We drive into Yellowstone on winding roads between towering snow banks. The east entrance will close at 10 a.m., we are told, because of the risk of avalanches. I stare upward at the white slopes and wonder when they might come crashing down.
I grew up hearing about Yellowstone but somehow, I never made it out here. Then in 2009, I wrote a story for CNN about Audrey Peterman’s crusade to get more minorities to visit America’s national parks. I learned about people like Shelton Johnson, a park ranger at Yosemite, who tells his mostly white visitors the tale of the African-American cavalry regiment, known as the Buffalo Soldiers, who protected the land and toiled to build trails and roads.
Later, I was taken with Ken Burns’ series on America’s great parks. Nowhere in the world are places of such monumental beauty maintained and presented to the public as they are in this country.
I knew I had to begin my journey somewhere. I chose Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
We are not disappointed.
At our first stop: a grizzly bear.
Then the smell of sulfur from the myriad bubbling pools of the acidic water that can scald you to death. here are more geothermal geysers in Yellowstone than anywhere else on Earth. Not sure how the buffaloes seem to roam so close. They leave plenty of evidence behind.
Old Faithful, was, well, faithful, spewing steamy water skyward shortly after its appointed time. It is not the largest of the geysers but it goes off regularly so tourists flock to the site.
The Grand Canyon at Yellowstone rivals its more famous sister in Arizona. The Yellowstone River crashes hundreds of feet downward in majestic falls and over the centuries has cut patterns and crevices into the rocks.
I marvel at the majesty of this place only to be told that the most breathtaking scenery still lies ahead.