Where the Buffalo Roam

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Yellowstone National Park lures over three million visitors a year, and it’s easy to see why.  The place where we Americans first decided to preserve the bounties of the natural world for future generations to behold is home to an incredible diversity of landscapes, wildlife, and natural phenomena.

Today is our second day in the park and I have a lot of down time on my hands.  Earlier this morning, I dropped Paul off at Dunraven pass for what will be a daylong hike.  The trail he’s taking will end at the summit of Mount Washburn, but for all I know he’s about to enter the Misty Mountains.  With my travel companion out in the woods, I’m able to tend to things that have been neglected as of late.  In order of urgency, I shower, clean out the car, and sit down to write.

So, how do I adequately convey the splendor of Yellowstone?  To start with, this place is huge.  Straddling the border of three states, each section of the park has a different feel to it.  Barring the road cutting across it, the central area feels like the wilderness.  It also features one of the park’s big draws, a multitude of hot springs and geysers.  These cool geological features elicited oohs and ahhs from the crowds, none more so than the headlining attraction, Old Faithful.

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Also on the move – albeit at a much slower pace than rushing water – were Yellowstone’s most celebrated residents: the buffalo.  We found herds of them in the northeastern section on the Wyoming-Montana border, much to Paul’s delight.  Indeed, these proud and majestic creatures backed traffic up wherever they stopped to graze (sometimes it was just rubbernecking wildlife aficionados, sometimes it was due to a buffalo deciding the grass was greener on the other side).

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While the scenery in the northeast was more than postcard worthy, our spirits were dampened by the persistent rainfall.  Luckily, the weather cooperated for us at our last stop in the south.  Here we found the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, carved out by the Yellowstone River, which drains into Yellowstone Lake.  Talk about brand cohesion.

Our nights in the park are more or less going to follow this pattern: I stand around and pretend to be helpful, while Paul keeps us warm and fed.  We’re doing the camping thing for real, and I’m completely out of my element.  Paul’s hardcore with this stuff, proving his mettle by swiftly pitching a tent and starting a roaring fire.  Though to my credit, I did prove somewhat useful when building our campfire, as some of the logs we collected needed further cutting.  So, I stepped up and split some wood, making me feel all manly and shit. First time for everything, I suppose.

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