I think I see a Pick-in-ick Basket: A Day at Yellowstone National Park

I went to Bozeman for an astronomical conference in early July. Bozeman is a wonderful town, in my opinion. Also, it was nice being in the west again, where all the iced tea is automatically un-sweet and comes with a lemon wedge. Bozeman is pleasant and abundant and boasts the largest population of Himalayan mountain climbers in the US, they say. Prayer flags were everywhere and I wondered if I was back in Yuksom. There was a local art walk one evening, and the food at the restaurants was delicious. A group of us ate dinner served by the restaurant out on the lawn and the food, wine and weather was perfect (read: no Old Bay, no humidity). To really put the cherry on the sundae, I was not too far away from Yellowstone National Park. I haven’t been there since I was little, maybe five years old. Anytime you’re near a National Park, and especially one as auspicious as Yellowstone, I believe that you need to take at least a day to see it if you can. After asking permission from the company, I took an extra day on the weekend, on my own nickel, to drive down and tour the place. It was a lot to do in one day, but for Yellowstone, I had to try.

The guys at the rental counter had given me a car upgrade to the largest consumer vehicle that GM makes. At least I think it’s their biggest – it was huge. It fit right in with the locals, but I wasn’t sure how well I was going to do with driving it. It turned out all right in the end. It was a good vehicle to drive in a place with bears and bison. Both of which I saw, I might add. I got a late start but eventually got to the park and its amazing geological features. I’d been here before, about 40 years earlier, when Old Faithful was an hourly geyser, but I didn’t remember all that much. Specifically, I remembered Old Faithful erupting, that squirrels like Fritos, and that the sulfur fumes hurt my nose. I began planning my visit, mainly trying to avoid the worst of the crowds and to just enjoy myself (after all, it was summer and it was busy). I mean, you could try to jam everything in but really, it would have been stressful and I would not have been able to photograph things the way I wanted to. It would have been a push. Instead, I walked and walked, and hiked, and walked some more and drove a bit. It was pleasant without a big agenda. I know I might have missed a few things. In fact it was a long wait for Old Faithful, so I didn’t stay for the eruption. I just went where I wished and didn’t get ambitious. On my wander, I found the vertebrae of what looked like bison in a meadow and saw some very strange fungus in a warm pool (I found this fascinating). After a long day in the park, photographing here and there, it was time to get back. But the traffic was blocked up. Why? A mama bear and her two cubs were out looking for dinner near the road! What a thing to see. Shortly afterward I watched a bison grazing in a field. What a beautiful end to the day.

I admit, I didn’t see Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, but I still couldn’t believe how many wonderful things I had seen in such a short time.

A bee at work.

A bee at work.

Bleached landscape from the sulfurous pools

Bleached landscape from the sulfurous pools

Fungus in a boiling hot sulfur pool!

Fungus in a boiling hot sulfur pool!

Some of that wonderful fungus in a hot spring

Some of that wonderful fungus in a hot spring

Ants in the wildflowers

Ants in the wildflowers

The meadows of Yellowstone

The meadows of Yellowstone

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Sunset reflected in the hot pools of Yellowstone

Sunset reflected in the hot pools of Yellowstone

The sulfuric hot springs

The sulfuric hot springs

Mama bear and her two cubs.

Mama bear and her two cubs.

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