Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Great American Road Trip, Part IX: Yellowstone, Part the First

I have been putting off posting about Yellowstone because I find the task so daunting. Every time I look at my 600+ pictures, I feel the same things I felt when I was there in person: awed, overwhelmed, emotional. Words like awesome, amazing, and incredible are so overused that they have become meaningless, but they are words that surely were invented to describe Yellowstone.

I have heard things about Yellowstone all my life. I knew the park had geothermal features, and that (large and clawed and horned) wildlife roamed there freely. I knew it had mountains and meadows and waterfalls and rivers and canyons. I knew it was supposed to be scenic.

Knowing all of this didn't prepare me for experiencing it first hand.

Every turn in the road revealed a new wonder. Bubbling mud pots, spouting geysers, sulphurous stenches, rumbling thunderstorms, roaring mountains, hot sunshine, cool breezes, rutting bison, rambling black bears, squeaking pikas, double rainbows, majestic waterfalls, colorful canyons, steep mountainsides... I was quite literally gasping at the constant surprises.
(East entrance gates)

We entered at the East Entrance and headed for Fishing Bridge, making numerous stops to get out and gawk.

It was rutting season while we were there. This meant that most of the most aggressive male bison would be concentrated in a few areas, looking for mates. This had worried me at first, because I didn't want to be anywhere near aggressive behavior, but later I realized it was better that they were all gathered, rather than wandering all over the place like they usually are.

I had not given bison any thought at all until less than a week before our trip. I was trying to find articles on bear safety, and came across this story instead. Yikes! I had always assumed that the animals in Yellowstone stayed away from parking lots and other areas mobbed by humans, so I was surprised to find out that they don't, which made me worry. I know I'm not going to do anything stupid to provoke an animal, but that doesn't mean someone else in the vicinity won't! My worry about bison became family joke fodder. Anytime we were out walking, one of them would poke me in the back with two fingers to simulate horns and say "Bison!"

This was our first of many, many bison sightings.

This pair ended up trotting within inches of us, while we sat in the van with the windows rolled up. My husband wanted the windows down, and I tried to leave them down, I really did, but I chickened out as the bison got closer. Even though I was a little nervous, I did laugh to watch the male guide the female away from the herd, across the street to a more private area. Such behavior reminded me of high school dances! Yellowstone is a dynamic place where things can change literally overnight, as evidenced on that sign pictured above. You cannot depend on the ground under your feet.

I loved the mud pots. So bizarre. I really had no idea the geothermal features would be so, so strange, and wonderful!

And then, dear Lord, the thing I feared most: a bison between me and my vehicle.

Yes, yes, I know it's hundreds of feet away. I was still quaking, because I am a big chicken.

Of course we did not have a run-in with the bison. However, it is a good thing our vehicle was not swallowed. They can pave over parts of Yellowstone, but nature will have its way.

I loved the hiss of Roaring Mountain. It was like something in a fairy tale. Such wonders in this place!

Gardiner, MT

We didn't spend the nights in the park. By the time we knew what dates we would be able to make our trip, the park accommodations were all filled, and we weren't ambitious enough to get equipped for camping. (Plus, you know, bears. And bison! Not to mention the big chicken. Oh, and escaped convicts. While we were there!)

We found a hotel in Gardiner, MT. The north entrance to the park is in Gardiner. Our accommodations were fine, and we found a nice little restaurant--The Town Cafe-- where we ate decently and cheaply every night! However, in retrospect, I think if I were to do this trip again and not stay in the park, I would look into West Yellowstone, Idaho. It takes forever to drive around the park (from north to south is a good 3-hour drive), and West Yellowstone seems to be situated better for easier access to more points of the park.

I can't do all of Yellowstone in one post. This post alone has 27 photos, and I've only done day one so far, so I'm going to do at least one more Yellowstone post. For those of you who are thinking "Geez Louise, didn't this person used to make things and blog about them?" I will say that yes, I still make things, and in fact I made several things during our trip that I intend to share here very soon! So, thanks for your patience with the trip posts.


Lynn said...

I'm thinking "geez louise" you saw a lot of stuff on your trip.

besomom said...

We did! I wish we could have spent more time everywhere we stopped.