I woke up startled. Something brushed against our tent. It happened again and I struggled to sit up while still being wrapped up inside of my new sleeping bag. Jeff was sound asleep. I tried to see where the noise came from. For a minute I thought it was the grizzly we had been warned about. But then I saw it! Chunks of snow slid down our tent creating a loud noise. With a sigh of relief I lay back down and tried to ignore the cold. The temperature had gone down to 34 degrees that night, it was only early September. Just as I drifted back to sleep I heard the wolf howling. Then, a painful and high-pitch wail of some other animal followed right after. The excruciating cry went for a while. The sounds of nature and the serenade by wildlife did not soothe me to sleep that night.
The four of us drove from Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park in the morning. After the grueling hike we did at Grand Teton, we decided to just drive from one point of interest to the next at Yellowstone. No one objected. We were tired, cold, and far away from the comforts of our own apartments.
Yellowstone felt like the perfect place to end our eight-day road trip adventure out West. The Park found a way to sum up the purpose of this rather ambitious travel. With its collection of geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and steam vents, the world’s first national park seems to be housing quite a few spots for the earth to literally…blow off steam. One such spot is the Old Faithful Geyser that lets out pressure (on average) every 90 minutes. For first timers at Yellowstone, the Old Faithful seemed to be a must see. We joined the large gathering crowd at the outskirts of the geyser, waiting patiently to see it shoots out boiling water to the sky. As I waited, I imagined that maybe a long time ago, when human beings were closer to the earth and the universe, the very act of waiting for water to burst out of the ground was made to be some sort of a ritual. I wondered what myths were told to explain this one special behavior of the planet. The geyser finally erupted. The high-pressured water found its way out of the vent and into the air, captured by hundreds of cameras for about three minutes.
The Park, larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, offers many objects for visitors to marvel. Tourists, from all over the world, fill the winding road hoping to catch a glimpse of wildlife taking refuge in the grand mountains and valleys. Canyon, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and forests seemed to be telling visitors that wildlife is their main priority—that people are just simply guests here.
A bison walked slowly on the side of the road ignoring its surrounding. Theo stopped the car at a safe distance so that Fifi could take pictures of the animal. Jeff got out of the car and captured the scene with his video camera. I followed Jeff and stared at the bison, it started to cross the road toward our car. We jumped back into the car and drove away, fast. The conversation about our encounter with the bison stopped when we spotted a black bear across the river. We joined other motorists who stopped to watch at the incredibly adorable looking animal as it moved slowly and quietly from behind tall trees to the river. The bear though seemed to show no interest in people, attention, or cameras and head back to the woods to find some peace and quiet. We spotted more wildlife as we drove all over the park, all had the same expression of pure bliss.
When we got to the Artist Point, I wanted nothing but stare in silence at the overwhelming beauty. Giant canyon with yellow walls guarded the massive Yellowstone waterfalls. The water rushed and ran for miles and hitting gigantic rocks along the way like telling them to get out of the way. The dramatic view created a peaceful but fierce and forceful scene at the same time. I was captivated.
Nature’s magnificence distracted us from feeling cold on that rainy day. The sun would pop out once in a while to decorate the hills and valleys with rainbow. The rain turned into snow as the evening came. We struggled to keep our eyes open at dinner at Grant Village Dining Room Restaurant though I don’t think any of us slept well that night. We rose up with the sun and saw the snow-covered mountains, trees, and …tents. The morning revealed another greatness of nature—its ability to change the look of the landscape overnight.
I felt the wind blew with quite a force like it was trying to escape from the trap of the canyon at Inspiration Point, the last spot we visited before we head back home. The observation point was down more than the 50 narrow steps, overlooking the upstream and downstream of the canyon. Surrounded by nature’s sounds, colors, shapes, and feelings, I stood in awe.
In the words of Nathaniel P. Langford, 1870, one of the first explorers to record his impressions of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (Print source: Canyon Area Trail Guide, Yellowstone National Park)
“The place where I obtained the best and most terrible view of the canyon was a narrow projecting point situated two to three miles below the lower fall. Standing there or rather lying there for greater safety, I thought how utterly impossible it would be to describe to another the sensations inspired by such a presence. As I took in the scene, I realized my own littleness, my helplessness, my dread exposure to destruction, my inability to cope with or even comprehend the mighty architecture of nature.”
This entry is part of the Eight Day Road Trip Adventure Out West. Coming Up: Entries on Grand Teton, Black Hills, and Badlands!
Special thanks to TJ, FW, JN
Photos property of Traveling Chili Pepper