On day three we traveled from the East Yellowstone Entrance to the West Yellowstone Entrance, crossing state lines in the process. As we drove across just a small part of the park, the thought that struck us again and again was the sheer size.
That… and how much it stinks.
I also couldn’t seem to shake the nagging voice in my head that kept asking if we choosing to vacation on a caldera was really the best idea.
Yellowstone’s bizarre beauty captures your attention and beckons you to ignore your fear. The adults find themselves leaning in even as their children pull away. It is hard to tear your eyes away from Dragon’s Mouth Spring until you look down to see your six-year-old holding his nose under wide eyes as he inches backwards toward the parking lot. He seems to know what the adults have mysteriously forgotten: boiling water spewing from caves is a bad sign.
|Dragon’s Mouth Spring|
The parks department does a pretty good job of maintaining roads and facilities in the rumbling wilderness, but it is not unusual to pull into a parking lot and see orange cones marking a steaming sink hole. Your first thought is that it must be an old maintenance problem… until a child in the back seat points out the fresh paint on the top of the pavement.
Yellowstone is full of optical illusions. The camera captures the remarkable beauty of lakes, forests, waterfalls and wildlife. But closer inspection reveals that the lake water is boiling, the tree trunks are blackened in memory of the deadly wildfires that regularly sweep across the landscape, the waterfalls are lined with steaming caves and the serene wildlife is looking at you while licking their lips.
A shocking reminder that you are not necessarily at the top of the food chain in this neck of the woods.
Day three of our trip unfolded with a morning spent on the rocky beach of Lake Yellowstone where the boys skipped rocks into the crystal clear water.
We spent the afternoon hiking around the Mud Volcano. Muddy pits boil and bubble across the landscape and the air is saturated with the smell of sulphur. We had fun trying to convince the kids that the toddler shoe and pacifier floating in and out of the entrance of Dragon Mouth Spring meant that a misbehaving child had met his doom.
They didn’t believe us.
The Hayden Valley provided a panoramic view of hundreds of buffalo while they grazed in an ancient lake-bed.
|Just a few of the hundreds of bison grazing in a dry lake bed.|
And we got our wish for a closer look at the bison when one blessed us with an intimate view of his tail-end while he sauntered down the road in front of us, causing a traffic jam.
|“I wonder what all the traffic is about…”|
|“Ya, know you have a whole national park to roam. We only have this here road…”|
We ended the evening with ooey-gooey s’mores under another star-filled night before wrapping ourselves up under layers of blankets in preparation for the temperature to plummet into the mid-30’s.