Looking back over my week in Yellowstone, I feel very fortunate to have been able to see the park at a time when there were no crowds. Immersed in the beautiful surroundings of Yellowstone, almost completely alone in the peace and quiet of the wilderness, is a very special experience. The statistic I heard is that Yellowstone gets 3 million visitors in the summer, and only 100,000 in the winter.
Throughout the course of the trip, I found myself taking a lot of photos of trees. I guess that isn’t surprising. Whenever I’m in national parks I find myself drawn to them (like here). Especially in the winter, though, they are so dramatic and beautiful. In Yellowstone there is a phenomenon called “Ghost Trees.” Because of all the geothermal features of the park, hydrothermal mist accumulates on tree branches.
There is also “Ice Fog,” where ice crystals float through the air giving an illusion of fog. I saw this the day we were in the Lamar Valley during -15 degree weather, and didn’t really understand what it was. It was as if the air was sparkling and carrying the light with it. The snow there is also so dry you can’t build a snowman. The whole park was haunted with this magic, and though there was so much cold and death, it was so captivating and peaceful.
I was also thankful to have seen as many amazing animals as I did. I have a new found love for bison and their enormous snowy faces. Regal, but playful. They are so beautiful! In Native American cultures they are regarded as sacred and represent unity and strength, and of course they are a symbol of the American “westward journey.” And speaking of American symbols, I can’t get over how many Bald Eagles I saw.
Though we didn’t see wolves up close, I felt their presence there, and having learned so much about their affect on the ecosystem, I can appreciate the beauty of them even more. And really, the trip taught me to look at all predators in that light. They are needed to keep our planet in balance. We are really the only predators that are tipping the scales. The fact that we are finally realizing this gives me some hope that it isn’t too late.