As I begin to write about my Yellowstone national park trip, I feel like an eight year old who has been asked to write an essay on his favorite trip. It is amazing how this particular trip feels so special and has left me all vibrant and full of new energy, even though physical strain vise it was very tiring for me.
Ever since I got married, I have been fortunate enough to have travelled around quite a bit. From New York to Niagra Falls to Memphis, to Appleton (my all time favorite), to Orlando, Swindon in UK, Leighton Buzzard in UK, Switzerland, Scotland, Wales, Hawaii, Yosemite, San Diego, LA, Lake Tahoe……yes you got it – I travelled a lot in the past 5 years. But the point is that even though I have favorite memories of all these places, this trip to Yellowstone is somehow showing up much closer to my heart on my scale. For the uninitiated, below is a short description of the Yellowstone National Park on Wikipedia –
Yellowstone National Park is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, though it also extends into Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone was the first national park in the world, and is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features.
Native Americans have lived in the Yellowstone region for at least 11,000 years. Yellowstone National Park spans an area of 3,468 square miles (8,980 km2), comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. Yellowstone Lake is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest super volcano on the continent. The caldera is considered an active volcano; it has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years. Half of the world’s geothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by this ongoing volcanism. Lava flows and rocks from volcanic eruptions cover most of the land area of Yellowstone. The park is the centerpiece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest remaining, nearly intact ecosystem in the Earth’s northern temperate zone.
Hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been documented, including several that are either endangered or threatened. The vast forests and grasslands also include unique species of plants. Grizzly Bears, wolves, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk live in the park.
I have been a biology and science student and my father is a renowned bryologist and botanist. I remember studying the definitions of geysers and hot springs and memorizing where they are found in the world, but at that time, I really had not been able to picturize it. I read all fundamentals but I know now that I was not even close to the reality of what geothermal activity means and results in. I read about the various algae and bacteria that thrived in the high temperature waters of hot springs which actually resulted in making that water appear different in colour like green, brown, mustard etc but I was not even close to what it would really look like.
Yes, Yellowstone was an eye opener that cannot be described in words. You have to see it to understand it and believe that it is for real. The Yellowstone national park landscape is a result of volcanic activity millions of years ago which has created a crater so amazing with such awesome natural wonders that it is hard to believe. The land of Yellowstone where you walk, is boiling with hot rage. That rage keeps building day in and day out and when it cannot take the pressure anymore, the water (which is already boiling)closer to the surface of earth erupts through a hole in the earth, rising more than 100 feet above the ground with temperatures more than 200 degree F. Once the pressure is released through this eruption, another round of eruption is just waiting to happen. It is a constant cycle. The water keeps boiling with rage – Just like many of us. We try to keep our emotions under control and keep a cool in front of the world even when we are boiling with emotions inside, and when one day we can’t take the pressure anymore, we erupt and explode and for a moment feel relieved. Even before we know it, the burst of emotions starts building up again and the cycle continues. We are all like the geysers or are the geysers like us?
Then there are pools of water of beautiful colours. The emerald pool and the sapphire pool……..these brilliant blues and greens and mustards and yellows and oranges cannot be created in paint. They can only be found as naturally as here. I can bet on it that if you wanted a dress of the same colour as the saphhire pool you can only hope to get close to it but never exactly like it. What I mean to say is that these colours are so brilliant and so pure that no camera, no paint can ever recreate them. It is just awesome to witness such steaming beauty…and I literally mean steaming beauty because these pools have boiling hot water. While you are taking a peaceful stroll at the biscuit basin and trying to bring yourself back to the reality after the mesmerizing effect of these natural beauties, you will suddenly see another eruption next to you which will bring you back to the reality of this raging land. It is boiling everywhere.
These pools acquire different colours because of the different bacteria, and algae and minerals that thrive in these high temperatures. All pools, geysers are venting off steam and steam is the only thing you see where ever you turn. But there is one pool in the midway geyser basin that has amazing pyramid effects. It has all beautiful colours – blue, green, orange, yellow and the steam coming out of this pool takes in these colours and it looks like a rainbow of steam. Oh, it is simply amazing and breathtaking.
At every step of these pools and geysers I remembered my Dad. He would love this place so much. Last time he was here, we had taken him to visit the MUIR WOODS which is a preserve of redwood trees and he was delighted at the sight of it and called it a BOTANIST’S HEAVEN. I wondered what he would call this place which was full of all the elements that made a BOTANIST’S HEAVEN. All the time I was there, I remembered my dad and my school and college days when we read about the geysers and hot springs and the bacterial, and lower order plant growths in these extreme environment, and seeing it with my own eyes made me feel so little in front of nature and yet so lucky to be a part of it and a witness to it.
