YELLOWSTONE: NO WALK IN THE PARK
‘In the world’s oldest national park, you will find plenty of natural surprises, like steaming pools, grizzly bears, shooting geysers and grey wolves. A must visit if you’re a nature lover.’
Located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, but also extending into Montana and Idaho, is the world’s oldest national park, established in 1872. Often called the home of geysers and grizzly bears, a walk along the trail of Yellowstone could bring you face to face with lakes, mountains, hot springs and a bounty of local wildlife. It’s almost as if Mother Nature was spreading her arms at you, giving you a peek at what lay beneath her concealed coat tails, and saying, ‘Take your pick, my child.’
However, not everything is easy and safe in Yellowstone. Because it’s not a city park and because the animals are not kept captive, people sometimes make the mistake of assuming that everything is under control. Well, let’s just say it isn’t, just like everything is not forever under control in a natural habitat. For instance, if you were to come face to face with a grizzly bear with no other human being present within earshot or eyesight, you better have your wits about you. You’d better have read the survival guide well in advance, and very carefully at that.
If reading is not your strong suit, at least remember these three commandments. Do not run from bears. Do not yell at bears. Do not arouse their curiosity or surprise them on a trail. At least do not do any of these things if you dislike the possibility of being mauled.
The Old Faithful
When you go to Yellowstone, the most popular geyser in its boundaries is called The Old Faithful. Every forty-five minutes or so, the water shoots up into the air to a height of almost 32 to 56 meters. There is circus seating and a gift shop just off the safety boardwalk. It is not Yellowstone’s most frequent or the largest geyser, but because of infrastructure and location, this is the one tourists are most likely to see. In this area, you will also find an extended thermal basin, where hot springs are so superheated that even bacterial life has been terminated in them. The water is of a deadly blue colour, and absolutely still, like glass.
The Shoshone Geyser Basin
The Shoshone Geyser Basin is 12km off the road network and can be approached directly from Old Faithful Village (via the Howard Eaton Trail) or just outside it from a waterfall called the Kepler Cascades. It takes about three and a half hours to reach the main activity area of this basin, so it is better if you pack your lunch. Even though the water will leave you in a hypnotic trance, don’t lull yourself into thinking that it is safe. Keep your step extremely cautious, and all times have someone with local knowledge about you.
The elusive grey wolf
Before 1995, predator control programs and landowner hunting curtailed grey wolf numbers so effectively that they had become an extinct species in the area. This, however, led to other species such as elk breed uncontrollably, and reacting to public pressure, the grey wolf was reintroduced to the area. This brought down the numbers of elks, and now a balanced ecosystem exists in Yellowstone, where you could – if you’re lucky – cross eyes with those of a grey wolf.