Scalding fountains and multi-colored pools were only a few of the magnificent sights I was encountering. Yet the fountains weren’t man-made, and the multi-colored pools weren’t the work of any earthly artist. I was in an other-worldly place; a hot, barren moon on earth. The memories from those long, wandering days still play like movies as they run through my head. Never have I encountered so much raw beauty.
3rd PLACE 2014 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The mirrored sky
In nature’s hot tub
My senses were blasted with hot sulfurous air as I climbed over the hill. The smell was as strong as Dad had warned me from his childhood experiences. I was about to see my first hydrothermal features with my family and create my own childhood memories. And ohhhh, was I ever so anticipating it! I stepped out onto the crowded trail over the white, mineral-encrusted ground. Dangerously hot, bubbling pools gasped and gurgled, fed with water heated by underground magma. So-called paint pots—thick muddy pools tinted pink and gray with iron oxide—formed goopy bubbles on the surface bigger than tennis balls that popped and splattered. The geysers were mostly inactive at the moment, disguised as quiet, clear pools. Yet beneath the surface, I knew they were only biding their time and collecting water, just waiting to erupt. Steam from the huge Excelsior Geyser blew over us, enveloping us in almost unbearably hot steam clouds. The smell, the heat and the power of the Lower and Midway Geyser Basins were awe-inspiring. I felt privileged just to experience it.
No vacation to Yellowstone National Park was complete without a trip to the Old Faithful area, though it was even more crowded than the rest of the park. It was a rolling sea of tourists swept in from all over the world and sailing right though Yellowstone. Tourists in the grand yet rustic Old Faithful Inn, tourists filling the nearby geyser boardwalks, and tourists crowding around Old Faithful’s magnificent display every 90 minutes. Exclamations were made, pictures were snapped, and away whizzed the tourists. A geyser erupted. Quick! Quick! Rush to the scene. Take a selfie! Tourists, tourists, tourists. I watched them. They all seemed to be having the time of their lives….
Moonscape on earth
In the stillness
I drink beauty
8:56 p.m. I was sitting on a deserted boardwalk in the twilight, with no one except my family and Old Faithful’s distant towering spray framed against the backdrop of a moonlit sky. All was quiet except the whoosh of erupting water. Around us on Upper Geyser Hill were other thermal wonders—I remember Anemone Geyser the best. It was a turquoise pool that would erupt every 7-10 minutes, sending water just a few feet in the air, then draining itself completely down the hole in its center with a gurgle. Like scattered jewels, other pools had rings of burnt orange, yellow, copper and deep ocean blue, which were formed by heat resistant bacteria. Virtually alone, except for the people dearest to me, I slowed down and absorbed the gems of beauty around me like never before.
Or deep breath of wonder
The tourist’s choice
I wonder: did all the tourists leave Yellowstone like I did, with quiet moments that touched the soul? Anyone who travels has a choice about how they will let their trip impact them. My challenge to you is this: do we absorb the beauty in our surroundings, or do we just post it on social media?
I will hold those memories the rest of my life.
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