I can’t even begin to accurately describe the experience of visiting Yellowstone National Park for the first time. It was years ago, and I was a green solo traveler from the East Coast who was inexperienced with nature on such a grand scale.
The sensations you experience in Yellowstone tend to extremes: Excitement. Fear. Awe. Wonder. The landscape is just so big and beautiful you can’t really help it. On the way in to Yellowstone, I oohed and aahed and was struck dumb into speechless silence as I struggled to grasp the enormity and desolation of the landscape. Wyoming will do that you.
Although I was only passing through Yellowstone on my very first cross-country road trip and stayed in the park for fewer than 24 hours, some of my memories of the experience remain as fresh and as sharp as they did in the moment.
Stalling My Car
I sucked at driving a stick shift, but I was so excited to add Yellowstone to my “National Parks I’ve Seen” list that I forgot how to shift and stalled it at the entrance to the park. There’s little more embarrassing than waiting in a long line of visitors and trying to restart your engine while the cars behind you honk for you to get out of the way. A fail of epic proportions.
Some spots in Yellowstone stink. Literally. I’d heard some of the geothermal pools were interesting to look at–so many colors! I hadn’t realized they’d smell so bad. I was also mistaken that they were the kind of pools you could take a soak in. Nope.
Gray Wolves Howling
I was afraid to sleep in case the wolves decided to come after me, being the plump, juicy tidbit I am. So I stayed awake most of the night and just listened. I heard the wolves and the hush of the trees and the night. Not a bad spot for a bit of insomnia.
Seeing Old Faithful Erupt
Still old but not as faithful as in the past, Old Faithful still erupts on a relatively regular schedule. I was so anxious I’d miss a picture of the moment of eruption that I took more than 100 photos of the geyser before, during, and after the eruption.
Seeing Bison Up Close
This one’s a two-parter. I’ve already briefly shared the story of the bison that strolled nonchalantly not more than five feet from my tent. I hid in the car and watched in breathless amazement. The bison grazed on a nearby patch of grass and continued on its way. Even better was watching two bison saunter up the middle of the road as I exited the park through Montana to the west. Talk about a traffic jam! All of the cars came to a complete stop to allow the massive creatures the right of way. The first of the bison came thisclose to the car I was driving and I swear, it flashed an eye at me. That moment has been seared into my memory and I’m certain I’ll never forget it.
Have you been to Yellowstone? What are your favorite memories of America’s first national park?