With only a few weeks left in Farmington, we opted to revisit one of Adam’s favourites: Yellowstone. An added bonus was the opportunity to meet up with Adam’s brother, Simon, who was travelling with Jade (his girlfriend) and Travis (Jade’s brother). Not only was it lovely to have their company, it was a huge help to have another group with a car when arrived at Jackson Hole’s airport to find Thrifty (a) wasn’t based at the airport, and (b) closed at 9pm (we arrived at 9:05pm). Note to all: do not hire Thrifty cars from Jackson Hole! Also reminded us to use TripAdvisor to check these things before booking….
The drive up through the Grand Tetons was a striking prelude to our 3 days in the park. Even in the gloom of rain clouds, they are a phenomenal sight: massive craggy peaks rising from a flat plain. We took the shots below on the way home when the sun was shining. As you can imagine, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road when you’re driving past such amazing scenery.
Yellowstone seems to be a one-stop-shop for all the interesting and beautiful parts of nature. Some areas of the park resemble a moonscape, others are thickly forested, and then there are the sweeping plains, the canyon, waterfalls and lakes. So much to see, so little time!
There are other places with so many attractions to recommend them, but the thing that sets Yellowstone apart is its volcanic activity. The ground is literally alive with geysers, mud pits and springs. Not knowing when or where steam may burst forth from the earth is a great incentive to stay on the paths! Some, like Old Faithful, are so predictable and impressive that there are stadiums built for watching their regular(ish) eruptions.
The pools and springs are perhaps the most visually stunning. The colouring comes from the heat tolerance of various bacteria present. In the most extreme examples, the cyanobacteria turn the middle of the pools glacier-blue, while the edges fade into various shades of rust and eventually green. The outlets for these pools are so small that all it takes is a coin to block them forever, hence there is a hefty fine for anyone silly enough to throw something into one. The Mammoth Springs are gobsmacking for their sheer size – the cascading terraces that have formed time look like infinity pools, albeit very smelly ones.
Yellowstone is also known to be crawling with wildlife, and we can verify that it has bison in spades. There are three to four thousand of them throughout the park, and they’re pretty comfortable around vehicles and walking on roads. We were stuck in mile-long car queues a few times for half an hour or more. Just as you’re thinking: ‘This queue better be for watching a bear attacking a moose’, you see an immense brown behind plodding slowly along. It’s amazing the first time, mildly amusing the second time, and a tad irritating from then on. However, it does remind you that we are merely visitors in their domain.
We saw a number of mule deer and elk sporting their impressive furry antlers, but by far the most exciting four-legged creature was the two moose (mooses?) we saw on the way to the airport at the appropriately named ‘Moose Junction’ – just when we thought we would miss out!
That’s our last national park on this trip to the USA, and what a way to finish up. Yellowstone is a must-see for USA visitors that enjoy the outdoors. Now, to the east, with its many and varied cities. First stop: Houston, Texas!