The idea of setting aside land to preserve it in its pristine state for future generations started 100 years ago in the United States with the National Parks system. The first, and granddaddy of them all, was Yellowstone National Park. We stayed there for about six days, our longest stop of the trip, and saw something different on every one of them while only scratching the surface of what could be explored.
The wildlife was phenomenal. In the first couple of hours there we saw a few bison on the side of the road and stopped to snap as many photos as we could. After all, you can’t have too many cover shots for National Geographic. We quickly figured out that this was the tell-tale sign of a newbie to Yellowstone. Over the next few days we experienced lone bison strolling down the center of the road (multiple times) with no regard to who needed to be where or when, black bears with cubs crossing the road, otters swimming in the river, elk lounging about just about everywhere, pelicans on the lakes (believe it or not), grizzly bears feeding on some unrecognizable former resident of the park, and an event we dubbed as ‘bison jam’: when the bison herd decided to cross the road and wreaked traffic havoc on the two lane park roads (also multiple times). As ridiculous as it sounds, a few bison standing by the road was no longer of much interest and anyone seen taking photos of such a common place event had obviously just entered the park for the first time.
Another of the incredible attributes of Yellowstone was the landscape. Sitting on top of a super-volcano does actually have some perks. Mud pots, vents, hot springs, and, of course, geysers are in abundance. They create beautiful and bizarre scenes while serving as reminders that there is hot magma not so far below our feet that is transforming our ever changing world. We saw Old Faithful go off a number of times and visited unbelievable sights like Mammoth Hot Springs and the Grand Prismatic Spring. The girls swam in a spot where a cold river came together with one that was heated and you could feel the difference in temperature based on where you sat in the water (thanks Groffs for the suggestion). They also enjoyed swimming against the current in the river in Firehole Canyon to be rewarded with a jump in to the rapids that quickly brought them back to the start.
Believe it or not, Yellowstone also has some impressive man-made beauty. The Old Faithful Inn is a working historical landmark that was built in the early 1900’s and is a masterpiece that brings together nature and architecture. It is amazing that they still let people stay in it. To add to the nostalgia, they also run tours on the refurbished yellow busses that were used in the 1930’s.