Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Yellowstone!


We certainly could not come to this part of the country and not spend time in our nation’s first National Park – Yellowstone (established in 1872).  This fabled, world-renowned park is a national treasure and set a much needed precedent that has led to the establishment of some 58 National Parks included in the nearly 400 National Park Service sites.  Yellowstone is famed for its wildlife but the geological wonders transform this park and it is a living organism in itself.  While most of its visitors want to see elusive wolves, powerful grizzly bears, and symbolic bison; Yellowstone provides geological wonders that include geysers, volcanoes, shifting tectonic plates, and hydrothermal features which equally fascinate visitors.

Undoubtedly, Old Faithful is Yellowstone's most recognizable natural wonder.  This geyser is not the parks largest but it is the most predictable of the 300 geysers in the park.

Our advice is to get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.  Grab a cup of coffee and muffin from the Old Faithful Lodge while you wait for the eruption. 
Step into the brand new visitor center for an explanation of the complicated geological wonders of Yellowstone.  In addition to exhibits there are movies, a gift store, and rangers on hand to answer questions.


The Mud Volcano fascinated early explorers where they stood in awe as it blew boiling mud into the  treetops and shook the ground as it erupted.  In 1872 the volcano blew itself apart and is now just a pool of boiling mud.  One prominent feature of these areas is the rotten-egg smell which comes from the hydrogen sulfide gas coming from Yellowstone's magma chamber.  Microorganisms called thermophiles use this gas as an energy source and help turn the gas into sulfuric acid which breaks down rock and soil resulting in mud.





To maximize our time exploring Yellowstone’s natural wonders, we stayed inside the park at the Fishing Bridge RV Park which is located nearby the northern portion of Yellowstone Lake.  The campground was a bit of a dump – sites are close and not very well maintained.  But most of all, we were disappointed that dogs are not allowed on any trails (including the back country), boardwalks, and numerous other areas.  But, we did find a couple of occasions to stretch the rules and let the pup swim off leash in the cold lake and walk along a couple of paths.  On one of our walks we encountered a bull bison grazing gracefully 15 feet in front of us.  We stood motionless and fortunately Spirit didn’t let out a peep and the big fella moved on.  
Obviously, our experience was not that uncommon as bison kept popping up everywhere, including the nearby campground.  It is wildlife encounters like this and the spectacular raw beauty that beckon people to Yellowstone.  Nearly 3.6 million visitors came to the park in 2010.  We don’t advise coming during the summer when kids are out of school, but if that is the only time you have to go to Yellowstone – GO!

We encountered more than one obstacle in the road - they always had the right-of-way.
The bison population within the park numbers approximately 3,000. Yellowstone is the only place in the lower 48 states where a population of wild bison has persisted since prehistoric times, although in 1902 the population fell below 50.

We spent four great days driving, hiking, and kayaking in the park.  Over and over, we remarked at how beautiful the landscape and its inhabitants are and praised the forethought of naturalists and a conservation-minded president (T. Roosevelt) who sought legislation to protect this spectacularly beautiful and ecologically unique area.  

Canada geese grazing along the Yellowstone River.
Black bear that we watched safely from the car window.  We spent about 15 minutes just watching the bears' behavior.  Suddenly, it crossed the road and disappeared into the woods.
The bleached cliffs are caused when steam rises from the Calcite Springs.
Inside the Roosevelt Lodge, just one of many lodges in the park.  Established in 1906 to commemorate Roosevelt's earlier visit.
Pronghorn antelope.
Endangered cutthroat trout are found in Yellowstone Lake and many other rivers and steams in the park.  Unfortunately, lake trout are an invasive exotic species that was introduced to the lake and their voracious appetite has caused a decline in cutthroat. 
Mammoth Hot Springs.
Sandhill cranes with a chick (the brown spot to the left of the parents).
Wildflowers in bloom in Hayden Valley and snow capped mountains.
Museum of the Park Ranger located in the historic Norris Soldier Station.  The U.S. Army protected the park (before the National Park Service was formed) until 1918 thus establishing many traditions for resource protection and visitor contact now observed by the National Park Service.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone that reaches depths of 800 - 1,200 feet and spans 24 miles in length.

Of course there had to be a picture of Spirit.
The lobby of Lake Lodge.
Fire plays a critical role in the Yellowstone ecosystem.  But, nearly 100 years of fire suppression has left areas with high amounts of volatile fuel and vulnerable to wildfires.  
The most severe fires came in 1998 when roughly 48% of the park was a blaze.  It took nearly 25,000 fire fighters to extinguish the many fires scattered throughout the park.  This picture shows the natural regeneration that occurred after the fire.   The cones of lodgepole pine are dependent on fire to release seeds.
The Lamar Valley is one of the best wildlife viewing areas. 
The valleys were abuzz in color with blooming wildflowers.
Spirit fought back big waves and cold water to retrieve that elusive stick that got away.
Elk walking through town.
Bison are the largest land mammal in North America with bull males reaching 1,800 pounds.   They are an iconic symbol of the west and Yellowstone.


1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos! We were last there in 1992 and scars of the fire were still very fresh. I especially loved the pic of the pines....hard to believe that many years have passed. We, too, toured Yellowstone with a (yellow) lab but I don't remember the dog restrictions being that harsh.

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