Yellowstone Stories

Someday we’ll return and really do Yellowstone.

This time, the most important member of our expedition, the Intrepid Lucy, was limited. The National Park System is not dog friendly. So, if she couldn’t do it, neither did we. No trails. No boardwalks. No visitor centers. No museums. We still had a fine time.

We made adjustments. We took turns; while one of us explored a geologic feature, the other stayed in the car with Lucy. It was the only solution — there is no doggy day care in the area — but not the best situation, since we couldn’t have a shared experience. And we had different experiences, for sure. For example, Tim saw Old Faithful erupt. But when it was Gage’s turn, he took a different path by mistake and instead saw the Beehive Geyser blow.

Yellowstone invites personal experiences like that. Everyone has a different YNP story. I’m sure even the families who were trying to cram in all they could see before school starts had a great time. But a lot of people may have forgotten that the point of being there was to have a wilderness experience. Slow down … breathe deeply … appreciate the natural beauty. Instead, they zoom from place to place, get a quick look and take off for the next feature down the road. I mean, a lot of people didn’t even wait for Old Faithful to finish erupting before they hightailed it out of the viewing area.

Yellowstone accommodates car-window tourism. There are some 400 miles of paved roads looping the park in a crazy-eight shape. The points of interest are spread out, so you have to drive and drive, and try to find a parking spot in an overflowing lot, and then take a usually short walk to the various geysers and waterfalls. (It’s quite different from, say, Arches, where if you want to see the arches up close, you have to hike some distance.)

The speed limit in YNP is a nice leisurely 35 to 45 mph. But that’s too slow for some people. More people should live by the words, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Or, “getting there is half the fun.” Or, “get off my ass, you son of a —”

Yellowstone instills serenity. It is nearly 3,500 square miles of nearly pristine forests, rivers, lakes and geysers. There’s a photo moment at every turn, but as Gage had to remind Tim, if you keep taking pictures you may forget to enjoy the moment. So we didn’t take pictures of everything we saw. But we were among the lookie-loos who pulled off to the side of the road whenever there was the slightest far-off glimpse of wildlife. We scanned the horizon with binoculars and saw herds of bison; several moose; a coyote or two; many geese, swans and ducks — but no bears. No grizzlies at Grizzly Lake. And alas, no gibbons at Gibbon Falls.

Yellowstone inspires contemplation. As we cruised along past pines and paint pots, we pondered the passage of time. The geysers and mud volcanoes and sulfuric slopes began to form millions of years ago, and continue to change every day. The steaming calderas reminded us that we were trespassing within an active volcano that could blow any day now.

So, we will return someday to really do Yellowstone — before time runs out.

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