Thursday, March 31, 2022

Whale watching yields maritime pleasures, birds, dolphins and calm

 

A boat of happy whale watchers heads back after a successful spotting this week aboard Flagship's
Marietta, with an experienced and enthusiastic crew to enrich the journey near San Diego.

WHALE OF A TIME WATCHING EARTH'S MAJESTIC MARITIME CREATURES


Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers are happy
aboard the Marietta, which they take at least once
a season to watch for whales off San Diego.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

EACH WINTER, 20,000 sleek,  southbound gray whales thrill nature lovers as they glide through the waters off the coast of California on their way to the warm waters of Baja's sheltering lagoons. There, they mate, calve and fatten up for the cold winter ahead. The annual gray whale migration is  one of Earth’s greatest wildlife spectacles, and the California coast is an outstanding place to see this grand migration. We haven't missed a season in the 15 years we've been together.

Naturalist Danielle is associated with
Ocean Connectors, whose aim is to educate.
Flagship hosts dozens of school kids each year
to spread the word for ocean conservation
.


Watching these enormous, graceful creatures is a thrill that never dims.
Playful dolphins are a wonderful part of the adventure.
Especially because they were nearly wiped out in the shameful whaling days of yore. Thanks to a moratorium on whaling and other multinational protections, the eastern Pacific population of gray whales is thriving with around 26,000 of these amazing critters now alive.

WE SET off with a familiar crew who have become friends through the years aboard Flagship's comfy Marietta.  Our goal was to see at least one whale -- which we did -- in less than a half hour!

For me, the dolphins are as much a thrill as the whales.  These delightful creatures swim along side the boat, playfully leaping and turning in the water.  The babies look like little fast-floating footballs and I never tire of watching their antics, as their mothers gently nudge them to get back in line.

Whales usually travel in pods of two or three. Gray whale calves are born between the end of December and beginning of February. So some mothers are mating and others are giving birth to calves conceived the year before. Since the gestation period is 12 months, the ones that mate this year won't give birth until next year. Newborn gray whale calves are about 15 feet long and weigh 1,500 lbs. During this time, the mother and calf pairs are known for their curious, friendly behavior. The mother's milk is the consistency of cottage cheese and the baby eats pounds a day.

Dolphins follow the boat, so many
of us peer over the side for
long periods of time.
A COUPLE YEARS ago, Keller photographed a mother and calf, a real thrill.  This year, we spotted that very active gray and watched him for over an hour, keeping a respectable distance so as not to frighten or interfere with him. When a whale comes into view, the naturalist puts out the word and there's a rush to one side of the boat.  Don't worry, the captain is considerate and makes sure the boat turns so everyone sees.
There's a feeling of excitement and joy as we hurry to the railings. A whale, after all, is the width of a basketball court. The single whale we followed this outing was a delight.  Sometimes, we've seen four or five, but this single guy -- or gal -- put on a worthy "solo act," co-operative in his breeches and fluking, leaving a "footprint" on the water each time so we could follow him. 
A splendid view of San Diego's skyline
from the Marietta, approaching the city.

"Footprint" is the disturbed water the whale leaves on the surface of the ocean when he or she flicks its tail or fluke with a downward stroke. Our captain and his crew were helpful in pointing out the whale's journey.  We followed our single whale by watching the markings on the surface even when he wasn't always visible for long. 

Seeing a whale fluke is one
of the great pleasures.

WHEN 'OUR' whale was diving, the naturalist provided interesting commentary on the incredible journey. With more than 20,000 grays making the impressive 10,000 mile round-trip journey to the

The Flagship's Marietta crew includes skilled
naturalists and the captain: Dale, Charles,
Danielle and Hannah, and a luxurious
two-story whale-watching yacht.
southern lagoons from their Alaskan home, there's much to talk about.

