Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Yellowstone National Park 1

Yellowstone national park was the first national park of the United States, set up in 1872. It is the largest supervolcano in the world and is about 50 miles in diameter. The whole park is a big caldera which contains over half of all the geothermal features in the world. The NPS (National Park Service) has done a wonderful job of preserving it, while making it as accessible as Disneyland. And boy is it as much fun as Disneyland and more.

This is my fourth visit to Yellowstone and each time I go away cursing the fact that I have to leave. I come back thinking, it wont charm me this time around as much, but it never fails to work and I hopelessly fall in love with it over and over again. From a beautiful blue lake, to vivid colored springs, to gushing springs, to mud volcanoes, a spectacular waterfall into an even more gorgeous canyon, it has all the charms of a supermodel with a math PhD, who dabbles in poetry on the side.

I arrived in Yellowstone after a long drive across Washington from Seattle to Spokane and then a cut across the thin part of Idaho into gorgeous Montana. The large spaces and sparsity of people make Montana my ideal place on the planet. As the lieutenant in the movie "The hunt for the Red October", I also want to retire there far into the future. If it survives that long that is. The rate at which we are producing children, I don't think any such place will remain in my lifetime.

Any case, enough philosophizing. I know most of you just want to see the pretty pictures, so I will get on it :). This time around let me introduce a dear friend Shriharsh, who is lovingly (hatingly?) called "Anti". Don't ask why, it is not worth knowing. Needless to say Anti shares many things with me like a love for hiking and nature and an awesome sense of humor (terrible if you are not him, me or Varun).

Here he is standing next to one of the colorful springs that dot the Yellowstone landscape

As usual he has a camera around his neck. We rely on him to not miss any important pictures and also as the whipping boy, in case we are delayed, as we can always blame the tardiness on his photography.

The first day of the trip, we decided to sight see and drive around and perhaps do a hike at the end of the day. Which is exactly what we did, albeit a bit late and had to climb down fearing for our lives singing at the top of our lungs to ward off the bears. I carry an unusually large amount of portable light with me. At last count, I had 6 different light sources, not counting my cellphone or Nintendo DS. Just in case we want to play a floodlit game of some kind.

Almost any place in Yellowstone has the following landscape and a strong Sulfur smell (to those who don't know how it smells, think of rotting eggs).

The essential force behind all these geothermal phenomenon is the awesome power of the Earth's interior. It can heat up the water and build up steam pressure, which can then come out as a fumerole (just steam), or burst out as a geyser, like the famous Old Faithful geyser, or it can form an interesting phenomenon called a paint pot, which is acidic mud over which the steam bubbles over.

The kings are of course the springs, with the Emperor being the grand prismatic spring. Here are the photos of the springs up close and from a nearby hill.

The last picture was taking through a sunglass and it shows how much difference polarization makes. Most of the reflected light is polarized and the sunglasses cut out this reflected light significantly.

In the evening we had a wonderful hike on a mountain near the Yellowstone lake. The sunset was beautiful and we saw some lovely peaks.

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