Image: Sand dunes near Stovepipe
Gabriel Bouys  /  AFP - Getty Images
With an average of less than 2 inches of rain a year (and in some years no recorded rainfall at all), Death Valley is the country's hottest and driest national park.
Image:
By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/12/2010 9:44:38 AM ET 2010-08-12T13:44:38

If you’re hoping to squeeze in an inexpensive getaway before September, try putting one of the country’s 58 national parks on your list. Every park has great scenery and knowledgeable rangers, but you’ll find that some parks have unique or unusual attributes as well.

In one park, for example, afternoon tea with popovers is a long-held tradition. Another celebrates a nightly ritual involving hungry bats.

Curious about what else makes some of our national parks a bit different? This would be a great weekend to find out. The National Park Service is waiving entry fees for the 100-plus parks, landmarks and historic sites on August 14 and 15.

Image: Old Faithful
Daniel Harpaz  /  AP
Old Faithful erupts to a height of more than 100 feet every 66 to 80 minutes, although occasionally the wait stretches to two hours.

First and oldest
In 1872, Yellowstone National Park became this country’s first official national park. In addition to the Old Faithful geyser (which you can watch from home), the park offers activities ranging from hiking and fishing to wagon rides and llama packing. You can even bring along your own horse.

Hot Springs National Park didn’t officially become a national park until 1921. But because it was established by Congress as the Hot Springs Reservation back in 1832, this park with hiking trails, an historic bathhouse district and hot springs earns the title of the oldest unit in the national park system.

Go there: Admission to Yellowstone National Park is $20 per car (good for seven days). There is no admission fee for Hot Springs National Park.

Smallest and largest
At 5,550 acres, Hot Springs is the country’s smallest national park. That means that during a visit you should have time to hike some of the park’s 26 miles of trails and explore downtown, with a stop at the Bathhouse Row. You might even squeeze in a soak in a traditional Hot Springs bath.

At more than 13 million acres, Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is the country’s largest. The park is open year-round, but the best time to drive, hike, camp, raft or hunt is during the summer and before the Alaska winter sets in — usually sometime in mid-September.

Go there: While there are no entry fees, entry gates or even any official park service campgrounds at Wrangell–St. Elias, some commercial services are available. But plan ahead — this is not the place to be left out in the cold.

Deepest lake
Filling a hole, or caldera, left by the collapse of a volcano, southern Oregon’s Crater Lake is six miles long and 1,943 feet deep. Surrounded by lava cliffs that can reach 2,000 feet, it’s the deepest and, because the water is so pure, possibly the bluest lake in the United States and among the top 10 deepest lakes in the world. The lake rarely freezes, but Crater Lake National Park does get about 45 feet of snow each year.

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Go there: Even with all that snow, Crater Lake National Park is open year round. The best time to visit is during the summer, when boat and trolley tours are offered and when it’s possible to walk, bike and drive around the lake. There’s $10 fee per car (good for seven days).

8 unheralded parks for history buffs

Longest and deepest cave
At 367 miles long and close to 400 feet deep, the spectacular and, at times, somewhat spooky Mammoth Cave in Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest mapped cave system in the world. The cavernous underground chambers and labyrinths are home to 130 animal species (including 12 tiny, eyeless, unpigmented cave-dwelling creatures) and have been a tourist attraction since 1816.

With 83 separate caves, New Mexico’s Carlsbad Cavern in Carlsbad Caverns National Park also seems mammoth. But at 1,597 feet, one of the cavern’s more than 110 limestone caves is considered the country’s deepest. In addition to fantastic and unusual rock formations, Carlsbad Cavern is also home to more than 17 species of bats, including as many as 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats.

Go there: Mammoth Cave National Park in Mammoth Cave, Ky., has 14 miles of cave trails, 31 miles of river and 85 miles of hiking trails. There’s no fee to enter the park, but fees are charged for Mammoth Cave tours, which can last from 30 minutes to more than six hours. Carlsbad Caverns National Park charges an entrance fee for self-guided tours of the 8.2-acre Big Room area of the cave (adults, $6; children 15 and under, free; tickets are good for three days). Guided tours, including some to areas not accessible on the self-guided tour, are also available for a small fee. There is no fee to hike in the park, to attend Bat Flight Programs or to watch hundreds of thousands of bats fly out of the cavern at dusk each night.

