Breathtaking beauty, up-close wildlife and the ever-present realization that you’re in the caldera of a supervolcano that could vaporize you and your family at any moment. That’s what Yellowstone means to me.
Fire, water and land converge in the most unique landscapes this side of the Styx. It’s the quintessential American road destination, and a trip there means hours and hours and hours … and hours of highway travel. It’s in the squarest of square states that ends up at the bottom of any alphabetical state list.
I cannot overstate, however, how amazing Yellowstone is.
A week in the park was not enough to see it all, and I could write dozens of posts on individual sites within the park and the parks near it and the road stops along the way. Perhaps some day, I will. For now, some death-defying highlights:
- Herds of buffalo unafraid of your car. These are large, dangerous animals that can kill you on a whim if you look at them funny – and they’re RIGHT THERE in your way!
- A ring of mountains everywhere you look. You’re in an enormous valley, until you realize you are surrounded by miles of volcano pit. You are a virgin sacrifice just waiting for some lava.
- Boardwalks built to keep you from falling through the ground into boiling mineral water. Seriously, there are boardwalks everywhere with signs warning you not to stray. Simply stepping off them puts you at immediate burn risk. A ranger told us the story of a buffalo that wandered onto thin crust and was boiled alive. He claimed the whole area smelled of roast beef for weeks. Apocryphal? Maybe, but who cares!
- Bears! Need I say more? Okay – WILD GRIZZLY BEARS.
- A supervolcano waiting to vaporize thousands of tourists. Sure, it’s been 600,000 years since the last time that it blew ash all over North America, but it only does that once every 600,000 years. Think about that for a minute.
It’s a boring drive. It’s a boring state. It’s a fascinating, beautiful and dangerous vacation. Go there, and enjoy it.
Update: 20 Ways Yellowstone Can Kill You