Yellowstone National Park, 1

David Beeson, written August 2021

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It is seldom that the Beesons go to the same spot twice. That we went to Yellowstone twice in two years is unprecedented. It was just so magnificent, and I urge you to go! The geology, botany and wildlife just blew us away, also the Americans are great at providing comprehensive literature to push the visit to a higher level of understanding.

Close encounters are guaranteed
Young bulls

Firstly, a couple of warnings. 1. There are coach trips that ‘do’ Yellowstone in a couple of days with a single overnight – DO NOT do this! Yellowstone needs your own transport and a week to get even close to enjoying and understanding the place. 2. Accommodation is an issue. To stay inside the park you will need to book a year in advance. This we did, but also we took an AirB&B house in Gardner, just outside the north entrance and added Teton Village (more later) after. We also stayed at Cooke City by the northeast Yellowstone entrance before moving on to Cody in the fringe zone.

Be aware that the ‘season’ for Yellowstone is very short. It closes down at the end of September for most functions. So, check this out.

How to get there? We flew to Denver first time, visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park before moving towards Yellowstone. The second exploration was via Seattle, going to Olympic then Glacier National Parks before Yellowstone. If you can drive, do it yourself. Driving in the USA is easy and comparatively cheap. We went as a group of six each time and hired small minibuses.

While Yellowstone is known around the world, Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) is less famous yet equally stunning. What’s more, the two are virtually attached with Teton to the south. Do both, please. In fact, we had better walks in Teton and wild beavers are easier to watch.

Next tip: Buy ‘Yellowstone Resources and Issues Handbook’ before you start planning your trip. The $20 you pay (plus postage) will be worth it. The near 300 pages are a goldmine of information. For added stimulation obtain the BBC trio of DVDs on Yellowstone, especially because the content covers the times when access to the park is difficult or impossible.

You will encounter fumaroles (steam vents), mudpots, geysers and hot springs. With a thin crust water can reach hotspots, mineralise and burst to the surface with explosive force.
Mammouth Hot Spings. Travertine terrace – formed when mineralised water rich in calcium carbonate evaporates.
Artists’ Paintpot area.

Next tip: if you are still deciding between The Grand Canyon (Colorado) and Wyoming do note we have been to both, and Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon alone gets our vote – yes, smaller, but for us more impressive.

Yellowstone River’s Grand Canyon – viewed from south. Ospreys nest here, and within camera distance.

The road system in Yellowstone is a figure of 8 with access from the north, south, northeast and west. The caldera of the ancient volcano contains the main geysers, with the ‘honeypot’ of Old Faithful near to the popular west entrance, yet there are better and quieter volcanic displays elsewhere including West Thumb on the fringe of Yellowstone Lake.

Elk at Mammouth.
You get close to the wildlife. We had a huge male buffalo wander past us when we were in the middle of nowhere, with no where to run! Lamar Valley offered great wolf views.

Next tip: We enjoyed the Lamar Valley especially. It was quieter than many areas and held buffalo and wolves, and we had close views.

Grand Teton is quite different in its structure and is accessible from Teton Village or Jackson (to the south). Teton’s mountains are not all around the park, but mainly to the west as a stunning skyline. The foothills provide great walking for all abilities and the river plain has open vistas and easy access to the river and its wildlife. It is quieter than its neighbour.

Okay, last tip: do not even think about going – just plan your trip and go. You’ll not regret it.

West Thumb
Beaver
Early morning and we had just watched a male black bear cross, then run up this slope, so disturbing the elk feeding at the forest fringe. We also had, in Teton, close encounters with moose, pika, chipmunks, brown water snakes and marmots.

I could go on and on with images!

http://www.nwhwildlife.org is the HOME PAGE for 120+ ad-free articles on wildlife and ecology. Go to home page and scroll down.

Feedback appreciated, dandabeeson@gmail.com

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