by Neva Bodin
We are about 230 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park, containing one of the largest calderas in the world, measuring 45 by 30 miles. Should we be scared?
The park, established in 1872, was America’s first National Park. It is an active super volcano, 63 miles long and 54 miles wide. Perhaps the fires of hell burn beneath the surface, and prompted the moniker, “Colter’s Hell” for the area. Last year a hiker, wandering to a forbidden area to “soak,” fell in a hotsprings and his body was dissolved.
It is one of the most interesting places to visit and butts up against the beautiful Grand Teton Park. We have been to both perhaps 5-6 times and I never tire of the topography or scenery. I visited first as a teenager, traveling with family.
I counted 62 bears, most of them sitting at the side of the road waiting for a doughnut or whatever someone might offer. Forever after when my father encountered a long string of cars while driving, he would comment, “Must be a bear in the road.” A few years ago my husband and I drove through and didn’t see any bears. It is illegal to feed them now.
According to http://www.yellowstonepark-trip.com, Yellowstone National Park has “50 mammal species, 311 bird species, 18 fish species, 6 reptile species, 4 amphibian species, and 5 endangered or threatened species.”
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is 20 miles long and exhibits a beautiful waterfall. There are over 290 waterfalls in the park over 15 feet tall and somewhere around 300 geysers. Old Faithful is the most famous, erupting about every 91 minutes. Visitors come from all over the world each year to see these phenomenon. There were 4,097,410 visitors in 2015.
Our last visit, some of the thermal features were changing and road, previously open, was now melting and buckling, forcing a change in where we drove. There are awesome forces beneath the ground there.
Though sometimes the geyser basin is referred to as “Colter’s Hell,” that spot is reported to have been thermal springs just west of Cody, WY, which is near the east entrance of the Park, now a calmer area of hot springs and steam. Colter was an explorer, trapper and mountain man who may have been the first white man to see the Yellowstone area in 1808.
The Tetons, named by Frenchmen, “les trois tétons,” meaning “The Three Nipples,” are an awesome site to see, and are located to the south of Yellowstone Park. I never tire of looking at them and being in their presence. And they are a presence.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming has a writer’s conference every June and I attended one year. My husband and I camped at Gros Ventre Campground (pronounced Grow Vaunt) and daily I drove through a herd of buffalo while “experiencing” the Tetons. Gros Ventre is another French term meaning “big belly.” Those French must have been into anatomy.
The area should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit. If you want inspiration, visit Yellowstone and the Tetons.