“All animals in Yellowstone National Park are wild and dangerous!”
“All wildlife is dangerous! Remain at least 25 yards from any animal. Remain at least 100 yards away from bison and bear.”
“Yellowstone is a Dangerous Place”
These and similar signs are all over Yellowstone. We need to be wary of all the animals!
We did see quite an array of wildlife in the park, in addition to the chipmunk. We saw bison, including some close enough to get good pictures of (but far enough to still be safe). We also saw deer, elk, and an osprey. No bear (of which I’m very glad), and no moose (of which there are very few remaining in the park).
There are many dangerous things in the park, as in most of the National Parks. Their wildness is what calls many of us to go to them; it is what makes these places special. Being attacked by wild animals, driving off the edge of a narrow mountain road, or falling into a pool of boiling water are some of the things that can befall a careless or inattentive visitor.
We got a late start on our first day in the park, so we decided to just do the north part of the park (we were staying outside the north entrance). We’d go down the western side through Mammoth Hot Springs, to Norris, across to Canyon, up through Tower, and then back to Mammoth. Here’s a picture of the Yellowstone river near Tower.
We had visited Yellowstone eleven years ago after a service trip to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with our church. We were in a small rental car and enjoyed driving in the park. The roads on the east side of the park are quite mountainous, twisty and narrow—a challenge! Fun!
Driving them in a crew cab long bed dually pickup truck (basically, the biggest F350 that Ford makes) is an entirely different experience from driving them in a compact! White knuckle time. Through a good portion of the park, there were no guardrails. And it was hundreds and hundreds of feet to the ground below. We decided to not go to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Lamar Valley because they would have required retracing some of that route. But those were the only places we had wanted to visit that we missed. If we go back in the future, we may rent a compact car to make touring the park less terrifying!
The geysers and geothermal pools are, of course, Yellowstone’s calling card. The density of these features is unique in the world. They are unquestionably beautiful and awe inspiring, but you need to be careful. There are boardwalks in many of the dense areas of springs, pools, and geysers, and there are frequent signs warning people to stay on the boardwalks. The “ground” they traverse is often simply a thin coating over a hot spring, most of which will be fatal if a person becomes immersed.
On our previous visit, I watched two men ahead of me on a boardwalk. They came to one of the “Danger! Hot water. Stay on the boardwalk” signs, and one handed the other his camera, stepped off the boardwalk (right next to the sign), and had his friend take a picture of him and the sign. As a former boss of mine was fond of saying, “You can’t fix stupid.” But Darwin clearly missed an opportunity here.
This time, we saw many unattended small children on the boardwalks, some standing on the edge of the boardwalks (there are often no railings), or kneeling at the edge leaning over—presumably, “to get a better view.” As parents, it was very tough to see these situations.
But… these pools and springs are unquestionably beautiful!
The colors of the pools are caused by thermophyllic bacteria, also referred to as “extremophiles.” Different types of bacteria have different colors and live in different water temperature ranges: blue indicates the hottest temperatures, then yellow, then red.
I didn’t get a good picture of it, but the steam drifting above the Grand Prismatic Spring was tinged with the reds and blues of the water.
Quick: what was the Roman Coliseum built out of? Travertine. Didn’t know that myself until a few hours ago. Travertine is a type of rock made by the evaporation of mineral laden water. And it is all over Yellowstone, particularly in the Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Basin areas.
Over time, the travertine will envelop anything it encounters.
The pools and springs sometimes warn of their danger by continuously steaming.
Others are quiet and appear inviting!
Geysers are the other thermal features most people associate with Yellowstone. Some are grand, but erupt unpredictably; others are small and erupt frequently. A few are large and predictable. Eruptions can last for a short time, releasing all their pressure quickly, or they can last for hours. We saw quite a few of the small geysers,
And what visit to Yellowstone National Park is complete without watching Old Faithful erupt?
We had the great pleasure of meeting a member of the Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue team who is now a law enforcement ranger at the Old Faithful District. We hadn’t seen each other since last July, and it was very good to see him again!
We finished our trip by hiking to the Morning Glory Pool. When we visited eleven years ago, it was about six weeks earlier in the year than we were here this time. On our previous visit, the Morning Glory area was closed due to grizzly bear activity in the area, feeding on several bison which had not survived the winter.
Morning Glory has a reputation of being one of the prettiest pools in the park and I was really looking forward to finally getting to see it this time. It was pretty, but I was somewhat disappointed.
It is widely reported that Morning Glory has been damaged by visitors throwing coins and trash into it, and the colors are reportedly not as striking as before; some articles refer to the name “Faded Glory,” The park is making efforts to try to repair the damage, but it is unknown whether it will ever be completely restored.
It was a real treat to be able to explore and enjoy Yellowstone again—it’s a real gem and should be on everyone’s bucket list.