As you can imagine, my mind was blown.
You can see why folks looking around this area would decide to designate it as a national park--the land is amazing, with storybook perfect streams, winding rivers, meadows with long grasses waving in the breeze, impressive cliffs with waterfalls, and beautiful forests.
Our walk-in campsite at Norris Campground was perfectly situated on the edge of a drop-dead gorgeous meadow with a snaking river and resident bison.
Riley is hard to impress; he definitely doesn't express awe or wonder with regard to anything having to do with the natural world. The closest Sam and I have seen him to being impressed was while he photographed this bison; could anyone not at least be slightly impressed by such a magnificent creature?
Yellowstone is massive; we sometimes drove an hour and a half to another area of the park to see something. Luckily, while you drive you can regularly stop to see wondrous geological thermal pools. As we first drive into the park, the weather was fairly freezing; a nice contrast to the scalding water bubbling from colorful pools and streams.
There's also the decent probability that at some point during the drive to a destination that you'll happen upon a crowd of cars pulled over, meaning there's some awesome wildlife to behold. During one such stop, we watched an infant cinnamon black bear hang out by a tree, seemingly waiting and looking for it's mother (who sadly never showed in the near hour we spent there). It was hard enough to refrain myself from running down the slope to give this baby bear a good snuggle; thinking of it as a likely orphan was heartbreaking.
One day we were heading back to the campsite after a long day and came upon a crowd. Not wanting to make a long stop, I hopped out of the car to check what the fuss was about to see if it was worth all of us making a side excursion. I was told there had been a mother grizzly and two cubs, but they had disappeared behind some brush and hadn't been seen in a bit. Just as I began jogging back to the car, Riley walked across the street and at the same moment, quiet gasps were heard amongst the crowd.
And just like that, the momma and her babies emerged.
The rest of the family came over and we all watched them make their way across the grass, the two littles romping behind their mom.
I got a little teary-eyed at the awesomeness of that sighting.
And even when there wasn't a crowd pulled over for viewing, sometimes we just happened upon absolute magic, like this bison rush hour:
This was only 1/4 of the crew, courteously galloping down their side of the road while we drove down our side.
That little guy had a lame foot but kept up with the others just fine.
The Mammoth area was another otherworldly geologic wonder to behold.
It was endlessly peculiar to see scalding water flowing and pooling, straight from the Earth.
(obligatory cousin photo; spot the obligatory uncooperative 5-year old)
Bison are awesome...and massive. We're ten years in so I can't remember exactly, but I'm fairly certain there was a line or two in our wedding vows that dealt with promising to roll down a window and wait patiently with one's foot on the brake while the other photographs bison standing 2 feet away.
I think I'll keep him.
I am fully aware that my writing was chock full of superlatives, but superlatives are needed for such an extraordinary place; Yellowstone cannot and should not be described in any less terms. If you haven't been, then go, and if you have been, go again.
I can't wait til we do.