Y is for Yellowstone and Yosemite…two of the greatest parks in the U.S.
I wrote about Yosemite earlier last year Here and Here. Now I’ll post a little about Yellowstone. It was set aside in 1872 as America’s first national park. It has tons of geysers, hot pots, and wildlife galore (bears, moose, elk, bison, wolves, coyotes, bald eagles, and other critters).
I went to Yellowstone my first time in 1988 when I was in a field biology class. It was fascinating, although we were only able to see the upper part of the park since a bunch of fires were burning. The fires burned about 36% of the park that year–the sun was a red ball in the sky that whole fall.
I’ve gone a few times with my family since. In 2001, the lodgepole pines were still pretty small and I was shocked by how the fires had affected the park. So many parts seemed barren–only burnt trunks left standing in huge sections of forest. That was after 13 years.
About 8 years later, we went again, and the park was magnificent. All the burnt sections had trees growing in thick–so thick you couldn’t see the ground. Eventually, these trees will thin themselves out as the smaller ones don’t receive sunlight and die back. But on that trip, it was nature at its best. The burnt forests of 1988 were becoming the most stunning parts of Yellowstone.
My boy was kind of youngish then, and all he could think about was the pool back at the motel in West Yellowstone. His complaint about the park was that “there were too many trees and no rides.”
That was the highlight for me though. Sometimes, we’d be driving along and I’d think a mountain in the distance was covered in grass. When we’d get closer, I’d realize the grass was a thick section of new lodgepole pines (new as in 20 years old; those things grow slow).
If you’ve never been to Yellowstone before, you should go. I have so many favorites about it–the cool geysers everywhere, the pristine valleys filled with hundreds of elk or buffalo, the mighty rivers flowing and gorgeous waterfall, the unique colors of the rivers and dirt from the volcanic action of the earth beneath…the smell of rotten eggs from the steamy sulphur air. It’s incredible!
When you go, don’t be in a rush because chances are you’ll get stuck behind (or in the middle of) a huge herd of buffalo making their way up a canyon, or get piled in a bunch of cars stopped in the middle of the road trying to get a picture of a bear or moose. We’ve pulled off the side of the road to watch buffalo babies across the river frolicking about (seriously frolicking–no better word for their jumping and teasing each other, biting tails to get a reaction from another baby or their mom. So funny!)
But please don’t be stupid when you go. Remember that people are gored each year by buffalo…and bears can eat you (they have teeth, unlike the cute teddy bears sold in stores). Don’t approach the wildlife (although I always see people doing just that, and have to roll my eyes).
If you’re not stupid though, you should have a blast in Yellowstone! It will be an experience you’ll always remember. So Yield to Yellowstone.