Monday, June 15, 2009

Yellowstone National Park

We finally made it into Yellowstone today! It seems like we've been anticipating this day for so long. Absolutely every one of our expectations were met and more. The scenery is incredible and so variable. It is truly amazing to see the terrain change from one area of the park to the next. Lodgepole pine forests give way to desert-like geyser basins. Rocky cliffs and formations seem to spring from nowhere.

We were able to get in a short hike to Harlequin Lake before lunch, and then we rode over to the Norris Geyser Basin. There we were able to see a few minor eruptions like the one above at Steamboat Geyser. The last major eruption here was in May of 2005, but if you're lucky enough to catch one, it's a special event. Steamboat erupts at heights 2 or 3 times that of Old Faithful, but it is much less predictable.

Another short hike out to Artists Paintpots allowed us to view these boiling mud pots and get a whiff of their strong sulfur odor.

I just cannot get over these snow-capped mountains. Their majesty is staggering. We even drove by several huge patches of snow which were on ground level with us. Temperatures hovered around 50 today, sometimes a little less and sometimes a little more depending on our location. That is quite an experience for this little Southern hothouse flower.

Mammoth Hot Springs, near the North Entrance of the park, is an entirely different kind of place. The hot water running over the ground here leaves deposits of calcium carbonate, giving the entire area the look of snow and ice. The heat radiating from the ground denies what your eyes may wish to believe, however.

The hot springs, geysers, and mud pots here in Yellowstone are at temperatures much higher than any human can withstand. People have been scalded to death from falls into these geothermal features, and some contain enough acid to eat through boots. Translation: Stay on the boardwalks!

More exploring is on the agenda for tomorrow. For now, this girl needs to get some sleep.

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