Hats off to our National Park system, both Presidents Roosevelt, and to the first National Park Service Director Horace Albright. These men protected this land by: 1) founding the first National Park here (Pres. Teddy Roosevelt); 2) creating the first funded National Park Service, and outlining the NPS policy to make public enjoyment of the park and its wildlife, the sole purpose of the NPS thereby stopping mining, poaching, and grazing in the park (Albright); and 3) creating the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, thereby dedicating thousands of workers to the development of park roads, railroads, facilities, and creating massive press campaigns to get the American public into the parks (Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt). The U.S. developed the first National Park system in the world, and has been a model ever since. Our parks are our “Gifts to the World”. Where else can you sit in the confluence of the Boiling River and the Gardner River (below) at 6 AM enjoying a hot bath, with steaming waterfalls, with people from all over the world? Don’t you love the featured image with the Nigerian guy with the Harley Davidson t-shirt? So nice, offering his upfront photo shoot position to me at the Old Faithful Geyser eruption.
Ask any of the international visitors to our parks; they describe the open space here as “mind-blowing”. They tell us there is nothing like our national parks anywhere else in the world, and certainly none with such accessibility for the public. So many people live in extremely high density urban settings; 50 sq. ft. per person is the norm in many large cities like Singapore and Tokyo. We live with our dog in 100 sq. ft. in our Roadtrek RV so we have some idea what 50 sq. ft. of living space per person feels like: challenging. Without big open spaces to escape to, clearly, we would only have lasted the 6 weeks that my teen son predicted when we left home 13 months ago. Hiking the boardwalks around the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs can soothe anyone’s ire. We feel grateful to find it still flowing and creating new terrace every day; the park geologists say the historical flow data suggests that it will be flat grey rock in about 15 years when it stops flowing completely. Go now.
The Yellowstone caldera is the largest known center for volcanism on the planet at 45 miles by 30 miles; 25% of the world’s geysers, 140 within a mile of Old Faithful, will draw over 3 Million visitors a year. Join the hordes; it is so worth it and there is always a bubbling messy mud pot or steaming fumarole somewhere nearby without people.
Even in these last weeks before the NP campgrounds close for the winter, they were completely full (and quiet!) every night; all the “grey hairs” like us were whipped after hiking, paddling, ogling wildlife at 8,000 feet and rockhounding. We found this large chunk of petrified wood in our favorite Pebble Creek Campground (looks just like a log, weighs in like rock). We carefully hid it next to a submerged log in the creek so no future camper would take it home as a souvenir.
Some of the wildlife is nocturnal, and in the campground, so we are glad not to have to grab bear spray just to go to the bathroom in the dark campground…the benefits of a (tiny) RV… and I don’t have to thrill the other campers with my loudest versions of “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Let Me Straddle My Saddle”, to keep the bears at bay. Last week, in the final 3 weeks before hibernation, the bears become more hungry, desperate and aggressive. 30 minutes and 50 miles apart, a group of five hikers, and 2 park staff were attacked by grizzlies. Bear spray decreased the length of the attack, keeping the maulings from becoming fatal; serious business at this time of year. We fortunately never came in contact with bear, only the gorgeous prong-horned antelope females who hang out with the bison.
No wolf sightings though. We found out that wolves are shy, and sightings are rare without the assistance of a Yellowstone wolf biologist.
One more reason to come back, next time in winter snow to see the shaggy bison and maybe some grey wolf viewing from atop our cross country skis.