Yellowstone– Wild, dangerous, beautiful

After a 6 am breakfast at the Hampton in Rexburg, Idaho, we drove 90 minutes to the West Gate of Yellowstone:


Over the next 13 hours, we experienced the wonders of this famous national park. The warning roar and rumble just before boiling water sprayed from the ground was a reminder that we were literally walking on the caldera of one of the largest volcanoes in the world (See that grey blobby line on the map? That’s the outline of the caldera.):

My first sight of a bison (I grew up calling them buffalo) was magical– several calves were nestled in the tall grass near their mothers, soaking up the early morning sun that had momentarily appeared between rains. But not long after, this happened:

I saw them in an entirely new light– 2000 pounds of horned flesh that could appear in a moment and run you down. And they were RIGHT THERE!

There were many other chances for death. For example, after hiking 600 feet down the side of the canyon, we stood over the edge of a 300 foot drop at this rushing waterfall:

At the brink of the Lower Falls. Video: Lower Falls 1 and Lower Falls 2
Everywhere on the paths winding through geysers and steaming pools, the signs warned that leaving the path would allow you to step onto the seemingly solid ground, which was really merely a thin crust above a pool of deadly boiling water. Yet, we saw more than one tourist stepping off for a quick photo, and moving just a little further out towards the gorgeous boiling pool, and just a little further, and just a little more… (Eeek!) But I could see the allure, though I didn’t venture off, myself:


Each individual site was amazing, and the grand vistas were incomparable:


But some of the beauties were on a smaller scale, like this tree that’s lived in a violent, ever-changing landscape, and is now more beautiful, useful, and inviting for persevering through its rough life (few children could pass by it without climbing on its welcoming limbs as inviting as a wise grandmother’s arms):


As we left the park, I tried to imagine ways that people could make their homes here without altering its wild beauty, but I had little success. I appreciated the paved roads, the restrooms, the pathways through the dangers, and the rare place to purchase necessaries– so, in a sense, this land can hardly be called untouched. Without those things, it’d be difficult to share its beauty with those who can stand in awe of it. But I loved it for all its reckless, dangerous gorgeousness, and I hope it always retains those qualities.