Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 8- The Geysers Make Up for the Crazy Tourists!

September 22nd 2010, Wednesday

We woke up this morning and decided that West Yellowstone was indeed too expensive for our blood (plus the fact that it isn't even "nice-expensive," it's "cheap, let's rip off tourists" expensive!) so we were going to take a trip through Yellowstone and head to Cody, Wyoming for the night. We headed out along the same path as the day before, still scowling a bit (maybe hypocritically, but whatever!) at the absurd number of tourists swarming the roads within the park. I honestly believe this is one of the most dangerous places we've driven because someone will be driving along the road, while looking out their windows hoping to see a cool bird or animal, and definitely NOT watching the road in front of them. They also would randomly and abruptly brake so you had to be sure to give the car in front of you a wide berth, even though you were only going 15 miles an hour. Luckily today we didn't see anybody trying to get within a foot of a wild animal.

We drove along, the road winding up into the mountains and through coniferous forest, and we were pleased to discover that the number of tourists significantly petered out about 25 miles into the park. I was truly shock at how big the place was! All of a sudden the landscape opened up and the trees disappeared. The ground looked like it was covered in salt and there was barely any vegetation. This was home to Yellowstone's famous geothermal activity: geysers, steaming pools of water, bubbling pots of mud, and hissing fumaroles.


Me and Tyler in Yellowstone

The Boardwalk

Okay, this made all the craziness of yesterday worth it. I don't have accurate words to describe how amazing it was to be in this ecosystem. We parked and got out to walk on a boardwalk that looped around the various features. All around us the earth was alive, bubbly up, spurting out incredibly hot liquid that instantly vaporized and blew fiercely towards us. The air smelled strongly of rotten eggs, the famous sulfur smell. The crazy thing was how quiet it all was. You would think that such an explosive landscape would be loud but really, even when water and steam are bursting out of the ground it's more of a hissing sound like pressure is getting released than anything else.

We got to see the Fountain Paint Pot, which is a pool of mud that actually changes color depending on the types of bacteria present. It would be really cool to take a class on Yellowstone's geothermal features. I find thermophiles and really any type of extremophile to be absolutely fascinating. They are so specifically adapted to extreme environments and sometimes those methods of adaption can be mind-boggling.

Fountain Paint Pot
After this experience we decided we couldn't pass up seeing Old Faithful even though we knew it would probably be crowded. The went further down the road, not quite knowing what to expect. We followed the signs leading us to the parking area and were shocked by the hundreds of cars already there when we pulled in. It was a bit like when you go to Six Flags. Tyler made a joke about our needing to remember that we were parking in lot G, but he really wasn't too far off. Old Faithful usually goes off every 45 to 125 minutes, or something like that, quite variable really. But I guess that's just another thing about nature. There isn't some button that can be pushed for instant gratification. Sometimes if you want to try to witness a cool natural event you have to wait for when it is going to present itself. We waited for at least 30 min. The opening to the geyser sputtered a few times, fooling us into thinking the "big show" was beginning but then it would die down. After doing that a few times, each time getting a bit bigger, it finally sent a huge stream of water pulsing into the air. I saw the spectators on the other side of the viewing area running away from the water that was raining down on them. I guess I chose a good place to watch her go off! Most of the water evaporated like the geysers we had seen earlier but like a said, I think the people on the other side got their shower for the day!

We hung around for a bit after Old Faithful erupted to let the people who were in a hurry get in their cars and go and then we continued on our way through the park and towards Cody, Wyoming. If possible, when visiting Yellowstone NP, I highly recommend that you enter from the east. It is absolutely gorgeous and very remote. We barely saw anyone at all!

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