Friday, September 24, 2010

Latest national park traveled: Yellowstone

National parks are quintessentially American. Ever since landing up in US in 2003, I have been to a small fraction of them:

Cuyahoga Valley (spring break, 2005)
Smoky Mountain (summer, 2005; fall, 2007)
Grand Canyon (Winter, 2005)
Shenandoah (fall, 2007)
Everglades (winter, 2007)
Yosemite(winter, 2007)
Petrified Forest (summer, 2008)
Acadia (summer, 2010)
Yellowstone and Grand Teton (fall, 2010)

When we think of natural attractions, mountains and seas are usual suspects. However, these national parks are unique in the sense that many of them present totally unusual vistas. Everglades certainly comes to mind - it encompasses the huge swampland of south Florida, an unique but fragile ecosystem. It is not terribly attractive if you want to travel marking the attractions on a map and then connecting the dots, but if for a few hours or days, you want to escape the "civilization", and just enjoy the vast wilderness and nothingness, that should be your next destination.

Yellowstone happens to be the first national park, where it all began, and no less unique. I have been up, close personal to a live volcano before (Mt.Etna, Sicily), but the sheer natural activity in Yellowstone is unlike anything I have ever seen. Spotting animals, (we did have some luck with seeing a bear and wolf/fox) hiding in the vast meadows or wilderness, is a favorite pastime, and whenever we would see a bunch of cars pulled over to the side of the road, we would slow down and ask, what do we see here? Easier to find are the Elks, we saw a herd of those relaxing in someone's front-yard. Bisons are omnipresent, often lazily crossing the roads holding up traffic.

However, you need no such luck or persevere to enjoy spectacle nature has laid out. Not only you have the geysers of all sizes sprouting hot water skyward in regular intervals, but also you have the strikingly colorful pools dotting the landscape. The old faithful is perhaps the most known, "faithfully" erupting at predicted intervals, but we were told that it used to go up higher in older days. Was not everything better back in the days when gas was 10 cents a gallon, airlines served food and immigrants did not flood the country?

That is just one of the countless geysers though.They seemed to pop out from everywhere, even from under a river or lake, a clear manifestation of the unseen activity underground. And when they subside, they form those pools. Combined with the metal particles, teeming microbe life renders surreal colors to those. At dusk, in the fading sunlight, the whole landscape transforms into something magical, the veil of smoke magnifying the colors. There are also some stinking muddy pools full of sulphur, bringing back memories of chemistry labs.

The pictures are in my facebook profile (apologies for not cross-posting them into picasa, but I am running out of virtual estate there).

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