So, upon our arrival, we began with the classic Yellowstone tradition: awaiting the spectacle of Old Faithful's eruption! Katrianna & her parents were duly amazed. Mikaela, on the other hand, was not impressed... Fuming. Bubbling just beneath the surface. Building up a head of steam. Finally, reaching the boiling point & blowing a top! Nothing new there for our pre-teen. "Been there, done that," as the kids say. (Forgive me, now I'm gushing.)
Next, we hiked through the Upper Geyser Basin to see its other famous hotspots, including Morning Glory Pool and A Man's Home is his Castle Geyser. As we watched Ol' Faithful erupt twice more from different vantage points along the loop trail,
Mikaela was affected by its commanding grandeur and obviously felt humbled - if only she could draw that kind of crowd! (Hey, Old Faithful's not the only predictable one.)
Throughout our trek to each & every corner of the park, Mikaela enlightened us with little quotable tidbits to further enhance the enjoyment of our experience, such as "Did you know that Yellowstone has 2,000 earthquakes a year? Unless, of course, there happens to be a swarm today or tomorrow... then we'd get around 10 to 15 an hour." Or, "When the Supervolcano under our feet here blows up - which could be in thousands of years, could be today, or it might never happen, who knows? - it'll be 1,000 times stronger than Mount St Helen's. And it will cause a climate change all around the world. And, possibly, we'll all go extinct." [For more of these fun facts, you can go to this month's National Geographic cover story, "When Yellowstone Explodes." Hmmm, I wonder if a tween wrote it?]
Probably the kids' most anticipated destination was the Artist Paint Pots, a "blooping" muddy mess that they couldn't wait to see in person. Mikaela found inspiration there, likening the sounds of the bubbly quagmire to "listening to the earth's heartbeat." Her sister, overcome by the rotten egg stench that they also aired, was a little less poetic: "Stinkin' mudpots!" Really, Katrianna was just being insulphurable.
Wildlife abounds at Yellowstone NP, as well. Many times, we found ourselves, like it or not, shuffling off to buffaloes. Driving in the car, we were constantly beside ourselves with bison... luckily, however, we were spared the gory details. I guess we (or, make that, the buffaloes) were just on a fumarole.
Near Yellowstone Lake, we also saw our first-ever grizzly bear in the wild. Although Mikaela did remember the bear essentials and maintained a safe & respectful distance, she spent the rest of the week wistfully setting bear hug traps for that two-year-old cub. But, other than a genial marmot who kindly offered his friendship, her young girl's dreams of the wild life came to naught.
The Obamas are traveling to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon this weekend to highlight our country's park system, encourage families to visit and bring attention to this summer's free weekends program instituted by the president's administration. Yellowstone, established in 1872, was the United States' first national park, as well as the first park of its kind established anywhere in the world - the fruition of a democratic principle that special land & places should belong to all of the people, not just the landed gentry or a privileged few. Don't worry, Dick Cheney (a Wyoming nativist son - wait, has anyone seen his birth certificate?) - it's just for a couple of days & then you can keep all of that hot air to yourself again.