WE ARE LUCKY in San Diego to be able to watch the journey close-up, so this time of year, look for us on the water -- often on Flagship's venerable Marietta with its full snack bar and many options for comfortable viewing inside or out. Sailor Keller has piloted our own craft on a couple whale watching adventures. But being captain is work. It's more fun for him to let someone else do the driving so he can play photographer. 

The ship is also available for chartered events, harbor cruises, weddings, celebrations and corporate meetings and parties. There's still time for the whales if you're near. Or the whale watching in itself is worth booking a trip to San Diego

  www.flagshipsd.com;  www.oceanconnectors.org 

The San Salvador is an exact replica of the one that explorer sailed
into San Diego when he discovered the bay in 1542. It is a proud
part of the San Diego Maritime Museum's extraordinary collection.  



UP NEXT: While we're on exploring the benefits of living close to the water, come with us to San Diego's wonderful nautical museums.  We're exploring them in a two-part series on the enormous aircraft carrier at the USS Midway Museum, and the multi-ship Maritime Museum with its large collection of historic maritime vessels.  Both are wonderful educational and entertainment offerings for those with an interest in the sea. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh look at travel, art, nature, the ocean, family and more: www.whereiscookie.com 





 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Hawaiian fire dance: fiery show is steeped in tradition, meaning


Beautiful costumes, magical lighting, talented dancers with garlands of leaves enhance the show.

DRUMS, FIRE, DANCING CREATE EVENING OF SPECTACULAR ENCHANTMENT, AS WE LEARN OF POLYNESIAN CULTURE 


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

Christene "Cookie" Meyers, left, and Bruce Keller
join the company of the Ahi Uila Fire Show in Kauai
.
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

