Yellowstone National Park – Part I.
“We may say in brief, that the entire basin of Yellowstone is volcanic …at a period not very remote in the geological past, this whole country was a scene of wonderful volcanic activity.” Geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, 1871.
If you are to visit only one national park in your lifetime, then Yellowstone may well be the one to experience. With its vast acreage stretching across valleys and mountains, the park’s unique 30 by 45 mile caldera, the word’s largest concentration of geysers, its abundant wildlife roaming the roads and campgrounds, and its rich history, Yellowstone more than earns its honor as America’s first national park established in 1872.
During over last days at Teton we drove up to Yellowstone to check out the lay of the land and to see what might be in store for us as far as camping opportunities. Like seasoned tourists, we headed straight for Old Faithful – quite a spectacular sight even with the Disney like crowds and traffic – and, as luck would have it, Beehive Geyser displayed its once a day eruption just prior to Old Faithful’s approximate every sixty to ninety minute eruption intervals.
Because of the shear size of Yellowstone, the way the roads are laid out and, sigh, the traffic, we stayed in two campgrounds to explore it all with the least amount of hassle – Fishing Bridge (on the East side) and Norris (on the West side).
There are only six campgrounds that accept reservations – only one with full hook ups (Fishing Bridge) – and we felt we needed to forgo the “first come first serve” campsite for a sure thing, at least for a couple of nights. We needed to recharge our batteries and the Fishing Bridge shower house with unlimited hot water and decent water pressure sounded very appealing as those of you who know anything about showers in campers can appreciate. What we didn’t know until we arrived is that the RVs are stacked into the place like sardines, with little privacy, and the mosquitos are atrocious. However we did enjoy the full hookups, as we didn’t have to manage our batteries, had an abundance of water and the weather turned warmer so we were able to use the air conditioner with reckless abandon.
From Fishing Bridge we were able to explore the lake area in and around Yellowstone Lake and Hayden Valley. Each evening, we attended the ranger led talks in camp (highly recommend) and learned about the devastating fires of 1988 and how Yellowstone Lake is North America’s largest high-altitude lake. We also toured the area that is called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which is not as large as the real deal but just as beautiful with its upper and lower falls. Hayden Valley itself is brimming with wildlife. Hundreds of Bison are on display and foolish drivers (not us, of course) routinely stop in the middle of the road to take notice and create the ubiquitous “Bison jam”. There are pullouts every quarter of a mile or so for people to stop and gander but this is ‘merica and we do what we want. This obviously doesn’t work well on two lane roads when the “if he can do it, so can I” attitude sets in – so, if you are the driver, consider yourself forewarned.
Near the end of our stay we decided to go back to spend a day on Lake Yellowstone and possibly take the boat tour. Instead we opted to rent a 40 horsepower boat for $50 an hour. We had a great time, but as we opened her up and headed toward the middle of the lake we were quick to realize that the small boat had no business in the middle of such a massive lake with surprisingly significant currents! We soon took to the shoreline and cruised around with the wind in our hair whooping like teenagers. Much to the attendant’s surprise, Captain Jeff docked that boat like a boss … and just as swiftly and expertly we moved out of Fishing Bridge.
Up next: Yellowstone Part two