The overwhelming impression I had of Yellowstone National Park was, this is wild America. North America in what may be its most natural surviving state. My second, more esoteric impression was that this land is a repository of natural magic.
There is so much here. Such wide expanses. Yellowstone is not representative of every biome in our continent. But there are so many amazing aspects of our Earth pulled together in amazing randomness. And the ecologies here represent what should dominate Middle America.
Maybe the first thing to know about Yellowstone is that it as a fishing paradise. The second is that this more than others is a driving park. To see Yellowstone’s defining character, we had to make peace with driving. A lot. And we were smart enough to wake up early and get the jump on thousands of sleeping tourists.
Where we could, we walked a mere step from geology like fumaroles, hot springs, and geysers. The world knows and loves Yellowstone for its geologic features, like Old Faithful. But most are so hot or corrosive that people have died here. Recently.
We mostly drove around this Serengeti of America. Animals and plants survive, not yet driven to extinction, not yet buried by development. We saw bison, antelope, and elk in herds that suggested their pre-European numbers. We just missed grizzly bear in their berry patches. We heard that mountain lions are recovering in the northeastern peaks without reintroduction. But we stood on a ridgeline, overlooking a valley and wolves carrying a carcass home.
Then there were the wildlife jams. …and people running to get selfies with prey and predator alike. Tourists are often hurt and killed. They were either unfamiliar with Survival of the Fittest or daring enough for Darwinism. But the sheer numbers of people traveling here from all over the world is profound.
It should be enough to impress upon us that this is our birthright. The engine of our quality of life. The unique identity of who we are in the world.