HOORAY! Autumn has arrived at Yellowstone National Park, where I spent nearly three days last week traversing the most diverse landscape to date on this fantastic voyage:
A warm greeting in the welcome packet set the tone:
Miles later, a temporary roadblock proved that the note was no joke:
Turns out, I was approaching the Lamar Valley Buffalo Ranch, established in 1907 to restore the bison herd from near-extinction (fewer than 40 survived) after poachers swept the region. The ranch ceased operation in 1952; now the free-roaming herd of 2000 will cross streets wherever and whenever it pleases, thankyouverymuch.
Further down the valley, wide open space, dotted with tall, fluffy trees:
Rolling hills speckled with boulders that were once swept along by massive, melting glaciers and deposited as the water drained into the earth. Take a moment to scan the scene; can’t you envision that flow?
Sometimes, house-sized blocks of ice were left behind, forming kettle-shaped depressions in the earth, creating small ponds:
In contrast, this area of Yellowstone was ravaged by the infamous forest fires of 1988, which burned through thousands of Douglas fir trees, leaving their spindly trunks to tumble down like giant pickup-sticks.
Not to be confused with the Petrified Tree, a fossilized redwood that “is a clue to a warmer, damper, more violent Yellowstone landscape….Volcanic ash and mudflows obliterated a living landscape yet preserved this tree for ages,” according to the plaque.
Miles away, lush spires stretch toward a torn-paper horizon:
Which buffer the sandy, craggy perimeter of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:
And creep toward waterfalls that will likely thunder for all eternity:
Yellowstone River, a happy, majestic shade of aqua further downstream:
Reminiscent in placid creeks and streams that cut through dewy, wildflower pastures:
…seemingly a world apart from the severe panorama of the Norris Geysers:
And massive mineral deposits near Mammoth Hot Springs:
Old Faithful, smoking and hissing (I could not wait the ~90 minutes until the next predicted eruption), appears tame in comparison:
At the exit to the north, a gentle goodbye via sandy, sage-brush-dotted hills and those beautiful, blue mountains:
Hiking Death Canyon
I giggled on the phone when I told my mom where I was headed. (Hey, she called, and she asked! Yet as we all learned from 127 Hours, telling someone where you’re going on your hike could mean the difference between keeping and losing a limb.)
First, the drive through Grand Teton National Park to Death Canyon:
Seconds after I snapped this photo, the bear ambled off to the right, up a steep embankment.
Suddenly, a second bear charged across the street from the left to follow the first. He was moving so frantically that I could see his fur ripple back and forth with the momentum. The pair bushwhacked up the hill until they were out of sight.
I’ve been in the Centennial State for about thirteen days (though non-consecutively), and I’m loving its low-key vibe, as seen in:
Specialty parking spaces all over the place:
Sprouts aplenty—even on subs (here at the phenomenal Pickle Barrel in Fort Collins):
Peaceful cohabitation of landscape and cityscape (in Denver):
High-altitude athletics (the USA Pro Cycling Challenge finished downtown on August 28):
Copious microbrewery beer to sample (here at Great Divide Brewing Company):
Unparalleled views during tailgating (here at Red Rocks Amphitheatre):
Did I mention rural splendor?:
So you can’t blame me for wanting to stay another week….