Friday, August 21, 2009

5433.7 (153.4) Miles to Gardiner, Montana

View Larger Map

Took Yellowstone's north loop today. Drove in from the northeast entrance and down the Lamar Valley towards Tower Junction and the loop itself. While I was in Cooke City last night, I mentioned to someone I was talking to that I hadn't seen any bison yet, even though I knew they were out there in places I had been driving. He said I didn't have to worry about it. I would definitely see some in the park. And was he ever right. Not 10 minutes into the park, I saw a bunch of bison in the valley below. And then I saw some running. And then I saw one right next to the road. And this happened throughout the day. So, short version: if you want to see bison, come to Yellowstone. It's crawling with them.

Below Yellowstone lies a giant caldera. Most of the park is above a supervolcano (and a giant magma chamber) that is actually overdue to erupt. The intense heat just a few miles beneath the surface heats the park, causing the hot springs and the orange mound pictured below, as well as all of the geysers and steam vents that the park is known for. A bunch of times, driving along, I smelled rotten eggs, which was the sulfur venting from the heated water rising to the surface. Part of the loop today took me to Norris Geyser Basin, which had a bunch of geysers as well as vents, pools, and other geothermal features. Not a lot of wildlife in that little corner of the park. We are the only animals dumb enough to get close to these blasts.

There isn't really a ton to write about when it comes to Yellowstone, at least not today. The pictures speak for themselves, and still don't do it justice. You can see where recent fires started new trees growing, replennishing the park. Animals and birds and bugs of all shapes and sizes run/fly/buzz/graze everywhere. Outside the park tonight, I was talking to a couple who had been backpacking. They actually ran into a grizzley bear this morning, coming at them from about 40 yards away. They retreated to a ranger's cabin, and the bear went right on by them. So they're out there, even if I didn't see any today.

I've been to a few places on this trip that aren't worth seeing. This is NOT one of them. If you ever have the opportunity to come to Yellowstone and don't take it, you are out of your mind. Drive the loops and see what you see. And hear. And smell (trees and air, not leftovers from large wild animals). Just make sure you stay on the trails. The grand prize for wandering off of them in the geothermal areas is a free trip to your local hospital's burn treatment unit! Plus a fine of some kind, all courtesy of the National Park Service.

Tomorrow it's on to the south loop, which includes Old Faithful (among many, many other things).

Pictures: Some residents of, some activity in, and some views of Yellowstone National Park.

No comments: