Falling for Yellowstone National Park.
by Cherina Hadley
It’s hard to say when it was exactly that Yellowstone National Park won me over.
Maybe it was as I stood shivering in the pre-dawn chill at the Lamar Valley watching a pack of five wolves playing on the ridge; or when I climbed a hill to look down on the magnificent colors and patterns etched into the earth by the Grand Prismatic Springs…
Or maybe it was when the enormity of this whole situation occurred to me: we were driving and hiking over the largest and most volatile active geothermal area in the Northern Hemisphere!
Yellowstone National Park is sitting above what is known as a ‘hotspot’: a place where heated molten rock under the earth has been pushed up to linger just below the surface, essentially forming a massive below-ground furnace.
Not impressed? Then keep in mind that this furnace is 2.2 million acres in size…
The eruption that formed the crater that is known as Yellowstone National Park occurred 2.1 million years ago, and there have been two more since then.
The first eruption is the reason that Yellowstone is not really mountainous. The mountains simply sunk into the caldera. What you see when you travel through Yellowstone are the geothermal features that are products of all this commotion under the surface: exploding geysers, colorful hot springs, steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud pots.
When I really contemplated this, I started to see Yellowstone with new eyes. Instead of just seeing tiny puffs or massive plumes of steam rising from the earth, I imagined the intensity of the pressure and heat, and molten lava bubbling below the earth that was causing it.
I imagined what it would be like if the pressure built up so much that it all erupted and turned the area to ash. I imagined how these valleys were once massive mountain ranges that were engulfed by the eruptions.
Yes, I think it’s safe to say that Yellowstone won my heart in the end…
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