Day 1 in the Park
When I first saw the nickname, “America’s Playground” for Yellowstone, I wondered why was this park tagged America’s Playground… why not any other National Park in the U.S.? But after visiting the park, I realized the reason. It’s not where America goes to play, it’s where America plays! This park’s ground is alive! You cannot watch the bubbling mud pots, the frisky geysers shooting into the air until you start toward them, or the exuberance of Old Faithful without smiling.
Nowhere in the world are there as many aqua thermal spots as in Yellowstone … more than 10,000 of them. The ground around them stays hot to the touch. It surprised us that we could be cold emerging from the truck, but needed to remove our jackets while walking the boardwalks in the thermal areas. It’s like being in a gigantic steam bath.
The caldera, or basin, measures approximately 30 x 45 miles. Boardwalks have been erected throughout the areas for the safety of visitors, but they often have to be moved. New eruptions occur daily, often too close to the walks or roads. We actually saw a couple of places where steam was rising through the gaps in the boardwalk, and one place where the road had collapsed. We were told there is one section of road that they have finally decided to leave gravel. When they replace the asphalt there, it keeps melting.
Old Faithful lived up to its reputation of being predictable. We were told it would erupt within 10 minutes of 2:30. At 2:31, it began. The show lasted for almost 4 minutes. Old Faithful’s height ranges from 106 to 130 feet; it erupts every 90 minutes. It’s mind-boggling to realize that 3700 to 8400 gallons of water are expelled with each eruption. The temperature at the site just before eruption is 204 degrees.
This shot was just at the start of the eruption (more photos are in the slideshow – link below)
The main roads of the park are divided into two loops. We decided to take the lower loop today, which included Old Faithful. We have parked the trailer for the week at Wapiti, about 30 miles east of the East entrance to the park, so that we wouldn’t have to pull over the mountain passes with it.
Each loop of the park takes a good day to see, with all the stops. We were gone 11 1/2 hours today.
I took so-o-o many pictures. Those of you that know me well can imagine. It’s been hard for us to choose just a few to put into slideshows to upload. Day 2 in Yellowstone continues below the slideshow link.
Day 2 in the Park
Our second day started with a bit of excitement when a grizzly was spotted across a field. We stopped and watched it for some time through the binoculars, but it was too far away to photograph. We had hoped to see at least one grizzly, moose, and eagle, but this was our only glimpse of either.
Although Day 2 contained thermal features, the topography of the park was quite different than what we saw the first day.
After a brief stop at the LeHardy Rapids (Yellowstone River), we spent quite a bit of time in the Mud Volcano and Sulphur Caldron area.
The first major feature you approach at Mud Volcano is the Breathing Dragon Cave. It is easy to see how it received its name; you can almost imagine that it’s going to belch forth fire at any moment, and from its accompanying descriptive sign, used to have quite an eruption before earthquakes in the 90s changed its behavior.
Canyon Village includes the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” and the Upper Yellowstone Falls and Lower Yellowstone Falls.
Uncle Tom’s Trail (named after an early ranger) drops over 500 feet to near the bottom of Lower Yellowstone Falls. Decades ago, the trail involved over 500 wooden stair steps and rope ladders. Thankfully now, there are only 328 steps; at 8000 feet altitude, it’s still considered a very strenuous hike. With a few misgivings, we decided we had to give it a try.
We were so glad we did; the view at the bottom was well worth the climb back out.
The falls thundering down into the canyon was magnificent, with a “rainbow” in the spray at the bottom; we would have loved to stay all day.
Seeing the falls from the bottom of the trail was probably our favorite part of the day… but we were just starting the 70 mile loop that was our destination for the day, and it was already after 2 p.m.!
The main attraction at Mammoth Hot Springs is the terraces. Heat, water, limestone, and rock fracture combine to create the terraces. The area is in a state of constant change. As formations grow, water is forced to flow in different directions. The constant changes in water and mineral deposits create a living sculpture. You almost feel as if the inside of a cave has been transported above ground.
There’s an eerie feeling. You feel as if you’re in the center of a winter landscape of snow, yet there is hot water bubbling out of the stone.
We have perhaps been in more beautiful parks, but never a park as amazing as Yellowstone National Park.
For more photos from our second day in the park: