Wyoming. Most people will have heard of it, but wouldn’t be able to pin-point it on an unmarked map (myself included until earlier this year). In the grand scheme of things Wyoming goes largely unnoticed, quietly going about its business as one of the smallest of the mid-western states… But dig a little deeper and you will uncover this fascinating, ever-changing landscape is a hive of volcanic activity just waiting to blow.
Wyoming was the 2nd state my boyfriend and I hit early on in 2015 on our impromptu road trip and was, without a doubt, one of our favourites (despite a drunken meal of terrible Chinese food and a seedy Super 8). Wyoming shocked and stunned us at every corner, unraveling the story of pre-historic America and its volcanic past.
Yellowstone National Park
- The world’s first ever National Park
- Designated World Heritage site
- Over 3,700 square miles in area
- More than 3 million visitors per year
- More than 500 active geysers across the park
- Highest concentration of free-roaming wildlife in the lower 48 states
Yellowstone is the first national park I hit in the states and set the bar pretty damn high. It is a huge, open expanse of space, from snowy peaks to rolling hills to open plains… Taking all of this in, whilst trying to comprehend the fact that you are, indeed, sitting in the caldera of the world’s largest volcano, is somewhat… Overwhelming.
There are many ways to see Yellowstone but which ever way you decide to do it, you’ll need a vehicle of some kind. Given that we visited in the tail-end of Winter, myself & Spence were lucky enough to experience some of the more exciting methods of transport – snow coaching and snowmobiling (during Winter months a large portion of Yellowstone is only accessible by either of these options). We stayed at the Best Western in a little town at the edge of the park, called Gardiner, and we let those guys sort our tours for us. Out of character to use an organised tour, I know – we were limited on time and wanted to get the absolute best out of our weekend. We were not disappointed – add to the amazing tours the hotel arranged for us, the fact that they upgraded us upon arrival to a room overhanging the Yellowstone River itself… Amazing.
The first day, spent heading into the mountains by snow coach, was spent marveling at the geothermal features and pools; such incredible colours which seem almost unreal. Teeming with acids and bacteria, the pools are deadly to humans, but genuinely breath-taking to look at.
They also STINK of sulphur, FYI. But aside from that they are real nice.
The really amazing thing is that the reason the pools have their vivid colour is because of living organisms within; these are the same bacteria which NASA are avidly searching for on Mars – the first building blocks of intelligent life.
Both the Upper and Lower basins of the park are full of these pools, plus other incredible features such as the limestone travertines. Not to mention the wildlife; you can literally, at any moment, find yourself face to face with a monstrous bison; being blinked at by a majestic elk in the underbrush; being eyed warily by a coyote in the distance. We were unbelievably lucky to see, from not far a distance, a super rare bobcat on this day. Truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Our second day at Yellowstone – snowmobiling.
So. Much. Fun.
Snowmobiling is literally like jet skiing but on snow/ice. We snowmobiled 140 miles in a single day; our arses ached like nothing I’ve known before. My neck was killing me. My hands, nose and face were chapped to shit from being frozen all day. But shhiiiiit, what a brilliant time. It was a fantastic way to get away from the main roads and boardwalks, riding along deserted roads and through creaking forests. Today was largely a waterfall-focused day – Yellowstone has them in abundance, and they are beautiful.
Snowmobile suits are sexy.
We ended the day looking over the beautiful, postcard-worthy vista that is the Yellowstone Lake. It is HUGE – 136 square miles to be precise – and was still fully frozen when we visited in February. Just stunning – not a soul in sight, so tranquil. Writing this now is making me feel so bloody nostalgic and desperate to go back to explore the rest of the incredible park – it’s so diverse, and ever-changing throughout the seasons. I’ve seen Yellowstone under a blanket of snow in the Winter, and I can’t wait to go back some time to see it in the Spring.
It’s like another world – the geysers shooting fumes and water miles into the air (Old Faithful being the most famous of these), the bright green, blue and purple pools and streams (the Norris Geyser basin, insane), bubbling pools of red and grey mud boiling away (the Artist’s Paint Pots); Yellowstone pulls you away from what we know on Earth, and transports you to a world as unfamiliar as Mars itself.