read that at four different places, including the official site.
Who’s complaining? The more the eruption, the better. I had the rest of my lunch watching natural fountains of hot water making grand appearances every few minutes. Each time the height of the natural water display varied a bit but again, who’s complaining? It was a great show. Good Old Faithful Geyser (of California). I got to take loads of pictures too.
Now if you don’t remember what a geyser is from those Geography classes back in school, worry not. A geyser is a hot water spring that shoots out several gallons of hot water into the air through some vents on the surface of the earth. Geysers are normally found in places that are prone to volcanic activity. Here’s how it works: surface water flows down into the depths, comes in contact with magma and hot rocks surrounding it, gets heated, and the pressure in there makes it work its way up through the vents and spurt several feet up into the air.
According to experts, the Old Faithful Geyser here in Calistoga, California forces water up to a 60-100 feet in the air.
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