DRUMS POUND as colorfully clad dancers move onto the stage, carrying flickering tiki torches which sway in time to the rhythm.
The audience quivers in anticipation of an entertaining evening.  Soon, a dozen skilled performers will have the full house gasping, whistling and applauding. 
WE WERE witnessing a spectacular fire show, learning a great deal about the distinctly varied cultures of the Polynesian islands.
We booked our spectacular fire dance show at Hilton Garden Inn Kauai. It did not disappoint. We knew we were in a special place, where island people celebrate centuries old traditions and teach the audience of their cultures.
A dancer moves with the flames.
WE WERE the last ones into the sold-out performance hall, which proved to be lucky.  The main tables were occupied so a creative maitre d' snapped his fingers and quickly ushered us to a high-top cocktail table which had magically materialized.  While the tablecloth was laid, we took our comfortable seats to admire the show and listen to the narration.  We were slightly left of the stage, with an excellent perspective of the performers and fast-moving series of stories.
NORMALLY, the dinner show is held outside, but ocean tradewinds and the threat of rain moved it indoors.  Every Tuesday, though, the fascinating production is staged -- outside or "plan B" -- indoors, with doors and windows open wide.  Warm tropical winds near the Wailua River are usually gentle, but in times of strong winds, the threat of fire from the tiki torches is too great to chance.  Even indoors, the experience is unforgettable.
Billed as the "Ahi Uila Fire Show," the drama's usual backdrop is on the resort's Mamahune's Lawn. Inside or out, the friendly aloha spirit blankets the evening of fire dancing, fire eating, hula, sword play and more. We felt thoroughly immersed in Polynesian culture with the exhilarating beat of Polynesian drumming and a well written narration.
WE ASKED one of the ensemble what the fire dance means to him when we lingered after the show.
"In our culture, dancing can signify loss and mourning, joy, celebration, sensuality, religious worship or even war," he said.
Three dancers play out a story in moody lighting.
Many cultures use fire dancing to honor their past and teach children and visitors about their heritage, he explained. The well known dance form is found around the world from Africa to Mexico and South America and many parts of Polynesia.
Various tribes on several continents have practiced fire rituals or fire dances as far back as the 13th century CE, where the Aztecs of Mexico dedicated their practices to the god of fire, whom they called Xiuhtecuhti.
WE LEARNED that fire dancing is not actually Hawaiian born.  Its heritage is Samoan, but Hawaiian performers have learned and
Part of the show involves bringing the fire close to the 
audience, a full house which normally is seated outside.
perfected it, finding it attractive to tourists and a popular dinner show addition. "Siva afi" or fire knife dancing, is also Samoan in heritage, incorporating the fierce looking Samoan weapon "nifo oti," or war knife.
We saw performers twirl the weapon and demonstrate other acrobatic tricks that had all of us in the audience tilted forward on our seats.
EVEN FARTHER away, in New Zealand, poi fire dancing offers yet another form of fire performance, this time derived from the Maori culture. Performers swing a chain or rope around their bodies, while a weighted ball and wick on each end are on fire. Dancers make large, circular motions encompassing their bodies, all to the beat of the music.
This dancer looks as if he might be in pain from the fire, but he is
really just concentrating. Seldom do the dancers actually get burned.
The evening -- called the Ahi Uila Fire Show -- is narrated by a storyteller who gives a lively history of the origins of the Hawaiian islands and its many immigrants -- each bringing his culture's art along.  The performers bringing the story of Hawaii and its Polynesian connection alive.
AFTER THE show, I asked one of the performers why the fire didn't seem to burn -- although we thought we'd seen a couple of the dancers grimace when the flames came too close.
He chuckled and said, yes, it is possible to be burned, but usually that doesn't happen because the wicks are made from kevlar and soaked in fuel -- either alcohol or paraffin -- before they are set on fire. Then when spun, the effect is dramatic. Most of the available fire poi on the island are lightweight, and have a twisted link.
Another trick: heat-resistant stainless steel connectors protect the performers against burns. None of this information detracted from the power of the show. In fact, it enhanced it.
MUCH LIKE a buffet at a Hawaiian luau, the performance at Hilton Garden Inn Kauai is an entertainment smorgasbord. It artfully incorporates hula, dancing, singing, drums and a history lesson into its own unique visual stew.
Fire dance at the Garden Inn on Kauai
offers history lessons along with spectacle.
It's a potpourri of performance from many of the beautiful islands of Polynesia.
AS THE narrator explained, each dance in the fire show is associated with a specific island group, and is special to a specific culture. Hula comes from the islands of Hawaii, Tahitian derives from the islands of Tahiti, the haka and poi balls originated in New Zealand, fire knife dancing from Samoa. Hawaiians have woven a visual tapestry of myriad dances with a thoughtful narration stressing the individuality and unique aspects of each number.
The Garden Inn's fire show pays unique tribute to the spicy variety that makes this excellent Hawaiian performance so memorable.


More information on Kauai, the resort and the fireshow: www.gohawaii.com/islands/kauai
www.hgikauai.com/ahi-lele-fire-show. 

We boarded a Flagship vessel this week for prime whale
viewing off the coast of southern California. Next up.
UP NEXT
: Whale of a time! The San Diego whale watching season starts in mid-December and lasts until late April.  So we have a few more weeks to watch in wonder as 20,000 gray whales migrate through California waters headed for warmer climes in the Baja.  We saw a few whales this week -- some already heading back north to Alaska, but a few stragglers heading south. With our 78 miles of coastline, we are directly in the migration path so it's a perfect place to watch. We've even seen the magnificent grays from land, but we like to get closer via water, so we're sharing our joy. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh look at nature, performance, music, art, theater and dance, family, dining, famous cities and off-the-beaten path wonders: www.whereiscookie.com

 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Celebrate each day , take the trip, book the train, take the cruise

Cruises to her ancestral homes -- Norway and Ireland -- were gifts to Ellen Cosgriffe
from her daughters, Robbie, standing, and Christene (Cookie) at right. Left is Ellen's
granddaughter, Amarylla, who joined her aunties to celebrate Ellen's birthday in Europe.


EMERALD ISLE VISIT WITH MUM LIVES ON IN HAPPY CARPE DIEM MEMORY 

Happy St. Patrick's -- may the spirit of celebration continue


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral was a stop
during a jam-packed day of sightseeing.

