My Favorite Yellowstone Memories
August 17, 2018
I grew up just a few hours from Yellowstone National Park, so my family went all the time. Usually every fall and spring we would go. I have a lot of great memories there. These are my favorites.
Being trapped by bison
My family is a hiking family, we couldn't just enjoy seeing stuff from the car or on the boardwalk-my dad made us go on so many hikes. One day, we went on a hike (can't remember the name of the trail). Near the trailhead parking lot, off in the distance, was a herd of bison. We had seen plenty of bison already, and didn't think much of them. We got out of the car, crossed a bridge over the river, and went on the hike. It was an average hike. However, towards the very end, as we were headed back to the car, we turn a corner to find that the herd of bison have moved--right in front of the bridge we needed to cross to get back to the car. We were stuck. An idiot (and I have seen plenty in Yellowstone) would think that the bison were harmless cows, and tried to walk through the herd. My parents knew better than to try that. So we got to wait until the bison moseyed their way away from the bridge. It was fun being stuck in the park, trapped by bison!
Nine bears in one day
Having gone to Yellowstone all the time, I knew how rare it was to see a bear. I had seen a few, but I knew we were more likely to not see one. However, one trip we saw nine bears in one day (11 the whole trip). We woke up, driving through the park to Mammoth. That evening, we decided to drive out towards the Lamar Valley to look for animals-we always have great luck in the Lamar Valley. Right outside Mammoth, we came across a bear. Then a little further out, was a big grizzly. We couldn't believe it, two bears in a day. How lucky! The next day, we decided to head toward the Lamar Valley again, and amazingly enough, we ended up seeing nine bears that day! (Some were cubs with their mom, but that still counts!) Thankfully, we saw all of them while near the car, not on a hike. That has always been a fear of mine.
Secret Old Faithful Overlook
Most tourists in Yellowtone eventually make their way to see Old Faithful. The geyser is huge, predictable, magnificent, and CROWDED. There is almost always a crowd during the day. It's not a big deal really, but we found a better way to view the geyser. Toward the back of the Old Faithful Geyser Basin is a short trail leading up a hill. At the end of the hill is a clearing, directly overlooking the geyser basin. It is a perfect spot to watch Old Faithful erupt, and became my family's spot to watch away from the crowd.
Hearing "Death in Yellowstone"
Yellowstone is a really cool place, but it is also dangerous. Wild animals, rugged terrain, boiling hot thermal features, and quickly changing weather can be deadly, and Yellowstone has all that and more. Many tourists don't know how dangerous the park can be, and expect it to be more like a zoo or a theme park. Death in Yellowstone is an excellent book explaining the ways people have met their death in the park. It sounds disturbing, but it is a respectful and interesting look at the deaths in the park over the years. My mom would read it to us on the way to and from Yellowstone. I think it should be required reading for tourists. Here is the story that stuck out to me: Someone brought their dog to Midway Geyser Basin. The dog jumped into one of the hot pools and of course, began burning. (You absolutely cannot swim in them). A guy nearby saw, and started taking his shirt off. Others near him told him not to go in, and the man replied "Like hell I won't" and dove in headfirst. Of course, he died from burns. It is sad, and even understandable that people think they aren't THAT hot. But after reading many stories from the book, you will understand how dangerous some things really can be in Yellowstone.
Uncle Tom's Trail
Over the years in Yellowstone, my dad made us go on so many hikes, and I hated so many of them. One year though, we went without him, and my mom picked a random hike called Uncle Tom's Trail. It starts right next to Lower Falls--in my opinion the best waterfall in the world. But Uncle Tom's Trail isn't a regular hike, it is a walk down 328 steps, very quickly taking you down 500 feet to the bottom of Lower Falls. It is a short hike, but not an easy one. Coming back up the steps is difficult, and in my opinion a lot of fun. Definitely one of the best hikes in the park.
There are a lot of great places to stay in Yellowstone, but as a kid, my favorite was the cabins at mammoth. There were chipmunk (or squirrels or ground squirells, I don't know exactly) holes all over the place, and it was so fun chasing them around the cabins. In the fall Mammoth usually has lots of elk around too, acting crazy and bugling. It is a really fun place to be.
Old-fashioned rooms at Old Faithful Inn
I don't remember staying at the Old Faithful Inn much. We always go in there and look around, but staying there was rare. One time though, we rented one of the old fasioned rooms there, the same rooms from when the in first opened. The rooms are weird and don't have a bathroom in them. But our window looked right out to the geyser, and we got to listen to it go off all night, it was very cool.
Mud Volcano - Who Farted?!
The Mud Volcano area has some of the best thermal features. They have names like: Dragon's Mouth, Black Dragon's Cauldron, and Mud Volcano. Also, the smell here is very powerful. The funniest part of this geyser basin was a group of asian tourists, chatting in Chinese or whatever their language was. Surrounded by the powerful smell, in mid-conversation one of them yells in English "Who Farted!" and they start cackling with laughter.