July 27, Wednesday
Today I drive into Yellowstone National Park to meet up with a friend from Amazon and Quartzsite.
It’s a bit of a drive from Island Park, ID where I’m currently boondocking. I’ll be camping in Yellowstone from August 1st until the 6th for a family reunion, but as I’ll be busy with family those days I’m making plans with my RVing friends now to ensure I get the chance to see them.
In my four summers on the road, this is the first time I’ve gone back to a park I’ve worked at. For newer readers, I worked at the park store inside the Visitor’s Center in Old Faithful last summer from mid-May until the end of September.
My excitement level rises as I pass through the west entrance, retracing the route I took when I left last year.
When you live somewhere, you start to take it for granted. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the place is, over the course of months (and years) the novelty of a location wears off and it all too easily fades into the background, hardly noticed as a person goes about the routine of living their life. Making a conscious effort to stop and be present in the moment and appreciate what you have and where you are helps, but nothing can replace the ease with which the wonders of a location leap out at you like when you’ve been gone for a while. This is just one of the many benefits of travel.
Coming back to Yellowstone feels great. The last time I was here I was working, and even though it was only 30 hours a week, my job shaped everything I did in the park. I had more free time than the average employed American, but still always needed to be aware of that work schedule. In a way, this trip into Yellowstone feels even better than when I rolled in last May, because my time is my own. I’m essentially on vacation.
Details about the park that I’d put on a shelf in some dusty corner of my mind when I’d left are suddenly relevant again, and just like that they pop back into the foreground. No bison near Old Faithful right now, they’ll all be gathering in Hayden and Lamar valleys for the breeding season. It’s getting late enough in the summer that some of the marshier hikes will be dried out and accessible now, the mosquitoes will be pretty much gone. We’ll want to choose a less popular one since this is the busiest month of the year…
I pick up my friend and we motor over to West Thumb thermal basin, one of my favorites.
Thermal features are just plain neat, there’s nothing else quite like them. The mix of water and color and earth demands attention. To be honest, compared to the splendor of most national parks, Yellowstone doesn’t rate very high on the “scenic” scale. Oh, it’s got pretty areas for sure, but a lot of its 2.2 million acres is scraggly lodgepole pine with sparse grass that struggle in the thin soil, not all that impressive. For being in the Rockies much of it is remarkably flat, the result of ancient volcanic eruptions, so you don’t get great mountain views. It’s the thermal features that make Yellowstone unique, and they’re the main draw of the park. Well, that and the plentiful (and often quite visible) wildlife.
Travelers frequently argue over whether Grand Teton or Yellowstone is “prettier”. To my mind it’s like trying to compare apples and oranges. You go to Grand Teton for the mountains. You come to Yellowstone for the thermal features. For the best of both worlds, you’ll want to work both in your travel schedule.
It’s delightful how when you visit a thermal area, you never get the same show twice. The features change from month to month and year to year. On some days they’re more active than others. The ring of yellow around Bluebell Pool is more pronounced than it was last year.
After touring West Thumb we hike Storm Point, which was one of my favorite hikes from last year, despite the rain. I’ve linked the original post about it below so I won’t bore everyone with the same details again.
This spot looks different too, mostly because the weather is so different from last time. It’s warm and sunny instead of overcast and raining.
Once out on the point proper, the sun disappears. Oh, don’t tell me…
Looks like we’re going to get a storm at Storm Point again. This time I don’t even have my rain coat. The clouds release their burden as we’re almost within sight of the truck. We get wet. Luckily we’re out west, where low relative humidity means that things don’t stay wet long.
By the time we pull into Lake village for a mountain lion seminar, we’re practically dry. The researcher giving the presentation has a lot of footage of mountain lions in the park, it’s pretty neat! After it ends I drop my friend back off and make the long drive back to Island Park. All in all a good reintroduction to Yellowstone.
July 28, Thursday
A glance out my RV window in the afternoon reveals a pair of ears twitching in the tall grass. Huh, there must be a deer bedded down. I keep an eye on it while I read.
About a half-hour passes, and I look out again to see that the animal is standing up, and it’s HUGE. Way bigger than a deer, it’s shoulders are taller than my head. Phone cameras were not meant for wildlife photography, but I zoom in and do what I can. What you can’t see in the pictures is that the animal has a hump over it’s shoulders, no antlers, a broad snout, short tail, and is a uniform dark brown color, no white over the rump or on the belly.
The video I take turns out the best and I post it to Instagram, where it is automatically shared to IO’s Facebook page and my Twitter feed. I ask for opinions and response is pretty much unanimous – I’m looking at a female, or juvenile male moose.
A moose! That was one animal I didn’t see all last year in Yellowstone and it made me sad. But this year one came right up to my camper! Woohoo!
Related links from Yellowstone last year:
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