Exploring Yellowstone

Photo Credit: Volcano Hopper

Sit back and close your eyes for a moment. What comes to your imagination when I say “Yellowstone?” Do you see a national park full of sweeping forests and gushing rivers? Vast herds of buffalo grazing on the sweet grasses and bears romping through the hills? Are you imagining the white spray of a geyser as it shoots water over a hundred feet into a crystal blue sky? And do you imagine the throbbing pulse of a volcano just beneath your feet as you stand in the heart of the park?

Sometimes that last one catches people off guard. Many people who visit Yellowstone each year have no idea that they’re visiting an active volcano. But it is the volcano that creates such a fascinating and other-worldly terrain out of what would be just another mountain range. In fact, the area is so unique and unusual that no one believed the “frontier fiction” that returning fur traders in the 1700’s were spinning. It was made a national park in 1872 to protect such incredible features.

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The Day Yellowstone Erupted…

I promised you in the last post that we’d get to look at what would happen if Yellowstone Volcano really did erupt.  Not necessarily a fun thing to imagine, and let’s hope it never does happen.  So, sit back with a warm drink and let’s imagine what would happen if Yellowstone Volcano did decide to erupt with full force.  Here we go…

It’s official. It’s gonna be a bad Monday.

News nowadays usually travels faster than you can blink. Too bad some things travel just slightly faster.

It’s the middle of July and I look out my office window to see dark clouds pouring over the Colorado mountains. Flakes of snow are raining down. Huge flakes that blanket everything. And they are a mucky gray.

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Activity Update: 11/4/17

Which volcanoes are hopping this week? Check out the list below. While the list has definitely grown since the last activity report a month ago, about half of these are showing general unrest: off-gassing, increased earthquakes, smaller explosions. And then there are the big players such as Agung and Sinabung that have shown off some spectacular eruptions in the past couple of weeks.

Check out what’s hopping below:

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Simmer down. Yellowstone isn’t going to blow.

 Last week, I couldn’t help but notice the flurry of articles that kept popping up about Yellowstone volcano. They were absolutely everywhere! Seriously. I almost stepped on one of the critters. A number of frantic stories were trending on social media and on popular news sites. I even saw one circulating again today. The gist? An impending eruption is just around the corner. Seriously, go to the grocery store this weekend.

Such stories tend to crop up once or twice a year and get everyone worked into a tizzy. On the one hand, yes, it is intriguing to ponder a future shaped by a megacolossal eruption. I’m sure it’s been fodder for some interesting sci-fi stories. But for reputable news organizations to paint a picture of imminent disaster without citing a single viable source is rather comical. What’s a little sad, however, is that so many people willingly dive onto the panic wagon without checking any facts or sources. And, with as easy as this trickery seems to have become, the media has once again succeeded in getting everyone stirred up that we’re going to be annihilated tomorrow. Simmer down. Yellowstone’s not going to go postal.

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Pele’s Curse

A spooky story for Halloween…. and a real one.

Mario toed the piece of black lava with the tip of his shoe. The black rock glittered like a magical glass in the golden Hawaiian sunlight. The dips and curves of its surface reflected like a prism, sparkling like a million tiny gems of every conceivable color. He’d never seen a rock quite like it. Anywhere.

He bent down and scooped it up. It was no larger than a quarter, but the sharp edges bit into his tender fingers unrelentingly. He turned it so that it caught the light again. The color sparked to life. His dark eyes stared, mesmerized, at the dazzling array. Hawaiian basalt sparkling in the sunlight.

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Sunset Crater: Boots on the Ground (or hopping off of it!)

Vital Stats:
Name: Sunset Crater
Volcano Type:  Cinder Cone
Eruption Status: Dormant
Last Eruption: approximately 1085 CE
Location: 35.3642° N, 111.5040° W,
Northeast of Flagstaff, AZ, USA
 Part 2: Boots on the Ground (or hopping off of it!)

Every Volcano Hopper has to get their start somewhere. Sunset Crater was the very first volcano that I was able to get my boots on. You can tell by the picture – I was absolutely giddy about it. And, yes, I bounced up the lava flow like a billy goat.

My partner in crime and I visited in the fall of 2009. We were driving through Flagstaff and I spotted the national monument on the map. I’m not above begging when it comes to visiting a volcano. Luckily, my man has a spirit of adventure too and didn’t hesitate to steer the car north onto Highway 89.

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Activity Update: 9-30-17

It’s been quite the busy week as far as activity goes. New volcanoes have woken up and are causing quite the ruckus.  There are 48+ volcanoes at watch or warning status, and many others that are showing some unrest.

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Sunset Crater: Heated History

Vital Stats:
Name: Sunset Crater
Volcano Type:  Cinder Cone
Eruption Status: Dormant
Last Eruption: approximately 1085 CE
Location: 35.3642° N, 111.5040° W,
Northeast of Flagstaff, AZ, USA
Sunset Crater Photo Credit: Volcano Hopper

Part 1: Heated History

The midday sun scorches the earth with its white light. You wipe a slick of sweat from your brow with the back of your hand. Leaning on your spade, you stop to survey the long rows of hard-packed earth where you will plant the seeds you gleaned from last year’s harvest. In six months, the crop will be ready to feed the hungry mouths of the village.

You smile at the thought of your wife grinding maize into flour on the hearthstone while your youngest plays nearby with a doll made from the husks. Your son practices throwing a spear outside, anxious to join the hunt this fall for the first time. You’ll teach him the things your father taught you, and his father before him.

A low grumbling fills your ears. You lift your spade, hand at the ready on your knife. Has the puma come down from the nearby hills again?  As the ground quivers beneath your feet, you realize it’s just another earthquake. They happen frequently around here. Perhaps a little too frequently in recent days.

The heat chafes your tongue and you reach down for the water skin. Thirsty as you are, the water tastes of rotten eggs and dirt. Your nose scrunches as you gulp it down. Hopefully the search party will be able to find a new source of water. Between the earth shakes and the tainted water, the gods must be angry. A sacrifice should be made.

The ground trembles again, then bucks hard like a bronco. The entire world rattles. The dirt you’ve worked hours to unearth tumbles back into the holes. A fountain of ash bursts through the field in front of you, spewing rock a thousand feet into the air.

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A Volcano Hopper is Born…

Volcano Hopper at Kilauea Summit

I’m kicking the metal leg of my desk as I tip back in my chair. The clock is rolling backward, and I’m wondering how long it’s going to take before the teacher hollers at me to “Quit it!”

A spit wad whacks me square in the ear, ricocheting onto my desk and leaving a glob of ooze behind. I lose my balance and come thumping down onto all four chair legs. I earn a stern warning glance from Mrs. B and I send my best friend a vicious glare as he sniggers from a few rows behind me. That rat is toast when the recess bell rings. I’m gonna make him eat gravel.

Y’know. Assuming the recess bell ever rang.

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