The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Vacation Part Four: Yellowstone Day 1

So this was the main event! Mom wanted to go back to Yellowstone, having been there in 1985. Dave and I were there once before as well, in 1998. Yes, it was time to go back. So we drove from Jackson, WY, through Grand Teton National Park and into Yellowstone National Park. And before I leave the topic of Grand Teton, I want to urge you to drive up (or down) the east side of the park at some point or another. There’s not really anything to get out and do, but wow, the mountains are breathtaking, and you get a completely different view of them.

Anyway … We stayed just outside the north entrance, in Gardiner, WY, at the Gardiner Guest House, a reasonably priced B&B with fabulous breakfasts and charming, informative hosts. I loved this place! There are also some decent-to-excellent restaurants. Our favorite was Pedalino’s Italian restaurant.

But we entered Yellowstone National Park from the south, and all this is towards the north. So let me at least attempt to be linear and go back to where we entered. There were huge fires engulfing most of Yellowstone in 1988, burning thousands of acres of trees. Now, fire is a good thing in that it renews the forests, etc., etc. In 1998, there were all these short little shrubby trees that were part of that renewal, and they were going to grow up and be tall and take over the land where the forests had burned and it was going to be a good thing. And in 2009 … I expected the short little shrubby trees to be taller. Sort of like a 16-year-old kid looks mostly like an adult but not entirely? Well, these trees looked more like 10-year-old kids. Not babies or toddlers, not wee little things that make you think “oh, how cute,” but not out of childhood, either. Sort of in that gangly phase, you know? So there’s this whole park full of gangly-phased young trees. Which is fine and good and the way the world should work. I’m just noting it. You want magnificent, towering evergreens? Go somewhere else. Here, you’ve got mid-sized biodiversity. And maybe not all that diverse, since it seems like the trees that burned propagated themselves quite nicely and there’s mostly one tree species in Yellowstone. That’s all I’m saying. It’s not a criticism or a value judgment.

Okay, so now that I’ve dug that hole for myself, let’s talk about West Thumb. West Thumb refers to the western branch of Lake Yellowstone (or Yellowstone Lake, or whatever its official name is). And here there be geysers! Okay, not so much geysers as hot springs, though there are some geysers there, too. It’s all very pretty, along the edge of the lake:

DSC00467

DSC00468

Pretty, huh? So then we drove up the east side of the park, past a bunch of things we planned to visit the next day, and into a massive traffic jam for … a black bear! Now, Dave and I can drive 2.5 hours to Shenandoah National Park and see approximately two black bears a day. And, ironically, we drove past a very-close-to-the-road grizzly bear shortly past the black bear traffic jam, but the mobs weren’t there.

And I do have to say this, because Dave and I have made avoiding crowds into the First Commandment of vacation planning: June, or at least this June, wasn’t very crowded at Yellowstone. And visitation was up from June of last year, according to the official figures. So if you can’t go in May or September (our previous trip was in September), June isn’t crazy busy there. We were pretty happy with our timing.

Next up: Yellowstone Day 2 (and possibly Days 3 and 4).

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July 17, 2009 - Posted by | travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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