The park is full of exciting wonders. The wildest geysers in the world…hills of sparkling crystal, hills of glass, hills of cinders and ashes, mountains of every style of architecture, icy or forested…mountains boiled soft like potatoes and colored like a sunset sky. Therefore it is called Wonderland, and thousands of tourists and travelers stream into it every summer, and wander about in it enchanted.
~John Muir on Yellowstone, 1885.
And so, in June of 1982, I was indeed enchanted. My parents had loaded my 15-year old brother and me into their new Winebago Brave motorhome and taken us on a two week tour of the west. We headed up I-55 from Memphis into the midwest, took a hard left and drove into the Badlands of South Dakota, on to Mt. Rushmore, down to Cody, Wyoming, and into Yellowstone National Park. After spending a couple of days there, we headed south through Grand Teton and on further south into the Grand Canyon before hopping onto I-40 and making our way without stopping back home.
I was 18 then; I knew everything and cared little about spending two weeks boxed up with my parents and my brother. But, I didn’t have a job, had just graduated from high school and would be heading off to college in a couple of months, and had some idea of the almost patriotic duty it was for every American to see “the West” if presented with the opportunity.
It’s hard to stand underneath the massive carvings of Gutzon Borglum and not be impressed with his vision for Mt. Rushmore. It’s even harder to spend an hour in a 1,000-strong bison jam in Hayden Valley or stand in front of Old Faithful Geyser erupting and not be impressed. I was impressed; awestruck, in fact. It was, in many ways, a life-changing experience for me. I am forever grateful to my parents for having taken me there. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “I’ll bring my family here some day.”
Eight years later I returned to Yellowstone with my new bride. We’d been married almost two years and, once again, I found myself boxed in with my parents on a tour of the west. We’d decided to go see Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone with my folks because, at the time, we didn’t have the wherewithal to get out there and do it ourselves. I was ecstatic at the opportunity to share this experience with my wife; I had no idea if she’d have the same reaction I’d had some handful of years earlier.
Suffice it to say, she did. Since that August of 1990, we have returned more then 15 times to what former Yellowstone Chief Ranger Dan Sholly, in his book, Guardians of Yellowstone, refers to as “…America’s cathedral to Mother Nature.” We’ve been in August when the temperatures were in the high 90s, in December (Christmas, in fact) when it snowed 15 inches in less than 24 hours, and in May when there were 20-foot snow drifts still framing the drive through Hayden Valley. It’s an annual ritual now for us to make the pilgrimage back during the third week of June to see everything anew.
There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of web sites dedicated to Yellowstone, but I wanted a place I could call my own, though – some space where we could share our knowledge and experiences in the Mother Park with others. The result is Secret Yellowstone. Here you’ll find not only the standard de rigeur information you’ll see on any other site, but some behind-the-scenes information about what makes Yellowstone work – what makes it the magical, special place it is.
Using the menus and links at the top and on the right, you can explore the material here, read about our personal experiences in the Journal, and see the images we’ve posted in the Photo Albums. You’re welcome to share your thoughts on the journal; and if you have your own website or blog dedicated to Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Parks, let us know. We’ll add a link to your site so others can enjoy another perspective as well. If there’s information missing, feel free to contact us and let us know.