“We’re spending the day driving around, looking at trees?” My brother moaned, slumping into the back seat of our bronze minivan, his eyes lazily scanning the scene outside the window. Tall conifers stretched towards the sky on both sides, dense thickets of life extending for miles in each direction. Approximately a week and a half into our Pacific to Atlantic, thirty five hundred mile, twenty one day vacation, spending another day in the car was the last thing he wanted to do.
“There’s more to see than just trees,” replied my mother, riding shotgun while my father drove. The trees began to thin outside of the right window, replaced by a clearing and a large, wooden sign that read “Yellowstone National Park.” We pulled the car over to admire the sign, as our trip wouldn’t be complete without an obligatory picture.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
When we continued our drive, my brother and I began the scan for wildlife. We’d gotten a late start, and I was skeptical that many animals would be visible during the heat of the day; still, I hoped that we’d at least see something. We drove several miles into the park, headed to see Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s most notable hot spot. The trail blazed long and winding, but, much to my dismay, we saw no sign of any fauna.
As we neared the renowned geyser, curls of steam rose high into the air, barely visible beyond massive trees. Hoping that we hadn’t just missed the show, we rushed to the scene to find that, unfortunately, we had—and it wasn’t likely that she’d blow again for another two hours. I sighed, wondering if it was really worth the two hour—it could be more, two hours was the estimate—wait. My parents decided to stay, so we grabbed seats on the metal benches surrounding the geyser.
About half an hour later, heads began turning. Eager to know the source of the commotion, I followed the glossy gazes to an enormous, hoofed beast contentedly chewing the shrubbery, standing about forty feet from the growing crowd. Excited by the creature’s presence, I snatched our camera and inched a little closer. Small flashes flickered as tourists snapped photos of the shaggy ungulate, standing proud. The towering bison meandered away shortly after, and I scampered back to wait for the old geyser. When she did erupt, the shot of water and steam exploded high into the air, shaking both the ground and the hearts of those viewing.
However, Yellowstone offered than singular bison and striking eruptions. As my family traveled throughout the widespread blanket of park, we made numerous stops to admire nature’s encompassing allure. Though miles away from the nearest mall, amusement park, or tourist attraction, the park quickly became one of the most memorable places I visited on our cross country journey. I was captivated by the plunging canyons, rippling waterfalls, and boiling springs that decorated the landscape. Even the corners of my brother’s mouth began to slowly turn upward, dislodged from their natural discontented scowl.
After scouring the hillsides for animals, I accepted that we would see little more than the initial bison. The sun began to fall as we headed towards the park’s southernmost exit. Rounding a wide hill, an audible gasp escaped my lips. An entire herd of bison expanded over the grassy plain, unaffected by the stopped vehicles. The green expanse seemed to stretch on forever, interrupted only by the impressive bison. The sight was one of the most awe-inspiring I’d experienced, a testimony to the supremacy and beauty that nature offers.