Guest Author - Meredith Ball
Picture the following scene. You are hiking through a field of green with blue skies ahead. A tiny winding trail leads you perfectly to a crystal clear pond. This is a serene spot for a picnic lunch. You listen, and hear....nothing. There is quiet and calm. You breathe deeply and your lungs, your spirit, fills with clean mountain air.
For those of you who havenít been to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming (with a little part of it in Montana), start planning your trip now! Your time in this beautiful park can be like the image described above, or one filled with more challenge and activity, or both. From animals like bears, wolves, and bison roaming in the vast fields, to geysers of absolute awe, this park has an adventure for everyone. Be sure to plan to go in the spring unless you have an over-the-snow vehicle and are an experienced cold-weather camper. Most of the park is not even accessible in the winter months.
There are those who may prefer a cabin to camping in a tent. At Yellowstone either is possible. There are choices of lodges, cabins, and campgrounds depending on how much you want to rough it out there. The fee to enter the park varies based on whether you would like an annual pass or a one-time pass, but both are incredibly reasonable because the fee is based on your vehicle and includes all of the passengers in your car. An Interagency Senior pass, meaning that anyone sixty-two years of age or older can go to all of the federal National Parks for a lifetime, is only ten dollars.
Imagine being able to explore nature like this with your family, or as a solo escape.
Hiking trails abound in this magnificently huge nature preserve. Be sure to ask your lodgeís staff or campground host the morning you set out on your hike about the safety of your chosen trail. It is not uncommon for a bear to be spotted along a hiking trail or two by the lucky Park staff whose job it is to set out early morning to find that out to keep you safe. If you are told that there was indeed a bear spotted on the trail you were planning to hike, do not be so bold and adventurous as to go anyways. Choose another trail and be safe. You will want to see the sunset over Yellowstone Lake later on that day, so use common sense and avoid the bears.
Before setting out on a hike, pack some snacks that are easy to eat and bottled water. Be sure that your snacks donít leave traces of food behind you. Choose trail mix or granola bars, and always take any and all trash out with you. Choose a hike that fits your level of fitness. The options are easy, moderate, or strenuous. Strenuous means steep uphill climbs and descents, so avoid those unless you have enough food packed, and stamina ready, to manage a five to eight hour hike. The view from the top of these more difficult and higher mountainous hikes are incredible and well-earned!
If your day is more about wandering through a field to picnic at a pond, that option is available everywhere as well. You will see that most people enjoy driving around the park to see and photograph the bison, wolves, and other wildlife. It is quite a sight to come to a halt in your car because a large bison has decided to cross the road. These animals are used to people driving by in cars, and coming up rather close for pictures, yet still proceed with caution, especially when the mothers are protecting their newborn baby animals.
Of course, a Yellowstone visit isnít complete until you see the Old Faithful geyser. One might think, how can a large spout of water shooting up from the ground be such a big deal? This geyser is just as powerful and awe-inspiring as the views from the top of the mountain on Elephant Back Trail. Not only is the force of the water shooting up reenergizing to viewers, it is the symbolic reminder of how beautiful and huge nature is that brings your heart to a momentary halt when you see it.
In addition, seeing the hundreds of people gathered around the geyser, and all around the Park for that matter, washes away any and all cynicism. Everyone gathers at Yellowstone National Park to see the beauty of nature, to reconnect with a place that is away from the cities and cars and noise. People come to Yellowstone to be at one with their roots, with adventure, and with the hope of keeping that inspiration in heart for the return home.