Thursday, December 15, 2011


Getting to Yellowstone National Park is an expedition.  As in days of yore when going somewhere meant careful planning and long time travel the trip to Yellowstone is rewarding, satisfying the need to get away from the hustle of the modernity.

The park is huge.  Covering almost 3,500 square miles, Yellowstone is about the size of Puerto Rico, or Crete; and probably more isolated; certainly less populated.  The best way to get there is by flying to Bozeman, Montana and driving alongside the Gallatin River to the North Gate just past Gardiner, MT.

The Roosevelt Arch to the Park is a relic of days when stone masons would labor to erect a rustic monument in the middle nowhere just to make a proud civic statement.

Driving there is long. but it goes fast.  There is so much to see.  The landscape is vintage Western.  It is mountainous, forested, and overflowing with streams, rivers, and lakes; the wildlife plentiful and primordial.

Before even entering the park you will likely see eagles, deer, elk, moose, and the ubiquitous crows.
The air is freshly pine scented cool and tingly with oxygen.

Occasionally, moose will venture quite close the road and a bull moose may be spotted chomping on riverbed weeds like so much watercress salad.  It is a sight to behold as your eyes are inundated by the sheer massiveness of the antlered beast.  Moose are not funny-looking deer, instead they are bigger and much more dangerous; especially a calving cow, charging with the least provocation.  But on a warm sunny day with a mouthful of wild veggies, a bull is secure in his size and will rather enjoy some gastronomical bliss than attack curious onlookers.

Going inside, the park swallows you into its primeval entrails: it's a new world.  It is pristine and mostly untouched but for a few incredibly spaced, far apart attractions.   This is no amusement park, this is no Disneyland.  The park's sheer size dilutes the steady influx of travelers.  Mere tourists seldom venture into the wilderness, but when they do, they are like exotic birds blown in by a storm.


Native birds are making their homes in local trees sheltering and breeding, preying and feeding; ensuring their survival.  Bald Eagles nesting are not uncommon and nobody messes with them, not even the next great bird of prey, the Horned Owl.

Relatively close to the North gate sits the smallest of settlements, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and cabins, as well as park training facilities. At  Mammoth Hot Springs the landmark minerals deposited on the rocks by steaming hot eruptions congeal into monumental formations quite similar to stalagmites found in caverns.

Crystalline mineral formations are colorful and appear to be flowing with rich caramel undertones making them seem incredibly yummy.   There are also crystalline white terraces evoking a sense of palatial marble steps in their pure white brilliance.  A Mammoth Hot Springs sunset is particularly compelling with its soft warm pastel colors.

Deep inside the park lay a multitude of boiling pools steaming away like pots of boiling water.  Each hot spring bubbles to a different tune and blushes to a different shade of blue, yellow, or red.  Some have clear hot water and others are stinky colorful "paint pots" wafting sulfurous barrages every which way assailing the nostrils with their mineral fumes.

So much geothermal activity: steaming, hissing, boiling, and bubbling; all the sulfurous emanations and arrested-in-time rock flows impress all the senses with the sudden realization that this is a volcanic caldera so huge and old that nature has been disguising the fact that this is a Super Volcano.  Colorful hot spring geysers abound.

Walking on a boiling cauldron is invigorating and somehow energizing to life all around, including thermal spring-fed grasses.

It is easy to visualize ancient Earth as a couple of wolves traipse past on the horizon eyeing you in their surreptitious way as they vanish into the woods.  Then imagine how they might survive the cold winters.

Or, seeing a grizzly bear foraging on the mountain side a few hundred yards away.  No, it's not Yogi Bear, or Boo Boo.  This is one scary fur ball and you best keep moving right along.  Which is why there are no pictures!

Then there are the Bison.  Of the millions that roamed the North American continent as late as the 1900 only one small bison herd survives naturally in Yellowstone National Park. Bison are magnificent and in their grandeur tolerant of onlookers - not too close - content to graze peacefully as gawking visitors snap countless pictures in perfect awe.  An annoyed bull bison will display his feelings, a warning best heeded.

Bison lives unfold without meddling people just fine.  Their food source plentiful; their energy needs met by the many geothermal pools all during the frigid winters.

Yellowstone Lake, an amoeba shaped body of water central to the parks ecosystem is a favorite with fishermen for its catch and release trout.   Around the lake are situated the biggest facilities such as Grant Village and Old Faithful Inn is relatively close.  The latter is closer to the geyser.  In either case, staying at the park and visiting the lake like it was your own back yard is an entirely different experience.

Old Faithful Geyser is the most famous geothermal feature in the US.  So named because it erupts roughly every 90 minutes shooting between 4,000 to 8,000 gallons of boiling water up to 180 feet.  It is a desolate undertaking oblivious to mankind.  A friendly reminder that the Earth was here before us and will continue long after we're gone.

There are 13 major and 17 minor waterfalls and of the thirty, Lower Yellowstone Falls is one of the most amazing geological features in the park in what's called the Little Grand Canyon. It is as unexpected as it is inaccessible.  The roadside view is magnificent and the scale so grandiose that pictures cannot compare.

Another amazing waterfall is Tower Falls and measuring 132 feet it is probably the most spectacular.  It is easily viewed from the road, and somehow seems more delicate.

The most incredible hot spring is the park is the Grand Prismatic Spring.  It is the largest hot spring in the US and the third largest in the world, right after two from New Zealand.  Nearly 370 feet in diameter and 160 feet deep, it holds about 560 gallons of 160 F degree water coming straight out of the Earth's depths and reflects light in the most beautiful turquoise end of the spectrum.

Aquatic cyanobacteria give the Grand Spring its signature prismatic colors: yellow, green, orange, red, and brown.  It is simply gorgeous.  If you like sulfur, it will smell great too.

At the Grand Prismatic Spring it is plain to see how Yellowstone Park got its name when looking around all you see is yellow in its various permutations and shades.

Leaving Yellowstone is the hardest part.  Once there, you may never want to leave.  But when you do, exiting toward the small town of West Yellowstone is probably the easiest.  It is the quickest the same way that saying goodbye is easiest when done quickly; lest you linger.   And it will always seem too soon; abruptly.

Art prints of these and more are available at Amazon.
Please visit Romagosa Fine Arts
Thank you,
Juan Romagosa

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