Personally I think that our vacation to Yellowstone is the best vacation we’ve ever had. The vacation to Xian ranks second, but it’s in no way a contender for first place after we’ve seen our country’s first national park. Granted, they are both dream locations, sort of “can’t go wrong” spots.
Why did I adore Yellowstone?
- The natural beauty is so varied and gorgeous.
- The geology of the place fascinates me.
- Wildlife is everywhere!
Plus, we took my mom along with us. Spending time with her in such a beautiful location was truly priceless. (Love you, MOM!)
Actually, when you think about it, Yellowstone (Montana & Wyoming in general) is about as different from a Chinese city as you can possibly get. And I needed that. We all did. We needed a place where there are more animals than people. A place where there are big open skies — blue skies with clouds or stars. A place where people use manners and respect the wonders of God’s creation.
I have to say that I saw a Chinese tourist spit — hawk a big loud loogie kind of spit — into one of the geyser areas off the boardwalk. I was horrified, and other American visitors were too. I wanted to pull a “citizen’s arrest” or a junior ranger arrest and tell them a thing or two about how we treat our national parks. But they were already down the boardwalk when I picked my chin off my feet. There were loads of Chinese tourists in the Old Faithful area. In the cafeteria I kept thinking I was back in China as I watched them slurp the food straight off the plate just like they do here. I overheard conversations in Mandarin. It was almost disconcerting, like a “this does not compute” moment.
Check out the bear claw marks on this tree. We found this on our hike. Sort of scary. There are signs all over Yellowstone and Grand Tetons telling you to be “bear aware.” We were told that bears have never attacked people who were in groups of four or more. Ah ha! So that’s another good reason to invite my mother along on the trip. (Just kidding, Mom.)
I have lots more Yellowstone Photos, so if these samples aren’t enough, go soak in the beauty of that Flickr set. I uploaded only 200 of the 1000 that I took. Our trip was ten days, so that’s only 100 photos per day. And although it took me a very long time to organize them all, I often wished I had taken more shots.
Life in China Note –I took my 212 selected images on a SD card to the photo processing shop to have prints made. I told the clerk I wanted all the photos on the card. As she glanced over the thumbnails she said, “You want to print all these without any people in the pictures!?” It made me laugh. This is such a cultural difference. Westerners take mostly photos of landscapes and monuments. Asians take photos of themselves in front of landscapes and monuments. So to her, it was a waste to print out a photo of “just a landscape.” Actually, as the workers started looking at the full size images, they were impressed with the beauty of Yellowstone.
The bison were my absolute favorite animal at Yellowstone. I think they are beautiful animals. And I guess their comeback from near extinction appeals to me somehow. Is it bad to admit that I thought buffalo meat was delicious? We had buffalo pot roast, buffalo meatloaf, buffalo chili, and buffalo burgers. All were delicious.
Since it was “summer” in Yellowstone (how 40-50 degrees F can be summer, I’ll never understand), the buffalo were shedding. In lieu of touching a buffalo, I hoped to find some of this shed fur on the ground. While on a hike along Lake Yellowstone, I found a clump! It was much softer than I imagined. I was sorely tempted to take it out of the park. But as a Junior Ranger, I know that taking anything from a national park is against the rules. Also the ranger told us about all the small animals who use this fur in their burrows and nests. So I was surely not going to steal a little warmth from cute chipmunks and marmots. We kept it a few days and then discarded it back into nature before we left the park.
Speaking of “summer,” having a snowball fight in June was quite a novelty for us.
Even though I had read to be prepared for cold temperatures, we had no idea it would be so cold all day long. Some days I wore my pajama bottoms under my jeans for extra warmth. And we stopped in a thrift store in Bozeman to stock up on fleece sweaters. My Chacos stayed packed in my suitcase the entire trip.
On our horse ride, early in the trip, I discovered this sage plant that grows all over Yellowstone. The air is full of the fragrant smell. Heavenly.
We all four got our Junior Ranger badges at Yellowstone and at Grand Tetons. (There is no age limit contrary to what the publications state.) To get them, you can go to any visitor center and pay a small fee for the newspaper which you read and fill out as you explore the park. You also have to attend some ranger programs or take a ranger led hike. The Junior Ranger program at each park was very well designed. It really gave our visit some purpose besides just gawking. (Gawking is okay, of course, but it’s nice to have a goal in your gawking.)
We were looking for answers to questions, or filling out routes on a map, or timing Old Faithfuls’ eruption, or sketching things we saw. The newspaper is pretty much a nature journal workbook. Once you’ve completed it, you take it back to any visitor center and ask a ranger to look it over and issue your badge. It’s a proud moment when you finally get it.
Sprite also did the Junior Scientist program at Old Faithful. She was loaned a backpack with rock samples, information about geysers, a stopwatch, and most fun of all a digital temperature gauge. She had a ball measuring the heat of the geysers and hot springs. She took notes of all her findings and reported back to the Old Faithful Ranger’s station.