Yellowstone (river state park)

Matt and I've decided this is The Year of Yellowstone for us.  Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is basically on our doorstep (less than a three hour drive) and it is just pitiful how little we've been there, even to see the readily accessible tourist attractions, let alone anything else. 

For example, I have no memory of watching Old Faithful go off (though I believe I did see it as a child).  I've never even been off the main roads and trails, certainly never into the back country of the park.  99.3% of visitors (according to Lost in My Own Backyard by Tim Cahill) never camp out in the back country when they visit the park.  That means that if you do camp out in the back country of Yellowstone you will find great solitude with the trees, stars, mountains, and wildlife (yes, including grizzly bears, but don't worry too much Mom and Dad we carry bear spray, camp and cook smart, and never hike alone).  That back country camp-out is an experience I will have some day, hopefully soon.  But, we are going to start on the boardwalks and work our way up to the back country.
YNP has the highest concentration of geothermal features in the world--geysers, paint-pots, hot springs, and fumaroles. More than half of all the geysers in the world are in the park.  It really is WONDERLAND, as the earliest white discoverers dubbed it.  Even if you never leave your car you can be sure of that.  Wonderland!
The fellas, examining what we believe to be a tree that had been struck by lightning.  Little else was burned  around the tree and there was a spiraling crack down the trunk, just visible on the front in this photo.
So, this is The Year of Yellowstone.  We decided such after our brief visit and camp-out there during the Megavacation last fall.  We're buying the year pass.  We're going to go there every chance we get.  Its not much farther than many of our favorite mountain escapes, so why not?!  It is probably the most intact and diverse ecosystem in the United States, one of the most in the world.  Where else can you find hundreds of nesting bird species, herd of hundreds of elk and bison, wolves, wolverines, bears, not to mention the wide variety and number of mind-blowing geologic features!  
We were planning to start The Year of Yellowstone last weekend, but my mother came to visit so we pushed it back a bit.  While Mom was at a conference all day we went to Yellowstone River State Park satisfy our desire for the trees and the trails (though there aren't really trails except those of your own making at the state park).
Male Red Crossbill.  The photo in no way captures the stunning red-orange of this bird.
Female, much more yellow than her mate.  The flock of them was moving in mass from one conifer to the next.  They were swooping right past us as we watched them from a cliff of rim rock which left us nearly even with the tree tops of the conifers below.
The air smelled so good, full of the fragrance of flowers and rain and dirt.  The stunningly melodic song of the meadowlark (our state bird) was everywhere.  In fact, all the birds were out in force, including quite a flock of a new-to-us species (Red Crossbill in photos above) which filled us with delight.  It had been a while since we'd had a new sighting. 
Not a national park, but a state park.  None the less was just what the doctor ordered.

Bird Sightings:
Wild turkey
Red crossbill
Turkey vulture
Western meadowlark
Black-capped chickadee
White breasted nuthatch


  1. What an excellent summer goal. We are 1.5 hours from Glacier Park. We didn't get there last year, so we're determined to go this year. I'm hoping we can make it soon after it opens so there is still lots of snow. My favorite place is west of the Divide. It's called the Trail of Cedars. We don't have any wild cedar trees in our area, so it's a bit exotic to me. The fragrance is amazing.
    I will look forward to lots of Yellowstone photos coming up!.............Denise

    1. I need to really visit Glacier. I've only been once, last September on our way to the Ross Creek Cedars. It was stunning up there. So much different from the part of Montana I grew up in (NE) or the south-central area I live now. I love all the trees. When I make it back up there (and we bought the park pass that allows admittance to all the national parks and monuments this year) I will have to check out this Trail of Cedars.

  2. What an amazing day you had. And if I lived the close to Yellowstone I would buy the yearly pass as well.

  3. Sounds like a great plan for you guys this summer. I can't wait to follow along though your excellent blog and enjoy the sights vicariously. Love ya!

    1. I wish you could come along with us! We're really excited about it, especially since our first trip went so smashingly well.

      I miss you! Sorry I couldn't stay awake long enough to even say hello to you on the phone last night! Have a great weekend.


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