See you later, alligator ... after awhile, crocodile
With more than 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. The park is home to frogs and toads, more than 360 species of birds, close to 300 types of fish, and more than 40 different mammals, including the Florida panther, Everglades mink, weasels, fox, bear and bats. Plenty of reptiles live here too, including turtles and tortoises, lizards, and 50 different kinds of snakes, including Burmese pythons. (Scared yet?) The Everglades is also the only place where you’ll find both the American alligator and the American crocodile.

Go there: There is a fee of $10 per car (good for seven days) to enter the park. In addition to fishing, boating, canoeing and hiking, visitors can walk along boardwalk trails or take a ranger-guided tour on a boat or a tram.

Most visited
Set on 800 square miles on the forested border of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park draws up to 10 million visitors a year. What’s the attraction? It’s easily accessible (about a four-hour drive from Atlanta or Nashville) and offers everything from auto touring on scenic roads to wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking and horseback riding. The park is also home to an exceptional collection of almost 80 preserved and restored historic houses, barns, schools and other buildings.

Go there: The park does not charge a fee for entry. The National Park Service even offers a downloadable set of Smokies Trip Planner guides to make sure you find your way around.

Largest living thing
It’s hard to get your mind, let alone a tape measure, around things that are as tall as 26-story buildings and as wide as city streets. But experts have declared several Giant Sequoia trees in the Sequoia National Park to be giants among the giants. According to the National Park Service, when last measured, the General Sherman Tree was the largest Giant Sequoia at 274.9 feet tall and 102.6 feet around. Several of the tree’s neighbors are record-setters as well.

Go there: A seven-day vehicle pass to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California is $20. You can learn about giant trees in the Giant Forest Museum and then visit the General Sherman Tree and four other record-setting Giant Sequoias in the Giant Forest.

Hottest and driest
Have a glass of water handy? With an average of less than 2 inches of rain a year (and in some years no recorded rainfall at all), Death Valley National Park is the hottest and driest spot in North America. At 282 feet below sea level, the park’s Badwater Basin is also the continent’s lowest place. Sound like fun? It can be, but unless you’re the hearty 4X4-on-backcountry-roads sort, stick to short hikes and air-conditioned drives that take you to places like Natural Bridge, the Harmony Borax Works (home of those infamous Twenty Mule Teams) and Scotty’s Castle, a mansion built with the proceeds from an imaginary mine.

Go there: Visitor centers at Death Valley National Park are open year round, but the best time to stop by is sometime between October and April, when the air cools down. Whenever you go, be sure to visit Scotty’s Castle, a working museum with living history tours of the mansion, the grounds and the underground tunnel.

Image: Hawaii Volcanoes
David Jordan  /  AP file
Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are seen near Volcano, Hawaii, gather near sunset as lava from Kilauea Volcano reaches the Pacific Ocean.

Fastest moving
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park includes petroglyphs, 150 miles of hiking trails, and the chance the see the daily, fiery output of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. Erupting steadily since January 1983, the volcano has been producing up to 650,000 cubic yards of lava a day. That’s enough lava, says the Hawaii Convention and Visitors Bureau “to resurface a 20-mile long, two-lane road daily.”

Go there: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, on the Big Island, is open 24 hours a day. The park charges a $10-per-vehicle entry fee. Kilauea’s actions and output change daily, so ask the rangers at the Kilauea Visitor Center for the safest and most up-to-date tips on where to go to see the volcano’s ash plumes and lava flows.

Image: Acadia National Park
Gareth Mccormack  /  Lonely Planet Images
Acadia National Park is located in Maine, boasts the highest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic Coast and was the first national park east of the Mississippi River.

Tea time
On a recent visit to Maine’s Acadia National Park, President Obama and his family did what plenty of other tourists do — they rode bikes, admired the scenery and took a ride up the 1,532-foot Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain along the North Atlantic seaboard. No word, though, if they stopped at the park’s Jordon Pond House Restaurant to partake of a century-old park tradition: afternoon tea served out on the lawn, with a plate of fresh popovers and strawberry jam.