I had hardly recovered from the nostalgic beauty of nature when we directed our attention to the wild life in the park. Let me tell you that both my husband and me are wildlife freaks. Our dream vacation would be the SERENGITI in Africa. So the prospect of wild life in the Yellowstone national park was just superb.
I’m sure that the elks we saw must be wondering about our sanity when we stood there awestruck and majorly excited taking picture of each one of them. Next we saw the Bisons crossing the road and wondered how lucky those guys were in the white car who had to stop and give way to the bisons so they could cross the road and go to the other side of their grazing heaven. My husband had read every word of the book that described the wild life there and was praying to be able to see a black bear and a Grizzly bear. He even asked the lady at the counter of the general store inside the park, where he could see a bear and she smiled and said that she had been there for a long time and had not seen a black one yet, but wished us luck.
In our hope to see some more elks and bisons and maybe a coyote, we took the 6 mile one way gravel road that ran in the wilderness of the national park. For 3.5 miles, we spotted nothing and thought that we had pretty much wasted our time here, when suddenly out of nowhere ran a coyote (we later confirmed that it was indeed a wolf) into the bushes. We waited for it to come out and as if heeding to our request, it did come out and gave us superb photo ops and a perfect view. We were more than satisfied now with the drive and waited for it to be complete before we could hit the main roads again and drive to our next stop. Suddenly my husband spotted a black bear, just about 20 feet away from us, happily eating the vegetation around him. We came to a full STOP and for a minute we just couldn’t contain our excitement and couldn’t believe our luck. It then dawned on us that we should at least take some pictures. While we did that, the bear gave us some excellent photo ops as if he was modeling for us. We watched it for 20 minutes grazing happily when we suddenly realized that it had come very close to us. It was less than 10 feet away from us and we remembered that we had a lot of food in the car. I had heard that bears are attracted towards smell of food and one should never give a wild bear such opportunity as it makes them very aggressive. So we slowly closed our windows and drove off. I had seen bears before but never in their own homes, never in the wilderness and believe me they look just majestic there. It is not the same as seeing them anywhere else.
On one of our drives through the park, my husband was able to see a mama grizzly bear with her two cubs but they were very far away and even with our extra zoom lens, you could only make out a spot but not see them clearly. There was no place to park the car and there would have been a traffic jam had the ranger not intervened. But all in all we saw a coyote (it was actually a wolf)- twice, different elks, American pelican, bald eagle, black bear and you could say the shadow of grizzly bear..lol. Earlier that day, we were talking to my sister-in-law and telling her that we are going out to find some coyotes and bears and it just happened that within half an hour of that conversation we did see them both. Had we said anything else, or wished for anything else that would have come true as well. In India we believe that once during a 24 hour period, our goddess Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge and wisdom) is on our tongue and anything spoken at that time becomes true. I know that the reason we are brought up with this faith is that we should always speak good for ourselves and for others, but maybe this is true, it happened to me for the first time. Anyway, that entire day was lucky in that way, whatever we were planning on and saying it was coming true, so I made the best use of it and keeping my faith I said a small prayer for the well being of all my loved ones so that it would come true too.
We saw some amazing water falls, and canyons and mountains but nothing came close to our experience with the geysers and the wild life. We also went to the Grand Teton national Park and took a boat ride to the base of the hidden falls. The ranger there informed us about a mama bear with cubs around and asked us to be careful, specially with respect to food. He informed that the latest sighting was just the day before which actually scared me off and all the way up the falls I kept insisting on returning back to the boat. Anyway, the hike was worth it, with only a snake for us to see in terms of wild life and the hidden falls were very nice specially after a sweaty hike, the cool hidden falls felt great. My son had an amazing time there, he hiked, played in the mud, collected sticks and pebbles. So it was fun and I’m thankful that no one listened to me when I was asking them not to go for the hike.
This trip reminded me of the fact that time changes and today becomes a memory even before you realise it. So we should live every moment to the fullest so that we can remember all the good times and love that we have for our loved ones and when we meet them after a long time we might as well let our emotions rage and let our love erupt and engross our world in our love leaving no place for any hatred, any bad feeling for anyone around us. Thank You Yellowstone for making me a better person. Thank You for reminding me of my childhood. Thank You for uniting me with my friend. Thank You for giving me this opportunity to explore you with my whole world complete with my husband, my son, my best friend, her husband – my brother whom I dearly care about, and my dear NEEL. Hats Off to you Yellowstone.