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Posts tagged "yellowstone"

Yellowstone National Park

  • 30/Mar/2019 at 16:00

After two days around it, we finally entered in Yellowstone National Park on our third day, the main destination and purpose of the trip.

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We drove North through Highway 20, so early we rarely saw any car in the middle of the vast wheat plantations, each at a different harvesting stage, presumably to optimize the use of harvesting resources all-year round.

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When we arrived to West Yellowstone, we stopped to grab a coffee, in what became the second coffee successful discovery: Expresso West, just before heading towards the Park Gate, had real and good coffee.

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Entering into Yellowstone through the most popular gate meant the first traffic jam to us, provoked mainly because some animal is near the road and people stop the cars wherever they feel like. This happened with an eagle and some deers.

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Soon, the real Yellowstone appeared: the volcanic activity in the form of hot springs, geysers and fumaroles. The Park is on the Yellowstone caldera, a 50 km diameter area, which lies on a hotspot, that is the source of the whole activity that captivates the visitors. Giving a second thought to it, it is a bit scary to think what if that activity becomes, suddenly, more violent than average…

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When we arrived to Madison, we headed North-East, We stopped in Perry Pond, Gibbon Falls, Beryl Spring and at the Norris Geyser Basin. Springs are spectacular: the water has a very bright light blue colour, and the borders usually have a bigger variety of colours, from white to brown, red, orange, … The colour depends on the bacteria that is living in that area, which are different as temperature and pH conditions vary.

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At Norris, we could walk through a number of springs, geysers, and fumaroles for 3 km. There, we could see the famous Steamboat geyser, which, although unpredictable, is the highest geyser in the world. The white rocks in most of the landscape makes you think you are in the moon, while you are constantly reminded of the volcano under your feet with the strong sulfur smell. It is impressive to see where the heat gas and liquids arrive as life disappears: one tree dies from the roots and whiten dramatically, while another one just one meter apart is tall and green.

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After the walk among geysers and basins, we had lunch in the Canyon Village (nothing to highlight), and headed to the Yellowstone River Canyon. Although it was easy to imagine, seeing the canyon carved in yellowish stone made it evident where the naming came from. We only stayed in the North Rim, and did part of the trail, with the characteristic sound of a high flow of water falling a few hundreds of meters.

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Before leaving the Park through the West entrance, we explored the Firehole area a bit. Yet another area with geysers and painting pots (basins with mud). One of the fumaroles here was formed just a few years ago by an earthquake more than 100 km away (panic mode here!).

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After this, we took our way back to Ennis, in Montana, where we stayed in a movie-like road motel. I had time (and some energy left) to run in the surrounding residential area, and I was surprised by some deers who preferred to eat the shiny green grass of some gardens rather than anything else.

The next morning, apart from grabbing a coffee in our new favourite place in the area, we started where we ended the day before: Firehole area. We drove through the Firehole Canyon Drive to see the Firehole Falls, and start the day with nature, life (and less people), before heading the sulphur world. The colder temperatures in the morning drastically changed the views: the Grand Geyser had just erupted and the vapor cloud could be seen from several km away. This might be one of the best tips: go early to this area. It is worth it.

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This areas has not only the Grand Geyser, but a couple of other colourful basins, like the Grand Prismatic Spring, or the Turquoise Pool, that create small rivers that disembogue in the Firehole River, creating a beautiful effect, when boiling water from the springs, meets the river cold one.

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In any case, our planned goal was to see the most famous geyser in Yellowstone: Old Faithful. It is a big attraction, with thousands of people waiting for the well scheduled eruptions, which sometimes are bigger than others. Ours was not so impressive, especially considered the hour we spent waiting for it.

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After a very joyful morning (in spite of this disappointment), we headed to the North Entrance to visit the Mammoth Hot Springs, which is a different and unique view in the park. Here, the hot water coming from the ground has limestone in it, which in contact with the air transforms into a solid mineral, travertine. Travertine forms impressive terraces of different colours (again bacterias having a word here), becoming white when they dry.

