My second time to Yellowstone National Park, I decided to take a different route and explore the northern part of the park since we entered from the South last time. The last experience in the park was also during August, which I recall being hot and sunny, so much so that we didn’t need our cooler temperature sleeping bags at night.
We entered Yellowstone from Cody, the East Entrance to hit a snowstorm only moments after entering the park. It was as if we hit a time warp and suddenly it was December not August. The snowstorm followed us for miles and with such a heavy load, the drive was stressful with a Texan at the wheel. The roads were so icy and the traffic so backed up, we couldn’t switch drivers, so I held Teddy and did what I could to add two more eyes to Paul’s visibility.
As quickly as the snow and ice hit us, it stopped. The roads were still lined with a thin layer of snow however, so we stopped for some hot coffee at a rest stop in the park and the time warp followed us into the store – we were immediately met with Christmas decorations and stuffed deer dressed in red and green sweaters.
While the snow started to clear, it was still cold, so we piled layers of whatever we could find in the car and snuggled in stolen United Airlines blankets.
What you remember most about Yellowstone in addition to its beauty, and numerous birds and animals is its abundant geysers. Yellowstone houses half the world’s geysers and is also home to the highest concentration of wildlife in the lower mainland USA.
During our first stop, I read a book on the park warning visitors that some of the roads might be closed during winter – but winter isn’t in August and despite the five minute novel thrill of seeing snow in the park in the middle of summer, I was longing for warmer weather which, with the exception of the Badlands, had been a rarity since leaving Boston earlier in the month.
Having seen Old Faithful, the largest shooting geyser in the park, I wanted to explore some more of the famous fumaroles and mudpots in the middle and north of the park. At nearly every stop, we experienced heavy lava flows, thermal pools, hydrothermal vents, and white damp, misty fog that smelled of sulfur and rotten eggs. Terrific for clearing up skin, it clearly isn’t the best air to breathe for long periods of time according to one ranger.
Yellowstone’s wildlife is fairly rich, and despite the weather, we were able to see bison and elk. No grizzlies or black bears but I was happy to avoid them and potentially more snow, and head for somewhere sunnier on the other side of the border.
The colors were as stunning as I remembered them on my first visit. The hikes through the geysers were brisk and eventually clear and we were able to view the Northeast and Western areas of the park and nearly made it around the 142-mile Grand Loop Road.
Given our eastern entrance and northern exit route, we sadly missed out on the experience of the wondrous Teton Mountains to the south, which were some of the most spectacular views I have seen in this part of the country. The Tetons include twelve glacier-carved summits that exceed 12,000 feet, crowned by the Grand Teton of over 13,500 feet.
We also missed Jackson Hole to the south where we hiked with my friend Sandy in 2000 and where Ray and I took a kayak trip, my first experience with a kayak on a river. Salmon River was where I leaned back on my kayak and screamed thank you over and over again to some higher force marveling in the beauty of the views, the clear blue skies and the thrill of the force of the river.