Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Although the snow has just been cleared from the roads, the tourists are pouring in. DH and I hoped we were early enough we wouldn’t have to deal with hoards of Winnebagos, tour buses and goofy people wearing goofy clothes. But they were there well ahead of us.

We live near enough to Yellowstone National Park that we can do a drive-by visit in a day. We’ve been there in all kinds of weather and seen a lot of nature and a lot of changes.

The biggest change came in 1988 when the largest wildfire in the recorded history of the U.S. burned over a third of the park.

View of smoke from the Yellowstone Fires from Idaho—August 1988.  Note the dry landscape.

Even from our home about two hours’ drive away we could see the huge clouds of smoke rolling into the sky most of that summer. The conflagration was fought by thousands of firefighters with everything from airplanes dumping fire retardant to people on the ground with shovels. The final flames were not extinguished until snow fell that October.  For more on the fire check the link at the end of this post.

Even today the effects of the inferno are still evident in miles and miles of charred forest littered with downed and standing burned trees. New growth is gradually filling in, but even after twenty-two years the scars are deep.

Another change is the introduction of wolves. The undertaking is controversial, but for those in favor of the wolves it has been a success.

For the first time in my life I was able to see a wolf in the wild. He was pointed out by a group of photographers lining the highway.

My photos are blurry since the wolf was far away, but there he was casually stopping to check for rodents in the grass and then trotting off.

There are still geysers--

--and more geysers--

--and hot bubbling mud pots---surrounded by people posing for photos.

New babies of all kinds are making their appearance. And even though bears are no longer a common sight, plenty of buffalo are everywhere. They like to hang out near the warm springs and leave plenty of poop in the park.
People who are used to theme parks have to be instructed over and over not to approach the wildlife.

Don’t think you can set your kid on the back of a big bull for a photo op.

Don’t think you can go up and pet the cute baby calves. Mommas never take kindly to strangers getting too near their children.

We arrived at the village surrounding Old Faithful Geyser just as it was spouting. We could see the water jet into the air from the parking lot. But there was no place to park. We’d seen the display plenty of times so we just circled until it was all over. Within minutes the people cleared the area and we found a parking spot. We still had a big problem. We’d been driving all morning and needed to make a pit stop. Most of the crowd had left Old Faithful and lined up at the bathroom.

I have a theory about Old Faithful Geyser. I think all the pressure from tourist bathroom flushing is channeled into pipes that go to that big fountain. When enough flushing force is built up--the geyser blows. Could this be why they won’t let people anywhere near the spouting water? And maybe all those piles of do-do around the geyser are not left by the buffalo.

The three-story Old Faithful Inn built over a hundred years ago still stands thanks to the brave efforts of hundreds of firefighters. The line of burned trees ends just a few yards from the building. The story of how it was saved in 1988 is well worth checking out.



Runningspider said...

I like your old faithful theory... little JD seems to build a good amount of pressure of his own! We will have to take the little ones this year to see the sights! Hope your June 6th was a good one! I was thinking of you both. Nice wolf pics, DH would like to "see" one of those. (lol)

Linda Sue said...

Before the onslaught of tourists and vehicles and dumb people feeding bears, my parents took us there just about every summer, It was empty- there were no protective barriers around giesers, there was a tiny shop with trinkets of old faithful and bears, ash trays mostly...wooden walkways and out houses...I haven't been able to go to Yellowstone because I want to keep my memories intact and my love and wonder of that region. Like going back to Venice- wrecked by people. ..like the earth actually, wrecked by people...love your wolf shots.

The Weaver of Grass said...

How I enjoyed these photographs Leenie - the wolves look so at home there too.

frayedattheedge said...

Amazing photos!!It's hard to believe that there is still so much devastation from the fire. It's on my list of places to visit - if I ever get tere you can be my guide!!
ps - like your theory about the pressure from the loos priming the geyser!!

DayPhoto said...

Sigh! Just Beautiful!


fifi said...

I am quite inspired to visit!

If you feed Lorikeets sugar, or even white bread, it rots their beaks and makes them sick but they will always come back for more. The lady up the back had a flock used to visit her balcony, turns out she was sprinkling ICING SUGAR. (!)
the little ones soon had their beaks half rotted. Awful.

They eat seeds and stuff like that so you can get special mixes to give them.

So there you are. No little hummers here, sadly!

I will look forward to your visit. I will get my paints and we will go painting.


If I ever make it I'm going to be a goofy tourist wearing goofy clothes and when I'm standing in the washroom line ahead of you I'll let you butt in so you'll feel obliged to point out all the non-tourist stuff that so many people tend to miss.
..and you can help me with camera setting too *grin*