Yellowstone or the Swiss Alps?

By Carly Carson

Would you like to be standing at the top of this log ladder in the Swiss Alps when an avalanche hits? I didn’t enjoy it either. Though the steps look inclined in the picture, that perception is due to the angle of the shot. In reality, the steps are almost totally vertical as they ascend the mountain. It’s a ladder, with 999 log steps, not a staircase. I climbed this ladder one summer with 2 of my kids, aged 10 and 12. When you get to the top, you can look into the Blue Ice Grotto, part of the Upper Grindelwald Glacier. It actually is blue. Though the glacier moves slowly, you will be assured it is safe. So you can sit down at one of the picnic tables, enjoy your ice cream cones provided at the little snack shop, and take in the amazing view of the tidy Swiss town of Grindelwald laid out like a toy village below you.
All is well, until you hear the first rolling boom of what sounds like thunder. Boom. Boom. Boom. The echoing noise goes on and on. Not too good. Stuck on the face of a mountain, with no possible cover, in a thunderstorm. But what could I do? Far, far below, I could just barely see my husband (who’d stayed at the bottom with our youngest) waving his arms wildly for us to get down. It’s not like I could hurry down that ladder, especially not with kids. Turns out it was an avalanche and from where he was situated, he could see the rocks and ice tumbling down the mountain. When we got to the bottom (safely) the river below was full of big chunks of ice (it was July) which our youngest thought would be the perfect souvenir to bring back to America. And that was only the first of 2 avalanches we “enjoyed” during our stay. (The Swiss have an amazing search and rescue operation. Almost as soon as you hear the roar, you see the white and orange planes up in the sky searching for people in trouble.) Nonetheless, I love Switzerland. It’s a beautiful country with many, many fun things to do.

One of our bloggers is going to Yellowstone this summer and since that’s another of my all-time favorite vacation destinations, I thought I’d include a couple shots of that unique national park. The Yellowstone Canyon really is yellow, and far more beautiful and large than you can appreciate from a picture. Though we did a lot of hiking, the park is very well set up for people who don’t want to venture too far from their cars. The canyon can be viewed after a short walk, as can many geysers and other scenic wonders. The park offers an impressive collection of wildlife viewing. We saw elk, buffalo, moose, trumpeter swans, an eagle carrying a mouse in its beak and, of course, a grizzly bear. I am happy to say a park ranger was near us when we saw the grizzly because, though I wanted to see one, I didn’t want to encounter one.

This thermal pool is an example of many such pools found throughout the Park. The earth's mantle is very thin in Yellowstone, and the geysers and thermal pools give a good idea of the turmoil and geological activity just below the surface. The color variation in the pools comes from the fact that different bacteria and algae live in the water, depending on the heat of the water. As you see in this picture, even one pool can (and usually does) have different colors. The science is fascinating. If you look carefully, you will see many fallen trees surrounding the pools. When we were there, trees from a forest fire many years earlier were crashing down all around us. Apparently it takes years after they are burned before they fall down and that summer was their year to finally give up. Very unnerving. I felt like a crazy mother walking through the woods with my 3 kids (one in a backpack on hubby’s shoulders) while we could see and hear these trees smashing to the ground all around us. Finally, it was so bad that the entire park lost electricity. They couldn’t restore it for two days and the headline in the local paper was: Yellowstone Tourists Injured by Falling Timbers. But when you travel with my husband, you don’t let anything stop you. Yellowstone is truly a unique place and a treasure for all of us.
If you ever get a chance to go to either of these places, don't hesitate.

Attributions: Staircase: cc-by-sa, Andrew Bossi, Flickr; Grindelwald: cc-by-sa, Steven Wagner

1 comment:

Terry Spear said...

I love the photos, Carly. I've been to Yellowstone as a kid, but don't remember it. We actually have family roots in Switzerland. :)