 

THE CELEBRATION couldn't have been more appropriate.  It was March 17, and our ship was pulling into Dublin Bay. We'd had a wonderful dinner the night before, celebrating my mother's 80th birthday for the 10th or so time. And of course, it was St. Patrick's Day. 
Mum was already crying -- "tears of ecstasy," she sniffed, "because I am so very, very happy."
I'd promised her trips to Ireland and Norway for her 80th birthday, and this was the Irish leg of several sea journeys with my beloved mother Ellen and other family members.

Dublin Bay Cruises took us around
the city by water, a fun outing.

As we navigated the C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea, on Ireland's east coast, mum looked and felt very Irish.  She had chosen a green shirt, white tam and had her favorite "lucky" shamrock green socks.

Dublin's famous Temple Bar was a pub stop on a
 memorable tour of Ireland with Cookie's late mother,
 Ellen, who played piano and fiddle there and sang
 a medley of Irish tunes with the house band.





Ellen and her daughters Robbie and Christene
pull into harbor aboard Royal Princess on one
of several European cruises for a beloved mum.

DUBLIN BAY stretched 10 kilometers wide before us as I looked at my notes. We had only a long day in which to explore this colorful capital of the Republic of Ireland. I'd planned a Dublin Bay boat ride, and look at the River Liffey, a tour of historic buildings including 13th Century Dublin Castle, and the imposing 
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, founded in 1191.
We'd have a walk through beautifully landscaped St Stephen’s Green then taxi to Phoenix Park for a zip through Dublin Zoo. The National Museum of Ireland with its wonderful collection would cap the full day, then a light supper at the famous Temple Bar pub before our ship sailed at 9 p.m.

Mum was the hit of the bar that night, playing a fiddle a bandsman loaned her. When he complimented her green outfit, complete with shamrock pin, she demured:

Cookie and her mother,
 Ellen, wearing the green. 
'I'LL LET YOU guess what color my underwear is." He laughed at her coy remark.  Mum was always a bit naughty. Later that night, I played an Irish medley on board Celebrity Century. People gathered and sang along --  a memorable evening. 
Cookie found a quiet bar to entertain as
a capper to a fun St. Patrick's Day shipboard.

MY GREATEST take-away from the trips I've had with friends and family is "don't hesitate, do it." I promised my youngest brother, Patrick, a trip to Ireland, which was at the top of his bucket list.  He passed away last month before we could make the journey.  His health was failing and try as I might, we couldn't work it out. I wish I'd arranged it 10 years ago. So happy I had cruises with sisters Robbie and Peny, both gone now, too.

Dancers kicked during our St. Patrick's day visit.
Check off your bucket list

"How old am I really?" mum asked us one night. (She wasn't quite 80 yet on that last cruise, but we'd rounded it off to make things easier and more memorable.) When we told her, "You're still 79," she said, "Oh I'm relieved. I didn't think I was as old as 80 yet!" 



A fire dancer flashes and dances his way to a
standing ovation from the crowd at 
Hilton's Garden Inn in Kauai.

UP NEXT
: Fire dance! It connotes the rhythmic and pulsing sounds of drums, shouting, singing and dance.  The centuries old fire dance is both celebration and cultural tradition.  Pacific cultures have long used fire and movement to signify loss, mourning, joy, celebration and sensuality. The dances can even be used for religious worship and war preparation. Let us take you to one of the world's best fire dances, on the quiet island of Kauai at Hilton Garden Inn. The fire dance is the loudest activity on this peaceful island with leading musicians, dancers and singers from the South Pacific. Explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, culture, nature, family and the arts: www.whereiscookie.com






Thursday, March 10, 2022

Quiet, calming Kauai offers relaxing retreat from war, virus, worry

The view from a window suite of Hilton Garden Inn Kauai is accompanied by a cheery wake-up
call from resident roosters, who roam the place and are a much photographed part of the charm


