Grand Tetons and Yellowstone by Richard
Trip Start Apr 08, 2009
35Trip End Jun 19, 2009
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Then up over a snowy range we went and down into the Yellowstone caldera. Yes, that's right, Yellowstone is a giant volcano. And it's still active. All over the place is thermal activity, geysers, thermal springs, boiling mud and more.
The highlight of Yellowstone is its geyser country, beginning with Old Faithful. The park rangers have a noticeboard predicting the approximate times of the regular geysers, so with some planning and good fortune we were able to view the eruptions of Old Faithful, Castle Geyser, Grand Geyser and Riverside Geyser as well as a host of other features - particularly the brightly coloured pools where bacteria and other weird microrganisms make rainbow coloured rings.
The geysers and other features are all evidence of the thinness of the earth's crust in Yellowstone. In fact, you can see steam rising at various points along the road and on distant hillsides, even in a carpark in one place.
Unfortunately a strong and bitterly cold wind was blowing and one of the junior scientists had her workbook blown into Beauty Pool, which somewhat marred its beauty. In order to thaw out we went to the magnificent Old Faithful Inn which offered a buffet lunch with such delights as Bison Chili and cornbread. When we saw the bison wandering on the thermal areas, ignoring the "dangerous ground" signs, we wondered whether our meat had been naturally steamed.
We also got to see ponds of boiling mud, which are as acidic as battery acid, and if you are standing downwind the sulphuric fumes are stifling. It is no wonder they have names like Dragons Cauldron and Sour Lake.
Our third day in Yellowstone began with a look at the Norris Geyser basin, which offered a lot of smelly steam and beautiful hot springs but not much in the way of geysers. Then at the north end of the park we found Mammoth Hot Springs, where calcium rich water created a series of colourful terraces and other interesting features. We enjoyed walking around the lower and upper terraces.
As evening approached we headed towards the Lamar Valley looking for wildlife. We were very fortunate to see lots - first a wolf, then a coyote, followed by a pronghorn, a black bear and a beaver. We were very excited to see all these animals in such a short time. And we saw elk galore, including a couple with antlers. We'd seen some at the campground, but none with antlers, as they shed them each winter and the new ones are just growing now.
Yellowstone is definitely our favourite park so far. It seems to have everything - fascinating thermal features, wildlife, beautiful mountain scenery and heaps of snow to play in. Enough to keep everyone happy.
Where I stayed