My story in Yellowstone began when my mom traveled from Gardiner, the North Entrance to Yellowstone, to Lake Hotel in a snow coach with me as an infant. My dad was the winter keeper for Lake Hotel and we lived year-round in a quaint little house next to the hotel. From my bedroom window I could watch the wildlife from chipmunks to bison wander by.
This year marks the centennial of the National Park Service, giving our National Parks lots of attention. We are fortunate to have Yellowstone National Park in our backyard for exploration and inspiration. From my experiences living in Yellowstone I can easily see why many people travel from near and far to marvel at Yellowstone’s wonders. It is because of these wonders early visitors of Yellowstone called it “Wonderland”.
Yellowstone is home to abundant wildlife, about 1,500 archaeological sites, and more than 300 active geysers and numerous hydrothermal features all housed in approximately 3,472 square miles. Facts aside, Yellowstone is one amazing place!
Through my eyes, the winter season is the best time to visit Yellowstone. Travel inside the park is limited to snowcoach or snowmobile (except from Gardiner to Cooke City through Lamar Valley is open to vehicle traffic). Limited travel options provide for more primitive viewing of the park and its wonders! Geysers form interesting ice sculptures around them, bison are at their woolliest and the scenery takes on a frosted glow! In subzero temperatures sparkling specs of frost floating in the clear blue sky, known as “Diamond Dust”, is a whimsical phenomenon I won’t forget.
Yellowstone’s concentration of geysers and hydrothermal features have amazed and delighted visitors for years. Old Faithful has been the center of attention since its discovery. Morning Glory Pool, near Old Faithful, ranges in color from orange to green to blue making this hydrothermal pool so brilliant. While a bacteria mat can actually be beautiful, I will never get use to the stinky rotten egg smell associated with most of the geothermal areas.
Each season brings its own unique sights and sounds. Spring brings a freshness with newborn animals, green grass and the start to the crowds of visitors. Starting in late April bison calves, also nicknamed “red dogs” for their red spaniel-like looks, are born in lower elevations like Lamar Valley’s lush meadows. From a herd of Bison meandering through or a glimpse of a wolf pack, Lamar and Hayden Valley both offer the opportunity for wildlife spotting. While both valleys are beautiful I would have to say that Hayden Valley holds my heart as it is closest to the Lake Hotel area.
In July Mount Washburn bursts into vibrant color. Splendid displays of Indian paintbrush, shooting stars, lupine and other wildflowers blanket the slopes. Combined with panoramic views this is an amazing photo opportunity. Almost like a spring tradition we made the short trek to the mountainside to have our pictures taken amongst the flowers.
Another spectacular view is Artists Point of The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It will not disappoint! With a view of the canyon and Lower Falls this is one stop I would not pass up. At 308 feet, Lower Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Yellowstone. Of the nearly 300 waterfalls, Rustic Falls located by the Yellowstone Golden Gate Bridge, is my favorite. It isn’t the tallest waterfall and can be a mere trickle by the end of the summer. I would make my mom pull over every time we passed just so I could check on the charming falls.
My favorite part about the summer season is when the horseback rides are up and running. Seeing people on horseback and in wagons reminds me of early travelers to Yellowstone. I enjoyed providing tourists a feel of the “olden days” during the summer I worked for the Mammoth Corals. While I was (and still am) happy to answer their questions, I will never forget the day that I was first asked, “When do deer turn into elk?” I about fell off my horse!
Cooler temperatures and the changing leaves signify the coming of fall. The air is charged with bull elk bugling, challenging each other to duel. The elk rut takes place in September and sometimes runs into October. While it is quite a sight to see these majestic animals fight for their harem, listening to them bugle as darkness approaches is thrilling and eerie. Beware! These big guys are jacked up and ready to fight, even if it’s a car! As the bugles fade and the snow quietly falls in the upper elevations of Yellowstone, winter returns to Yellowstone to blanket everything in white.
Having the opportunity to live and work within Yellowstone has shaped my wonder for nature. Gail has captured so many of these elements of the park in her “Yellowstone’s Palette” Collection. They remind me of my first home, Yellowstone.