As prairie and grasslands finally gave way to hills and mountains, and I was burning up my camera shutter like a Japanese tourist on meth….I knew that our quest, the highlight of our two-week minivan excursion had finally come to pass:
Yellowstone National Park.
This is the place of true North American wilderness, the place that makes lumberjacks out of boy scouts, the most hard core outdoorsy place that the continent has to offer outside of Alaska (with some apologies to my Canadian friends). The adventure opportunities are only limited by your wild imagination and the mood of the bears. This place harbors a ridiculously concentrated amount of wildlife that puts even Bear Country USA to shame!
There is only one tiny unforgettable problem with this Roosevelt protected, Muir worshiped paradise…
Yep. The entire park, every precious inch of fertile soil, every young sapling reaching into the blue sky, every paw on every bear, wolf, and human that walks on the ground is basically living on top of one giant geological time bomb which will imminently put even the meanest nuclear bomb to shame.
All those pretty (and stinking) hot springs, quaint geysers that tourist “ooh” and “ahh” over, and mineral rock formations are there for a reason beyond producing Travel Channel fodder and entertaining RV drivers. Yellowstone is the granddaddy of all volcanoes.
But wait you say…where is the classic “mountain” shape with the cute hole in the top that Pacific island natives tend to throw perfectly fine virgins into? It is hard to believe but the WHOLE park is the untapped top of the volcano and it hasn’t risen above the surface yet because it is still building up pressure.
Only wimpy volcanoes look like mountains.
Essentially the entire park rests on one big caldera, the largest volcanic system on this side of the planet, and one day the whole bloody thing is going to go up in fireworks with a bunch of very surprised antelope and tourists on top.
Geologists call this a “supervolcano,” and if that isn’t bad enough, it is the big boss of all supervolcanos on the planet…so put in the simplest of terms — it’s Satan’s penthouse and one day he’s going to throw a very noisy party.
Sure, sure…we’ve all heard doomsday preaching. I mean, how unlucky do you have to be to get deep fried by the world’s grumpiest volcano on your Great American Camping trip? Well, since the top hasn’t been popped on this thing yet (and no one has bothered to toss a virgin into Old Faithful yet) scientists measure the entire movement of the caldera floor.
In the last four years, the entire thing has pushed upwards eight inches — a staggering three times what has ever been measured since 1923. Plants, dirt, tourists, buffalo, lakes, gift shops, you name it…have been lifted eight inches by the pressure brewing below.
Before you go running to Australia or some nice Pacific atoll to escape the big bang, I have some bad news. Scientists predict that the explosion alone will kill millions, and then as the ash cloud moves around the world and blots out the sun for months at a time — it will cause massive crop failures and temperature rises which will make Al Gore’s prediction for global warming seem like a happy memory.
Essentially, as REM sang in their cheery song a few years back…”it’s the end of the world as we know it…” There isn’t a place to hide.
And you thought the Europeans and Australians hated us for George W? Wait until they get a load of Yellowstone one day. 🙂 Then again, with WalMarts, Big Macs, and Suburbans it should be no surprise that we give the world the biggest, ill-tempered plot of real estate. No wonder everyone hates us.
Now that I have thoroughly destroyed your image of what Yellowstone National Park is…I should also add that it is quite beautiful for God’s doomsday machine, and I would live there in a second. I don’t know if it will even blow in my lifetime, but I was glad that I got to stand on it before it did.
Now I’m off to stock up on canned goods and ammo.