Park Number: 1/59
First Visited: Undocumented
When I set the goal of visiting all the U.S. national parks I already had Yellowstone thoroughly covered; growing up in Montana I frequented the park often. Despite this, it wasn't until I took a college course taught by Yellowstone National Park Historian Lee Whittlesey that I developed a profound respect for the area. I return often and still get giddy each time I pass under the Roosevelt Arch.
I relish the fact that Yellowstone was the first national park on the entire planet (something giving me great pride as I consider this my hometown park). Therefore, setting such a precedence, this park comes with a lot of unique history. I specifically appreciate Yellowstone's chronicles of conservation and wildlife protection, as exemplified in 1894 with the story of George Bird Grinnell using media coverage in Forest and Stream Magazine to bring wildlife poaching problems to national attention. This then led to the "Act to Protect the Birds and Animals in Yellowstone National Park," an act that initiated and inspired a long list of further laws that now protect wildlife throughout the country. For example, it's forbidden to remove biomass from the parks.
Wildlife in the park is replete; I never leave a visit without a satisfying sighting, whether it be wolves lounging after a feast, moose grazing in a valley, or grizzlies meandering by a water source. But bison stand resolute in my mind when considering Yellowstone because these animals act as a reminder to a historical past of malfeasance and poor stewardship in the West. They now stand as a symbolic hope to our reexamined understanding and commitment to conservation.
Unique park experiences generally coincide with fortunate timing. For example, every spring Yellowstone closes its roads for maintenance for a couple of weeks, leaving the roadways open only to cyclists and pedestrians. Therefore, last April my cousin and I took advantage of this by cycling from Mammoth to Norris and back again. We saw maybe ten other people the whole time.
I return to Yellowstone nearly once a month, whether enjoying my own adventures or guiding first-time friends through the area. It never gets old. This is because Yellowstone is an expansive park (only eight percent can be seen from the road system) with intricate backcountry trails weaving throughout geothermal hot spots, lodgepole pine forests, and gorgeous waterways. And the change of seasons can alter all of this into new experiences throughout the year. I love visiting in the winter because, with few other people around, you can have the more popular sites to yourself.
Yellowstone, of the fifty-nine national parks in the system, is my park. I'll be exploring it for the rest of my life.