By Anna Gentry
In the heart of the untamed West lays the wild frontier of Yellowstone National Park. This bubbling, geyser-filled oasis represents a North American pastime – perfectly preserved for future generations. An area where animals freely roam, knowing no fenced boundaries and live to hunt day-to-day for their next meals. Yellowstone, a rugged wilderness, is a sight to behold.
As a young child, the public library was home to a variety of travel books. One in particular has stayed with me from childhood and into adulthood. While I do not remember the title, I can still close my eyes and picture the cover – a hot geyser, with steam bubbling through the surface of its clear, aquamarine waters and stunning rainbow-colored shoreline. This aerial-style photograph has etched itself within my memory and as a child I longed to see this spectacular destination first-hand, to witness bountiful beauty and the amazing living earth sciences that define the very essence of Yellowstone.
While I have been to Yellowstone twice, the miraculous wonders of this geothermic region never cease to amaze me. Ever changing, some geysers that once were are no more and others have emerged to take their place. Always changing and evolving is nature’s way – the tempo that maintains the silent, yet steady ticking of a fast-paced world.
Set amid silhouetted peaks and carved valleys, this geothermal underbelly offers unlimited day hikes and adventures. We visit Mammoth Springs, which is completely fascinating. Walking along the creaky boardwalks and seeing the terraced geothermal natural structures is awe-inspiring. These ever-changing springs deposit more than two tons of travertine daily and are considered by many to be the third largest travertine deposits in the entire world.
Next, we plunge into the Norris Geyser Basin. We take a hike, a little more than two miles, which winds around more than 15 geysers. As the steam vents release their pent-up gases, tiny beads of sweat form around our brows. Pictures are challenging at times, as the steamy sulfuric gases continually bubble, releasing boiling geothermal droplets into the atmosphere.
Afterwards we take a jaunt into a paint pot paradise – the Artists Paintpots. This scenic one-mile hike winds around picturesque, vibrantly colored bubbling mud pots – red, green, blue and white – which dot the pine-forest landscape.
Ironically, the animals of Yellowstone must be in hiding or not viewable through the thick-blanketed forest of trees that have grown since the devastating 1988 wildfires. We see approximately six buffalo and six elk – a substantial decrease from years’ past. Hopefully tomorrow the animals are out, roaming around their native stomping grounds.
We are staying in a West Yellowstone campground. As we plan our Yellowstone National Park adventures for tomorrow, we will be seeing sites with other tourists, as we observe license plates from Arizona, New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Montana and even Alaska. Walking the boardwalks, we also hear traces of Japanese and European languages, as Yellowstone is a major, world-renowned tourist attraction.