Greetings from Yellowstone National Park, where steam rises from hundreds of large and small hot springs and bubbling pools of mud. Geysers erupt frequently and wildlife abounds. Possessing a unique beauty like no other place on earth, this park is a destination for thousands of people every year. This year I was fortunate to visit the park as part of my trip out west to see my first grandchild.
My trip brought to mind the song "Home on the Range" and its first line "Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam." Many who love nature and God's creations, which include the wandering bison, long to commune in such a spectacular landscape.
August is "Family Fun Month." In addition on Aug. 26, 1916, Congress authorized the National Park Service. So August was the perfect time to visit both my family's new baby and Yellowstone, our country's first national park (established in 1872).
OBSERVER Photo by Mary Deas
Bison and elk roam freely in Yellowstone National Park.
OBSERVER Photo by Mary Deas
The Lower Falls of Yellowstone River is part of the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone National Park.
I was fortunate to experience the park with my dear friend Connie who is just like family to me. Oh, the fun we had in our short 24-hour visit on a day off from helping with the newborn grandchild!
Connie is special to me. No matter how long it has been between visits, we can still pick up right where we left off. Connie and I taught school together for several years in Colorado and forged a relationship where the person talking didn't even have to finish a sentence - the other person knew what was meant. We just generally had fun together. Years have gone by, yet she picked me up at the airport and we fell into conversation as if we still lived in the same town and just saw each other last week.
Connie lives in a log home in the beautiful small town of Island Park, Idaho, which is a short drive to the western side of Yellowstone. I could barely contain my excitement as we drove through the mountains, remembering with fondness the times I had been to Yellowstone in the past. I had been there once as a child with my family during the kind of vacation in the late '60s or early '70s when large families traveled in station wagons with luggage racks. We entertained ourselves without electronics, looked out the windows, maybe elbowed each other a bit, took naps by leaning on each other, and made sandwiches from the cooler in the back. The other time I visited Yellowstone was with my husband and our first child. It was 1988, the year of the fires. At that time some of the roads were closed and we saw firefighters as they worked containing fires. I remember having difficulty sleeping at night in a motel just outside the park because of the constant odor of smoke. It was a short time later that the famous lodge was closed near Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the park.
The Lower Falls of what is called the "Grand Canyon" of Yellowstone was one of our first stops along the lower loop of the park. Part of the Yellowstone River, this famous vista was named "Artist Point" in 1890. Earlier photographs and paintings of this area helped convince Congress and citizens in general to make Yellowstone our first national park. It was here that Connie and I took a "selfie" photo with the falls and incredible colors as our backdrop.
Bison and elk are readily seen without even getting out of the car. The park, totalling well over two million acres, is certainly a paradise for wildlife. Slowed traffic or several cars pulled off to the side of the road is a sign that animals are near. With the rolling hills or mountains as a backdrop, it seemed like a scene from the movie "Dances with Wolves" in the yesterday times when there were few people and the land was virgin. I could imagine what it looked like when Native Americans were the only inhabitants or during the late 1700s in the days of fur trappers and early explorers. Park rules remind visitors to stay at least 100 yards from bear and wolves; 25 from other wildlife including elk and bison, which are wild and could attack. I took as many photos as possible. Connie's husband was very patient as I asked to stop several times. Unfortunately my request to get a shot of the Continental Divide sign came too late to capture that!
More on Yellowstone to come next week including bubbling pools of mud and geysers along the lower loop of the park. Make it a good week and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.
Mary Deas writes weekly for the OBSERVER. Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org