Checking in from West Yellowstone, Montana …
On our way back to the east coast, Brenda and I were fortunate to spend the better part of two days at Yellowstone National Park. We have wanted to see this premier destination for years. Yellowstone covers almost 3,500 square miles, mostly in Wyoming but with some acreage in Montana and Idaho. From the RV site in West Yellowstone, Montana, it was less than three miles to the western entrance to the park. Once again, we got in free on our seniors pass. Oh, it’s great to be a senior citizen (occasionally).
The park has been occupied by Indians for almost 11,000 years. It was explored by the Lewis and Clark Expedition early in the 18th century, but, with the exception of a few mountain men like Jim Bridger, was not inhabited by white men until the 1860’s. It was one of the first national parks, established in 1872 by President U. S. Grant. The vast park encompasses mountain ranges, valleys, canyons, forests, meadows, rivers and streams.
Probably the primary attraction at Yellowstone is the geothermal or hydrothermal activity. The hydrothermal activity is a result of latent volcanic forces under the park. In fact, Yellowstone Lake in the center of the park sits on the Yellowstone Calderon, one of the largest super-volcanoes on earth. With over 10,000 hydrothermal features, Yellowstone has over half of the total in the whole world. The hydrothermal features include: colorful hot springs with water boiling at an average of 278 degrees; mud pots (acidic hot springs with limited water); paint pots that boil into pools of various pastel shades; geysers (hot springs under tremendous pressure that release periodically); and, fumaroles that emit sulphuric gases and smoke.
We visited geyser basins and paint pot fields and drove through beautiful valleys cut with pristine steams where fly fishermen waded at many points. Of course, we had to visit the world famous Old Faithful geyser to wait with others for the eruption of water. For almost 150 years, this geyser has spurted water some 140 feet in the air every 50 to 120 minutes on an average of every 92 minutes. In our case the eruption occurred almost right on time, 94 minutes after the last blast. It was as expected, spectacular, drawing uhs and ahs from the crowd and lasting over two minutes. This is one of the sights that every American should see. It was amazing, however, that the large crowd was made up of so many from other countries. It almost seemed that English was the minority language while we were in Yellowstone.
Another outstanding geological feature in the park is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This truly colorful canyon is bisected by the Yellowstone River which features the fantastic Yellowstone Falls which fall in two parts first 109 feet, then a whopping 308 feet more. From Inspiration Point on the north rim and Artist Point on the south rim, the view of the falls and the canyon is truly breath-taking.
The secondary attraction at Yellowstone is the wildlife. Along the roads, it is common to see elk and mule deer grazing and wading in the streams. They seem totally comfortable with humans stopping and snapping photos. We also saw several lone bison bulls close to the roadside, and in the beautiful Hayden Valley, we came upon a herd of bison with bulls, cows and calves. Zuzu also spotted the “buffaloes” and actually whined at the sight of the “big puppies,” wanting to play with them. We saw what we think was a lone wolf way off in the distance at one point but did not see the grizzly or black bears or cougars that roam the park.
Yellowstone is truly a special part of America, and we hope all can visit at some time. We next pack up and head through Wyoming to Deadwood, South Dakota, the Black Hills and the Badlands. Looking forward to getting back to North Carolina by the end of September. Hope to see many of you at the Triangle Heart Walk on October 7 at the PNC Center in Raleigh.