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  • Writer's pictureNaomi Braker

Sunlight and Sinter: Our First Days in Yellowstone

Our journey into the heart of Yellowstone National Park commenced with an air of excitement and anticipation. As we set foot in this wild realm, we were greeted by the rugged landscapes, a harmonious blend of untamed wilderness and geothermal wonders.

The day dawned with an ethereal glow, the sun a welcome change to the last few days. As the sun's golden rays bathed the towering peaks of the mountains, we got ready to leave. Our adventure in Grand Teton National Park was ending, but we looked forward to the wonders that awaited us in Yellowstone.

We soon crossed the gate that split the two parks and entered Yellowstone, the world's first national park and a true gem of the American wilderness. In the distance, the Grand Teton Range was still visible, standing tall and proud, a reminder of our recent adventures.

Saying Yellowstone is the world’s first national park is a bit of an understatement to its history. Clearly, we didn’t make Yellowstone, and civilizations have called this land home for thousands of years before America inducted the land into the National Park System. As is usual for these lands, they have a complicated backstory, which usually includes removing the land from the native tribes that once called this area home. Parts of the NPS have gotten better (note I didn’t say great, or even good) at recognizing the heritage of the land, but I think it’s important to recognize the good the Parks System has done alongside the harm it has caused.

Yellowstone was a land pulsating with geothermal energy, and we made our first stop at Artists' Paintpots. The bubbling mudpots and vividly colored thermal pools were a surreal display of nature's artistry. Here, we began to grasp the immense geological forces at play beneath the Earth's surface.

Knowing our energy would be sapped from the travel, we only planned on this short stop. We continued on our way towards our campground, where we enjoyed a recovery day.

We decided to begin our Yellowstone adventure at Old Faithful, perhaps Yellowstone's most famous resident. Old Faithful is no ordinary geyser; it's a testament to the Earth's powerful geothermal forces. We sat anxiously waiting for this natural marvel to perform its predictable yet extraordinary routine. We were awestruck when it erupted, sending a plume of steaming water into the sky. It was a reminder of the Earth's natural rhythm, which has persisted for centuries. A part of our minds returned to our honeymoon in Iceland, truly the land of Ice and Fire. It was a nice parallel to a special time of our lives.

Old Faithful made us hungry to enjoy the rest of the special features in the area, so we continued down the trail of Biscuit Basin, a hydrothermal area that boasted vibrant geysers and hot springs. It was named "Biscuit" by early trappers who noted formations that resembled biscuits. The Sapphire Pool, with its deep blue waters, stood out like a precious gem amidst the geothermal wonders.

Amidst our explorations, we learned about the origin story of Yellowstone, as told by the Crow Nation. In it, Old Woman’s Grandchild fought many beasts and turned them into mountains and hills after he killed them. A large buffalo bull that he killed was turned into a geyser formation, which continued to puff out hot air as the buffalo would have. Nearby, he placed a mountain lion - which also turned into a geyser formation blowing hot air - in order to keep the buffalo bull from coming back to life. It was nice to see the park change its tune – until recently, their standing story was that tribes feared the geyser area and wouldn’t enter it – and work with the Crow Nation to provide real histories and folklore instead of blatant lies.

One geyser caught our attention - Grotto Geyser. Completely different from the other geysers nearby, its cone features holes and gaps that create an out-of-this-world view that changes dramatically as you walk around the geyser. Often, geyser formation is somewhat of a mystery, and this one follows that theme. It may have been formed by silica and calcium deposits forming over nearby trees, calcifying them permanently, but that story has yet to be scientifically confirmed. Regardless, whatever shaped this geyser created an intricate web of sinter that is quite different from the standard cone shape.

The day continued, and so did our adventures. The landscapes shifted as we wandered deeper into the park. From the dense forests to the open meadows, each turn presented a new facet of Yellowstone's wild beauty.

In the coming days, we delved further into this land of marvels. Yellowstone, with its geysers, canyons, and legends, had opened its doors to us. Stay tuned for the continuation of our journey as we unravel more mysteries and stories from this majestic wilderness.


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