Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15
Friday, June 11, 2010
Yellowstone, June 6-11
Yellowstone National Park is amazing. Its geology, including the thermal features are extraordinary. The wildlife are abundant. And, the scenery and vistas are breathtaking. It's a huge and mostly wild place.
Unfortunately, my camera phone was stolen so, I only have a few of the pictures I took of Yellowstone ... but, I've supplemented with others that I found online (with due credit). The pictures I do have showed the amazing colors of the mudpots and hot springs toward the south end of the park (West Thumb). The minerals in the mud and rocks, and the bacteria and algae give the features endless variations of color.
During the first part of my visit, most of the lakes still were covered with ice. By the time I left, most of the ice had melted.
I visited Old Faithful, first watching it erupt from the porch of the Old Faithful Inn upon arrival ... and then 90 minutes later from the "ring side" bleachers. In the interim, I warmed myself by the fire in the lodge's stately lobby (see pic, http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/images/Ofinnint.jpg).
I also spent time at Mammoth Hot Springs in the northwest corner of the park. In town, the wild elk grazed on the lawns of the administration buildings and resorts like horses in a pasture. In Mammoth, limestone and hot water made other-worldly terraces with bacteria-colored waters. (see pic, http://www.nps.gov/archive/yell/features/mammothtour/images/Minervaterrace.jpg)
Norris Basin, just south of Mammoth, boasts the tallest geyser ... but, it displays its tallness very infrequently. I got to see only 10' eruptions. It's called Steamboat Geyser. I wonder if it's called "steamboat" because it sounds like an engine chugging along. It's also the place I last saw my camera phone.
I especially loved the Lamar Valley in the northeast corner of the park. It's the greenest green mixture of rolling hills covered with mostly tall grass and some scrub brush, mixed with lodge pole pine forests ... creeks, rivers and ponds. With all of it's peaks and valleys, it's somewhat sheltered. If I were a wild thing, this is where I'd want to live. Here I saw many large mammals, most with young -- bison, pronghorn, moose, big horn sheep, a grizzly bear with 4 cubs (unusual), black bear, coyote, and elk. They say wolf are in the Lamar Valley as well, but I didn't see any there (but saw a lone black wolf in the Canyon area). I tried to find a picture that showed the late spring green of the hills, but couldn't ... so, just imagine ...
My most exciting animal encounter was at the Norris Campground. I choose a site that backed up to a ravine, thinking that I might see animals down there later in the day. When I pulled into my spot that evening, I noticed a herd of buffalo skirting the campground. As I watched, I got to see the cows and calves grazing their way down that ravine to their night-time spot in the woods further behind. The "big daddy" put himself between the campers and the rest of the herd, sending campers scurrying out of his way. He was big ... probably 6' at the withers. When he got close to my site, I got in my car and watched him as he came nearer and nearer. At his closest, we were looking eye to eye about 5' from my window as he was grazing on the uphill side of my car. When he moved on, I got out to watch him from a distance. Then a couple of younger males came a little too close for comfort so I readied myself to get in my car again and said to them "it's OK, I'm not going to come any closer." When I said that, they turned away ... but, the big daddy sauntered closer as if saying "I want you to get in your car now, and stay there" ... I obliged. He bedded down for the night 15' from my car door. I'm sure glad I wasn't tent camping! This picture is how it felt: http://www.animalsintheworld.com/animal_pictures/buffalo_car.jpg.
And, I can't write about Yellowstone without remembering going there with Elise and her family two years ago. It was one of her last wishes. Here is a picture she took of a beautifully-colored hot springs.