Before we left our camp just outside the park entrance, we watched tiny marmots scuttling around everywhere. On the way out of the park, in the early evening, the wildlife was at the other end of the scale. Herds of buffalo. Some enormous solitary bulls, but dozens of grazing beasts spread over the wide grassy plains.
Yellowstone is a very large park and was busy. We were surprised how busy. At the end of August we thought it would be quieter. In fact is was probably the busiest park we have been to. Traffic was heavy and slow. The maximum speed limit is 45mph, but people drive far slower when they are looking at things.
The scenery is magnificent throughout. Forests, mountains, canyons, wide grassy plains. Something of everything. Of course, on top of this are the geothermal features. It is these that make it different to any other National Park and probably cause it to be so popular. It was quite like being back home in Rotorua, with the familiar smell of sulphur!
Our first stop was the Old Faithful Geyser. So named because of its regular performance. We were lucky and only had to wait 15 minutes for it to perform. It usually erupts around every 90 minutes and lasts for about 4 minutes. We are probably a bit blasé about geysers, having Pohutu almost on our doorstep.
I have to remember how to pronounce geysers. I can still remember on the first coach tour I did with Dennis, his instructions on the pronunciation of the word geyser. It should be pronounced ‘guyser’, not geeza. Geezas are those old guys you find down the Old Kent Road.
There are various areas of geothermal activity with steam bubbling up and crusty areas of silica, as you drive through the park. We only stopped at the major features, the next being the Grand Prismatic Spring. It is pretty grand too. We couldn’t get into the car park as the queue started on the main road, so parked by the roadside. Climbing down a steep bank we walked alongside a warm river, to the entrance. On the way we passed a lone bald eagle sitting majestically atop a pine tree. It looked as if it was surveying the hundreds of people walking along the boardwalks with complete distain. Dennis stopped to take a photograph.
The Prismatic Spring was gorgeous. Vivid shades of orange, yellow and blue. The Champagne Pool at Wai-o-Tapu, just outside Rotorua is similar. Everything here is on a larger scale though and very spread out. 20 miles or more between features. After lunch in a shady spot, we stopped next at the Artists Paint Pots. Dennis decided he wouldn’t bother, so I went for a quick look. It wasn’t very quick as the Pots were a mile and a half walk away. I thought if I went a little way I might see something. I had to keep going though and just looked at the first pot. The pots are boiling mud pools. The one I saw was a creamy colour, but I suspect they have been named “Artists Pots” because they are of differing colours.
It was already well after 3pm and we had intended to stop at the Travertine Terraces and the Albright Visitor Centre to get some wifi. Observing the Terraces from the road, we drove straight on to the visitor centre. Sleeping on the lawn beside the centre were a herd of elk. They looked very tame and placid, but a sign advised they were not to be approached.
Time goes very quickly when you get involved with emails and try to load photos into the blog. Leaving after 5pm we headed for a nearby campsite in the park. It was fully booked. There was another a few miles further on. Also fully booked. It was another 40 miles to exit the park where there were several campgrounds. It was around 6.30 by the time we reached the first. A sign advised us tents were not allowed. Dennis asked the camp host if it was okay for us to stay with our tent, as we don’t sleep in it. He said he thought so, but he would come and check us out later.
We found a suitable site and set up camp. Having cooked dinner and with Dennis already in bed and me about have a wash, the camp host turned up. It was already dark and he was sounding very negative about our tent. Inviting him in to have a look, we showed him that, when sleeping, we were securely shut inside the vehicle. He proceeded to give us a bit of a lecture about grizzlies and their strong sense of smell. We must not leave any toiletries in the tent and our washing water must be tipped down the toilet. Apparently there have been 3 bear attacks in this camp. The last one in 2010 when a man sleeping in a tent was killed by a female grizzly and fed to her cubs. Just to let you know we have survived the night without incident and I am writing this the morning after!