Tag Archives: Yellowstone Park

Postcard from Lanzarote

Lanzarote Postcard 1

What now seems an awful long time ago I used to like going on holiday to the Canary Islands, that agreeable part of Spain which is located just off the north-western African coast and in December 1983, before I was even thirty years old, I flew to Lanzarote with a group of friends with the intention of having a pre-Christmas party week in the sun.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Careful

Iceland Hot Geysir

There were about thirty other mud pots and water pools and it was a good job that we had the benefit of the tour guide because he was giving sound advice on temperatures and what you could comfortably touch and what you couldn’t because some of the pools contained boiling water that would strip flesh from fingers and would have involved an unplanned  trip to the infirmary.

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Postcards From Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Grizzly

Yellowstone was designated as a National Park in 1872 when President Ulysses S Grant signed a new law ordering ‘the tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River to be set apart as a public park’ and in so doing it became the first National Park in the USA and indeed the world.

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More about Geysers – Yellowstone Park, Wyoming

“Since its first known eruption 16.5 million years ago, it (Yellowstone) has blown up about a hundred times….The last eruption was a thousand times as that of Mount St. Helens (in 1980), the one before that was 280 times as big and the one before that was so big that no one knows how big it was”                         Bill Bryson – ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’

My previous post about the Icelandic Geysers reminded me of my visit to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming USA in 1995 and the spectacle of an ever higher tower of boiling water and steam than the one that we had seen today.

Yellowstone was designated as a National Park in 1872 when President Ulysses S Grant signed a new law ordering ‘the tract of land lying near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River to be set apart as a public park’ and in so doing it became the first National Park in the USA and indeed the world.

The park is sensationally beautiful with stately snow capped peaks, lush meadows with lazy herds of grazing bison, meandering rivers like sapphire ribbons amidst the yellow-green prairie and tumbling streams, a magnificent sky blue lake and bounteous wildlife.

But there is danger too because Yellowstone is what is called a caldera (from a Latin word for cauldron) which is a volcano that collapses rather than builds a mountain  and it sits precariously on top of a reservoir of restless molten rock about two hundred kilometres below the surface of the earth that rises here close to the fractured surface and is the reason for all of the geysers, bubbling mud pots and hot springs that are scattered liberally around the park and belch and spit continuously.

Yellowstone Geyser

At least 22 people are known to have died from hot spring-related injuries in and around Yellowstone since 1890.  Most of the deaths have been accidents, although at least two people had been trying to swim in a hot spring, park historian Lee Whittlesey, author of the book “Death in Yellowstone“.

In 2016 a man wandered off the boardwalks walked over the fragile crust and slipped into an acidic hot spring.  His body was boiled and dissolved leaving no trace except for a few personal belongings.

People do other dumb things in Yellowstone.  Also in 2016  Canadian man loaded a bison calf into his SUV because he thought it was cold. The calf later had to be destroyed because it could not be reunited with its herd.

The magma chamber is about sixty- five kilometres across and about twelve kilometres thick so that is something to bear in mind when wandering about leisurely admiring the scenery because if (when) it goes off again it is going to be rather uncomfortable for anyone standing nearby.

There are more geysers and hot springs at Yellowstone than in all of the rest of the World put together and whilst we were there we obviously stopped off to see the most well-known and reliable geyser in the park.  Old Faithful is a popular tourist spot where the geyser erupts promptly every seventy minutes or so and there are grandstands arranged an appropriate distance away from the boiling steam for the visitors to sit and admire the spectacle.  An eruption can shoot anything from 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of fifty five metres and can last from one to five minutes. The average height of an eruption is forty four metres and that’s about the equivalent of about ten London double decker buses.

Previously the most famous geyser in the park was Excelsior, which used to erupt regularly to a height of a hundred metres but, as with the Great Geysir in Iceland, in 1888 it just stopped and didn’t erupt again for a hundred years.  One day Old Faithful will no doubt just stop in exactly the same way.

The biggest geyser in the park and indeed the world is the Steamboat geyser which blows to a height of one hundred and twenty metres but this spectacle is most infrequent and inconveniently unpredictable and you really wouldn’t want to sit waiting for it because that could waste more than half of your life away.

Old Faithful

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Fire Mountain, Lanzarote

The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited and having completed that I thought I might come up with a personal alternative twelve.  The original twelve quite rightly included Mount Tiede on the Canary Island of Tenerife but, at number five, my alternative is Fire Mountain on nearby Lanzarote.

