Thursday, September 4

The wild kingdom

More than anything else Garry wanted to see plenty of wildfire at Yellowstone. He wasn’t disappointed. We drove into the national park shortly after lunch today. Within half an hour we’d seen a fox and pair of deer cross the road, followed by the most extraordinary bison sighting in the Lamar Valley.

Initially we saw herds of bison, also known as buffalo (that’s right, they’re one and the same creature), grazing in the distance. They were tiny brown blobs at best. However, as we crested a small rise we suddenly came upon lone bison less than ten metres from the road’s edge. We parked the car and stood in awe as this majestic beast wandered by. We then returned to our car and slowly followed it along the road for another 50 metres before it finally veered away. Awesome!

The stunning scenery became our next Yellowstone experience. Our first awe inspiring moment came when we stopped at the Calcite Springs Overlook. For some bizarre reason it’s not even marked on official park maps. The vertigo inducing outlook offers a breath-taking view of the Yellowstone River winding its way through the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. If this view isn’t worth noting, then we’re in for some spectacular scenic moments.

Our next stop was Tower Falls, one of the park’s most iconic locations. The falls get their name from volcanic breccias pinnacles that line the ridge from which Tower Creek cascades. They’re the oddest formations you’ll ever see. It was a beautiful scene but not quite the postcard moment we’d expected. We’re hoping that tomorrow’s tour of the Upper and Lower Falls, another iconic landmark, will do a better job of meeting expectations.

These falls are just a mile from Canyon Lodge, our base for the next two nights. The lodge sits right in the heart of Yellowstone. From here we’re planning to do more wildfire spotting in the nearby Hayden Valley and soak in dramatic views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The complex here also includes an excellent visitor’s centre filled with displays on the region’s geology, history, flora and fauna. I loved its room-sized relief model of the entire park.

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