Friday, October 7, 2016

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park in early October 2015.  

Click here for more photos of Yellowstone National Park.

The most obvious & abundant things in Yellowstone National Park were pine trees, Asian tourists, steaming thermal vents & bison. When we first approached park, the rising steam looked as though the forests were smoking with fire. The fumaroles, geysers & pools of boiling water were most plentiful in the area around Old Faithful, the most famous geyser of all. We stayed at the Old Faithful Inn in a plain & cramped room with 2 large beds, a wardrobe, small table & chair.

Tourists were abundant at the inn & the viewing area for the geyser. They were of all sorts, but the largest number were Asians who arrived in large tour buses. Most were Chinese, but some were Korean & Japanese. The next largest group were Americans, then a few Europeans. We heard Finnish, French, German & Russian. 
Tour buses full of Chinese moved from one natural attraction to another. We found buses in almost every parking lot. Chinese girls in oddly fashionable attire & heavy makeup became one of the most interesting sights in Yellowstone. They took photos of themselves, alone & in groups, with cell phones mounted on sticks. They giggled loudly at the photos.

We spent a lot of time driving inside the park. Yellowstone is quite large & the speeds are limited to 45 mph or less. In addition, traffic was sometimes stopped by herds of bison crossing the roads. They are very slow-moving creatures. There were instructions to stay at least 300 feet from wildlife & also videos at the information center which showed tourists being attacked by bison. And yet there were always a number of tourists within 10 feet. We saw no bison attacks.  Tourists also ignored the rule to stay on the paths & boardwalks. There were frequent & obvious signs, in 6 languages, spelling out the danger of breaking through the crust of ground & falling into a boiling hole to be seriously scalded, possibly to death, as had happened more than 100 times before. Armed with their selfie sticks, many Chinese left the path to cluster nearer to these dangerous & common features. The ground was alive with steaming & gurgling water.

The Old Faithful Inn, the first inn at Yellowstone, was opened in 1904. It had several wings. Ours probably built in the 1930s. One night, we sat in the balcony overlooking the massive stone chimney with fires in hearths on 3 sides. We stood out in front of the hotel, on the longest deck you have ever seen, to watch the Old Faithful Geyser erupt at least 3 different times. There were many more geysers & other geothermal features in the surrounding area. We saw a much less frequent geyser erupt the next evening as the sun set.

On the 2nd day in Yellowstone we drove to Mammoth Hot Springs. There were several areas of geothermal activity along the way. We didn’t stop to see them. We did stop to see some huge rocks in the pass above Mammoth. It took us all afternoon to drive there & back, including the stop for bison on the road. The hot springs were not very full of water. But the white terraces that the boiling water had built of travertine were very impressive. It was difficult to breath sometimes at altitudes as high as 8,000 feet.

We saw many more geothermal features on the 3rd day. These were along the road north of Old Faithful as far as the Norris Geyser Basin. Although the boiling, steaming & spurting waters were fairly repetitive, I still found them fascinating. We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in West Yellowstone. There were 3 Chinese restaurants & each one had 2 busloads of Chinese tourists eating in them. To be honest, the food available inside the park was not very good.

We saw more of the park as we left from the south entrance on the following day. We stopped at a geyser basin on the shore of Lake Yellowstone. That was one of the more impressive sights. We found bison in the parking lot at Lake Village. A ranger chased them out with his truck. After we left Yellowstone, we almost immediately entered Grand Teton National Park.