A couple girlfriends came to visit me for the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend, and since some of the west’s darkest skies are a little ways outside of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, we definitely planned to explore it. Like the most popular animals in the place, the park is huuuuuuuge. We’d drive and drive to see sights then turn around only to realize we had 100 miles to drive back to camp. Yikes!
One of my favorite features of the park is the bison. Or American buffalo. We asked a gal at the visitor center where we were most likely to see large animals, and she recommended we take the east route through the park, bypassing its busiest stops and more trafficked roads. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we came upon a traffic jam. Two of us got out and walked ahead (we walked way faster than the traffic moved), and I was delighted when I saw my first buffalo in the distance. I probably took 15 pictures (not really but almost)…then we circled the bend only to see DOZENS MORE. To me, it was absolutely incredible. Up until that point, the only traffic jam I didn’t mind involved farm machinery. Moving forward, I’ll wait patiently for a herd of bison any day. I was absolutely in awe. (And I’m fascinated with the history of the animal and its conservation and management in the park.) Looking at the bison, to me, is like looking back in time, since some 65 million of the massive animals once roamed free in North America. There are far, far fewer wild buffalo today, and most of them (98% or more) are likely genetically different than their ancestors due to breeding with cattle over the years, but seeing the bison roam free in their natural habitat at Yellowstone felt prehistoric to me (I half expected Fred Flinstone to show up!).
For better or worse, we didn’t see any grizzly bears…but we did spy an elk lying unphased in tall grasses while a mass of tourists (including us) snapped pictures of him/her from a safe distance. And we saw a wild (!?) llama, which is an animal near and dear to my heart. ❤
Watching the sun set over spouting geysers and glistening pools of geothermal activity, including the Grand Prismatic, was breathtaking. Knowing we spent much of our time in the park in the caldera, or hollowed-out part, of a once and still-active supervolcano was nothing short of mind-blowing. And the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was almost more incredible to me than that other Grand Canyon to the south.
We skipped the more snailed-pace of the watercraft (canoes and kayaks) and rented a small motorboat for exploring as much of the area of Jackson Lake as possible. It’s disappointing nearby wildfires have created such a haze around the Tetons (tis the season), but even seeing their grandeur through a veil of smoke is pretty incredible, especially over the lake. I love water, and I love mountains, so spending a few hours this close to both of them brought my soul joy.
We didn’t see much of the meteor shower because of cloudy skies, and that was a bummer, but the maniacally-aggressive mosquitoes in the area made retreating to our tents early more than tempting anyway!
It’s interesting having folks join me on my journey. I’ve got my routine, I’m not in a hurry, and I’m generally at peace with and sometimes delighted by unexpected happenings such as bison backing-up traffic for miles. Sharing my car (my living space), time, and energy with folks who think, travel, and camp differently proved trying at times…and I’m sure, as with anything and everything in life, there are lessons I’m supposed to learn and take away from the experience.