Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thursday, September 18, 2007. Last night the weather turned cold, 32 degrees, but Yellowstone is simply overwhelming in its beauty. Formed by a series of three immense volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, the entire park (approximately 35 by 45 miles) is really the caldera of the last ancient volcano. As we travel throughout the park, we see sweeping forest and mountain views, bison, a herd of elk, lots of tourists, and, thankfully, no bears, except Brownie, our gift bear for joining the Yellowstone Association, which preserves the park.

Yellowstone is recovering from the disastrous fire of 1988. We can see evidence of the damage everywhere. Blackened Lodgepole pines spot the forest floor here and there, but the forest floor is crowded with new growth. Apparently, the pinecones of the Lodgepole pine are sealed shut until a fire opens the cone and 50,000 seeds spring out from just one cone. This rich new growth covers the hills, with trees already 6-10 feet high.

Our goal this first day is to hike through the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and view its Upper and Lower Falls. This is no small feat at an elevation of about 9,000 feet (breathe deeply!), and drops to the canyon floor of about 300 feet. The views are spectacular, the rock colors white, red, black, orange and brown, all depending on the level of iron and minerals, and all hewn into fantastic shapes by erosion. By the end of the day, our feet are tired, but we are ready to return tomorrow for more exploration. I can't believe these pictures as everywhere I look, I see a postcard view! Beth

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