Last time I visited I was 7. It's time to go back, to get a look as autumn arrives. They say it's going to be cold.
As if at the vortex of some strange forces of natural-wonder voodoo, like those tourist traps where balls mysteriously roll uphill, Yellowstone National Park has been in the headlines a lot lately.
As the nation’s first national park, it got plenty of attention because of the National Park Service’s much-ballyhooed 100th anniversary — perhaps driving this summer’s record visitor numbers.
But there was also the sad tale of the guy who stuffed a bison calf into his SUV because it looked cold and lonely (it was euthanized when the herd wouldn’t take it back). A 23-year-old Portland man died after falling into an acidic hot spring (about all they recovered were his flip-flops). Some Canadian YouTuber “tourist bros” got into, uh, hot water for leaving a boardwalk and taking selfies at the Grand Prismatic Spring. Then Mother Nature acted up. There were wildfires across the park in August, and a troublesome fish die-off closed the Yellowstone River to fishing and rafting for a couple weeks.
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For better or worse, I ended up with Yellowstone on my mind.
Last time I was there I was maybe 7, toting an old Brownie camera that took those square black-and-white photos with a wavy edge that had the date printed in the margin. (Lots of pictures of out-of-focus geysers.) I’ve decided it’s time to go back.
So I leave Tuesday for six days. I’m flying to Bozeman, Montana, and will rent a small camper-van. I’ll spend a day fly-fishing (my first time) with a guide on the nearby Gallatin River, where Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt filmed “A River Runs Through It.”
The rest of the time I’ll explore Yellowstone attractions such as the famous farting mudpots that one of my favorite outdoors writers, Tim Cahill, describes so enchantingly. I’ll look for autumn color (“It’s the best time to visit,” a nice young woman at park headquarters told me over the phone just now) and other signs of the changing season. (Such changes should be obvious, since the weather forecast says it’s getting down in the 20s at night, with a daunting mention of possible snow. Once again, the guy from Seattle forgets that the rest of the world can have winter really, really early.)
So help me out here. If you’re a Yellowstone regular, click on “comments” and tip me off on what not to miss on a fall visit. How to stay warm. Where to get the best bison burger (do they do that?) or at least a cup of good coffee (thank you!).
When I can get a wi-fi signal, I’ll post live reports. Watch for stories in the Sunday Times, along with video and more on seattletimes.com, come October.
This will be fun. Or I could slip on ice and plunge into a farting mudpot. You never know.