The Natural (and a couple unnatural) Wonders of Yellowstone

The Natural (and a couple unnatural) Wonders of Yellowstone

I live in the good ol’ USofA, and I like it here. I’ve been to other places around the world, and I like those other places too, mostly. But it’s here that I call home, so it’s here that my frame of reference stays.

Grandma and I went to Yellowstone once. There are a few places every American (and by that, I mean a resident of the aforementioned USofA) should go at least once in their lives, and one of them is Yellowstone National Park, and thank you, Teddy Roosevelt, for this lasting legacy. May it remain forever.

Yellowstone is a place that, in a natural sense, reflects the uniqueness and grandeur and natural blessings of the nation. It also brings out of the less-attractive aspects of human nature, but we’ll get to that.

We went in June, around the time of our wedding anniversary. And it snowed the first day. Big, wet, surprising flakes. We drove through, because we don’t mind snow, but I sure felt sorry for the riders on the Gold Wing making their careful two-wheeled trip back out of the park. Now, this is the American Mountain West, so the days following were nice and warm, but it was a reminder that anything can happen here.

Elk in June snow

Elk in June snow

There’s too much to talk about without writing a book, and this is just a blog. Driving in from the south, we were greeted by towering Tetons, rising with sharp ferocity from the surrounding lakes and plains, threatening the roof of the sky.

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Within the park, steaming ground where you don’t dare walk because you never know where it’s thin enough to fall through, and more people have been scalded to death in Yellowtone than have been killed by the wildlife there.

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Otherworldly rock formations.

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Lush woods.

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Energetic rivers. Gorgeous lake, once of which seemed more like a sea. Breathtaking waterfalls.

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Just being outdoors anyplace, away from concrete and glass, can give one a sense of place and wonder, and Yellowstone delivers that all, in spades. It’s what brings a couple million people into its borders every year, despite its relative isolation from the rest of the country. And of course, those couple million souls bring their sometimes defective humanity with them.

We were in a line of cars, patiently creeping forward. In the national park tourist mindset, seeing any animal bigger than a chipmunk is justifiable cause for bringing traffic to a gawking stop. In this case, someone thought they had seen a bear. You know, an animal that can be rather large, has fangs, claws, and knows how to use them. A wiry lady sprang from a car with license plates from a state on the East Coast, and she shrieked, “A bear?!?” and ran away from the car, toward the brush, pocket camera in hand, flashes going off every few seconds.

Grandma and I sat there in a blend of horror and amusement. The lady never saw the bear, which was a good thing, because the way she was acting, she may well have ended up as proof of what bears do in the woods, and we would’ve just accepted it for Darwinism at work.

A day or two later, we stopped in a parking area by a meadow where a herd of bison was grazing. We kept our distance of course, one reason being that we want to be respectful of the habitat, but the other reason being that a male bison is about one ton of deeply seated anger and homicidal intent, can run 35 miles an hour, turn on a dime, and has horns and sharp hoofs to accomplish said intent.

A man got out of his car with a nice Canon and walked just a little way into the meadow to get a shot of a bull that was off from the herd a ways. Stop, click. Bull raises his head, snorts, lowers his head, starts eating again. Man steps closer, stop, click. Bull raises his head, snorts, stares, lowers his head, and starts eating again. Man steps closer, stop, click. Now the bull turns to face the man more fully and, I’m positive, is pondering whether it’s worth the energy to give up his grazing spot to run over and shred this idiot. Finally, the insistent and worried hissing from the man’s wife lured him back to relative safety.

People.

But those were mild and temporary distractions within a trip that was worth every minute it took to drive there and back. If you go, and you should, plan ahead for lodging, because they tend to fill up. Bring your camera. Keep your eyes open. Don’t make it a one-day trip. There’s too much to see.

And be prepared for amazement.

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meadow riverfromonhigh woodframe

— Grandpa

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