Yellowstone Here We Come

20 June, 2011 0 comments Leave a comment

One of the reasons we decided to travel across the northern US was to visit Yellowstone National Park, which is the world's oldest national park (1872) and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It contains more than two million acres of lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and gorgeous mountain scenery, as well as over 10,000 hydrothermal features such as hot water basins, steam and bubbling mud, and more than half of the world's geysers (200 to 250). Most of the park is in Wyoming.

Following Jay and Carol's coach from Cody to Yellowstone Park. Notice the field of yellow wildflowers.

We reached the park in a few hours and stopped to take these photos.

Our new RV friends Jay and Carol in front of their coach. They are en route to Alaska to take a guided tour.

John and I in front our our truck and trailer.

As we headed across Yellowstone Park to our campground just beyond the western boundary, we gained elevation gradually until we were above the snow line. Apparently they had four times the normal snowfall this winter so there is still a lot of it to melt. But the roads were bare and dry.

The snow on the right is about 14 feet deep. We know that because it was the same height as Jay and Carol's coach!

So much of the forest in Yellowstone was destroyed in the widespread fires of 1988 and we saw lots of dead, burned tree trunks but also some regeneration of the forest.

Remnants of the great 1988 forest fires when almost 800,000 acres burned. This is part of the natural cycle of the forest, to recycle nutrients back into the earth.

As we passed into the ancient volcanic crater that makes up the majority of the park, we started to see plumes of steam rising out of the ground. Very weird! There are also tons of bison in the park and they have right of way on the highway.

Steam rising from a vent, with a herd of bison in front.

Herd of bison grazing in Yellowstone Park. Notice the professional photographers with their tripods in the background.

We soon got tired of seeing the lumbering beasts on the pavement. Boy can they hold up traffic, as each vehicle passing them has to take a photo or two.

King of the Road! It became commonplace seeing these on the highway. Unbelievably, each year several tourists are gored because they get out of their vehicles to approach these massive animals. I was quite happy to get my shots from the passenger seat.

We got to our campground in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana by mid afternoon without too many holdups for bison on the highway. After settling into our site for a three night stay at (very!) Rustic Wagon RV park, we drove a mile or so across the village to the KOA park where Jay and Carol were staying. (We tried to get a spot there but the campground was full.) We each enjoyed one of Jay's beers (I believe it was called Buffalo Sweat but was actually not bad) and met their friends Cam and Susan who also were from Maryland and staying in a nearby motel.

Having read that it was best to see the Old Faithful geyser in the early morning or evening, to avoid the crowds, John and I headed into the park about 4:30 and drove about 40 minutes to the site.

Two elk grazing in the park.

We had just missed an eruption so filled in an hour or so exploring the boardwalks in the vicinity. We saw some very unusual features.

This boiling pool was about two feet across and bubbled constantly. The public is not allowed to walk on the crust as it is too thin and if anyone falls through he can be scalded or killed. In the background you can see the stain of the seepage from a thermal pool above the river.

Each pool was totally different from its neighbour. This one was perhaps three feet in diameter and the loveliest clear blue.

Then, along with several hundred other tourists, we took a seat on the viewing benches and waited for Old Faithful to erupt at 7:11 pm. She finally made her entrance about 7:25 and steamed for perhaps three minutes.

Old Faithful eruption is only about 30 feet high. The rest is a large plume of steam. I found it a little anticlimactic but very peaceful. I told John it should be called Old Graceful.

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