I've reached the end of my tale of a trip of a lifetime, to Yellowstone National Park. After 6 Saturdays of description in words and pictures of very specific locations in the park, here are (to borrow the title of one of my favorite books, by Rory Stewart) The Places In Between.
This, as the sign says, is Roosevelt Arch. It sits astride Highway 89 on the southern edge of the town of Gardiner, Montana, and marks the north entrance of Yellowstone. Completed in 1903 as a monument to the country’s first national park, President Theodore Roosevelt arrived to set the arch’s cornerstone and declared Yellowstone “something absolutely unique in the world.” I agree.
While there are thermal sites in the park that put on a bigger show and draw more visitors, I confess Dragon’s Mouth Spring in the Hayden Valley Geyser Basin, not far north of Yellowstone Lake, was my favorite among the park’s “action” features. The spring lives inside a cave like a dragon, spewing water, belching steam, making waves. It has a personality. Hear it roar.
A drive on our 4th day in the park, September 19th, was one of contrasts and one surprise after another. Along Firehole Lake Drive I was particularly struck by the mound of White Dome Geyser, like every thermal feature in Yellowstone, utterly unique.
Bison, Hayden Valley
An 'American Dipper'
Though I’m no wildlife photographer, I felt I must show this bird, dull of color and otherwise visually unexceptional, except for the fact that this American Dipper was hopping from rock to rock with the thundering water of LeHardy Rapids washing over its feet. My Audubon handbook, Western Birds, says it’s “Common in the West along cold rushing mountain streams; forages for insect larvae and small fish by diving and swimming underwater.” Remarkable!
Firehole Falls, Firehole Canyon Drive
The undammed 671 mile long Yellowstone River flows north, in one end of Yellowstone Lake and out the other, with numerous opportunities for hikes and spectacular overviews of falls, rapids and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River
Columnar Basalt Formations, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The spectacle of the best-known features of the Yellowstone landscape are so astonishing that in some way they seem almost a distraction from the transcendent landscape as a whole. Rivers, rapids, waterfalls, canyons, lakes and valleys formed a never-ending diorama as we drove through the park for 6 days. If I hadn’t been in the company of someone who knows the park as well as Deborah does, I would certainly not have had the experience I did of the magnificence of Yellowstone. I’ll always be grateful.
Fly Fishing in the Gardiner River
As we headed for the park’s northeast entrance, toward Red Lodge and Billings, the snow arrived and narrow winding Highway 212, the Beartooth Highway, closed behind us. It had been a charmed visit, or maybe all visits to Yellowstone are charmed. It must certainly feel that way to everyone.
All chapters of PortMoresby's Yellowstone.
Next week, leaving Yellowstone PortMoresby
heads for Billings and the historic Moss Mansion.
Find more of PortMoresby's contributions here.