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Published: February 18th 2012
The mere mention of Montana evokes the thought of wide open spaces. We rolled our mountain of luggage into a budget hotel in West Yellowstone, Montana and the romance of wide open spaces was lost - atleast temporarily, I hoped. It was 5:30pm so we figured we may have a good two hours of sightseeing before the sun sets. A Vow to Never Eat Bison Meat
We entered Yellowstone National Park from its west entrance. See, the closest accommodation to the park is in West Yellowstone in the state of Montana, but the National Park itself is in the state of Wyoming. Quite literally, the town of "West Yellowstone" is west of Yellowstone National Park.
Like any American national park, the road is smooth and well-maintained. The asphalt road contoured lake and rivers that ran around snow-dotted mountains. It was not as rugged and as “country” as I had hoped, but that's just me (and I am not driving). And then we saw slow-moving cattle grazing in the snow-dotted grass lands that did not seem to have enough grass. We started seeing more and more of them and I have been overcomed by awe for these
gentle animals. They are bisons. A herd of seven would walk to cross the road, so we obviously had to drive slowly. Then another herd of several adults with two or three thin calves would meet us head on, so we stop, no question. Here, bison is king. They look at us like we were nothing but a limp mass of metal. They didn't make any sound. They just continue to walk by, respecting us, as we respected them at a 5-foot distance. This is when I vowed to myself I will never eat bison meat. Their gentleness has touched my heart. Geysergazing
Steam spew out of the ground like Aladdin summoned several genies out of several lamps. These gusts of steam are called geysers. I have read about geysers as a child. But to actually see not just one, but more than a dozen at a time is amazing! It's like the colored Encyclopedia Brittanica of my childhood finally came to life!
Before I left for this trip, a coworker said Yellowstone sits on top of a supervolcano. That thought finally sank in my head, and for a moment I feared being
in the wrong place at the wrong time! What if the supervolcano a few miles below Yellowstone decided to erupt again at this very minute?! How super can a volcano be? As a teenager in the Philippines, a volcano called Mount Pinatubo erupted and caused major disasters not just in the province of Pampanga where it's in, but it reached us too in Cavite. The earth below shook for almost a minute that afternoon when I came home from school, and the next day, we were covered in ash. As I write this, I now realize the intensity of that volcanic eruption in terms of distance. Cavite is 110 kilometers or 68 miles from Pampanga yet we felt it like it happened in our backyard!
It bewildered me what it would have been like if the Yellowstone Caldera beneath us suddenly spewed out molten rock and hell-hot volcanic steam. But, for now, the geysers that line the road looked pretty and mellow... welcoming, in fact. One particular geyser was given the name Old Faithful Geyser due to its height and its predictability. At a souvenir shop, we saw this photo of the Old Faithful Geyser erupting to
more than a hundred feet! The shopkeeper advised us to go behind the Old Fiathful Inn to see the geyser it was named after. We were told it erupts every 40 or so minutes and we would surely get the chance to see it. People started to gather as if waiting for a concert band to start playing. Amidst the snow is this white column of steam jetting out to a disappointing 12 or 15 feet. But such is nature, it can be predicted, but you can never expect it to deliver. Well, better this way than have a total eruption of the whole Yellowstone!
Earlier, we parked the car to walk our way through wooden planks and stilts that lead us around the Midway Geyser Basin. We walked over a steaming wet land, much like walking into a very large steam room. The Excelsior Geyser was beautifully and elegantly rising up in the air against the blueness of the pool of water, but the Grand Prismatic Spring left me intrigued and unsatisfied (in a good way). The wooden stilts were built over orange matter that all lead to mouth of the geyser hot spring. There were
signs that said “Do not mark bacterial mats”. By reading the text on the landmark signage, I learned that those orange bacterial mats are called thermophiles (heat-loving microorganisms) who could be our ancestors billions and billions of years ago! Seriously. Scientists believe that the heat from the core of the earth plus the combination of minerals may have triggered this formation of life from which all life on earth may have evolved from!
I really did not fully understand the dimensional grandeur of the Grand Prismatic Spring until I saw a postcard at another souvenir shop. I thought I would be able to take my own photo of it from an elevated location, but then, there wasn't
any “visitor's spot” for that. So, I broke down and bought the post card for a few cents. It probably took a helicopter to take a photo of this huge spring. But atleast, I can say I have walked by 15%!o(MISSING)f its circumference. Yeah, all that walking is but a tiny portion of its size. Amazing.
Time flew by too fast. It was already 10pm when the sun had set. We drove out of the park,
heading back to the border of Montana. We ended up having dinner at Chinatown Restaurant. See, there's also a “chinatown” in Montana, except that they also serve elk. Thank goodness, bison is not in the menu.
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