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Yellowstone National Park  
Sept. 6 - 9, 2003

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All I knew about Yellowstone before I arrived here was that it was the first national park established in our country and that it was the home of Old Faithful and Yogi Bear.

I'm sure I'd seen travel specials on it, but don't remember being moved enough to make it a destination goal. When I discovered that my most direct path back to Austin would take us through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, I was pleased but not particularly thrilled about it. I thought that level of excitement had been spent in Alaska and Canada, but boy was I wrong!

Once we arrived through the north gate, we were both exclaiming, "I didn't think it would be THIS beautiful!" I was told that the only RV park that could accommodate my size home and car was the one that cost the most - in fact the most expensive night I've paid for a space to park in the 2 years that I've been RVing - $33.00 per night. And it's not even that nice a park, but it does have full hookups and from what I've seen of the park just driving 60 miles into it so far, I am sure it will be worth it just to see this wonder of a place.

The drive through the park is an incredible treat in itself - the curving road, the amazing cliff formations, the breathtaking scenery beg you to slow down and savor this gift for all of your senses.

Mom and I are absolutely enthralled with the landscape here - it feels like a totally different cosmic environment. To see boiling water bubbling from the earth in pools everywhere - to smell the sulfuric steam as it rises and to stare unbelievably at the vivid, strange colors tinting the surrounding land as if painted by the minerals in the whirling water - these are sights and experiences I would not trade for any other.

This park still has the feel of a primitive land where buffalo, bear, elk and coyote roam about freely among cold flowing streams and clear blue lakes right next to boiling cauldrons and geysers!

The steaming earth makes it feel like you would be just as likely to see dinosaurs stomping around, like getting a glimpse back to prehistoric days - what a trip!

"Yellowstone: Like No Other Place on Earth"

That's the title of the book I bought today about this national treasure of ours. I just really had no idea it would be this beautiful or interesting a place. Geologists refer to Yellowstone as a "hotspot," a concentrated region of very hot rock that originates deep within the earth, with spectacular results on the surface. An article in the park newspaper asks the question that I am sure is on everyone's mind as they drive through this vast smoking jungle: "Is Yellowstone Ready to Blow?" The scientists say, "It's a huge breathing caldera capable of doing a lot of things as far as we know."

My favorite spot was a place called Artist's Point at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. This is an area that rivals the one in Arizona for sure with the beauty and layering of the colors of the massive canyon and the distant waterfall still looming so large you think you can feel the spray. When I got to the top of the lookout, there was a young Eastern Indian couple there and he commented to me in the most sincere awe-filled voice: "Oh, this is too big for my eyes!"

One of the first explorers of this area in 1870 wrote: "I do not know of any portion of our country where a national park can be established furnishing to visitors more wonderful attractions than here. These wonders are so different from anything we have ever seen - they are so various, so extensive - that the feeling in my mind from the moment they began to appear until we left them has been one of intense surprise and of incredulity. Every day spent in surveying them has revealed to me some new beauty, and now that I have left them, I begin to feel a skepticism which clothes them in a memory clouded by doubt."

I am not surprised that the first reports of this area were not believed - it was hard to imagine then that a land like this could actually exist - it still is...

All I know is that this is special land - a place where you can hear the voice of the earth and see its breath, sometimes soft and gentle, sometimes hissing violently. And it's a place with magic pools and fairy waterfalls that completely enchanted me and made me vow to return someday.

Me at Minerva Terrace

We had only planned to spend two days, but after spending the entire day exploring just one of the loops and its side roads, we decided it would be ridiculous to be this close and not see more, and we wanted to go back through the upper loop that held the Minerva Terraces and the little interesting roads that offshoot from it.

Of course, we stopped at Old Faithful who remained faithful and put on its show for us. I enjoyed reading another 1870 account of its spouting off:

"We were convinced that there was not on the globe another region where … nature had crowded so much of grandeur and majesty with so much of novelty and wonder. Judge, then, of our astonishment on entering this basin, to see at no great distance before us an immense body of sparkling water, projected suddenly and with terrific force into the air to the height of over one hundred feet…"

It was another example of thinking I had known what something was all about, but realizing I knew nothing until I had witnessed it with my own two eyes.
In Anchorage I had a bear in my backyard. Here in Yellowstone we had buffalo moseying through our front yard this morning. I glanced out my front window and saw a big brown hump going by. As I got up for a closer look, I couldn't believe there were six buffalo strolling down my driveway! As I stepped carefully outside onto my front step, one turned and looked at me, but kept right on trucking down the road. I was happy I got some good pictures as proof of my unusual neighbors in Yellowstone.
We wound up seeing several individual and then several herds of them as we drove around today. Once when I stopped to get gas, a man at the station said that up ahead there was a "buffalo jam" - a usual occurrence in the park when those big guys decide to take a stroll within view of the road.
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