CC Day 7 – Yellowstone Part I

Today we visited the eastern and northern portions of Yellowstone National Park. We drove in through the eastern entrance over a 9,000 ft mountain pass. When we reached the top, the temperature was around 45 degrees and there was so much snow it looked like late March or early April in CT. Even under a gray and misty sky, the views were stunning – white capped mountains on every side and waterfalls from the melting snow rushing down the cliff sides and underneath the roads.  

First, we stopped at the mudpots, which are basically small ponds of boiling water; the acid in the water turns the surrounding rock into clay which bubbles, steams and even rumbles and growls in some places. We walked along wooden boardwalks which protect people, like us, from being scalded by the hot, sloppy, gray mud. The only part we didn’t like was the smell – sulfur! Think hardboiled eggs, gone bad, times 1,000. Then multiply that by, oh, I don’t know, a million. OH! I can’t forget this: there were sections of the parking lot in that area blocked off because the asphalt had either been blown out or sunk in because of the geothermal processes going on there. There were just these holes left there in the parking lot, with steam coming out of them. I read about this and posted it on FB before we left. I can hardly believe it really happens!

Next we drove onto the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, an amazing two level waterfall. While there we met Dick Maher, of Maher Paint, from Avon, CT. He stopped to talk to us because he saw our CT plates. It was fun to see people from back home. As we continued our drive we saw more falls, amazing landscapes, rivers, streams, creeks and marshes. and even some Elk and Buffalo. Doug really wants to see a Bull Moose. I mean he really wants to see one! Maybe tomorrow. Christina, however, is glad to watch any cute ground animal, like a chipmunk or squirrel – but she is ever on the lookout for the tiny Pika. Of course she had to choose to search for one of the smallest animals in the park. 🙂

I convinced the family to see the exhibit about Yellowstone’s supervolcano. Fascinating? Yes. Comforting? No. At one point Jacquelyn said to me, “Why did you think it would be a good idea to come learn about this?” Oh, well. Not much we can do about it now, right?  Then we had lunch at the Roosevelt Lodge, which included drinking from mason jars and eating Roosevelt’s home made baked beans.   

Our final stop in the park was the Mammoth Hot Springs, my favorite part of the day. Here, magma pushes hot water up to the earth’s surface and, through a variety of chemical reactions (I won’t bore you with the details, but if you’re interested, google it!), the water solidifies when it is exposed to the air. Certain microorganisms, called thermophiles, thrive in the acidic water and color it blue, orange and yellow. (My inner geek is really shining through now!) The entire process results in pools of water atop terrace like formations, which then overflow into more and more terraces below. Over the years, if water stops flowing in an area, the terraces turn grayish white. But then, undoubtedly, the water will begin to flow somewhere else, creating new, colorful pools of water and terraces. Some terraces are shallow and wide, some are deep and stout like staircases. There were other formations too, though, like simple falls and even a big, orange mound (20 ft. tall maybe) that is growing so quickly it is making its way into the road. 

I was amazed by just how close we could get to the springs or terraces. Again, we travelled along boardwalks that stretched directly over and around the hot, colorful, sulfuric water. The entire area is plastered with signs warning people to stay ON the boardwalk and paved roads because the earth’s crust is so thin in those areas that one might just fall through to, well, who knows what? Some hot, boiling, sulfuric water, I guess – similar to what happened to the parking lot we saw earlier. 

I got to talk to my mom tonight and then we had a great dinner at Rosie’s in Montana. It’s also nearly a full moon. Aaaaaah. I know it was a long post but there was sooooooo much to tell. 🙂

CC Day 6-Big Horn Mountains

Today we drove through the Big Horn Mountains. I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but when I saw them – the massive snowcapped mountains, rising over 13,000 feet behind the yellow, barren Wyoming hills – my eyes filled with tears. I was overwhelmed with the emotion of seeing something I thought I may never see, something I have dreamed of seeing all my life, something many people never have the opportunity to see. The imposing mountains also reminded me of my smallness. I guess I would call it a trembling awe. The landscape of New England is deceptively quaint, manageble, even tame. But out here everything is BIG and wild and unpredictable. The endless sky. The expansive landscape. The storms. The buffalo. In the controlled suburbs of Connecticut, one might forget her place in the world. Out here, though, the landscape sends a lonesome, humbling message: You, my friend, are not in control.

The highest point of the mountain pass is 9666 ft. When we arrived there, we all got out of the car in our shorts and flip flops to play in the snow! 

Playing in the snow at 9666 ft

Driving down the mountain, we followed the Ten Sleep Creek through a canyon of red and gold colored rocks, rushing waters and tall pines. Images, that before today, I had only seen in photos or on tv. At the base of the mountain, we had ice cream in the town of Ten Sleep (population 300) in a little store called Dirty Sally’s. I asked our ice cream lady how the town got its name and she said the Indians named the town Ten Sleep because  it took “ten sleeps” (or overnights) to travel there from the town of Casper.

Tonight we are at the base of Yellowstone…basically a supervolcano. Now if that doesn’t make a girl feel small, nothing will! Just a few days before our vacation I was reading chapter 38 in the book of Job. How appropriate it is today: “The earth takes shape like clay under a seal, its features stand out like those of a garment.” v. 14. I’m gushing God, but can a person come out here and do otherwise?!