Yellowstone

Grand Prismatic Spring

Our personal Diary

We visited the park in June 2017, when the daylight extended past 9 pm and temperatures varied from the mid-20s in the daytime to 4○ C in the night. The elevation of the area varies between 6K to 10 K feet.

Grand Loop Road

The park has seven distinct regions within an area of about 3500 square miles. Most tourist attractions are accessible through a 142-mile, Figure 8, easy to navigate, Grand Loop Road. Though driving can be a bit of nuisance — people who see a moose or an elk or a bear or a herd of bison — simply slam on the brakes in the middle of the road. Anything over 45 miles an hour is silly and illegal. And one often witnesses tourists, getting too close to wildlife, in search of that Instagram moment; much closer than bounds of common sense or park warnings.

Fires in the park

This is often the first sight upon driving into the park–stubs of burnt-out trees. Fires occur naturally, from time to time because of lightning; the last major one was in 1988. The point debated within park conservation circles is—fire should be stopped, or it shouldn’t be stopped, or it ought to be purposely set? And the park has taken to all these directions at different points of time, in its 150 odd years of administration. The present dispensation is that fires are natural and necessary for the regeneration of the forests. Thus one sees new lodge poles rising, at a pace of 10 inches a year, while the old burnt stumps crash to the surrounding ground. And the circle of life continues…

Old Faithful

The world’s most famous geyser — it has sprouted 8000 gallons (or 150 bathtubs volume of water) up 180 feet in the air, every 90 minutes, 24 by7. The spray at this point is a sizzling 95○ C and accompanying steam about 170○.

Morning Glory Pool

A favorite and well worth the walk. This pool is named after its flower shape. Unfortunately, the pool is slowly changing temperature and therefore color, because of the trash thrown into it by past visitors.

Last time the park’s staff induced an eruption to empty and clean the spring; they pulled out $86.27 in pennies, 76 handkerchiefs, several towels, socks, shirts, and a few women’s underwear!

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

This is where Yellowstone River plunges over Upper Falls (109 feet) and then the much larger Lower Falls (308 feet) before snaking through a thousand feet deep Grand Canyon. Much of the canyon’s beauty comes from its subtle range of colors, from an egg white to a sulfurous salmon pink, a byproduct of iron oxidization in the rocks. Whiffs of steam rise from the vents in the Canyon wall, hinting at the thermal activity just below the surface. At the base of the falls, the Reds, and creams of the Canyon walls turn to a mossy green, fed by the thundering spray of the River.

Painter Thomas Moran in 1870, while making sketches for his iconic painting of this canyon, is rumored to have sobbed for the absence of matching colors in his palette.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone’s most beautiful thermal feature! The shimmering waters are impressive enough, but it’s the surrounding multicolored rings of algae that push it out of this world. As the water temperature changes, so do the colors, creating a rainbow of oranges, yellows, and greens. From above, the spring looks like a giant eye weeping exquisite multi-colored tears.

Photo credit — WikiImages

Mammoth Hot Springs

This is where the mountain is in effect turning itself inside out, depositing over a ton of limestone (travertine) every year. The multi-hued runoffs from the naturally white terraces are because of the bacteria and algae that multiply in the warm waters. Some decks are bone dry, while others sparkle with hundreds of minuscule coral-like formations and fabulous shades of Canary yellow or Blues that could match an impressionist painting.

Mud Volcanoes & fumaroles

These are an assortment of mud pots and other gurgling sulfurous pits. The superheat and high acidity break down rocks into mud pots and the best of the lot are at Artist Paint Pots. While some bubbles burst like boiling water, rather soundlessly, others break in a flatulent manner, creating a sound that invariably makes people laugh. Rusty reds, cornflower blues, and chalky grays are the colors in this artist’s palette.

LAMAR Valley

The Lamar Valley is nicknamed the Serengeti of North America for its vast herds of bison, wolves, and coyotes

Waterfalls

Wildlife

Bear

Yellowstone has both — the Black Bear and the Grizzlies. The legendary Grizzlies are more fearsome, with a length of up to 8 feet and a weight of 700 lbs for a male adult. The black bear is smaller and could be shades of brown or cinnamon. Bears have a sense of smell stronger than a bloodhound and can detect food from miles away. The park is well posted with notices and warnings about how to store food while camping (suspended upwind with ropes tossed over 12 feet high lodgepoles). Grizzlies are omnivorous; male Grizzlies live alone, require over 800 square miles of territory and when provoked, they can outrun a horse.

We came upon a juvenile bear, but fortunately, it left us alone (we were a group of 8 trekkers and at a distance of about 20 feet). It looked far bigger at that moment!

Bison

The continent’s largest land mammal, the American bison (also called Buffalo), roamed the American West in great numbers (est. at 40–60 million!) in the mid-nineteenth century. But in two short decades from 1870, US government, army, railroads, and private hunters colluded to kill and to bring this magnificent beast to near extinction. They considered all that mayhem essential to deprive the Native Americans of a food source, and towards their subjugation! In 1884, the wild bison population reaches its lowest point of ~325 in the United States–including 24 in Yellowstone.

Photograph from the mid-1870s of a pile of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer.

Coyotes & Wolves

Wolves flourished in the West until the late 19th century when poaching and predators made them extinct. They were reintroduced in Lamar Valley in 1995 and have since thrived. Yet, their re-introduction has met with resistance from the local ranchers, for their loss of livestock, and they often hunt wolves down when they crossover the Yellowstone park limits.

Elk & Moose

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Ajay Goel

Ajay Goel

This is a place where I post essays and random musings.