Friday, July 13, 2012

Weekend 10: Yellowstone

Old Faithful.
I honestly can't count the number of times I've been to Yellowstone. Dozens, at least. But every time I visit, I see something that simply inspires me.

Just when I think I've seen it all inside the park, something happens to prove me wrong. It's a place of constant change, yet it's the same roads that deliver to new surprises with each visit.

Over the years, I've watched grizzly bears so focused on an elk carcass that they shoved their entire heads (and they're big heads) into the cavity of the dead bull in search of the rich organs. Their brown coats were red with blood when they finished dining.

I've seen geysers that erupt so irregularly that seeing them blow is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. I've seen wolves coordinate a downright military assault on an elk herd.

I've seen the wonders this amazing place holds.

The first time I visited Yellowstone, it was with my wife's grandfather. I've been back many times since, and I'll visit many times before I die.

Here, for the weekend, are my 10 favorite adventures in Yellowstone:

10) Old Faithful. Yeah, you can't truly see Yellowstone without seeing a geyser. And you might as well go big... or go home.

Gibbon Falls.
9) Gibbon Falls. There are more dramatic waterfalls in the park that Gibbon Falls, but for some reason, the way the Gibbon River glides over the black rocks of the falls just thrills me. It's short of vertical, which, for some reason, makes me think I could slide right down the falls and walk away unscathed.

8) Grayling. There aren't many left, but if you fish hard enough in certain places inside the park, you can catch a few. Here's a hint: Grayling are native in the upper reaches of the Missouri River drainage.

7) Entry stations. Yeah... it's a little silly. But I love it when the rangers greet you at the gate, give you a map of the park and give you latest information, like where the roads are being worked on and where folks are seeing certain things. It's also great for the kids, who are already wide-eyed. It just adds to the anticipation.

6) Yellowstone Falls. Simply awesome. There are no words to describe it, truthfully.

A crystal clear hot pot off the beaten path.
5) The Lamar Valley. If you've never seen a wolf or a grizzly in the wild, this is the place to do it.

4) The backcountry. Most folks won't leave sight of their cars. Do yourself a favor. Find a trail and walk. You'll see some amazing things.

3) The petrified tree east of Mammoth. It's not terribly imposing or anything, but it's a God-honest, upright-standing petrified tree. And we see black bears in the little wash just across from it all the time.

2) The Firehole. I rarely fish this river, mostly because much of it runs next to the Grand Loop Road between Madison Junction and Old Faithful. You can get off the beaten path in Firehole country, and it's worth it in the spring and the fall. But mostly, it's just a beautiful river, lined by geysers and hot pots ... it's primitive, inspiring, and a little scary.

The things you don't expect--a mother otter eating a fish.
1) The surprises. The last visit to the park found me within a few steps of a mother river otter as she munched on the head of a native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. She hammed it up for my camera and seemed to know that she'd managed to catch a bigger fish than me. It something new every time.

I love this place.

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