Yellowstone National Park: Uncle Tom’s Trail and Artist Point

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Just as we parked at the entrance to Uncle Tom’s Trail, we saw the first few drops of water hit our windshield, rapidly developing into pouring rain. No worries; we came prepared with ponchos that Maria had picked up back in Chicago!

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#Fashion

Uncle Tom’s Trail was developed in 1898 by “Uncle Tom” Richardson, an entrepreneur who took visitors on tours across the Yellowstone River. Initially created as a simple trail made of 528 steps and rope ladders, the trail currently consists of 328 grated metal steps and paved pathways.

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The good news is that by the time we walked to the beginning of the trail, the rain had ended. The bad news is that everything was wet and slippery! Now, given that this is a tour site in the US, I’m sure that every safety precaution was taken (I had a little flashback to my rainy day at Victoria Falls, where that was decidedly not the case!). Still, we both thought this was scary! The steps were much steeper than I imagined, and you could see right through them to see just how high up we were. *Gulp* So the reason that there aren’t any photos of this is because I was too busy clinging to the railing for dear life, ha!

We met some nice people at the bottom who took a picture for us. Please note how our ponchos ended up matching our outfits… how funny is that?

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kavi360.com, Yellowstone, Uncle Tom's Trail  

And then it was time to turn around and go back up!

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Now, over those aforementioned 328 steps, the trail drops 500 feet. On top of that, it’s located at an elevation of 8,000 ft, so it was pretty strenuous. Still, I much preferred the way up, versus the way down! We saw a family of rambunctious boys literally running down the steps. We could not believe how fearless they were. But then we saw their athletic-looking dad following after them – while carrying a toddler by the arms in front of him. He was going so fast, it was as if he were running bleachers! The kicker was that the little kiddo was grinning from ear to ear, totally enjoying it!

We found this sign near the top. Dangerous!

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Lastly, we headed over to Artist’s Point. This area is known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Amazing views!

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Yellowstone National Park: Grand Prismatic Spring

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Have you ever seen a landscape so foreign that you feel like you’re on another planet? The Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone was just that otherworldly and mesmerizing! It’s what you could imagine the surface of Venus or Mars to be like, or given the presence of liquid pools, perhaps one of Saturn’s moons. In any case, this was the feature of Yellowstone we were most looking forward to seeing, and it certainly lived up to the hype!

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The Grand Prismatic Spring is located in Yellowstone’s Midway Geyser Basin. It has the honor of being the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world following first runner up Boiling Lake in Dominica (which I got to see back in 2006!) and the winner, Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand (it’s on the list!).

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As you may have guessed, the springs are famous for their vibrant colors… bright turquoise and teal to deep rust and orange! These gorgeous colors are created  by pigmented thermophilic bacteria that grow on the perimeter of the mineral-rich pools. The specific colors are influenced by the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids present, and by the temperature of the water, which promotes certain bacteria over others. Isn’t science amazing?! Charles was in heaven!

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As were we! It was one stunning photo op after another.

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We almost didn’t want to leave, but we had another Yellowstone adventure on our list. The Grand Prismatic Spring a must see at Yellowstone – don’t miss it!

Memories…

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There are few people in the world who love you unconditionally. There are even fewer people who are capable of such honest and unwavering love. My family and I were lucky to have one of these people in our lives: My uncle R, who lost his battle with brain cancer yesterday. His diagnosis came suddenly, and he was given just 3 months to live. But he surprised all of us, including his doctors, by making it five more years; a true testament to the faith and resilience that he and my aunt shared.

He always held a special place in my heart because he was there on the day I was born, and was there for me every day since. He even kept the same tattered old picture of me in his wallet for the better part of three decades. I distinctly remember him waking me up early one morning to tell me the exciting news that I had a new baby sister. Very fitting, as he became an integral part of our childhood. He and my aunt never had children, but treated their nieces and nephews as their own. In some ways, it was like having another parent around, but as any doting uncle or aunt will tell you, there’s a special bond there because it’s all of the fun and none of the scolding and reprimanding that comes with parenthood. In fact, I cannot recall a single time that he ever uttered a harsh word towards us, nor did he ever tell us that he was too busy to play with us. My sister fondly recalls playing “horse,” a game that simply required him to carry her around the house on his back, which he was always happy to do. I remember playing a million rounds of the card game Memory with him. I also remember that he would never just let me just win – I had to earn it! He also had one of the most inquisitive minds that I have ever come across. My cousins and I used to joke that if any of us left a school textbook out, we would come back to find him reading it! But out of a treasure trove of many, I think my favorite memory of all, and the way that I always picture him in my head, is the way he would laugh! There was just something pure and unabashed about his wild laugh where you could just tell how happy he was. And that is how I would always like to remember him.

Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful

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Next up on our road trip was Jellystone Yellowstone National Park. Home to the majority of the world’s geysers, Yellowstone was established by President Grant on March 1, 1872 as our country’s first national park. This novel concept of a public park open to all spurred a movement to preserve and protect nature for future generations. Beauty which we all get to enjoy today!

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Yellowstone is home to over 10,000 geothermal features and 1,283 geysers, of which, 465 are active annually. Interestingly,  Old Faithful is neither the tallest or largest geyser in the park, titles which belong to Steamboat Geyser. However, the popularity of Old Faithful can be attributed to its predictability (it is one of the most predictable features on planet Earth), high frequency of eruptions, and easy access. The park tracks activity around the clock and, very conveniently, provides the time of the next eruption!

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Even still, Charles Darwin was growing rather impatient. Luckily there was  a friendly park ranger around who gave a very informative and humorous talk about the park. Meltdown averted!

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Soon, we started seeing the first billows of steam rising through the air… and then BOOM!

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According to Wikipedia. each eruption can  spray 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet, lasting  1.5 to 5 minutes. Of note, in 1938, the ranger Harry Woodward discovered the mathematical relationship between the duration and interval of the eruptions. This discovery is what allows the rangers to accurately predict the time of the eruptions today!

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It was really quite spectacular to witness one of nature’s finest performances. It was easy to imagine generations of visitors taking in the spectacle of Old Faithful and the other geysers and being in awe of such sights. I would highly recommend visiting a geyser or two during your trip to Yellowstone!

Daaaaa Dash!

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Saturday morning, I ran my second official 5K! Tamara scored free registration for the both of us when her friends couldn’t make it last minute, and invited me along. And so, I found myself amidst hundreds of other mustachioed, aviator-clad runners at the Soldier Field Ditka Dash!

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It was a really fun time! In my limited experience (n=2), you run faster and easier when surrounded by a big crowd, and when there’s so much energy and excitement!

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I still don’t consider myself a runner – it’s definitely not “fun” for me, and I max out at 3.1 miles – but I do think it’s a great workout. I just came across this article, purporting that I’ll enjoy running more if I just follow a few recommended tips. We’ll see! In the meantime, there’s always fun runs with friends!

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