Close to Hell

The Grand Tetons in the background

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 warm waters support many colorful bacteria species

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.

Taken our last visit



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, 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.

Yellowstone Grand Canyon

DCIM100MEDIAOur 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.


19 thoughts on “Close to Hell

  1. WOW, Just went on my bucket list. Sounds like a fun place to visit. I’d love to go to the Writer’s Conference and meet some of my WW&W friends. You made the park come alive. Thanks. Cher’ley


    1. Wish I could have had more pictures, but after an hour of searching, still couldn’t find them on my computer. Wonder if they are on a card somewhere. IT is an awesome and very interesting place. Hope you make. The conference is fun too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Impressive and appealing, Neva. The park does indeed sound awesome. I’ve still got lots to see in the US! The closest I’ve got so far to bubbling volcanoes was Mount Etna at Christmas 2003. I’ve a photograph where it looks like I’m in an open air sauna and the car park of the visitor centre had bubbling lava pools cordoned off with a simple rope barrier. The Car Park was as high up as tourists could go on Etna since they had had an eruption there the previous autumn.


    1. THat sounds like an interesting area too! The bubbling mud pots and geysers at Yellowstone show the extreme heat of our inner core, and how close it is to the surface there. Lots of you-tube videos showing these but I still haven’t figured out how to embed one in the blog.


    1. We camped there several falls ago with another couple. So fun. When I was a kid we stayed at the Yellowstone Hotel and again when married. Neat too but really enjoyed the old log cabins they used to have where the bear came and examined all the garbage cans at night. Made it adventuresome.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The year before I was born, my parents vacationed at Yellowstone. I heard a lot of stories about its beauty and bears but haven’t ever gotten there myself.

    As to your question about being scared: Yes.


  4. I love Yellowstone. I haven’t been there in years. My family and I went on a road trip there a couple times when I was little. I remember one summer I had horrible asthma from the sulfur emitted from the geysers and I had to leave because I couldn’t breathe. I actually don’t think I’ve been back since! My allergies now are pretty mild and I guess I’ve grown out of them (except for cats) so I’d like to return. It’s been years. Great photos, Neva.


    1. Thanks Sarah. Had better photos but they must be on an old camera card “stored” somewhere. But google has a lot of great videos on the mud pots etc. Hope you are able to go back sometime.


  5. You KNOW this is one of my most favorite places to visit — I never tire for each trip is different. We are blessed to have both Yellowstone and the Tetons in our backyard. Thanks for sharing, my friend, and inspiring me to visit that lovely area once again!


    1. Yes, I don’t think about the sleeping giant often, less chance of it erupting than another disaster if I move to some other state I’m thinking. Have a friend who moved to Florida and got wiped out by a hurricane within a year, so will stay close to Yellowstone! Hope you get there for your visit. I find it so inspirational to just be in the “presence” of the Tetons.


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