Go there: Acadia is on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. An entrance fee of $20 per vehicle (good for seven days) is collected from May 1 to October. The cost drops to $10 per car after October. A long list of free and low-cost ranger-led programs are listed in park’s newspaper (the Beaver Log) and online.

Harriet Baskas is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com, authors the “Stuck at the Airport” blog and is a columnist for USATODAY.com.You can follow her on Twitter.

© 2013 msnbc.com.  Reprints

Photos: America's lesser-known national parks

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  1. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado

    In this case, the name does not say it all. Sure, Great Sand Dunes features 30 square miles of flowing sand — Star Dune, the highest, is 750 feet — but within its 150,000 acres, you’ll also find forested trails, alpine lakes and the 13,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The biggest “crowds” come in late spring to swim in Medano Creek, a short-lived snowmelt stream that flows across the sand. Come summer and fall, those with a taste for adventure (and a high-clearance 4WD vehicle) can enjoy high-country hikes and fall foliage via the primitive Medano Pass Road. (Stephen Saks / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

    With famous neighbors including Bryce, Zion and Arches national parks, it’s not surprising that some visitors to southern Utah completely miss Capitol Reef. That’s too bad because within its 400 square miles stand the white reef-like domes that give the park its name, the monoliths of Cathedral Valley and the 100-mile-long geological wrinkle known as Waterpocket Fold. The park is also home to the largest fruit orchard (2,600 trees) in the National Park system, so after a day in the outdoors, head to the Gifford Historic Farmhouse in the Fruita Historic District for fresh-baked pies of peach, pear, cherry, apple and apricot. (NPS.gov) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

    Mt. Rainier may be more imposing, but if you want to get a sense of the explosive energy beneath your feet, Lassen’s the place. (It also gets one-third as many visitors.) From the main park road, you can view the results of the 1915 eruption in the aptly named Devastated Area, experience ongoing hydrothermal activity amid the bubbling mud pots of Bumpass Hell or make the 2,000-foot climb to the summit for the big-picture view. For a more remote experience, head to the northeast corner of the park, where the 700-foot-high Cinder Cone rises above a moonscape of lava beds and painted dunes. (Witold Skrypczak / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

    Talk about a water park: With just a few short roads that barely pierce its borders, this park in northern Minnesota is a boater’s paradise of bays, islands and passages. Those without their own watercraft can rent canoes to paddle to remote islands and campsites, visit historic sites via a pair of large tour boats or recall the days of the 17th-century voyageurs by joining a 26-foot North Canoe voyage. This year, the park is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a variety of special events, including several nighttime Starwatch Cruises on Rainy Lake on board the Voyageur tour boat. (QT Luong / terragalleria.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

    Less than 2,000 visitors last year, but almost 500,000 caribou each spring and fall. In other words, the only crowds you’ll experience at Kobuk will likely have antlers and four legs apiece. In fact, this roadless expanse, just north of the Arctic Circle, is so remote that the U.S. Geologic Survey still hasn’t named some of its river drainages. But for those who are prepared for a true wilderness experience, rafting the Kobuk River, hiking the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes or climbing among the Baird and Waring ranges that ring the park can be the adventure of a lifetime. (Tom Walker / AccentAlaska.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Big Bend National Park, Texas

    The “Big,” of course, refers to the sweeping arc the Rio Grande makes along this park’s southern border, but it also applies to the park’s approach to diversity. At 800,000 acres, Big Bend is home to more species of birds (450), butterflies (180) and cacti (60) than any unit in the National Park system. It’d take years to see it all, but for a quick trip, hike the high-country trails of the Chisos Basin, float the Rio Grande between the sheer walls of Santa Elena Canyon and bone up on local history along the new Dorgan-Sublett Trail near Castolon. (Witold Skrypczak / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Channel Islands National Park, California

    The five islands of this park — Anacapa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and solitary Santa Barbara — are just a boat ride or scenic flight from the sprawl of Southern California, yet feel worlds away. In fact, while 350,000 people visited the park’s visitor centers on the mainland last year, only one quarter of them actually made it to the islands themselves. Add in 125,000 acres of protected waters and you’ve got a park that’s part American Galapagos (145 species are found here and nowhere else) and part playground for hikers, divers, boaters and whale watchers. (Stephen Saks / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

