Civic Ctr Sept 14

The last time I showed you the new Sequim City Hall, in August, there really wasn’t much to show. Within days of that post the structural framework was erected, quickly defining the new building. The completed facility will be 34,000 square feet and will include both city administrative offices and the police station.

YNP colorful people

Over three million people visit Yellowstone each year. Popular areas can get crowded by midday. But the park is so large it’s not hard to find solitude; early risers also can beat the crowds, have better wildlife sightings, and, of course, better light.

YNP pink lady

I enjoyed people-watching. This woman was just too cute to ignore.

YNP photo op

At times I felt like I was the only one in the park who didn’t insert myself, DH, or both of us into our photos. Photographers, m-a-n-y photographers, didn’t take shots unless one, several, or all the people in their group were in it.
I like people. Really! But it did mean long waits occasionally until another photographer’s shoot/reshoot/another shot was done.

YNP centerpiece

And then there were people who were just downright interesting. Like the couple next to us at dinner one night. First there were the selfies: her with a glass of white wine. Then a toast. Then both facing the camera. Then…what? A little bear dressed in a knit hat and jacket joined them at the table…don’t ask me…but it did smile for the camera.

Tower Fall region

Here are more views of Yellowstone. Above is the Tower Fall region in the northeastern corner of the park.

Lamar Valley, near Pebble Creek

Also in the northeastern region is the Lamar Valley. This beautiful high desert is rich with wildlife.

Road from Norris to Mammoth

The Gardiner River is in the northwestern side of the park. This view was taken south of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Canary Springs, above, is part of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs

This final view is taken from the Upper Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs, looking down toward the resort. You may be able to see the red roofs of old Fort Yellowstone to the right.

Tomorrow I’ll show you some of the other tourists at Yellowstone and then we’ll return to Sequim.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Lest you get the impression that Yellowstone is only about geysers and hot springs, today I’ll show you other views of this magnificent park. The landscape is as varied and beautiful as any I’ve seen; it is a land of superlatives. Its 2.2 million acres is as large as the states of Maryland and Delaware combined with much diverse terrain. Above is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

Blacktail Deer Plateau

Earliest human habitation of the Yellowstone area is estimated to have begun more than 10,000 years ago. Over 400 human habitation sites have been documented throughout the park. Archaeologists have discovered stone tools including knives, shaping tools, and projectile points. More recent Native American inhabitants have included Blackfoot, Crow, Shoshone-Bannock, and Nez Perce tribes. (Hayden Valley is shown above.)

Road from Norris to Mammoth

Yellowstone became a national park in 1872, the world’s first. It has been called “America’s best idea” and was the precursor to the establishment of our current National Park System. Its early management progressed in fits and starts with underfunded and ineffective park administration. The park’s natural resources were abused and development of tourist facilities chaotic. Settlers moved in without permits. In response to this, before National Park Service rangers were organized, the U.S. Army was the official custodian of the park for 30 years. (Above is near Bunsen Peak, south of Mammoth Hot Springs.)

Road from Norris to Mammoth - short side road

The Army patrolled year round to reduce poaching. They also improved access to the park and constructed public and administrative facilities. An early camp constructed at Mammoth Hot Springs evolved into Fort Yellowstone. Many of the original buildings still exist and are used by the National Park Service. Other historic structures were built to accommodate tourists, including Old Faithful Lodge.

YNP Grand Prismatic

I’ve never seen quite so many saturated, dramatic, and glorious colors in nature as I did in Yellowstone. Nor so much of it. For this you can thank thermophiles, organisms that thrive in high heat environments. And because their heat tolerances vary, there is different coloration in different heat zones. One stunning example of the variation, above, is Grand Prismatic Spring. At a distance, even its steam runs a rainbow spectrum.

YNP mustard outfall

Outfalls from springs can move into more mustard-toned spectrums as water cools.

YNP near Grand Prismatic

Many pools where the underground passages are open and reach deep into the earth range from deep turquoise to shades of blue-green and emerald.

Collage thermophiles

Closer views can be otherworldly..but then, so can the entire landscape. In places it can have the chalky lifelessness of a moonscape. And in others the land is alive with color and the vibrancy of active geology.

Lower Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs

Yellowstone National Park is a dynamic hotspot of geology in action. A vast swath of the southwestern part of the park is a volcanic caldera formed by an eruption that sent about 600 cubic miles of ash across much of what are now the western United States. (By comparison, this was about 2,400 times more material than Mt. St. Helens sent up in its impressive explosion in 1980.) Geologic features throughout much of the park highlight what heat, water, minerals, and time can create. Yellowstone has the largest collection of hydrothermal features on the planet.

Lower Terrace, Mammoth Hot Springs

Heated waters surface and flow, changing direction and volume over time. The effects can be stunning. The top two photos are from Mammoth Hot Springs in the northeast corner of the park.

Fairy Creek/Fairy Falls walk

Vistas can be filled with steam from fumaroles, holes in the earth’s crust through which steam escapes. If I’ve got the details right, in most places the earth’s crust is over 20 miles deep. In Yellowstone it’s about 3 miles thick, closer to the earth’s surface than in most other parts of the world. There are about 10,000 features known to exist in Yellowstone’s geyser basins.

Midway Geyser Basin

The geothermal features in Yellowstone are so unique that it was designated a United National Biosphere Reserve site in 1972.

YNP splash

In parts of the park it seems as if everywhere you look something is steaming, boiling, or erupting. I’ve never seen so much amazing, restless earth before.

YNP antelope closeup

Before we went to Yellowstone I had only seen antelope in the wild, once, at a very great distance. That time was the kind of sighting where I mostly trusted DH’s declaration “Look! Antelope!” because they were tiny specks on the horizon far, far away. Antelope? Skinny cows? Darned if I could tell the difference.

No problems with these sightings. Antelope!

YNP antelope

These antelope appeared over the crest of a hill as we drove by. A convenient pullout allowed us to watch as one, then a small herd came into view and eventually crossed the road in front of us.

YNP Bighorn

These two critters were the highlight of my trip. Bighorn sheep. They were close enough that I saw the slit pupils in the eyes of the one on the right. I’m still excited.

I’ve been trying to see bighorn sheep for years. When we lived in California we went to Death Valley National Park about 20 times. Over the years we learned that bighorn sheep could sometimes be seen in Titus Canyon, a rough 27-mile journey that could take a good part of a day. We drove it numerous times, looking, and once missed a sighting by seconds. Our consolation prize was once seeing a coyote pounce onto its dinner. Cool, but no bighorn.

YNP Bighorn 2

We saw other bighorn sheep twice in Yellowstone, on the high crest of a hill. They jumped across jumbles of rock outcroppings like gymnasts on parallel bars.

Tomorrow I’ll start showing you other sights at Yellowstone.