In December 1983 together with some friends I had a holiday on the island  and on a day trip out visited the volcanic National Park called Timanfaya.

Lanzarote Fire Mountain

After a couple of days of visiting the beach and sitting around in bars we decided to do some sightseeing around the island so we walked into the commercial area of Puerto Del Carmen where we were staying and found a car hire office with the sort of prices that suited our budget – cheap – and you only get what you pay for of course because being at the lower end of the scale we were allocated a clapped out old grey/blue Daihatsu Jeep which despite being worn out seemed perfect for what we had in mind.  First things first though and after taking possession of the rattling bone shaker we had to quickly find a fuel station because the fuel indicator was hovering somewhere just below empty!

The weather was poor that day and thick clouds kept racing in from the Atlantic Ocean, mostly steely grey but sometimes black and ominous and bulging with moisture which promptly fell as heavy rain as soon as they crossed the coast and raced inland.  After breakfast we pulled on what we thought might be suitably warm clothing and headed off in a northerly direction to the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya.

The temperature was comfortable by the coast but it soon began to plummet as we drove into the interior of the island and started to climb and we weren’t prepared for that and it wasn’t long before we began to regret not bringing even more clothes along (or even the blankets from the beds in the apartment) because it was soon very, very cold indeed with frequent rain squalls and a stinging wind that lashed our legs and faces.

As we had a four wheel drive we thought we might test its capabilities so rather than follow the tarmac highway we went off road and tried to plot our own course.  We got hopelessly lost of course and at one point came across a surprised islander, a whiskered old lady in rusty black clothes, and asked for directions to the park.  I can’t be sure but I think she said that the sensible thing was to go back to the main road because this was safer and even though she was quite insistent about this we ignored her advice and carried on along a boulder strewn track that tipped and lurched the vehicle for the next few kilometres until eventually we came to the boundary to the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya marked by a sign carrying the mischievous El Diablo (The Devil) logo.

The emblem of Lanzarote is a demon because the early settlers interpreted their first experience of a volcanic eruption as the work of the devil.  It was so cold today that we would have welcomed some sort of volcanic activity I can tell you!

We arrived at the visitor’s car park and that was as far as we could drive into the park and there we tagged on to some coach party trips and watched several demonstrations by a sun gnarled old man with a face of leather and knotted hands of ‘how hot’ the area is because temperatures just a few metres below the surface here reach between 400°C and 600°C!   First of all he threw dry brush into a harmless looking hole in the ground and it immediately caught fire, while water poured into a bore hole erupted seconds later in the form of steam – like a mini-geyser and he finished this off by demonstrating a natural gas vent that doubles as a BBQ!

There was a coach tour into the National Park and around the volcanic craters but instead of the comfortable seat option we choose an alternative camel ride which involved a thirty minute circuit of the craters on a form of transport that even made the Jeep seem comfortable!

To be honest we were glad when the camel excursion was over, it might have been the preferred transport option of Lawrence of Arabia but we were just pleased to get back to the Daihatsu and drive away in a westerly direction.  We were making our way now towards the old capital of the island called Teguise where islanders used to take refuge from the coastal storms and from pirate raids and had built themselves an impressive fortress at the highest point with commanding views over most of the island.

This was the Santa Bárbara castle and it turned out that only that year there had been a complete restoration by the Fine Arts Association and on account of being some of the first visitors to the restored attraction it had a most non–medieval feel about it but having paid the entrance fee we visited the museum and wandered around the castle walls until we collectively agreed that it was time to leave and make our way back through the island capital, Arrecife and back to the relative warmth of the coastal strip.

It was still quite early and I innocently asked what we were going to do for the rest of the day?  Richard gave me a withering look, rolled his eyes skywards and said ‘have you got no imagination?’ and we spent the remainder of the day in the comfort of the bars of Puerto del Carmen.

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Other posts about Volcanoes:

Mount Vesuvius

Yellowstone Park

Iceland

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USA NATIONAL PARKS

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This is the story of a journey in 1995 through the National Parks of the American Mid West.

USA National Parks

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Yellowstone Grizzly

Yellowstone Park

Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Mese Verde National Park

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Lake Powell

Lake Powell

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Zion

Zion National Park

Grand Canyon