Vast expanses of open
range stretch as far as the eye can see, the deer and the
antelope really do play in America’s West.
The lack of a gold rush back in the 1800’s left Wyoming sparsely populated, with just over half a million cowpokes in all. Thirty-three
cities in the U.S. are more populous than the entire state of Wyoming.
a boatload of land per person.
We had come to Wyoming to see the world’s first National Park.
aside in 1872, Yellowstone was named for the bright colors of the
rocks on the walls of The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
river flows north from Yellowstone Lake, cascades down over
four hundred feet in two magnificent waterfalls before cutting
a spectacular nine hundred foot deep gorge through yellow
volcanic rocks on its way to meeting up with The Missouri River.
to see the colorful canyon from every angle possible, we traipsed
the semi-strenuous hiking trails along the rim and around
the Upper Falls.
That’s where we discovered Uncle Tom’s Trail.
This trail provided an absolutely mind-blowing
view of the Lower Falls — we just scampered down a bit over
three hundred metal steps along the sheer canyon
Getting BACK up up the 300 steps, that was quite another story
Ah yes, feel the burn.
Uncle Tom was quite certainly
a masochist, especially since back in his day they didn’t have
falls, canyon and lake would be more than enough to warrant
setting aside this area as a National Park but — wait — there’s
As breathtaking as this portion of the Park was, at
least we felt we had our feet solidly on planet Earth.
were about to take a most drastic change.
We were about to enter an other-worldly world, and it’s next to impossible to describe the bizarre
sights, sounds and smells of the place.
Oh yes, the smells
are a huge part of the Yellowstone experience.
of all the geysers in the world are within the borders of
Superheated water gushes hundreds of feet into
the air from some while others spout tiny bursts of steam.
In some spots, boiling
springs and pools of sulfur-rich water dwell next to pits of bubbling
mud called paint pots, all reeking like rotten eggs.
mounted our trusty bikes for a ride through The Upper Geyser
Basin, home to the most famous of Yellowstone’s geysers, Castle,
Grand and of course, Old Faithful.
We waited with eager anticipation
as a crowd gathered for the scheduled eruption of the ancient
Right on time, he did
our way up the path from the visitors center to The Sapphire
Pool, we were awed by the Mars-like terrain around us.
by a couple of the less-than-faithful fountains, The Grotto
and Spa Geysers made the out-of-this-world
experience even more present.
Additional snaps to The National Park Service for making the
whole area remarkably handicapped-friendly.
the Upper Geyser Basin, we took an easy bike ride over to
the Black Sand Basin.
The basin is named for the obsidian
glass sand covering parts of the ground and is best known
for its colorful hot springs, The Emerald Pool
and Opalescent Pool.
It is also home to The Cliff Geyser, named
for the wall of geyserite along edge of Iron Creek formed by its
eruptions. We had the good fortune to experience one these eruptions
with forty feet of boiling water shooting skyward and then splashing
with a cloud of steam into the creek.
of David’s most vivid memories from his childhood visit to
Yellowstone was the simmering, colorful mud in the paint pots.
Small wonder that a giant boiling mud-puddle would stick in
a kid’s mind. He had to see them again.
There are several examples of muddy geothermal pots in the
park but the two standouts are
The Fountain Paint Pot and The Artists Paint Pots. The Fountain
is just a short hop north of Old Faithful in the Lower Geyser Basin
so we hit it first.
are two sounds that dominate this area, the thick bubbling
splattering of boiling mud and the jet engine like roar of
steam blasting through fissures in the ground.
The viscosity of the mud in the paint pots varies
depending on the time of year. Thin and runny with the Spring rains
and melt, thicker after a hot, dry summer. By our visit in Autumn, they were a gooey goop of gaseous gunk.
Paint Pots are up the road a little way in the Norris Geyser Basin.
Home to the world’s largest geyser, Steamboat Geyser, that can
spray over three hundred feet in the air on the rare occasions that it erupts.
These were not as impressive as mudpits go, but the walk along
the loop trail of the area was fantastic.
Let’s just say that
walking beside a nearly boiling little mountain stream is not
an everyday experience for us.
we looked on our jaunts through the geyser basins something
was either boiling, bubbling or steaming.
The very ground
was hot in many places because Yellowstone is actually a huge
as a supervolcano, one of the biggest in the world.
caldera erupts catastrophically every six to nine hundred thousand
years, covering the entire continent in darkness and ash — basically
killing every living thing for thousands of miles around.
be pretty when it happens again and oh, by the way, the last time
was around seven hundred thousand years ago soooo…
signs are posted all along the trails in an attention grabbing
effort to keep tourists on the safety of the paths and boardwalks
so as not to get parboiled. Don’t be like this kid!
There were several other warnings to heed involving wild animals — avoiding
getting gored by a buffalo, trampled by an elk or mauled by a bear.
Somehow we managed to avoid all these pitfalls and made our way
to the relative safety of Montana.