    With its cliff dwellings and stone villages, this park in southwest Colorado features some of the best-preserved remnants of the Anasazi people, who lived here from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Unfortunately, many visitors zip in and out, driving the Mesa Top Loop Road or visiting well-trod ruins like Balcony House and Cliff Palace. This summer, however, the park is offering three new ranger-guided tours, including a two-hour, three-mile hike to Mug House; a six-mile, six-hour tour of the Wetherill Mesa area, and an eight-hour, eight-mile hike to several remote dwellings hidden in the recesses of Navajo and Wickiup canyons. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Biscayne National Park, Florida

    Although Biscayne lies on the doorstep of Miami, it’s actually part of the Florida Keys, a 172,000-acre expanse of crystalline water dotted with sea-grass shallows, patches of coral and 30 keys and islets. In summer, when winds are calm and the bugs are bad, stay on the water with a guided snorkel trip to the natural aquaria around Shark Reef or Bache Shoal; when fall winds pick up (dispelling the mosquitoes), take a three-hour tour to Boca Chita Key where you can climb the 65-foot ornamental lighthouse for panoramic views of the park, Key Biscayne and downtown Miami. (NPS.gov) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska

    No roads, no visitor facilities and no designated trails — if it’s solitude you seek, this 13,000-square-mile park above the Arctic Circle has your number. (Total number of visitors last year: 9,975.) Some visitors arrive by bush plane; others hike in via Anaktuvuk Pass, but all would be advised to plan ahead, either by using a guide service or being appropriately self-sufficient and wilderness-savvy. The rewards? Endless days under the midnight sun in summer, caribou migrations in spring and fall and panoramas of wild rivers, glacier-carved valleys and the craggy peaks of the Brooks Range year-round. (Lee Foster / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Great Basin, Nevada

    Given Great Basin’s location — just off U.S. 50, aka The Loneliest Road in America — it’s hardly surprising that the park accounted for a measly .03 percent of visits (85,000) to the National Park System. Most visitors come to tour the limestone wonderland of Lehman Caves or hike amid the gnarled, 4,000-year-old bristlecone pines on Wheeler Peak. It’s also popular (relatively speaking) with stargazers who come to the park because it boasts some of the darkest night skies in the Lower 48. Consider joining them August 6–8, when the park will hold its first-ever Great Basin National Park Astronomy Festival. (NPS.gov) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

    Seventy miles west of Key West and surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Dry Tortugas saw just 52,000 visitors last year — probably because you have to take a ferry, seaplane or private boat to get there. Once on site, visitors can tour the hulking Civil War–era Fort Jefferson, stroll the beach of Garden Key (most of the other islands are closed to the public) and snorkel amid conchs, corals and kaleidoscopic fish. (Park personnel are monitoring the local waters for oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, but are currently reporting no evidence of contamination.) (Eddie Brady / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

    The largest park in the National Park system spans 13.2 million acres, features nine of the 16 highest peaks in the country and boasts the continent’s greatest assemblage of glaciers, yet received less than 60,000 people last year. Crowds? Not a problem. Most visitors drive the 60-mile McCarthy Road to visit the rustic town of the same name, tour the Kennecott Mill site or hike up to the toe of Root Glacier. If that sounds too busy, opt instead for the lesser-traveled Nabesna Road, which offers equally stunning scenery and more chances to see wildlife. (NPS.gov) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

    Rocky Mountain National Park got 2.8 million visitors last year. Black Canyon of the Gunnison? Less than 175,000. Cut steep and deep by the thundering Gunny, the canyon’s near-vertical walls rise as high as 2,700 feet above the water and provide a vivid (and vertiginous) view of 2 billion years of geology. Most visitors stick to the more-developed, easier-accessed South Rim, so consider the more primitive North Rim for equally impressive views with even fewer people. “There’s only a quarter of a mile between them,” says Chief of Interpretation Sandy Snell-Dobert, “but it’s so much quieter.” (Jim Wark / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

