We enter Yellowstone National Park through the western gate, and we are immediately entranced. Wild elk graze beside a pristine creek. This park is nature’s church. It is a holy place that is sacred to all who visit. Though the park is visited by millions, there is no sign of litter that abounds in many tourist destinations. Visitors know they are guests in this spectacular natural place.
Yellowstone is America’s first national park. Located mostly in Wyoming, with edges that peak in to Montana and Idaho, it has inspired the creation of parks throughout the world. Named by indians that inhabited the region, the yellow stone mountains that rise throughout the park cradle wondrous sights.
Formed by an upwelling of magma, a mountain-rimmed caldera provides curious hints of the tremendous heat below. Though the Old Faithful geyser is the iconic symbol of the park, there are many other signature signs of the Yellowstone’s volcanic legacy – mud pots, bubbling mineral pools, steaming mineral springs surrounded by rainbow colored calcium deposits, built up over millennia…
The National Park Service says it well:
“Rather than to preserve bears, wolves, bison or its myriad of streams, valleys and mountains, Yellowstone was designated as a National Park in 1872 to preserve and protect its more than 10,000 unique thermal features, the largest collection on the planet, spread throughout the park’s 2.2 million acres.”
“With half of the earth’s geothermal features, Yellowstone holds the planet’s most diverse and intact collection of geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles. Its more than 300 geysers make up two thirds of all those found on earth. Combine this with more than 10,000 thermal features comprised of brilliantly colored hot springs, bubbling mudpots, and steaming fumaroles, and you have a place like no other. Geyserland, fairyland, wonderland–through the years, all have been used to describe the natural wonder and magic of this unique park that contains more geothermal features than any other place on earth.”
Hearing that temperatures are dipping into the 30’s at night, we decide to book a room at the Old Faithful Inn. Built in the winter of 1903 -1904, the Inn is one of a few remaining log hotels in the country. Designed by the architect Robert Reamer (also designed the Martin Woldson Theater in Spokane) who wanted the asymmetry of the building to reflect the chaos of nature, the Old Faithful Inn is an outstanding work of rustic architecture. The building is a rustic log and wood-frame structure of huge proportions – almost 700 feet in length and seven stories high. Entering into the lobby we feel like we are stepping back in time. Our room is in a section built in the 1920s – probably remodeled since then – simple, clean and comfortable. The Inn has a full service restaurant where we dine for dinner and breakfast.
Next day we enjoy a hike up to Trout Lake in the northeast section of the park. A steep 1/2 mile trail leads to the beautiful lake. As we step across a stream feeding the lake, a large trout glides through the crystal clear water, glistening in the high country sun.
Here are some of the best rated trail guides for Yellowstone and the Grand Teton range: