I remember when I first learned about Pompeii. Somewhere around 20,000 people lived there and didn’t take the volcano or the earthquakes seriously until it was too late. As a kid I thought these were the dumbest, most reckless people ever. There’s a giant volcano RIGHT THERE – you don’t build your house and raise a family underneath such a thing.
Yeah, so, we have been sleeping directly on top of the world’s largest volcano for the last week. There are five visitor’s centers here. In Ryan’s words, “It’s gonna produce a whole lot of pretty before it blows civilization sky high.” Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
The volcano is powered by Earth’s mantle. Hot magma rises through a vent in the earth and melts the rock above it. That big pool of melted rock sits about six miles below the surface, and that’s what’s powering all the geysers and springs that are all over the park.
It’s also what goes boom. The first eruption was 2.1 million years ago. Another occurred 1.3 million years ago. The most recent was 640,000 years ago.
The pressure building from the heat source starts to make the earth above it rise like a loaf of bread. Eventually it blows, leaving a crater (or caldera) in its place. Then the cycle starts again. The bulge in the earth currently has been rising at about two and a half inches a year. Yikes.
The park, like the volcano, is huge. Driving just the heart of the main loop in the park is 135 miles (not counting the 15 to 20 miles you’ll drive from the entrance gate). We camped in three different places so that we’d be able to see what we wanted to see without losing several hours to the road.
Since the park is so big and there is so much to do here I’ll be breaking things up into multiple posts. Stay tuned for more – there’ll be bison and hiking and geysers and more!