Yellowstone National Park - May 2019

Grizzly Mama & cubs

Grizzly Mama & cubs

The Lookout

The Lookout

ONE day in Yellowstone National Park – by no means am I endorsing such a short visit to one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States but if that is all you have – maximize every minute of it and see as much as you can. Yellowstone is vast – a week here is barely enough time to cover all the nooks and crannies of this wilderness patch but on a quick trip you can cover a lot of ground. Choose one thing you really want to see so that you can check it off your list. Let everything else be your bonus items.

My first trip to Yellowstone was in 2009, during a 5-day visit with my parents. At the time, I was more of a tourist than a photographer so a return trip has been on my mind for a long time. My friend, Jane and I used Bozeman, Montana as our base for day tripping to different areas.  Both of us had been to Yellowstone before, so we agreed that our trip would be focused on seeing more of the state and committed to just one day in the park.

Roosevelt Arch

Roosevelt Arch

Our entry into the park through the Roosevelt Arch was the gateway to the wild spaces of land that established Yellowstone National Park as the first national park in the United States (and arguably the first in the world) where land was set aside to preserve and conserve natural beauty for all to enjoy.

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Established in 1872, Yellowstone spans an area close to 3,500 square miles, the park includes lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges -- over half of the world’s geysers and hydrothermal features are here. During the winter months, you can drive for miles and see more wildlife than people. During our visit in mid-May, cold wind kept our jackets close at hand. Low 30’s let us witness snow flurries and occasionally, the sun teased us with fleeting glimpses of rays of sunshine. The snow-covered mountains are postcard perfect and the rushing waters of the Yellowstone River flowed quickly along the edges of its banks.

Learning to be still.

Learning to be still.

The grey skies of May lingered during our visit but a little mist didn’t stop us from exploring the area. Snow-capped mountains entice you to stop and take photos, but the wind that cuts right through your clothes reminds you to not linger too long. Wildlife is abundant and sightings of elk are common; napping bison after an afternoon of nibbling on the wild grasses are a sight that will make you say “whoa” --- because they are monstrously large. Observing a coyote pouncing and digging in the snow makes you want to root for the mouse underneath it but you know that the coyote needs to eat. But, the holy grail of sightings has to include a glimpse of a mama bear and her cubs…probably the only traffic jam on the planet that no one complains about.

Wildlife photography is the hardest for my personality. You need patience, a steady hand, and the ability to curse under your breath. Admittedly, I’m a work in progress.  But wildlife photography has been the most rewarding — to observe wildlife doing their thing undisturbed on their terms. The connection between the natural world and the breathing beings that meld into it are fleeting moments that I’m learning to cherish after every encounter.

Grand Prismatic Spring overlook

Grand Prismatic Spring overlook

Nature is wild, beautiful, and unapologetic. But time spent in it is never wasted. A lesson is always learned, an observation is your secret, and the air is different. If Yellowstone is out of driving distance for you, look closer to home for your piece of wilderness. Allow yourself to indulge in a moment away from your routine; to dampen the stress of your 9 to 5 reality; and to connect with the land and the furry, hoofed, and feathered-beings that roam it. Inhale fresh air and stop looking for cell service.