It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the one when you go to sleep in a Tipi and wake up with bison (I swear it happens every time). Our journey through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming began with a brisk 28 degree morning and snow. It seemed like the seasons changed with every mile as we progressed deeper and deeper into the massive caldera. Bison roam the plains with deer and elk while wolves and bear watch their prey from a distance. Geysers erupt, hot springs release their steam and mud pits boil. This is a mountain man’s wilderness paradise.
As we entered the snow covered park a bison greeted us from the side of the road, his head swayed from side to side rooting through the fresh snow as he looked for a tasty meal. It was a winter wonderland complete with snow covered pine and a semi-frozen lake. A ways down the road we decided to warm up with a hike through a trail of hot springs and mud pits. This is where a rather large brown bear explained to us we were going down the wrong path and advised us to try another. We graciously obliged enough to get out of his way; but stuck around long enough, with cameras ready, to see what was going to happen to a tourist lady who wanted to “commune with nature” and get a little too close to the beast for my liking. Probably didn’t help her friend much when I told her about Jedediah Strong Smith and what happened when he challenged “Old Ephraim,” he had to sew half of his own face back on.
I would recommend staying in the park for a few days just to get a taste of what this place has to offer. You could probably spend a lifetime exploring and never see it all. We went in the off-season and it was still busy despite sections of the park shutting down for the winter (such as information areas and campgrounds). I also wouldn’t recommend coming too late in the season because the roads are unpredictable and subject to closures for numerous reasons, especially construction. Old Faithful erupts every 45 to 120 minutes so find a good place to sit, where you’re not facing the sun for photography, and get comfortable. The most essential thing I can think to bring would be a good camera with a telephoto lens and the widest angle lens you can find.
Now I know why John Colter, the original mountain man, asked Lewis and Clark If they minded him staying behind and exploring the mountains a bit more. Words cannot describe the magnitude of the awe inspiring landscape. I can imagine myself in another life. I’m wearing a beaver cap, bundled up in a Hudson Bay capote over sweat stained buckskin with my long knife and hawk tucked tight in a belt sash. My rifle in hand, I am living as God intended in this wilderness paradise – Free!