The scent of damp earth, the whiff of fresh air, the wind on my face, slight nip in the air, the silent gurgling of the water, tiny fishes playing around my ankle soaked in pristine crystal clear lake water, sound of birds chirping nearby and under the big sky Montana as I began to pen down my thoughts on my travel notebook, time traveled backwards…twenty years back, for the love of travel I chose to become a geologist .
… and that has helped me to find my true nomadic inner-self, who loves to explore the world in her own ways. So at times I had imagined myself to be lying carelessly on the lap of Himalayan fossil beds, or sometimes walking barefoot on the Hawaiian lava beds or at times watching awestruck at the Nature’s live theater as the volcanoes erupts from the heart of Earth. Some dreams never fulfilled, but they haunt you, they live with you in your heart forever, and some meets you in strange ways.
Yellowstone was like that only, and on one September evening while we were preparing our itinerary for West Coast, I quietly slipped the name into the list. It was looking impossible at first, because of shoestring budget and tight schedule, but finally my better-half agreed to it. Nothing is worth than fulfilling your long-wished dream, was his words. And the next moment we started preparing for it, air tickets, itinerary, car rentals, day tour services, food….and that was the time he gifted me my new DSLR.
There are many endemic wildflowers in the Yellowstone that grows around the thermal springs.
This post is going to be lengthy, be warn and photographic too. Please join me as I explore Yellowstone National park, the world’s first national park in a day. Here we will cover only Grand canyon of Yellowstone and flora and fauna. Geothermal features will cover in a separate blog post.
They say it is an experience, you have to stay at Yellowstone for days to experience it. True. It is a different world, different biosphere, and totally different atmosphere and no one prepares you for it. Admiring the stunning national geographic photographs on net or in print is one thing, and to experience it another. Even just for a day, few hours at max, it is an overwhelming experience.
The wide open spaces, the grasslands, the meandering Snake river, sub-Alpine forest, canyons, the world famous geysers, hot springs, mudpots, volcanic caldera, basaltic and rhyolitic terraces, columns and not to mention the endemic flora and herds of bison, elks, grizzly bears crossing the road, wolf watching you from a corner bush shrub… do you think you can take all that in a day tour. Certainly not. But even a glimpse of that would be a lifetime cherished memories. For international travelers like us, on budget and tight travel schedule, this was all we can afford to but no regrets.
The day started quietly for us, as we sat hopefully on our seat in a yellow bus, with our backpacks underneath and packed sandwich lunches in brown paper bags, the town of West Yellowstone was waking up slowly from its slumber. After few minutes, we entered into the national park. The park has four gates in four different directions and as we stayed close to western gate, so we had chose that one.
There are two loops for day travelers, lower and outer. We chose the lower one in anticipation of more wildlife, especially for the herds of bison in Hayden valley which is not included in the Upper loop.
The first stop was Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – some 1200 mile long, this canyon is perhaps the most breathtaking sight inside the Yellowstone and from several vantage points, the lower falls or the upper falls can be viewed. Created by the Yellowstone river, it was once site of volcanic activity, later become a geyser basin.
The rhylolitic lava flows covered much part of the lower canyon, and the heat from the geysers has hydrothermally altered the rock structures, thus painting the canyon in pastel shades of brown, rust, pink, yellow, red and ochre. The most famous vista point is the “Artist Point” on the south rim of the canyon.
Hayden and Lamar Valley – Both Hayden and Lamar valley offers excellent view for wildlife watching. Herds of bison grazing with their young calves, bears, pronghorns, elks relaxing near the water bodies, osprey, coyotes, bald eagle and many more species. Lamar canyon in the northeastern section of the park is particularly known for wolf packs.
Hayden valley in central Yellowstone is particularly known for herds of bison grazing and lounging near the wide Yellowstone river that runs through it. Bison is my personal favorite given its history and resilience. Though we missed the herds of bison by a whisker, they moved on as soon as we approached the valley. We however spotted few along the river and also along the road. Watching wildlife is all about timing and little luck.
Make it happen –
How to reach Yellowstone national park-
Yellowstone is well connected by roads and there are four nearby airports. Depending upon the choice of the entrance gate (it has five entrance stations – north, east, northeastern, south and west), the nearby airports will be-
Yellowstone airport, West Yellowstone – open from June to September. Delta connection is the exclusive carrier. We had arrived at this airport from Salt Lake city, Utah. The western entrance is the closest one to the park.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming – consider as most scenic airport in the world, located at the base of spectacular Teton range. The closest entrance is the southern entrance.
Bozeman, Montana – only airport serving year round gateway for two park entrances – north and west
Cody, Wyoming – this is Yellowstone regional airport and the eastern entrance is just an hour drive from the airport.
Nearest major airport is Salt Lake City, Utah and is well connected with all the major airports in America. We had make it our base for Yellowstone trip. Car rentals are available in all the airports. No taxi services available in Yellowstone airport.
Where to stay – Staying at Yellowstone would be totally different experience but you will need prior reservations (one year advance) for Old Faithful Inn and Lake Yellowstone hotels and cabins.
We had stayed at the West Yellowstone town and it offers few lodging, boarding options and food was good.
Stay tuned for geothermal of Yellowstone and travel itinerary for Yellowstone park.