    Let’s face it, without Teddy Roosevelt, the U.S. would probably have far less protected space than it does, so a visit to his one-time homestead is more than appropriate. (Besides, it gets half as many visitors as the better-known Badlands.) Most visitors hit the South Unit, snapping pictures of T. Roo’s cabin and the Painted Canyon, while others venture to the North Unit to see prairie dogs and river views. Only a handful make it to the remote Elkhorn Ranch Unit, which Chief of Interpretation Eileen Andes says features “the best view of the Little Missouri and maybe the best view in North Dakota.” (NPS.gov) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

    Closer to Ontario than Michigan, this island park in Lake Superior is only accessible by boat or seaplane, which probably explains why it saw only 15,000 visitors last year. For day trippers, easy trails around Windigo and the lodging and tour services at Rock Harbor offer scenic views and glimpses of island history; for canoers, kayakers and backpackers, the bays, interior lakes and backcountry trails are as wild as they come. Ferries and water taxis can transport you to remote docks scattered along the 45-mile-long island; after that, you’re on your own. (NPS.gov) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

    Heading to Carlsbad Caverns? If so, consider adding a visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which sits just an hour away, sees less than half as many visitors and offers some of the Southwest’s most surprising topography. Check out the unexpectedly lush vegetation in McKittrick Canyon, the 265-million-year-old marine fossils along the Permian Reef Trail and the backcountry trails off the park’s remote Dog Canyon entrance. Prefer some company? This summer, the park is offering its first Hike with a Ranger program, which will offer full-day backcountry hikes with a ranger on the last Sunday of the month. (NPS.gov) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa

    They don’t come much more remote — or more scenic — than this little beauty, which is located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, spread across four islands and blessed with tropical rainforests, pristine beaches and gin-clear waters teeming with fish. Start your visit with a scenic drive to Vatia on the main island of Tutuila, then hop a flight to Ofu or Olosega for beachcombing and snorkeling. More intrepid visitors should also visit Ta’u, the fourth island, which is considered the birthplace of the Polynesian people. “Access is difficult,” says Park Ranger Sarah Bone, “but the reward will pay for itself several times over.” (NPS.gov) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
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    Above: Slideshow (18) America’s lesser-known national parks
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    Slideshow (28) America's national parks

Video: Geyser-gazing, wolf-watching at Yellowstone

  1. Transcript of: Geyser-gazing, wolf-watching at Yellowstone

    MATT LAUER, co-host: We begin today in Yellowstone . TODAY contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager is at the park's Black Sand Basin area. Jenna , good morning. It looks stunning.

    JENNA BUSH HAGER reporting: Good morning. It's pretty beautiful here, and when you set foot in Yellowstone everything seems to slow down. No televisions, very little cell phone service and a whole lot of silence. Most visitors come here to get away from their busy lives, take a deep breath and enjoy the views. It is a land suspended in time, a place where frost meets fire. And thermal hot spots give us a window into our prehistoric past. Yellowstone 's original residents still roam free, feeding off the land and fending off predators. Close encounters with elk and bison are everyday occurrences here at Yellowstone . But if you want to witness the park's most notorious predators you need to bring your scope and whole lot of patience.

    Mr. RICK McINTYRE: You may see the black father wolf moving to the right.

    Offscreen Voice: There he is.

    HAGER: There he is.

    Mr. McINTYRE: And maybe even with some pups.

    HAGER: I see him. I don't see the pups. It's 6 AM in Lamar Valley , prime time for wolf watching, and we get lucky right off the bat. Oh, I see him now, yeah.

    Mr. McINTYRE: So keep on...

    HAGER: He's licking himself. For some of these wolf watchers, it's the only action they'll see for the rest of the day.

    Mr. DOUG SMITH (Wildlife Biologist, National Park Service): We're so used to a fast pace, all the gadgets that we use, to come here it's just to watch the animals, slow down, be patient.

    HAGER: Wendy Busch knows all about living a fast-paced life. When she's not wolf-watching in Yellowstone she is a talent agent in New York City .

    Ms. WENDY BUSCH (Wolf Watcher): You're tied to e-mails, you're tied to your cell phones, you -- there's work going on right now while we're standing here and I -- luckily I'm in a situation where my staff takes care of that. They know how important this is to me, and so then they sort of let me go.

    HAGER: Wendy takes time off to visit Yellowstone at least four times a year.

