Upon arrival, it does not take much time to figure out that Yellowstone Nation Park is like no other place on earth. The landscape is so far removed from the ordinary that a visitor might as well be standing on a distant planet. There are lush forests, lakes and streams with wild animals roaming everywhere, but this is the only aspect of Yellowstone that is even remotely normal. It is the steaming hot water pools, geysers, boiling mud pits and multi color paint pots that sets the Yellowstone environment apart from any other landscape around the globe. It is easy to see that the geological oddities are the primary attraction and this is why so many people visit Yellowstone each year.
The spring and summer seasons are the busiest times of year at Yellowstone and overcrowding has become a problem. Winter in Wyoming can be brutally cold, so relatively few tour this National Park when the snow hits the ground. Autumn seems to be the middle ground, as far as visitation numbers are concerned and this is due to the change of seasons. The weather in the high elevations of Wyoming is unpredictable during autumn and the forecasts can change by the hour. Gray skies, misty rain and chilly temperatures can be expected more often than not during the fall season, so packing some warm rain gear is a good idea, even if the day starts off sunny.
The photos demonstrates just how few people actually visit Yellowstone during the fall season. Places like the West Thumb Geyser Basin are usually so crowded during the spring and summer season, that a visitor can spend more time looking for a parking space than enjoying the scenic views. On the dreary chilly autumn day that I visited Yellowstone, I was the only person walking around in the West Thumb Geyser Basin and that pretty much says it all. The solitude and silence definitely enabled a chance to gain a serene perspective of this strange place, which enhanced the overall experience.
The West Thumb Geyser Basin overlooks Yellowstone Lake and this spot is surrounded by lush forests with distant mountain peaks on the horizon, so every view is majestic. The volcanic features of this basin are difficult to decipher upon first glance. From a distance, this area looks pot marked and dimpled with countless craters and holes in the ground, which resembles a bombed out war zone. After walking a little closer the small craters do come to life. The West Thumb Geyser Basin is a field of hot springs, colorful mineral water pools and semi dormant small geysers. There are several dried up geysers that are now vents and the gasses make loud hissing noises. There are also a few active geysers that erupt once in a blue moon, so it is anybody's guess when the natural fountain show will begin.
The little geysers in the West Thumb Geyser Basin for the most part are like sleeping giants. The pools of blue water and the rainbow color mineral springs create a surreal mode. The lake being so close adds a dramatic effect too and this all adds up to quite a serene scene to take in. The thoughts seem to drift aimlessly in this sleeping geyser basin, then all of a sudden something happens that snaps the focus right back into the reality of standing out in the open in an untamed wilderness area.
In my case, I was abruptly yanked out of the geyser basin dreamland by an aggressive little striped ground squirrel that actually started stalking my every move while walking along the boardwalk. Finally I just gave in and stood still long enough to see what the squirrel was up to and that was when the little critter ran full speed in my direction, just to bite into the toe of my shoe! The little squirrel was definitely showing just who was the boss of the boardwalk and I got a good laugh out of the carefully planned attack! One never knows when Mother Nature will deliver a good laugh and this weird event certainly brightened up the dreary West Thumb Geyser Basin experience.
Yellowstone truly is a place where a visitor can experience the strangest of the strange and the odd memories will certainly last a lifetime. Autumn is a great time of year to tour Yellowstone National Park, simply because the foul weather limits the visitor numbers. With more room to breathe, there will be more opportunities to experience all that this majestic volcanic landscape has to offer!
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