Project Yellowstone: Concluded (and begun)

In June/July of 2009 M and I did a great trip in Yellowstone. We hiked around, had breakfast at the Old Faithful Inn (the only meal to eat there, dinner is not so good), grilled at a great campground, and went for a backpack. The park was green and blue and vivid and teaming with life.

Why not use the arbitrary project, I thought, of visiting the park at least once a month for 12 in a row to structure my experience? And that is what I did.

Artificial as the idea was, it got the job done. Some of the trips, like the first one in June/July, the Thorofare trip this month, the family visit at Christmas, our backpack into the Bechler area in September, and three days over Thanksgiving, were deliberate and lengthy. They easily left me with a rich memory of that part of the park and that part of the season. The October trip, where we meant to spend three days in the park, got cut short when our timing belt snapped in Butte. But I still saw those otters on the morning we did spend in the park, one of the coolest wildlife sightings of the year. Quite a few of the visits ended up being rushed, school was not kind to this project. But if I hadn’t committed to the project the October bison trip and the February ski tour wouldn’t have happened at all, and those were two of the most memorable.

Looking over the pictures, video clips, and recollections leaves me with feeling of satisfaction and futility. Both are tied up in the same realization: Yellowstone is a big place, much bigger than most realize. The parks high altitude, combined with the geologic-scale snow funnel that is the Upper Snake River valley, shut the park down for so much of the year. Cold and snow are fundamentally hostile to humans, and I spent much of the winter consolidating skills and confidence that leave me no excuse; next winter I must do a big trip into the heart of the park in the heart of winter.

On the whole I’m excited that Yellowstone exists. It’s unique in the lower 48, for reasons that have of late become well troden. It’s size, geological singularity, and since 1995 the full compliment of indigenous charismatic megavertabretes create a unique hold on the human mind. I’m not ready to commit to another Yellowstone project just yet. But if I do a trip will have to spend at least 48 hours away from the frontcountry to count.

6 responses to “Project Yellowstone: Concluded (and begun)”

  1. Saw you are looking at eh Dixie 311. I have been all over those plateaus on work since April and there is still a TON of snow up there. The paved road through Cedar Breaks is not open yet and a lot of stuff in shadows is still in snow. I can see some right now sitting at about 8500 ft. Was road biking two weeks ago up at 10400 and the sides you could still ski on. Just so you have as much info as you can. If you make the trip and need anything I am in Cedar City all summer and go up on those plateaus all the time. June 7-10 is work on the Awapa staying at Fish Lake. Best adventures.

  2. Inspirational video! As the last footprints leave the indelible mark of our scale in these places.First comments I've made here but I've been following for awhile. Appreciate the video/movie tips and the adventures.Your voice is not echoing in an empty chamber, but it does resonate.Cheers,MK

  3. Outstanding video. The raw emotion behind it comes through loud and clear. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Thanks everyone!Adam, not sure I'll be able to make the Dixie happen. I may be on a family trip to Isle Royale instead. My little sis's med school schedule leaves a tiny window open which is the only time aside from Christmas she has free. Sounds like DH has a good alternate plan, and I know how much he hates snow.

  5. Great video Dave. Having only passed through Yellowstone once I really don't know it at all. It sure looks diverse and those bear prints are huge!Snow is melting fast on the Dixie route, no trouble up to about 10k on the Sevier plateau over the weekend. Hope you can make it.

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