    Ms. BUSCH: I do come here to clear my head and to, you know, to really shake off all the city stuff.

    HAGER: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. BUSCH: I still like the city, but coming here is my -- is sort of my church.

    Mr. McINTYRE: Can you hear a little bit of the beeping sound?

    HAGER: Three hours after our initial sighting, we move deeper into the valley to track another pair of wolves. Using a radio collar, biological technician Rick McIntyre can follow the movements of different wolf packs in Yellowstone .

    Mr. McINTYRE: Yes, yeah.

    HAGER: Oh, she's looking right at me. Do you see her?

    Mr. McINTYRE: Uh-huh. Yes, I do. Yes.

    HAGER: We spot another wolf. This time it's a female and she's feeding off a bison carcass. Oh, there she goes, there she goes. She's on the move, heading back to her den to fee her pups.

    Mr. KYLE BORK: I see him. He's right behind the bushes.

    HAGER: Just down the road, Kyle Bork is watching the same wolf.

    Mr. BORK: Oh, she's running. I see it, I see it.

    HAGER: It's Kyle 's first time at Yellowstone and his family is already had experiences that will last a lifetime.

    Mr. SMITH: People crave real things, and there's few things more authentic than seeing a wild animal that's rare in a setting like Yellowstone . And I think that resonates deep within us.

    HAGER: A chance to watch wildlife draws millions of visitors to Yellowstone every year. But the number one spectator sport in the park involves a hole in the ground and a whole lot of hot air.

    Group: Oh!

    HAGER: The Old Faithful geyser remains the centerpiece of Yellowstone . Park rangers can predict its eruptions within 10 minutes. That predictability is what makes Old Faithful the most popular geyser at the park, and the least interesting if you ask Jim Scheirer .

    Mr. JIM SCHEIRER (Geyser Gazer): It's going to be a little bit at an angle over to your left.

    HAGER: Jim is a geyser gazer, one of hundreds of volunteers who track the eruption times of all the major geysers in Yellowstone .

    Mr. SCHEIRER: When you get old enough, instead of being a geyser gazer, you're more of a geyser geezer. Or a geyser gazer geezer.

    HAGER: How many geyser gazer geezers are there out there?

    Mr. SCHEIRER: Lots of us.

    HAGER: Unlike Old Faithful , it's harder to pin down exact eruption times for a geyser like this one called Daisy . After about a 50-minute buildup, Daisy is ready to blow. Here we go!

    Mr. SCHEIRER: Daisy, 16:31 .

    Unidentified Woman: We copy Daisy at 16:31 . Thank you.

    HAGER: Back at the visitor's center, a park ranger notes the time and adjusts the schedule to let tourists know when Daisy might erupt again. Cool!

    Mr. SCHEIRER: This is natural, it's nature, it's whatever's going to happen this time, which is not necessarily what's going to happen the next time.

    HAGER: And that is what brings visitors like Jim back to Yellowstone again and again, knowing that his simple investment of time is rewarded with a priceless set of memories.

    Mr. SCHEIRER: I view the time I spend here as not something subtracted from my life, but added to.

    HAGER: Some visitors will sit for hours and never see any wildlife or an eruption. But they come away completely satisfied because they've spent a beautiful day here in Yellowstone . And I have to say, it's a pretty great way to spend a vacation, or in my case, a day at work.

    LAUER: Yeah, it's not, but what's the temperature...

    HAGER: Nat -- Matt and Natalie.

    LAUER: ...what's the temperature there this morning, Jenna ?

    HAGER: Oh, it's pretty cold. The gloves. Got the gloves and the fleece and it's -- and the sun is coming up, so things could be worse.

    LAUER: All right, well, you wear it well .

    MORALES: There or steamy Manhattan right now, 90 degrees. Hm.

    LAUER: Yeah, exactly. You're in a better spot right now. Jenna Bush Hager . Jenna , thanks.

    MORALES: Exactly.

    HAGER: Exactly. You all could come and enjoy some of the cool.

    LAUER: Yeah, we got it.

    MORALES: Yeah.

    LAUER: All right. And by the way, want to tell people, Jenna , that tomorrow you're going to be in Utah 's beautiful Arches National Park .

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