ROOSTERS, RIVERS, PINEAPPLE, VIEWS, TRANQUILITY AND MACADAMIA NUT BREAD 

Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers
are greeted with leis at Hilton Garden
Inn Kauai, on a romantic get-away.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER


IF YOU -- like most of the rest of the world -- yearn for a tranquil, beautiful place to put aside your worries for a few days, you won't do better than Hawaii's "Garden Isle," Kauai.
You won't find a more pampering, relaxing place to nap, read a book, take a hike or recharge the romance in your life than at Hilton Garden Inn Kauai, on picturesque Wailua Bay.
The welcoming inn is only two stories tall -- no building can be taller than the tallest palm tree.  This wise edict was mandated decades ago by the people of this charming island and has preserved its feeling of "country" and untouched beauty.
Kauai appetizers:  macadamia nut bread and
pineapple, with a bouquet of Hawaiian flowers.
WE'VE BEEN coming to Kauai since the 1970s -- separately, because we didn't know one another then, then together the past 15 years.  Each of us has fond memories of Kauai and on this trip together, we agreed that its quiet island charm remains much as it was 50 years ago, particularly at Hilton Garden Inn.  The hotel has a "hands on" staff, trained with the aloha spirit that marks this small island's feeling of hospitality.  Management decrees that guests are to be treated like royalty -- and we were.
The hotel's residents include well
 fed roosters, patrolling the grounds.
ROOM SERVICE was delivered by the amiable marketing director, Sarah Cara, who stayed to visit and make sure our needs were met.  She gave us pointers on nearby attractions, including lovely Lydgate Beach Park, where we took a picnic the next day and enjoyed snorkeling and lazing on the lovely beach.
THE HOTEL is close to Wailua Bay and Opaekaa Falls. The famed Sleeping Giant Trail Head and Fern Grotto are nearby, too. We booked the famous Smith Family Luau, just a five-minute drive away (more later) and easily maneuvered the 15 minutes to Wailua Falls, Kapaa town, and the quiet Lihue Airport, where we'd picked up our baggage outside and found the rental car kiosk within easy walking distance.
The hotel's  all-day restaurant, pools with poolside bar, and rooms with balconies and ocean views add to the charm of the place.
KAUAI'S BEAUTY goes back eons, when a defect near the middle of the huge Pacific Tectonic Plate allowed molten lava to escape. It emerged, boiling and hissing onto the ocean floor seven miles down. Slowly, land rose until 30 million years ago when a volcano formed Kure Atoll, emerging from the sea into sunlight.
The drive north from Kapaa leads to stunning views.
Thus Kauai was born, at first much larger than it is today. Crashing waves from trade winds and storms eroded the north shore to form the stunning Napali Coast, with cliffs plunging 3,000 feet into the sea. Dozens of huge fault breaks formed canyons -- Waimea is the deepest and most spectacular -- and dramatic valleys formed along the canyon's eastern slopes.
Volcanos, craters, calderas and gorgeous beaches make this beautiful island one of the world's most coveted. Yet it has remained quiet and still has a rural feel if one exits the beaten path.

Bruce Keller enjoys an ice cream
outside Skinny Mike's in Kauai.

KAPAA IS "the town," an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Kauai County. It is the most populous town on Kauai, with a population just over 11,000. Thus there is no "big city" on the island -- which is fine with us. Kauai is a favorite honeymoon spot. Known for its natural beauty and dramatic sites, it's a place to hide away from it all. We took a day trip to beautiful Waimea Canyon (with its gorgeous Coconut Coast). We enjoyed the islands gorgeous mountains and waterfalls, white sand beaches, sugarcane fields, and beachside cliffs on the Napali coast, the most isolated land mass in the world.
Kauai Coffee: tops,
says Bruce Keller
.
MY COFFEE snob partner also guided us to Kauai Coffee, the 
largest coffee plantation in the United States. He pronounced its java 
"the best I've sampled in my tastings around the globe."  Perfect climate -- cool nights and warm days, plus rich volcanic soil, Pacific trade winds and mountain rains make it so flavorful, says he.
 In his younger days, coffee loving Bruce Keller took off his clothes with his college buddies and waterskied Kauai's Wailua River. That was a few decades ago.  This time, we didn't spot any naked adventurers on the tranquil river. We simply took a sedate fully clothed boat ride past gorgeous waterfalls and lush, jungle landscapes along the island's East Side.
 KAUAI HAS the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, which lead to more than natural beauty.  Ice cream, coffee, home cooking and the best loco moco we've had await.   We've tried many variations, but the one we had in Kapaa was best: a nap-inducing gourmand's bomb of white rice, topped with a hamburger, fried egg, and brown gravy.
 
