Sunday, December 17, 2006

Yellowstone National Park

My favorite place to hike, although not my favorite trails, is Yellowstone National Park, at least May through October. I've gone there at least once a year for the past 12 years. Friends have asked what draws me back to the same place so often and I am not sure. Of course Yellowstone is a very special place, it would not have become the first national park if it were not. Still, why do I like it so much? It doesn't have the spectacular mountain views common elsewhere in the western US nor does it have the amazing colors and canyons of the southwest.

I enjoy the thermal features, geysers, hot springs, and pools but they aren't my primary goal. The falls and grand canyon of the Yellowstone are magnificent but I don't view them every year. Yellowstone lake is pretty but I grew up by a mountain lake, it isn't that special to me. Part of the attraction is that Yellowstone is wild and minimally changed but Glacier, and other Parks, are arguably wilder and less changed. Probably the main attraction is the visibility of wildlife. I will see bison and elk, probably will see deer, pronghorn antelope, and coyote and can anticipate seeing bear, wolves, bighorn sheep, moose and a variety of birds and smaller animals. Most of these animals are found elsewhere but they are most visible in Yellowstone. I usually hike in the prairies and meadows when in Yellowstone because the terrain is different than my usual areas of hiking in the Cascade mountain forests. Yellowstone also has more easily accessable trails than I can hike in a week, there is always another trail I want to hike.

Maybe it is everything, the thermal features, the wildlife, the scenery, the variety of habitats, forest, prairie, meadow, and mountain.

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