Yellowstone

Yellowstone, at last!!!

As we pulled up to the gate we saw our first buffalo…outside the gate  near the edge of the road. What a great wayto start our visit!

Iconic!

We stopped first at the Ranger Station to learn where the best spots were for animal viewing and for hiking. (Answer: Everywhere!). Then to the general store to pick up our bear bells. These are invaluable if you want to avoid a surprise meeting with the real Yogi Bear! Then we headed for Hayden Valley to see what we could see.

And what we saw…what we saw. Well, here’s a list of the”significant” animals we saw: Buffalo, of course…at least two hundred, in singles, small groups and in herds. Elk, including baby elk. Magpies, beautiful birds! Martens. Coyote. Mocking Jays. A wolf. One grizzly bear from a distance. 2 black bears up close. Ravens. A strange rabbit with extra long white legs. And, finally a mountain goat. (Okay, I just through the Mocking jay in there to see who is paying attention, but all the rest of them are true!!!)

We had two favorite animal encounters. The first occurred when we rounded a curve only to find a line of stopped cars.  In the middle of those cars, right on the centerline, was a buffalo! As soon as he saw us he started sauntering down the side of the road.  Once he got to our car he leaned in, checked the odometer, and said in Buffalo, “Bill says hi!”  He was so close!  Not sure Mona’s blood pressure has gone down yet!

Bears!

Our second favorite encounter occurred about 8:30 PM.  We were on a road on the eastern side of the park, just coming down from 8800 feet elevation.  We saw some cars pulled over to the side and we slowed down to see what the excitement was. About that time, a young girl came down the hill and said, “There are two bears up there!”  Mona grabbed the camera and jumped out of the car to follow the girl while I found a place to pull over.  I parked the car and went up the hill to join them.  As I crested the hill I could see two black bears about twenty yards out.  We have never seen bears in the wild before, not to mention close up!  This has to be one of the highlights of our trip!

Animals own Yellowstone
He’s by a house!

Of course, there are non-animal wonders at Yellowstone as well.  Yellowstone is in the middle of several mountain peaks and a former, and maybe “to-be” volcano.  This park has half of the world’s thermal features which include geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles (an opening in the earth’s crust that emits steam and/or gases). The number of thermal features in Yellowstone is estimated at 10,000 and 200 to 250 geysers erupt in Yellowstone each year, making it the place with the highest concentration of active geysers in the world.

Sometimes it’s just too easy to find them!

All through the park… let’s stop right here and define what “park” means here at Yellowstone.  First off, this is the world’s first National Park and a World Heritage Site.  The park is huge: it’s 3,472 square miles or 2,221,766 acres. 63 miles from north to south and 54 miles from east to west.  Its highest point is 11,358 feet and its lowest is about 5700 feet.  5% of the park is covered in water and 80% in forest. It’s considered to be an active volcano and is constantly changing as magma pushes up new domes throughout the park. Last, but not least, there are over 290 waterfalls.  This is a BIG place!

With over 10,000 thermal features, you have to choose which ones you want to see.  Some are huge and easily seen from the road, others are tucked into the forest requiring a hike to get there.  We saw some of both and too many to mention each one.  (It’s kind of off-putting to see steam and gases eruption from strange places all around you!)

Orange Springs Mound
Mammoth Springs

Mammoth Springs is a huge (mammoth, get it?) hot springs where the hot water bubbles out of the earth and the minerals are left behind to form incredible structures.  The structures are colored by thermophiles (heat-loving microorganisms) that create tapestries of color where hot water flows among the terraces. Colorless and yellow thermophiles grow in the hottest water; orange, brown, and green thermophiles thrive in cooler waters. Colors also change with the seasons.  The most famous feature of Mammoth Springs dried up recently due to changes caused by an earthquake, but the site still has so much to offer.  (Did I mention that Yellowstone has between 1000 and 3000 earthquakes yearly?!?)

Paint Pot

Another very cool thermal feature are mud pots.  The Fountain Paint Pot was our favorite.  It’s about 50 feet in diameter with huge “pots”of multi-colored bubbling mud.  Totally beautiful and totally cool!

And of course, there are the geysers, hundreds of them.  You can see several of them as you drive by.  And, there were several we hiked to.  But of course the most famous is Old Faithful.  This is the largest predictable geological feature in the world, erupting about every 91 minutes.  This geyser draws thousands of people each day just to watch its eruptions.

We didn’t know the schedule, but headed towards the geyser about 5:15 PM.  As luck would have it, Old Faithful was “scheduled” to erupt at 5:30.   The area around Old Faithful has raised walks around it with benches for 1000s to sit…and most of the benches were full. About 5:35 the eruption began and plumes of superheated water shot about 150 feet into the air.  AWESOME!


We decided to defer supper and continued to explore the park until after 9:00 PM.  We wanted to maximize the wildlife we could see.  This strategy paid off as we got to see a grizzly from a distance, two black bears and a mountain goat just as we left the park.

Luckily, we had hotel reservations literally just outside the park.  We stopped by a diner to eat our late supper and then crashed at the hotel.

What a day!  What a day!  What a day!

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2 Responses to Yellowstone

  1. Keri June 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    LOL I was really wondering if Mockingjays were real there for a second 🙂 Sounds like a great trip!

  2. Cristie June 9, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    Awesome

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