Yellowstone Day 1
We arrived at Yellowstone KOA Mountainside on August 2, quickly sped through our set-up procedures, and headed to Old Faithful. Our first wild animal encounter was a chipmunk eating a potato chip. He, or she, served as the entertainment for those of us waiting on benches for Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park to erupt at its predictable time.
After a number of teases that excited the crowd for over twenty minutes, water and steam finally bubbled up and towered in the air.
When the show concluded, we followed the crowd on a loop trail back to the parking lot then hit the road to explore more of this unique geological wonder. Next stop, Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in America and third largest in the world. We had seen pictures taken from a distance that were more spectacular than the ones we were able to create.
I did manage to capture images of several ball caps that had blown off the heads of spectators. It’s not a good idea to step off the wooden ramp to retrieve the wind-blown caps unless death by boiling is the aim.
It’s amazing how trees can grow in such a hostile environment.
We ended our first day at Great Fountain Geyser and surrounding springs during a stunning sunset.
Yellowstone Day 2
Back at the Visitor Education Center near Old Faithful, we watched a movie that told the history of Yellowstone and explained the geological events that create all the gurgling, bubbling, and spouting from deep within Earth. To see all of this in action, we walked a longer loop trail from Old Faithful and viewed more holes in the ground. The wind tugged on my hat and a geyser sprayed sulfur water on me while I snapped pictures of each of the holes and mounds.
I thought once I saw one geyser or spring, I’d seen them all. What I found instead were their unique personalities. Some mud pools bubbled at a slow boil, geysers spewed their white mud and built up mounds, while certain springs displayed colorful arrays of orange and yellow reflective of the bacteria that grew around the edges of the blue algae-laden pool.
I recognized the telltale death by geothermal activity in the ghost trees with white bark. I’d seen it before in Mammoth Lakes when Horseshoe Lake was closed for swimming because of the dangerous levels of volcanic activity.
My treat, after one of the geysers sprayed me with sulfur water, was a butterfly that posed for a picture and then followed me a few feet along the path.
The forest continues its recovery from the 1988 Yellowstone fire, but there are still reminders of the devastation. On the West end of the park, a spattering of lodgepole pines tower over newly grown forest. The East and parts of the South ends of the park still have plenty of dead pines standing, but new growth in the form of tiny trees cluster around their base.
Yellowstone Lake was a big surprise. I had never heard that Yellowstone had a lake so when we came around a bend in the road and saw the expanse of clear blue water peek through the tree branches I knew there was no way I could capture its breadth in one photo. Like Lake Tahoe, the water is clear and a vivid blue. We’ll have to rent a boat and take a spin around the lake if we venture this way again.
Our next stop was the rapids where cutthroat trout migrate to their spawning grounds. Had we not been detained in Elko NV for two weeks, we may have been able to see the fish struggle up the rapids.
Our next encounter with wildlife was bison. We pulled in to see Dragon’s Mouth Geyser and soon a herd of bison came toward the boardwalk to distract us from the geology. When a large bull powered down the hill toward where we stood, I headed for the parking lot not wanting a close encounter with the wooly kind. Other hardy souls stood their ground to snap pictures and endanger their lives.
Artists Paint Pots, Lower and Upper Falls, and the Grand Canyon along the way followed by a sighting of mule deer in the distance and our day ended.
Buckaroo Bills was a great place for dinner after a long day in the park. Youngsters as well as oldsters like the covered wagon tables in the back room.
Yellowstone Day 3
Having spent the previous days bouncing from one stop-off site after another like Tasmanian devils, we took it a little slower visiting only the Mammoth Hot Springs area and catching Gibbon Falls on our way out of the park.
One thing to know about visiting Yellowstone is the traffic jams caused by wildlife sightings. People in their cars, motorhomes, and trucks park where ever on and off the road, grab their favorite picture taking device, and forgetting there is traffic trying to get through, walk out in front of vehicles all for the sake of that one great photo. We spent about forty-five minutes our last morning creeping along the road because of an Elk sighting. There was no room for us to stop but we did manage to catch a glimpse of Elk crossing the river a short distance from the road as we drove by. Fortunately, no tourists ended up on the grill of our truck.
We would have loved to stay at least another night, if not all month, but our reservation was up and it was time to move on to explore the east side of the park.