www.hiltongardeninnkapaa.guestreservations.com
www.gohawaii.com/islands/kauai

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin was on the
bucket list for Cookie's mother, along with
a kiss and a visit to the fabled Blarney Stone.
UP NEXT: A salute to Ireland and St. Patrick, as we remember trips to the Emerald Isle and a special brother whose ashes will be sprinkled there next summer.  Ireland is part of our family's history, and memorable trips with family are treasured. We revisit Dublin, with its beautiful cathedral and lively pubs, take a look at tourism highlights and enticements, and describe a mother's bucket list kissing of the Blarney Stone. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh look at nature, travel, the arts, cruising, family and more:
www.whereiscookie.com



 



Thursday, March 3, 2022

A tribute as Yellowstone National Park turns 150 this week

Bison graze throughout the park, alongside thermal pools and geysers that make the park famous.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YELLOWSTONE, OUR NATION'S FIRST NATIONAL PARK

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Morning Glory Pool is a steamy thermal pool, accessible
near Old Faithful Lodge on wooden walking paths.

 

  Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
at the north entrance, with a cornerstone
laid by President Theodore Roosevelt.

THE NATION'S FIRST national park -- Yellowstone -- celebrates a big birthday this week. 
One hundred fifty years ago, Yellowstone was created, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.
President Theodore Roosevelt loved the park, and the Roosevelt Arch honors him, a triumphal landmark at the park's north entrance in Gardiner, Montana. Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1903, noting that Yellowstone and others in the national park system were created "to preserve and protect the scenery, cultural heritage, wildlife, geologic and ecological systems in their natural condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations."
Yellowstone is the park service's  crowning achievement, and our country's first such park.
Thank you Teddy and U.S. Grant for this gigantic gift to the world.
Whenever we go to the park, we make a game of listing the languages we hear: French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Thai, Mandarin, Japanese, Norwegian, and accents of visitors from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
It's always a mini United Nations in the restaurants, bars, hotels and gift shops, as people come from thousands of miles away to view the land where Native Americans hunted, fished, gathered plants, quarried obsidian and used the healing thermal waters for religious and medicinal purposes.
OUR FAVORITE corners of the park aren't the most visited ones. 
The cascading Lower Falls makes an eye-popping rush
over rocks, and into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The beautiful Lake Hotel, the park's oldest.
While we enjoy all the major attractions, too -- the Upper and Lower Falls, Geyser Basin and more -- it's fun to pull off on one of the quieter, less frequented  scenic views to simply revel in the magnificence.  To behold 3,500 square miles of wilderness is one of our top recreational treats.
The mighty Yellowstone River and beautiful Yellowstone Lake are part of the park's landscape, too. The river flows north from Yellowstone Lake,  leaving the Hayden Valley and plunging first over Upper Yellowstone Falls and then a quarter mile downstream where it gushes over Lower Yellowstone Falls.  There, it enters the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is nearly 1,000 feet deep.
The park sits atop a volcanic hot spot, with a splendid array of  canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful, which isn't quite as reliable in its spouting as it was when I was growing up. Still, when it blows, it's magnificent.
VYING FOR our attention is the park's abundant wildlife, for Yellowstone is home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope. We never fail in our annual visits to see at least a couple of these -- always bison and often elk, antelope and bear. 
We've seen wolves a few treasured times and heard their haunting cry in Lamar Valley, in the park's northern reaches. Those were wondrous events.
Lamar Valley is a tranquil, lovely part of the park.
Here, bison graze and drink against the beauty.

