One might wonder why a Lincoln City Homepage reporter would take the time to write a story about Yellowstone National Park.
Fair question, but don’t Lincoln City residents go on vacations and perhaps might want to know about places to visit? Of course they would. Thus, this story about my trip to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park resides within the borders of 3 contiguous states; Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. It covers 2.2 million acres and was established on March 1, 1872 by an act of congress and signed into existence by President Ulysses S. Grant. It is America’s first National park and was the inspiration to the world to begin setting aside and preserving national lands for all to enjoy.
My wife Debbie, two very good friends (who served as our tour guides as they had been to Yellowstone many times before) and I entered the park through the town of West Yellowstone-as the west entrance to the park was the only one open.
West Yellowstone is a town that shuts down from November thru April because of the heavy snows and much like Lincoln City, balloons into a crowded tourist destination during the “on” season.
*note- after publication, Alma Clark wrote to inform us of an error: “West Yellowstone does shut down in November but we reopen December 15th for amazing over snow travel into Yellowstone Park and snowmobiling in the surrounding National Forest. The park shuts down again mid-march only to reopen in mid to late April. Come and see us in the winter!”
We regret the error. We based our story from the signs on many local businesses that stated they were “closed for the season Nov thru May 1”).
Huge drifts still remained throughout the town and alongside roads.
The amount of snow on the ground did restrict our movements throughout the park. While all main roads were open and clear, most side roads and hiking paths were buried beneath a late 2023 snowstorm that hit the area.
As this was my first trip to Yellowstone I had only vague expectations. I thought I was prepared to be awed by God’s creation. I wasn’t ready for the sensual onslaught.
But as C.S. Lewis said “We do not want merely to see beauty … We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”
I think that was what I struggled the most with; how to absorb the beauty. It was almost too much spectacle and wonder. At times I felt like Robin Williams’ character in Moscow on the Hudson, who when sent for coffee at a grocery store, was so overwhelmed by the amount available he fell to the floor in a stupor.
Living on the Oregon coast is similar. The majesty of the ocean on one side, the verdant hills on the other and life abounding in between. It’s hard to take it in and appreciate it all.
The one word that kept coming to my mind as we traveled throughout the park was “humbled.” I was humbled by the scale of creation around me. Soaring hills, plunging waterfalls, bubbling cauldrons blended with roaming bison, hovering eagles and howling wolves and above it all a blue sky with puffy, flowing clouds.
In between the deafening roar of beauty there was the occasional reality check of people behaving like, well, people.
A herd of bison might walk nearby or a bear might appear on a hillside and the roadway would look like highway 101 during Kite Festival. All traffic stopped.
People would rush from their cars with phones or cameras in hand and get way too close to a wild animal for the rare chance to be gored on video. But, then again, how often does one get to drive alongside a wild bison?
Ok, It was pretty cool and I did the same thing.
Old Faithful was interesting (and I know this will sound like ecologic heresy) but not as impactful as the hills behind it. It may be because of the distance and perspective available for viewing that I was not as interested in it as I was the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone river.
I don’t have the words to describe the treasure that is Yellowstone. Even the West Yellowstone IMAX theatre presentation about the park couldn’t capture it all. It really would take a lifetime to share the visual bombardment one receives.
So, then the question begs, would I go back? I’m not sure. If I had the chance to explore more of the park that wasn’t covered in asphalt, I probably would. And I would spend some cash on a very good camera kit and hire a guide.
I think of it like Washington DC (for us history nerds); there is too much to take in and appreciate without an interpreter, someone to help separate the overwhelming from the necessary and to give context.
Would I recommend visiting Yellowstone? Yes, wholeheartedly. But be prepared.
Prepare for the drive from Lincoln City. It’s 14-16 hours of sitting in a car. Going to Yellowstone we spent the night in Twin Falls Idaho and stopped to see Shoshone falls which provided a nice rest and reset. Coming home we did the drive non-stop knowing a familiar bed was awaiting.
Prepare yourself with information about the park and set expectations that are within your reach. It’s easy to just drive and drive and drive and rarely get out of the vehicle.
After two days of taking a thousand photos of bison (they are everywhere!), the task becomes – what else to see and how to experience it?.
Nature has provided the backdrop, but mankind has added a few interesting embellishments like the Roosevelt Arch and the Old Faithful Inn that really shouldn’t be missed.
One tip I learned is to continually ask others about what they have seen. From park rangers to fellow tourists they have gems of knowledge that will make your visit even better than you could imagine.
Four days exploring the park was not enough. But how much heaven can a person take in no matter how long one stays?