Travel Tips & Adventures

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Traveling to Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone, the first National Park in what later became a National Park System, is an incredible place to explore.  Sometimes, just driving can give you amazing views of the wildlife and natural wonders available.  The 2.2 million acres of Yellowstone are located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, with some of its land spilling into Idaho and Montana.

Yellowstone National Park southern entrance

Getting there

Entering Yellowstone from the south via Grand Tetons (more on that park another week) we drove in on Route 89/191/297.  We had paid for a park pass at Grand Teton that was good for both parks for seven days.  ($25 in our case, an annual pass is $50)

In late May, as we headed past Lewis Lake, the water was still frozen and it was still cold outside, as evidenced by our need to use the car’s defroster.  According to the map, the road on which we entered was actually closed until mid-May.  Apparently, only the two east and one north entrances are open year round.

First stop: Old Faithful and more

Everyone has heard about Old Faithful, so we decided we’d see that iconic natural feature first.  We could just imagine how busy the area would be in the middle of summer, with a big parking area very crowded in late May!  Heading in to the drive to Old Faithful, we saw several buffalo on the roadside, but couldn’t stop because of traffic.  We regretted not being able to spend time viewing the bison, but more than made up for that later on…more on that in another blog.

We followed the path to Old Faithful once we’d parked and found low benches in a giant semi-circle surrounding the area where Old Faithful spews once every- approximately – 70 minutes.  A posted sign said that the next spouting would be at approximately 3:57 PM, plus or minus 10 minutes.  The Parks Service is very clear that they are predicting, no scheduling.

We had a lot of time to spare, so we wandered about, getting a feel for the area.  In the distance, many small geysers seemed to be steaming, but on the particular day we were there, another geyser, Castle Geyser, seemed to be spewing and throwing giant clouds of steam into the air northwest of Old Faithful.  We were informed by the Park Ranger that Castle Geyser is unpredictable.  However, unpredictable as it may have been, it was more amazing than we expected.  Especially when…

Old Faithful- faithful, but maybe not as impressive as others

We finally saw Old Faithful do its performance. After a long 45 minutes of little gassy clouds, almost at the end of the predicted time, the geyser began foaming slightly and then raised a cloud of steam into the air, before calming down.  With Castle Geyser going off over 10 times as high in the distance, Old Faithful was a disappointment to everyone. You could tell because the end of the quick time of eruption and the almost instantaneous departure of the crowd made it apparent that no one was entranced.

Old Faithful does its thing (click here for video)

The numbers in the Park newsletter for Old Faithful were more impressive as they state that Old Faithful averages heights of 130 feet in the air and spews out between 3,700 and 8,400 gallons of water per eruption. The water temperature at the vent at the start of eruption is 204 degrees F. (95.6 C)

We were spoiled by Castle Geyser’s spectacular performance!

Castle Geyser - less often, but more spectacular!

So, take a look at the photos and picture yourself surrounded by geysers steaming and spewing in many places around the park and, then, you can understand why Yellowstone was originally called after early explorer John Colter’s observation,”Colter’s Hell.”

More in next week’s blog on Yellowstone.  Anyone who can get there will find it an amazing place. Plan to spend a couple of days or more to see the many sights.

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