Autumn in Jackson Hole

My Yellowstone WOW Moments

Yellowstone is one of the most otherworldly places I’ve ever been to. I don’t know of any place that has such a high concentration of contrasting and breathtaking features. When I see a feature that really takes my breath away, I call it a “WOW” moment. Visiting a different year or a different season might provide completely different WOW moments. This year, we visited Yellowstone in October and my WOW moments included: the wildlife, the Canyon and waterfalls, and the paintpots.  In this post I will not waste your time with moments that were only mildly interesting to me. These are strictly my WOWs.

WOW #1: The Wildlife. One of my favorite things about visiting Yellowstone is the wildlife gamble: Unlike a zoo, where the animals have little choice but to be seen, Yellowstone’s animals are wild. They live, eat, sleep, and migrate the same way they have for centuries. So you never know which or how many animals you might see. Sometimes we strike out and see very few animals. But this time we saw some that were really exciting. I always enjoy seeing buffalo, but on this visit we saw some really majestic snow-flocked ones, walking right past our window on the road, like they just didn’t care.

Not long after that, we saw elk. It is mating season, and we witnessed two males fighting for rights to the local females, who were lounging around, watching the show. We felt lucky to see this, since it probably only happens during a slim window of each year.

We searched in vain for the elusive bears. Not seeing one only gives us more reason to plan another Yellowstone trip. I understand that years ago, bear sightings were much more common. This was because people were not very careful in storing their food, so the bears were interested in hanging out where humans were.

This is my dad. Do NOT try this.

This was obviously not safe, so Yellowstone launched an education campaign to keep visitors from feeding the bears. Now the bears mostly stay away from people, which makes it that much more exciting to see one.

WOW #2 Yellowstone Canyon and Waterfalls: The Canyon itself provides it’s own WOW moment. It is so deep and strikingly, unusually yellow. Then there are the two waterfalls, which are each their own WOWs. They are visible from several different spots. This time we saw one from Artist’s Point. Thanks to being late in the season, we had this vantage point almost to ourselves for a moment. In that snowy solitude, I had a strange thought: millions of people come to see these waterfalls during the summer days, when the waterfalls gladly put on a show. But after the crowds leave, the show continues to run all night, and all through the winter, and usually no one is even watching. Even as I sit here in my home, they are still putting on their majestic performance, like beautifual orchestra that plays endlessly, usually to a great, empty music hall.

WOW #3 Paint Pots: When I see paint pots, I feel like I’m on a different planet, in a sci fi movie, or maybe having a strange dream. They are so unique. They really look like tubs of paint, boiling in the Earth.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about our trip! Visit the Park yourself and I know you’ll experience your own set of WOW moments.

by Jessica Heath

One response to “My Yellowstone WOW Moments”

  1. Korinne says:

    I thought this was a WOW post. I enjoyed the photo of Jed taking a photo and the idea of a wildlife gamble. The photo of the elk is awesome!

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