 It's fun to share the road, too, with a herd of bison, who amble right near the cars and stop traffic periodically, causing rangers to move traffic along and encourage animals back onto the grasses.
SINCE HALF the world's hydrothermal features are found at Yellowstone, we love to get out of the car a couple times each visit and walk the wooden paths to see the geysers and hot pots close-up. 
It's not just visual.  It's smelly. No visit is complete without breathing in the glorious “rotten egg” odor at one of the pots, especially Mud Volcano, which gives off that familiar sulfuric odor. 
The pungent smell is the result of microorganisms eating away at sulfur, creating sulfuric acid. As that evaporates, a park ranger explained, "the acid becomes hydrogen sulfide gas, which gives off the noxious smell." Besides Mud Volcano, two other "stinky spots" are the Dragon's Mouth and Sulphur Caldron area between Fishing Bridge and Canyon.
We fed the bears in my childhood --
late 1950s -- now we know better.
Again, odorous but opulent. The smells are part of Yellowstone, and the visual grandeur more than makes up for the pungent odor.
THE PARK'S HISTORY dates back 11,000 years, when native American tribes and bands used the park as their home, hunting grounds, and transportation routes prior to and after European American arrival. Yellowstone was established as the world's first national park in 1872.
The most common misconception about Yellowstone is that it's overdue for an eruption. But volcanoes don't work like that, experts say.
In the past two million years, volcanic eruptions have occurred in the Yellowstone area—three of them super eruptions. I remember well the devastating 7.5 earthquake of August, 1959. It knocked paintings off the walls of our home in Columbus, Montana, killed 28 people and caused $11 million in damage.
  • A piece of driftwood frames this photo of Yellowstone
    Lake, 7,732 feet above sea level. It covers 136
    square miles with 110 miles of scenic shoreline.


    Rick Cosgriffe, center, with his sister, Christene
    Meyers, and partner Jane Milder, at Lower Falls. 

    MUCH OF THE damage occurred as a result of a huge landslide triggered by the quake. It buried campers, trailers, wildlife and people near Hebgen Lake.
    A geologist friend said that more earthquakes like the Hebgen Lake event are unlikely within the Yellowstone caldera itself, "because subsurface temperatures there are high, weakening the bedrock and making it less able to rupture."
  • Quakes within the caldera can be as large as magnitude 6.5. A quake of about this size that occurred in 1975 near Norris Geyser Basin was felt throughout the region.
  • MEANWHILE, don't live in fear. Enjoy the wonder and thank our government which 150 years ago had the vision to protect and preserve Yellowstone National Park.In so doing, we set an example for the rest of the world. Masks are still required in Yellowstone and there is a variety of lodging, from rustic to elegant.

     For more information: www.nps.gov/yell/
To book a stay: www.usparklodging.com/yellowstone/




UP NEXT: Hidden gems await on the verdant and peaceful shores of Hawaii's "Garden Isle," Kauai. Come with us to this westernmost of the Hawaiian Islands chain and settle at Kauai's graciously appointed Hilton Garden Inn. A favorite of many, this laid back yet elegant resort offers easy access to a tropical rainforest, boating and airplane tours, hiking trails, fine dining, gorgeous unpeopled beaches and delightful coffee plantations. Our time on stunning Wailua Bay near Lihue, remains sacred in our hears for the peace it offers. Come along to admire dramatic cliffs of Kauai's Na Pali Coast, to gaze at the magnificent Sleeping Giant mountain ridge and take in a spectacular fire show at the hotel or just sit in the soothing earth-and-sea colors of the Garden Inn lobby. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family, loss, love and more.www.whereiscookie.com