Yellowstone National Park
I started out with great expectations. And I ended up car-hiking for two days. That's not the greatest of combinations. But Yellowstone is vast and mystifying even if you just spend a half hour driving through. The desolate lands punctuated by geysers (and associated vapour rising up from unlikely corners) and fascinating wildlife crossing the road made me feel like a true visitor in somebody else's welcoming home. If there is one place I want to return to, it would be Yellowstone - to stay longer and explore the interiors by foot.
Grizzly Lake Trail
The hike starts with a hill to the left and plains to the right (or should I say wetlands). Much of the trail itself was a sort of rudimentary stream, shallow and crystal clear with a pebble bottom. Because of this you spend most of the first part of the hike walking in mushy grass and avoiding bison dung. All along the trail were a single pair of bison prints, possible some lone male in search of greener pastures. Occasionally we would see wolf scat,wolf prints and at least one large blackbear print. The ground was also littered with obsidian, starting with a huge glimmering boulder of pure obsidian sticking out of the trail, later with an even larger one in the field, and from then on, obsidian shards riddle the trail and ground all the way to the lake. After hiking about a mile or 2 in, we came to a creek, swollen and white, though not too deep or fast to cross. We were dedicated to continuing our hike so we found the most narrow part we could, about 50 yards south of the trail, and “jumped” across. Naturally being too wide to actually jump, we just ended up mostly soaked and were now apparently on an island with another larger creek still to cross. We walked back up the island towards the trail till we found a log and walked across that precariously, of course having take photos of our “daring” moment. From then on the hike was mostly up and down small hills, rocky and open with random small trees and signs of animals
Yellowstone National Park is probably the “grand daddy” of the National Park system, although you might be surprised to learn that it is not the most popular. Any guesses? I myself would have guessed “The Grand Canyon,” however the most popular, by-far-and-away, are The Great Smoky Mountains (with just under 10m visitors per year). Yellowstone is the 4th most popular with 3.2m annual visitors. Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. Located in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it’s home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, dear, bald eagles and elk…just to name a few. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs. Old Faithful is probably the most popular attraction in Yellowstone, and while it’s interesting, I personally found it a bit anticlimactic. It was like seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The traffic getting in/out of the “Old Faithful” area requires a lot of patience. There are so many other interesting geothermal areas with similar geysers, that if I had it all to do over again, with hindsight on my side, I would have skipped the Old Faithful area. (As a side note: Old Faithful isn’t all the faithful, it was over 9 min. late when I was there) :-) If you’re looking for a wilderness experience, not to worry, Yellowstone is as big as the state’s of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. The park is absolutely massive with six entrances (I have made it through five now). Many of the roads in the park close in the fall and winter, so spring and summer are the best times to visit…unless of course you’re a snow enthusiast.