Heading into Yellowstone around the lake I noticed there really isn't that much of a forest. Most of the park is meadows with brush and shrubs. It's like the high desert in California. Each section of the park has its own topography and things that make it unique. The wildlife resided more on the east and north side of the park while the south and west had more geothermal activity. This may have been due to time of year or the amount of tourists. There definitely was more people near the popular sites like Old Faithful and Mammoth Springs. What sets Yellowstone a part from other parks to me is the wildlife and how close you can get to it.
Bison and elk often come with in feet of your car or where you're standing. It's easy to forget that these are wild animals that can kill you if they wanted to.
The bison dot the distance in Hayden and Lamar Valley. They roam all over the park and the large males walking next to your car will give you butterflies in your stomach. These animals are enormous with heads that seem to cover the expanse of your windshield. Several were ramming each other and fighting for dominance in the heard. It was cool to see but a little unnerving. Antelope seemed to use the bison as protection and would run in the middle of the herds.
Wildflowers were displaying in the mountain passes and all of the vegetation and trees looked very healthy.
Whenever you see people stopped on the side of the road you know it's most likely because some kind of wildlife is there. Usually it's an elk or bison but sometimes you get lucky and see a bear. We saw bear and wolves on this trip but they were so far away they could only be seen with binoculars. The treat for me was seeing some river otters. They were where Otter Creek met the Yellowstone River. I figured that creek was just named that way and didn't expect to actually see an otter.
I could have spent my whole time in Lamar or Hayden Valley just watching the wildlife.
To me that is what the main attraction of Yellowstone is.
I know that's my own opinion and some people love the geysers but what's great about the valleys is they aren't that crowded and you feel like you're more in a wild setting. I think that's what keeps some people away. They think it's too dangerous and prefer the safe feeling and amenities of what the Old Faithful and Mammoth Springs villages provide.
If you can try to check out Lamar or Hayden Valley at sunset.
More to come in my next post.