Leaving the lovely Tetons was hard but going to Yellowstone, the first national park of America created in 1872, was also quite exciting. We had to plan the entire visit well because we had only three and a half days, one of them being our wedding anniversary. 8PM, 8/08/08 was when we started dreaming of this lifestyle. We exchanged vows on board Champagne Lady on Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. Our wedding favor was a booklet I wrote on ‘Cruising to a Life Together’.
It took us four hours to drive from the Tetons, register at the Bridge Bay campground, set up our new home in the new neighborhood, and prepare and have our lunch. We saw boiling springs all along West Thumb on the shores of Yellowstone Lake, the largest mountain lake in North America. Along the way, although young evergreens, mostly lodgepole pines that have adapted to the thermal surroundings, were growing everywhere, the devastating 50 fires of 1988 was still evident.
And the next day we travelled west to Old Faithful which is so named because it predictably gushes every 90 minutes, to as high as 150 feet. We thought it fitting to celebrate our anniversary with him so we can be reminded of the faith we put in each others’ hands…to love and be loved by the other (our anniversary dinner was at the Old Faithful Inn). And all around him, on Black Sand Basin, Biscuit Basin, Upper, Middle and Lower Basins was the largest concentration of geysers known to man. A little further up north at Norris are Porcelain, Back, Monument Basins.
There are about 900 geysers in the world, over 500 of which are in Yellowstone. The Park sits atop a subterranean volcano about 3-7 miles below the caldera that formed after its major eruption some 640,000 ago. The Pineland Glaciation during the last Ice Age further carved the landscape and even the 1959 earthquake (there are more than 2,000 a year) effected many recent changes. Thus Yellowstone is home not just to geysers (like the tallest in the world, Steamboat, at 400 ft.), mud pots (Mud Volcano), steam vents (Black Growler), and hot springs (Grand Prismatic Spring).
Among the waterfalls is the 380-ft Lower Falls (taller than Niagara Falls) of the Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon called Artists’ Point. Then there are the magical Travertine Terraces, a living sculpture at Mammoth Hot Springs (Canary, Palette, Opal, etc.), not exactly under the main caldera but carved from limestone rock, transferred magma heat, and deep pockets of water from snow melt and rain that seep up through fissures. Thermopiles, living microorganisms that thrive in heat, provide a color palette.
The rivers boast of the native cutthroat trout (4,200 to a mile in the Madison) for some of the best fishing in the country (and you only need a park permit!). And in the valleys, particularly Hayden and Lamar, were thousands of bison, some creating huge traffic jams as they traveled the roads with the vehicles. We also saw grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, mule deer, and elk. Sadly, the only wildlife we missed seeing were the shy moose and the bighorn sheep that must have stayed up in the mountains.
There are lodges, inns, cabins, RV campgrounds, and tent villages from which to base an exploration of Yellowstone. Each of Grant Village, Lake Village, Canyon Village, Tower-Roosevelt Area, Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Area, and Old Faithful Village are equipped with general stores, service stations, dining facilities, and other amenities. Only four (Grant, Canyon, Mammoth, and Old Faithful) had internet facilities so I was not able to do much of surfing and emailing.
Yellowstone National Park is not only the first, it is many national parks combined. We hiked many miles as we marveled at the different features and living things in the thermal areas, the canyons, and the meadows of 2 million acres of protected lands. We urge you to visit Yellowstone while you are still in reasonable physical condition. If you have more than five days, you will be able to relax, enjoy, and really appreciate the place the One Master Potter gave us to enjoy at least once in our lifetime.
Next Stop: Boise, Idaho