By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/17/2019
Occurred: 8/21/2004
Topics/Keywords: #YellowstoneNationalPark #Ogden #Utah #GrandTetons Page Views: 2266
All about the fifth day of the trip Michael and I took Mom on to the last of the'48 states' she hadn't yet visited.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

That relatively early bedtime didn't get us on the road any earlier. Fortunately, the park is right at the edge of town.

There are many areas to Yellowstone, which was once the site of a Mt. St. Helen's-sized volcanic eruption that leveled what had once been a huge mountain. Most of the park is, therefore, the ancient caldera; overgrown, forested, meadowed, but still geologically active—they get as many as twenty minor earthquakes a day.

As we entered the park, we were greeted by a seemingly endless vista of dead trees standing stark against the sky.

"Oh, no!" Mom cried, reading the brochure we'd been handed. "Eighty percent of the park was destroyed by fire last year!"

"It's not destroyed," I pointed out. "It's here."

It turned out that "destroyed" wasn't quite the word the brochure had used. The actual word was "burnt", and I had to explain that it's necessary for period fires to destroy the old trees so that new trees can replace them—a concept that, perhaps, came a bit too close to home for Mom to find comfortable. Nevertheless, Michael and I tried to help her focus on the exuberant new life that was pushing out from beneath the burnt skeletons of its ancestors.

Mom was also uncomfortable with all the downed trees littering the forest floor. She referred to the trunks as "lumber" and thought it should be picked up. I explained that fallen trees provide homes for dozens of species of plants and insects, as well as larger animals that live no where else.

I'm not sure that even the park posters describing the cycle of life in a natural forest, and the place of fire in it, convinced her. She comes, after all, from the generation that believed Nature was inherently flawed; that it needed to be subdued, and that Man was its master.

Next we came upon the geyser section of the park, where the crust of the Earth is thinnest. This was the part Mom knew about. In fact, she explained, she thought Yellowstone consisted only of Old Faithful!

Old Faithful is the park's centerpiece, of course, with a lodge and a cafeteria (with good food, what a surprise!) and seating for hundreds to enjoy the geyser's periodic eruptions.

Old Faithful isn't quite as "faithful" as we'd been led to believe; you can't set your watch by it. It erupts anywhere from 34 minutes to 94 minutes after the previous one. But once an hour is the average, and, in fact, it was almost exactly 60 minutes after we'd arrived that it erupted again.

The caldera section of the park is marked by rivers, streams, and ponds, including the enormous Yellowstone Lake that fills its bulk.

With this much beauty visible from the road, imagine how much there is to see from the hiking trail or a kayak! Michael and I are already planning a return.

The Grand Tetons National Park

Just south of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park. These incredibly high peaks provide a backdrop to the town of Jackson, Wyoming, home to many celebrities, who are the only ones who can afford to live there.

Our final trip requirement was to see Idaho; which we did by driving through Idaho Falls. We didn't get to see the falls, but did enjoy the sight of the sun setting over the Snake River that forms them.

Our original schedule had us driving all the way to Beaver, Utah, on this day. Well, that wasn't going to happen! For the only time on this trip, we cancelled our reservation and stopped "early" (though it was still after midnight), in Ogden, Utah.