I remember the first time we went to Yellowstone National Park, I was disappointed with it. After visiting Yosemite twenty some times, I was expecting a lot more of Yellowstone, it being the first national park in the world. This was in 2001 and Yellowstone still wore the scars of the 1988 fire prominently: burned trees and naked hills everywhere. It looked desolated in some places. Although there were some revivals of young trees, waist to shoulder high, the place wasn’t what I had expected. It was not Yosemite and it may never be. But now I think about it, it is just fine as it has its own characteristics.
Originally we were going to skip Yellowstone National Park on this trip to spend more time at Glacier National Park in Montana. But as we were ahead of the schedule by one day when we left Badlands National Park early due to the heat, we decided to take the scenic drive 14 into the Yellowstone. Although it was not Yosemite, it still has its draws, known for its thermal features, geysers and hot springs and wide varieties of wild animals.
Five years had elapsed since we were at Yellowstone. Young trees were taller, a little above head high, more like a Christmas tree farm than a forest. There were still many burned tree standing like black telephone poles scattering everywhere. It looked it will take at least another 20-30 years before it will resemble any shadow of its past. We stopped by the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to look at its waterfalls. The place was crowded but still majestic as ever. We picked this girl who was holding some expensive photograph equipment to take a picture for our family with the lower Yellowstone Falls in the background. We figured that anyone who could afford something expensive probably would be a good photographer. We were wrong (see picture on top, any waterfalls?) Look can be deceiving. Later as we were trying to take a family picture ourselves, a guy offered to take a picture for us. He acted like a professional and the picture showed (see left).
We camped the Norris campground near Norris Geyser Basin. All the thermal activities didn’t do much as we spent the coldest night there for the whole trip, at 33F, 2 days after spending the hottest day at Badlands, 109F. We walked around the Norris Basin and enjoyed the few geysers there. Steamboat Geyser is the world tallest active geyser with 300-400 feet of eruption (3 to 4 times higher than Old Faithful). However, it is unpredictable. There were some activities there and we waited there with hope. Although it was continuously shooting small eruptions 10 feet or so into the air, we gave up after 15 minutes and it still has not have another major eruption to day.
The most famous geyser in the U.S. if not the world, is the Old Faithful about 30 miles south where we were. It is not the biggest or the most spectacular but most predictable. There were some geysers there used to be predictable and more frequent but humans changed that by tossing rocks and other objects into openings, altering the delicate flows. Most of they might have been innocent acts of carelessness but the impacts would be felt for generations. Think before you act. Many geysers and springs have also changed due to quake activities. Perhaps Steamboat Geyser was one of the victims. It was dormant from 1911 to 1961 and only erupted 8 times the last 15 years. I like surprises. Everyone can see the Old Faithful, at least for now, until some quake activities change its plumbing but it would have been a special treat to see the Steamboat Geyser. I still remember the surprised bursts of Beehive Geyser, Grand Geyser and Riverside Geyser last time we were there.
Instead of going to the Old Faithful, we went north to the Mammoth Hot Springs, toward Glacier National Park. We stopped at Sheepeater Cliff, to check out what was rhyolite as it was mentioned on a brochure. It turned out to be volcanic columns (see above) similar to the Devils Postpile near Yosemite and Devils Tower we just passed a couple of days earlier. Yellowstone used to be a gigantic volcano and blew its top off 1 million years ago and left a huge caldera about a radius of 20 miles. Here is a wild theory: some volcanic rocks landed 150 miles to the east and ended up to be the Devils Tower. We walked around the Mammoth Hot Springs a little bit and discovered that the Canary Springs (see right) looked much dryer than 5 years ago. I didn’t know if it was due to the drought or it was drying up. I hope it was former but enjoy it now as it will not last forever. We soon left and headed toward the Glacier National Park.
For our brief visit this time, we saw a few elks and bisons but didn’t see any bears this time. A ranger talked about a sighting of a wolf the day before just off a major road, an unusual sight for a wolf to come close to a major road. I was hunting for a sighting of moose (my one animal fascination on the trip) early in the morning but failed to see one. Perhaps we would have better luck at Glacier (and we did).
See here for an English question.