Yellowstone National Park
Location: Mainly Wyoming, but also Montana and Idaho
Established: 1872- America’s first National Park!
Why Visit: Rockin’ geyers and other geologic features, Old Faithful!, and some good ol’ American patriotism
Everything about Yellowstone has a hint of magic to it. I visited this park in the summer of 2013 with my family after our enjoyable time in Glacier. Glacier was a hard act to follow, but something about Yellowstone’s air of friendship, grandeur, and history made it an equally incredible place to explore.
Looking back on the trip, a few distinct memories stand out. It was summer, around the 4th of July, so I remember the crowds and the heat. Oh, and all-day hike that my Dad made us go on because he thought there was a chance we would see grizzly bears. Well, we saw no bears, and there was no shade along the way either, and we had some pretty close encounters with some scary-looking bison. (Side note on the bison: they’re everywhere in Yellowstone! You honestly can’t drive anywhere in the park without getting caught in a bison-crossing-the-rode traffic jam. It’s entertaining the first few times but gets old pretty fast).
But, like any vacation with my family, the good times outweigh the bad, and I have fond memories of the quaint cottage where we stayed, visiting Old Faithful, catching rare geysers erupt, spotting wolves, and bathing in natural hot springs. Yellowstone is gigantic (see map), but I feel like we managed to get a well-rounded understanding of it in just a few short days.
The geologic features of Yellowstone are a huge attraction and make the park unique compared to others I’ve visited. I’m sure you all have heard of Old Faithful, but that’s just the beginning of it. Take, for example, the boiling mud pot pictured below. In order to see geysers of all sizes, as well as mud pots and hydrothermal vents, you walk on series of connected boardwalks. The ground below is alive with cryptobiotic crust that is easily damaged by footprints. Also, the geysers and mud pots are boiling at extremely dangerous hot temperatures- the boardwalks provide a safe distance from falling in and burning yourself!
Geologists and Park Rangers have a system to predicting when the park’s most prominent geysers will erupt. Some go years between activity, but others erupt in intervals of a few hours or every few days. Old Faithful is predicted to the exact minute, while others are more of a hit or miss. One morning, we were strolling the boardwalks, and we heard that a rare geyser was predicted to erupt. We waited and waited with masses of people, but nothing seemed to be happening, so we moved on. However, as we left the geyser sight, an old woman with white hair, dressed slightly like a fortuneteller in dark purple drab, warned us to stay a little longer. She introduced herself as the “geyser guru” and said that she had a feeling in her bones that this geyser was indeed going to erupt sometime soon.
My dad totally believes this kind of stuff, while my mom thinks its complete nonsense. We convinced my mom to wait with us a little longer anyways, and lo and behold, half an hour later, the rare geyser finally went off! It was an incredible site.
I can’t write this post without touching on Old Faithful briefly. Despite its fame and landmark status, it truly is an incredible sight and representation of American beauty and freedom that all Americans should see in their lifetime. It was a cloudy day when we watched it go off, but it took my breath away nonetheless. It’s cliché, but it made me proud to be an American and reminded me once again how lucky we are to have protected areas of land in our country designated solely for exploration, protection, and the enjoyment of the people.
I might have to do a follow up post because I still have so many stories to tell from Yellowstone and I am running out of blog space for this week! Post a comment or talk to me if you want to hear more stories about wolf watching (quite the pastime in Yellowstone), visiting the hot springs, or summiting Mt. Washburn. Enjoy the pictures below! – Maddie
*All photos in the post were taken from my trip