This was our second day visiting Yellowstone. Our plan was to continue our tour of the geysers and take the scenic drive around the northern portion of Yellowstone. You know what they say about best laid plans. Ours started out great and as we got near our northern turn, traffic came to a stop. It took over an hour for us to cover the three miles to our turn. Not sure what was going on but we suspected it was a bison delay.
The park is very busy and the crowds are large but we stopped at several of the geyser sites and had a great time. The geysers are not all like Old Faithful, shooting water up as high as a building, most are much smaller in the amount of scalding water they throw up. There are also geysers that create hot ponds where the microorganisms can grow and create a beautiful display. There are also vents where steam flows (greater than 280 degrees Fahrenheit) from the earth.
Did I mention the steam stinks? Well, the steam is made of hydrogen sulfide, which means it has a very Sulfur smell. On one of the trails much of our walk was through a cloud of this hydrogen sulfide. I saw one lady holding her hand to her mouth like she was about to throw up. It can be strong, but we tolerated it well.
It was almost surreal. As you walk on the boardwalk, you hear hot water spewing, gurgling, or burping, you see bright colors against a white dead looking background, all of that is filtered through a cloud that stinks and is warm and moist. Then a breeze blows, the smell is gone and you feel a coolness on your skin. A few more steps and you are back in the cloud.
The drive through the park is gorgeous. The mountains, rivers, tall trees, elk, bison, and more geysers rivers, streams. You can fish the rivers and lake but must get a Yellowstone fishing pass. State issued fishing licenses are not valid in the park.
We saw a lodge that was built by the Army when it first protected the park, (they were the original park rangers and protected the game from poachers and the park from looters). The Army also built many lodges and cabins that a platoon or few soldiers could stay in when on patrol and couldn’t get back to Fort Yellowstone. The cabins were furnished with cots, axes, wood stoves, buckets, cookware and serving ware but not much more.
It was expected that if you sought shelter in one of these lodges or cabins that you would hunt your meat, chop your wood to keep warm, and go to the nearest water source to get water. And before leaving the hut, you were expected to clean it up and leave it ready for the next visitors. These buildings are still available for the park rangers or others that get stranded on a trail and they have not been changed since they were first built.
As we began our drive home, we were about 5 miles from our turn to leave the park, when traffic came to a stop. A vehicle now and then would come up the road and we would inch along. We learned that there was a bison herd on the road (they have right-of-way) and the herd wasn’t in any hurry to move along. It took us one and half hours to get moving again. It reminded us of stories from the old west when the bison herds would stop trains and were sometimes so large it could take a day for the herd to cross the tracks.
It was a long day and we covered most of the northern end of the park. Can’t wait to see what comes next.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s the link to our video of Old Faithful erupting on YouTube.