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We called it a day, and left the park through the North Entrance, heading back to Ennis. As a memory from this driving back, we crossed some mountains, and witnessed a persecution of a police car to a car the resembled the one at Knight Rider TV series. The police car appeared from nowhere, probably from behind an advertisement after a curve…

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The last day in Yellowstone was devoted to the non-caldera part. We entered through the North Entrance, and drove East towards the Lamar Valley. This is out from the caldera, so it is plainly a nature area. The main objective of this day was to spot some bisons.

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Before seeing any animal, we saw the Undine Falls, which did not impress us at all, after what we had seen the days before. Suddenly we saw first bison calm in a small meadow. We were happy, we had managed to see one, and we spent 15 minutes there, looking at it, and taking pictures. We thought there would be no more. After a few kilometres, we saw a group of around 20 bisons at certain distance, and we repeated the operation: park, pictures, … We were really fortunate… But that was just the beginning: after the Tower junction, where we had lunch, the bisons started to be common next to the road. We could see them grazing, mostly in pairs, and stirring on the floor. They seeed to be extremely pacific animals (although huge), and crossed the roads without any consideration, provoking traffic jams and some panic to the drivers.

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After having been more in contact with bisons, than we had ever figured out, we headed South, stopping at the Tower Falls, the Mud Volcano and the Sulphur Cauldron. Nothing new in essence, but with different shapes that give the naming.

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We briefly stopped at the Yellowstone Lake, as the fog and the sunset made it a ghost place, not the supposed beauty it should be. Then we continued our way to our accommodation near Dubois, in the middle of nowhere at the Shoshone National Forest.

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It was a long drive back, tired, but the next morning we were thankful, as there were several amazing spots in the Shoshone Park, like Wind River Lake. It was also an opportunity for us to learn about the Continental Divide, which is the geographical line that divides rivers than end in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean. The Rockies are the main divide in North America, and this was already an important aspect for the native tribes that lived here before European arrives. That played an important role in the split of the lands.

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After enjoying this bonus in the Shoshone Park, we had our last views of the Teton Range, and started our way back to Salk Lake City, stopping for breakfast in the known place “The Bunnery”, in Jackson Hole, and had lunch at the Bear Lake, in Garden City. Their ads about the raspberry ice cream made us give it a try…and good that we did.

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Just before crossing to Utah state, we saw our last cowboys and cowgirls riding their horses and moving their herds os cows from one place to the other. Nice way to say goodbye to the Wild West.

Yellowstone, Grand Teton & Salt Lake City

  • 16/Mar/2019 at 15:57

Yellowstone is a familiar name for anyone my age in Spain, as we had those famous cartoons of Yoggi Bear and his friend Bubu, who lived there, making the life impossible to the many campers, visitors and forest guards,… and that was one of the closest National Parks near Chicago, where I had to travel for other reasons. Moreover, reading this is a volcanic area, and having missed a trip to Iceland in the past, this was tailor-made opportunity to get to see some the particular landscapes and spots of such area. Decision was quite easy to made.

overalltrip

Trip organization came a bit too late, and that entailed some logistics issues when visiting a (very) popular destination in high season (August): there was no affordable accommodation in the park, and we could only find reasonable prices at 2-hour drive locations. This ended up being a bit tiring, but driving in these wide areas in the US is also a very enjoyable activity, as the landscapes in the huge valleys make it worth it.

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We drove through 3 of the 7 states with the highest rate cattle/person: Montana (#3), Wyoming (#5) and Idaho (#7). Driving forth and back, we saw many latifundia devoted to agriculture or ranching, and countless cows. We were in the West, where many of the movies were based, although instead of riding a horse, were driving a large Nissan through the endless straight roads, with only some scattered and isolated houses at the hills’ slopes. These places looked quite scary to live in (too many terror movies, maybe?), but even worse when we saw some active fires. We could count at least four different ones, so big that its smoke reached many hundreds of miles apart, ruining some views (and many pictures) in the park.

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One of the many cool things about these roadtrips is spotting different state license plates in the cars. For those who may not know it, each state has a different design, which is also part of their own branding, with slogans like “Scenic Idaho”, “Life Elevated” (Utah), or “Treasure State” (Montana).

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We visited two National Parks (Grand Teton and Yellowstone), two National Forests (Shoshone and Targhee), four states (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana), and many many kilometres… but it was really interesting. (more posts coming…)

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