A natural spectacle
After all the exertions in Cody, we finally move on. With full tanks, a fridge filled to the bursting point and a bear spray we head for Yellowstone National Park. Yes, we have bought this "must-have" now that we will be on the road in Bear Country from now on. We weren't sure if we really needed the spray at first, but thanks to the convincing purchase argument "works on all bears" we bought it at Walmart for 40 dollars in the weapons department.
At dawn we enter the stage of National Geographic and dive into a unique scenery. Over the Sylvan Pass (2600 m.a.s.l.) we drive to Lake Butte Overlook and have a first breathtaking view of Yellowstone Lake. We arrive in the West Thum Geyser Basin before the rush of visitors (the tourist masses in the main travel months of July and August are enormous). At this place one finds all four geological specialities of this park, which occur here due to a hotspot (magma chamber) only few kilometers (approx. 20km) under the earth's surface - geysers, fumaroles, mud holes and hot springs / pools. We are here on a super volcano that last erupted 640'000 years ago and formed the huge caldera where we are now standing on it. The ground below us is in constant motion, so that the earth trembles several times a day. Where today is still a boring spot of earth, tomorrow a new geyser may break out. We learned it all at the ranger walk here in West Thumb. Such ranger programs are offered at various places in the park, as well as evening programs at some campsites, and are available to all visitors free of charge.
After a first impressive day we fall tired into bed and look forward to further highlights. We hope for many animal sightings here. Bears and moose would be our greatest wish. Today we could only find bear tracks, that's why the wildlife statistics:
Bears: 0 / Moose: 0 / Other animals: Squirrels
New day - new channel. Today we dive into the mountain world of the Grand Teton National Park. We take a whole day and drive south to Moose Junction and back. Our planned off-road excursion up Shadow Mountain unfortunately fails due to a ROAD CLOSED lettering. But our Baloo still got some dust and we will surely be able to test our skills in another place soon. On the way back to Yellowstone a herd of bisons in front of the Teton Range skilfully sets the scene. Unfortunately, no other species showed up.
Bears: 0 / Moose: 0 / Other animals: squirrels, bison
On the way to the Upper Geyser Basin we cross the Continental Divide twice. Depending on which side of this watershed you are on, the water of the rivers and lakes runs into the Missouri, Mississippi and then into the Gulf of Mexico / Atlantic or over the Columbia River into the Pacific. The imaginary line runs through Lake Isa in Yellowstone, which is why its water flows in two different directions and thus into two different oceans. It's awesome, isn't it?!
Soon after we arrive at the huge parking lot at Old Faithful. The oncoming tourist masses suggest it - the eruption of the most famous geyser of the park is just over. No matter...the Old Faithfulness shoots up the masses of water accumulated underground every 60 - 90 minutes and the eruption can be predicted to within 10 minutes. Therefore we dedicate ourselves to other attractions in the area.
In the evening sun we walk past bubbling, hissing and steaming creatures. It bubbles enormously under the earth's surface. Mother Nature sometimes makes rustic sounds - sometimes not ladylike at all! Some cymbals bubble like muddy whirlpools - others can boast with a dazzling splendour of colour. By the way, the temperature of a pool can also be roughly determined on the basis of its colours. Bacteria are responsible for the different colours. While some develop freely at 50°C, others have their comfort zone at 130°C!
Surprisingly, at late hour we are almost the only ones still wandering around on the footbridges of the Upper Geyser Basin and therefore enjoying the wonders of this region up to the last rays of the sun.
Bears: 0 / Moose: 0 / Other animals: Squirrels, 2 deer cows
Today we are on the set of Planet Earth - Grass Worlds. After visiting the Norris Geyser Basin and a near bear sighting (a car in front of us had to put on the brakes because of a bear family scurrying across the road - of course we didn't pay attention and missed them, but fortunately we were able to prevent a crash), we drive over the Dunraven Pass to Lamar Valley. This is supposed to be the "place to be" to observe wildlife. And indeed....bison as far as the eye can see graze in the steppe-like landscape. It soon becomes clear that they are in charge here. If someone has made himself comfortable in the middle of the road, he will not be driven away so quickly by the traffic and the honking... so here too the cops regulate the traffic.
An important rule in Yellowstone is: Where people gather with huge telescopes and gigantic lenses (you could also observe planets with these things), there is something to see. So let's ask Einem. Proudly the Lord tells me that he is watching a "White Alpha Wolf" and lets me look through his lens. I see a lot of green, a few trees and...nothing else. Hmmm, I look closer again...ah there...a bright spot....but it moves, that must be the wolf!
Bears: 0 / Moose: 0 / Other animals: squirrels, hundreds or even thousands of bisons & one wolf, but that doesn't count!
We spent the night outside of the park and are now driving back. Again through Lamar Valley and to the Mammoth Hotsprings. On the way we meet the well-known bison herd again and a little further I suddenly see bizarrely shaped branches peeping out of the high grass. "These branches almost look like the antlers of a deer," I say to Mathias as we get closer and closer. Wait a minute! The ARE antlers. There are two deer bulls lying in the grass! We leave two black stripes on the asphalt, get out and watch the animals from a safe distance for at least half an hour until they get their heads out of the air.
After visiting the Mammoth Hot Springs limestone terraces we follow an "insider tip" from the Internet and take a bath in the Gardiner River. Here, water flows from a hot spring into the ice-cold river, which together leads to a pleasant bathing temperature. To our astonishment the tip seems to be a little bit secret, because compared to the crowds of people in the park there are practically no people here.
The highlight of one of the biggest highlights of our trip so far is a cocktail at the Old Faithful Inn with a view of the geyser of the same name. One last time we watch the outbreak before it continues for us.
Bears: 0 / Moose: 0 / We are still looking / Other animals: squirrels, other little animals, 2 deer bulls (at least...)