Our previous attempt to visit Yellowstone National Park was thwarted by the sixteen-day government shutdown in the fall of 2013. It was to be a fall color tour with reservations at the beautiful Yellowstone Lodge and four other national parks. For this 2015 trip we felt happy to snag a couple of open nights at Grant Village due to a cancellation.
Ulysses S. Grant was president when Yellowstone became the world’s first national park in 1872 so the motel is named after him. This shabby group of buildings has likely not had any remodeling since it was built in 1984. Regardless, it served as a good base to explore this huge national park. I was struck by the very large size of this national park. It can easily be an hour between the park sites, depending upon the buffalo congestion and the dang tourists driving 20 mph under the posted speed limit.
Our most efficient stop was Old Faithful, which is apparently becoming a bit less predictable or faithful of late. After following one such slow-moving foreign tourist for an hour, driving for miles well under the speed limit, we arrived, hunted for a spot to park, waited less than three minutes, saw the water geyser blast off and were then on our way to the next spot. One has to be very fortunate to have special light or unique conditions to walk away from an Old Faithful with a great photo. So I was blessed with a photo much like the other 1,700,000,000 photos taken. That assumes that on average, each of the estimated 170,000,000 people to visit the park took an average of 10 pictures of Old Faithful. More photos in recent years, less in 1900. Cool, so I got one too….
My primary goal during the visit to our nation’s oldest national park was to get some abstract photos of the Grand Prismatic Spring. Many years ago I saw some of these brilliant blue and turquoise waters with bright yellow sand and put it on my mental list of places not to be missed. The walk around the Grand Prismatic Spring boardwalk is certainly pleasant, but to get an overview of the spring and the abstract compositions, you have to drive to a near-by turnoff and hike off of the normal trails to the top of a hill. Most will feel like the colors in the photos below are excessively saturated. I can only agree, nature certainly over saturated the mineral stained soil and clear waters.
We saw zero buffalo our first day and were a bit disappointed. We also never saw a bear. We did however have an encounter with an overly aggressive park ranger who wanted to inspect our picnic basket as well as driver’s license and registration. We finally saw herds of buffalo when we were hurrying for dinner reservations at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Like everyone else, when our vehicle finally inched our way to the center of the buffalo road block, I too leaned out of the car to take snapshots. By the way, the bright yellow Lake Yellowstone lodge would look very appropriate in Cape Cod, not the West. When the park was being built in the 1890’s, unique western architecture building plans did not exist on such a grand scale so they went with the only plans and style they had, Cape Cod style.
Gibbon Falls was a very pleasant roadside surprise. The photo below is really in color. I enjoyed the dead tree composition in front of Gibbon Falls and waited for a cloud to shade the area making the mid-day light less harsh. As is the case with many of the old parks, the best views are from near the parking lots, not much effort required.
No initial visit to Yellowstone would be complete without viewing the Lower Falls. This too is right by a parking lot requiring minimal effort. First visits to well-known parks, cities or countries seem to require one to visit the well know spots first. I would look forward one day to a second visit to explore some lesser known areas or possibly a winter visit….
From a photographic point of view, simple photographs often work best, remove all the clutter or that which is not critical to the goal of the photograph. With that in mind, here is a very simple photograph indeed. A moon, tree and a beautiful blue sky that can be photographed about an hour after sunset. Goodnight from Yellowstone Park…..