Wednesday, August 4, 2010


After seeing Yosemite earlier this summer, I was super stoked about seeing Yellowstone and comparing the two of them. In a nutshell, I learned that Yosemite's beautiful valley was created by glaciation while Yellowstone is all about volcanism. Actually the heart of Yellowstone is a huge caldera, or a collapsed volcano. I'm guessing this volcanic activity has something to do with the continental divide that runs through the park and borders between Idaho and Montana. Anyway, all of the geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles are eruptions powered by magmatic heat. Who wouldn't be jazzed to check this out? Admission: my excitement probably stemmed from my short year of teaching 6th grade Earth Science, and these places came to life right out of that textbook. (Now if only I could visit Egypt, Italy, or Greece to experience the Ancient Civilizations I taught in subsequent years.)
I thought it would be a grand idea to stop off at this Junior Ranger Station in Madison. The kids who actually sat through the presentation were quickly bored, but some of the adults, myself included were interested in the history of the park, so hopefully they weren't too annoyed by the extra stop. The ranger told us how some of the descriptions and stories about this place when it was first discovered by non-natives seemed so far-fetched and mythical that other Americans were very skeptical and slow to believe the claims. Also, it was interesting to hear that people had differing ideas on what to do with this land. Of course some people wanted to claim it for their own and make money off of it. Luckily, in the end it was decided to be preserved as the first of many American National Parks.
Below is Brooklyn wearing the huge kid carrier used by Ian. She's holding onto the huge padded waist strap, just in case you think she's making a Michael Jackson move.
The dress code for this day was "reunion t-shirts." At a closer look you will find that the best thing that was OLD and FAITHFUL on this outing was the D-TOWN DRAGON PRIDE that apparently NEVER DIES! Love it. Great way to keep us tagged, Mrs. Badger!
Oh yeah, there was that ol' geyser too...
Ian didn't get the dress code memo. That or they don't make t's for baby dragons...yet. Probably we'll have those by the next family reunion. I have to give points to Evelyn for creatively utilizing her resources! Way to go!
Here we are at the paint pots. I have to disagree with my cousin Sophia on this one. They were not a bore. They were probably one of my favorite places to meander that day. I loved the unique variety of colors and formations. Now lets see how my identification skills go... (don't mind that I'm cheating by using the "Yellowstone Today" newspaper saved from the trip.)
In the background of the above picture is a fumarole or steam vent. Fumaroles are the hottest hydrothermal features in the park. This combination of very little water and very high heat is basically hot steam that sometimes hisses, like a natural fog machine...spooky!
The most common hydrothermic features in the park were the hot springs. These are pools of super heated water that is constantly circulating like boiling water in a motion called convection. However, these army green and gold ones aren't as deep as some of the others we saw. Maybe these are mudpots...I'm not sure! (Where's my field guide?)
Now these two people I can identify with certainty as Thing 1 and Thing 2. They are a package deal with the Cat and the Hat.
These (below) for sure are mud pots because they stink. Speaking of Dr. Seuss, Brooklyn noted in a very odd tone that they smell, "like ham and eggs." So the deal with mudpots is that they are acidic hot springs with a limited water supply. There are microorganisms in them that use hydrogen sulfide as an energy source and they convert the gas to sulfuric acid, a.k.a. very STINKY STUFF. Various gases (and boy do I mean only the gasiest of gases) escape through the wet clay mud, causing it to bubble.
This is easily the prettiest of the hot springs, in my opinion.
This group of super thrilled tourists are not bad looking either.

I admit I went crazy with the camera. It was so picturesque! I wanted everyone to feel like they experienced it all, even if it be vicario-blog-usly!
We had to stay on the boardwalk for safety reasons. Before I found out about that guideline, however, I did touch some of the water in this area by the parking lot. OOPSIE!

Heading home. Or at least back to the car brigade.
Marveling at the mini pinecones were Paige and Brooklyn. I loved having different cousins as our traveling companions. Paige was so kind to let Brooklyn watch all of Paige's Nintendo DS gaming skills. Brooklyn was thoroughly entertained by it and I was glad that she didn't have a case of the gimme's.
Okay, so here's where it got a little complicated. At one point Stephen got ahead of the group and brought our carload to this spot where we waited for a while for the rest of the troops to arrive. When we finally contacted them through weak cell-phone service, we discovered that they had reached a different destination (slight misunderstanding) and that they now would have to wait for us while we traveled back to meet up with them. Oh joy!
Paige, "Where are they?"
Finally we found eachother and hiked along this gorge near Canyon Village where we could view upper or lower falls. I don't really know which one of the two.. Only Grammy and Grandad can do this scene justice. Grammy accessorizing skills are first class. She looks great in that royal blue and her signature outdoor hat! Speaking of signature, Ted cannot pass up an opportunity to sprinkle some longhorn pride into the wardrobe.
Here's the after-hike parking lot dance to the beat of "Party in the USA," courtesy of Trevin, i-tunes, and Miley Cirus.
The human disco ball.
I loved that we saw some wildlife while on our journey. Mostly in the evening on our way out of the park. I was so looking forward to this because I had heard about the possibility of animal sightings. I had been engaging our passengers with little animal identification practice thanks to the helpful Yellowstone pamphlet that came with the park admission! He may not know this, but I dub Bridger as the most enthusiastic wildlife expert.
So this was an Elk. The recommendation repeated in all printed material is that visitors must stay 100 feet away from a bear or wolf and 25 feet away from all other wildlife. This guy was just plain crazy. Maybe he's 10 or 15 feet away.
A few crazy facts about elk: They are the most abundant large mammal in Yellowstone, and as this picture proves, they mostly eat grass. Bulls live alone or in small bands, except during autumn mating season.
Here's a bison that we caught on camera. Sadly, the very best close-up shot I didn't get was when one bison walked along the road just parallel to our car! Yikes! What are the chances? Buffalo are the largest living animal in Yellowstone. Males (bulls) can weigh more than a ton. Females are smaller but still powerful. Both sexes have horns. Like elk, the females and calfs stick together while the bulls roam alone on the range. Also like elk, bison graze on grass.
This shot really captures much of our day. Lots of beautiful scenic driving. The weather was great. Not too different from home for us, but we felt lucky still that it wasn't extremely hot in the middle of July. I also thought it was cool how in this picture we were under the shade of some clouds, but the road ahead featured mountains sparkling in the softly setting sunlight. Aaaah. Home on the range indeed. Now I really feel like I understand that song better. Maybe next time we'll see some more deer or even an antelope.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Wow, what a fun trip! I love Yellowstone. I have very fond memories of familiy vacations. Very cute pictures.