Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (Oct 23/13) – The drive to Yellowstone National Park is filled with anticipation of what to expect, the vast array of natural wonders, nature’s history in full display… whereas Canada has many wonderful national parks, Yellowstone is the world’s first national park created in 1872.
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What captured the eye most of all, was the devastation from two decades of wild fires that have destroyed 75% of the parks 2.1 million acres of forest. It is overwhelming in the least. Although nature is quickly replacing the void with new growth… the emptiness is startling. Travel along Yellowstone Lake is dotted with numerous volcanic steam vents that are more noticeable in the cooler months. N&J have become very aware of the power and fury that lie below their feet as they are within the ‘caldron zone’… if Yellowstone’s volcanoes should ever awaken, this is NOT a good place to be!!!
Passing through a few established areas (Lake & Grant Villages) that have all been boarded up for the winter season, all the summer guest have since returned to their homes. In fact the entire park is essentially boarded up; probably a left over from the US federal government ‘budgetary’ shutdown. The roads are clear of any noticeable traffic, nothing like the ‘bumper to bumper’ conditions during the high season. Came upon the centre attraction Old Faithful. This major geyser has been the source of wonderment since it’s discovery over a 150 years ago. Almost like clockwork, on average every 92 minutes, a blast of scalding hot water shoots over 30 metres (100′) into the air. The show last 5-8 minutes, and disappears into a cloud of steam… preparing for the next performance.
The park is inhabited by bears (black & grizzly), elk, wolves and moose, but the most intriguing is the bison (buffalo) herd. They are truly majestic to see. Although they can be quite dangerous, the herd that hangs around the Faithful area seem unfazed to the ever-present human incursions. These bison decendants are original to this area, been here for eons. Although there seems to be a resident herd in & around Old Faithful, they can be seen throughout the park in numbers.
Making their way towards the north entrance of the park, N&J checked out the major waterfalls near Canyon. These falls are contained in what is considered the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Yellowstone. Impressive indeed. The walkway to the Lower Falls is not to be taken lightly. The trail zig-zags down a 180m (600′) drop in elevation, but the view is incredible. The climb back up is littered with rest benches, much needed at such high elevations… “just need to catch my breath”.
Driving through the most northerly portion of the park in Mammoth you get up close & personal with a herd of very large elk. They seem as large as any moose, and probably could be as dangerous looking at their statute. This topography is much different from the southern portions, less trees, and appears to have escaped the ravages of wildfires.
As N&J leave Yellowstone NP they immediately come upon the town of Gardiner, Montana. Essentially a supply station for the park visitors and home to many park workers. It is here they imbibe on one of their only pizza feast on this trip at the KBar Pizza Pub & Restaurant. Excellent pizza & good beer filled that long awaited gap. Great atmosphere, warm surroundings. Afterwards in true ‘freestyle’ fashion, they found a quiet spot behind a home to camp for the evening… only after finding a ‘courtesy’ electrical hookup at someone’s home… decided against that idea 🙂