You'll never feel closer to nature - from visual evidence of the constant movement of the earth steaming and shifting below your feet to a hawk "resting" on the thermals over Pelican Creek trail head - than at Yellowstone National Park.
Ken Burns showed us the park and told its history but nothing short of being in it prepares you for the vastness, the richness and the beauty.
From its position as the world's first national park, superlatives abound. With some 10,000 hydrothermal features Yellowstone has more geothermal activity than in New Zealand and Iceland combined. Hot springs, geysers, mud pots and fumaroles bear witness to earth's dynamic, roiling core.
Seeing it: Wildlife
There are interpretive tours and you should definitely take a few, but the park is so spread out you really need a car. Roads are good and figure-eight from one end to the other.
Tip: Dawn and dusk are the best time to watch the wild side. Hayden Valley at the park's midsection and the plains south of the northeast gate are good places to start. No walking needed, just watch carefully as you drive slowly along.
Seeing it: Geothermal
Viewing Old Faithful beginning its show from Old Faithful Inn
Old Faithful is only the beginning.
Seeing it: Waterfalls and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Tip: Ready? It's 14 steps to a landing, 17 steps to another landing, 14 steps to the next landing and 12 steps to the final landing.
Tip: You have a choice, a ramp or a series of 12 steps to a landing followed by 12 steps to the last landing plus 25 steps then 12 steps to the top. Recommended if you can do it.
Staying in Yellowstone
I tried three of the lodges and although there are camp grounds and rustic cabins, I suspect most of us Levelers will want elevators and en suite bathrooms.
|Lake Yellowstone Hotel|
Lake Yellowstone Hotel is a classic 1920s yellow and white building that has been added onto until " rambling" is an apt descriptive. It's the airiest and most elegant of the park's facilities with grand views of the lake. The dining room is spacious and the food is good; so is the wine list. A large bison herd visited the morning I was there.
Lobby, Old Faithful Inn
Old Faithful Inn, a National Historic Landmark built in the early 1900s, personifies Yellowstone with its hand-hewn logs and enormous stone fireplace. Fare in the dining room is excellent, as is the wine list.
Tip: The original rooms are full of atmosphere but you'll probably prefer a room in the newer section where there's an elevator, despite the long walk to reach it. This was my favorite.
Buy them in the park. Gift shops and general stores are carefully monitored and not only will you never be gouged, you'll get the best quality merchandise at the lowest prices. (Now if only Congress could take a lesson from the Park Service!)