What can one say about Yellowstone National Park that hasn’t already been said? The first national park, established in March of 1872, it covers three US states, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Books have been written about it, documentaries have been produced, and countless movies and television programs take place there.
To prepare for our trip, we watched every documentary we could find associated with Yellowstone. One of the best is: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, found on PBS.
You can watch the videos, read the books, and hear the stories, but nothing can actually prepare you for your first encounter with Yellowstone. That first day we came in through the South Entrance which also included a drive through portions of Grand Teton National Park; but more about Grand Teton National Park later.
After flashing our Senior Pass we headed north toward Lewis Lake. The National Parks and Federal Lands Senior pass has a ONE TIME cost of $10 for US citizens and permanent residents over age 62 and gives entrance to all National Parks and more. : Senior Pass.
The scenery driving to Lewis Lake is wonderful with the Tetons to your left and the Lewis River on your right. Mountains, river valleys, and trees! We desert dwellers enjoy the trees! Oh, and take a glance in your rear view mirror now and then for some spectacular mountain and lake views. You’ll want to pull over and take a few photos, I guarantee.
This early in the season, before Memorial Day, don’t expect all the roads to be open in the park. Don’t expect all the attractions and concessions to be open as well. When you pay your entrance fees, make sure you get a park flyer and ask the ranger about closed facilities and roads in the park.
During our stay, the road from West Thumb Geyser Basin directly to Old Faithful was closed. That meant we had to take the full loop around the park to get to the world famous geyser. Since we got a late start we decided to stop at West Thumb Geyser Basin at experience our first geysers.
I say experience because no television program can prepare your nose for the smell of a geyser basin. Pee you! We parked in the lot near Grant Village (closed) and as we stepped out the smell of sulfur almost overpowers you. But hold your nose, because you’ll want to check out the mud pots and small geysers that lie along the west thumb of Yellowstone Lake.
Walking among the sulfur pots was a great way to stretch our legs and really experience the
sites, sounds, and smells of Yellowstone. Be advised, however, the ride home will include a bit of aroma you’ll pick up from the “fresh air” of Yellowstone.
We hiked about an hour around the basin then headed back toward Jackson since it was getting late and storm clouds were threatening. About four miles from Moran and our turn south, I noticed a line of cars along the side of the road.
In the National Parks that usually means—WILDLIFE!
We certainly weren’t disappointed. About a half mile from the road we could see a mamma bear with three cubs cavorting in the meadow. I asked a ranger who had stopped if the bear was a grizzly and was told that indeed she was.
Our first grizzly in the wild!
I grabbed my camera and did the best I could with what small lens I had. Once again I realized rule number one: Bring a BIG lens to photograph wildlife.
I’ve seen bears in the wild but this was Ilene’s first time. It didn’t matter, however, seeing one of God’s magnificent creatures in the wild like this was almost a religious experience. To know creatures are still out there that can run free unmolested by man, or any other beast for that matter, is humbling.
It was a perfect way to end our first trip to Yellowstone.