|Elk graze in street median in Mammoth|
Even the earth is alive. There is Old Faithful, to be sure. But there are 300 more geysers and hot springs all over. Steam rises. The earth bubbles in transformation, and petrified trees testify to the long ago.
|The faithful watch Old faithful in action.|
The invasive species here is the populace in its cars and tents, RVs, trailers, tour buses, vans. We are the outsiders come to see but not disturb.
Yellowstone, signed into law as an act to preserve the land for public use in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, became the world's first National Park. And the idea that a large part of the natural world should be preserved for future generations was born.
The park is is 3,468.4 square miles, most of it in Wyoming and some small areas in Montana and Idaho.
It is home to the world's largest bison herd, to brown and black bears and grizzlies, to coyotes, to wolves. There were approximately 100 wolves in the park at the end of 2010 depending primarily on elk for food.
|Mountain goats clamber down an almost vertical precipice.|
The automobile opened the park to touring. Between 1933 and 1941 the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed many of the campsites and villages that make Yellowstone so accessible.
Usually, touring tapers off after Labor Day. Not this year. The campgrounds are full. Hotels and RV parks outside the park are booming. The combination of a milder autumn and weaker dollar that encourages many to stay at home may be responsible. Who can say.
|The Gardner River snakes through the upper reaches of the park in Montana.|
"In a sense it does," said a ranger. "These creatures have been coming here and following these same migratory routes for centuries. We are the Johnny-Come-Latelies. For the most part they ignore us."
|A late summer thistle in Yellowstone.|
A harbinger perhaps of the white winter quilt soon to follow this late summer blanket browns and greens.