After finishing up my very hectic teaching schedule and waving good-bye to a job that was breaking my spirit, my husband and I and our youngest daughter took the annual pilgrimage to Mecca – Yellowstone. It has been a family tradition for the past eight years, and we look forward to hauling the tent trailer and eating Dutch oven dinners. My sister, brother-in-law, and niece have joined in for the past few years and made it their tradition, too.
On the drive in through Island Park and Henry’s Fork, we noticed field upon field of wild flowers. They were amazing! Daisies, Brown-eyed Susans, Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace – just a remarkable assortment around each bend. Unfortunately, I had packed the camera inside the trailer, so I couldn’t take pictures except with my phone. We decided we’d stop on the way home and get some photos of the carpet of color we were seeing.
As we pulled into the parking lot at the check-in, we noticed patches of snow still lying on the ground. It was June 30, and yet there were places where the snow patches were two or three feet deep still. I asked the woman at the check-in desk if they had had a lot of late-season snow.
“We still had 60 inches just three weeks ago, and got about 12 more two weeks ago,” she told me, as if she had told me that the sky was blue and the pine trees were green.
“Wow,” was about all I could manage.
All that late-season snow had meant a lot of late-blooming flowers. In all the years I’ve ever been to Yellowstone (and they are numerous – came frequently as a kid with Mom and Dad), I never remember having seen such a show of color before. There were clusters of purple clinging to rocks, brushed across meadows, and poking from behind trees. I found Rocky Mountain Iris, Columbine, and bright yellow stalks of “Eggs-n-Butter” flowers. Wild strawberries were everywhere, their simple, white blossoms showing up throughout our camp site even. In a month or so, that will be good eating for the animals in the park.
Speaking of animals, we got up early one morning and drove to the Lamar Valley to see if we could spot wolves (another tradition). We got to see a large, dark grey male going after a buffalo carcass, then walking so close to the road you didn’t need binoculars or a spotting scope to see him. Shortly after his breakfast, he was chased off by a pack of coyotes. The bison were abundant, as were the elk. We saw several grizzly bear, lots of mule deer, a mother osprey sitting on the nest with her two fledglings, and a mated pair of bald eagles.
We watched Old Faithful erupt before a fabulous dinner at the Old Faithful Inn. After dinner, we walked around the geyser basin, and lucked into seeing the Beehive Geyser go off (it doesn’t go at regular intervals like Old Faithful).
One afternoon we took a swim in the Firehole River. Chilly at first, but once you got in and drifted on the current a bit, it wasn’t too bad. Of course, getting out was a bit frosty when the breeze picked up.
Yellowstone is an incredible place, and I could visit every year. Unfortunately, my sister and my husband are feeling that we need to expand our horizons a bit. There is talk of Glacier National Park, or Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s not that I’m opposed to going to other places, it’s just that I have this great soft-spot in my heart for Yellowstone. But that decision is at least six months away, and I may be able to convince them to do both: Yellowstone and another park. We’ll see.
Now – I’m off to wash clothes, repack, and head out in the morning for Vermont to go back to school for a bit! I’m excited, though by the time I get home I’m going to be exhausted. However, this is the best way to get exhausted for sure. At least it beats getting worn out from housework!