The Jackson Point Summit is three quarters of the way up Mount Signal and offers the best view of the Tetons.
  • The Jackson Point Summit is three quarters of the way up Mount Signal and offers the best view of the Tetons.
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The national parks have been described by Ken Burns as America’s best idea. I doubt that many visitors to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park would argue with that.

I journeyed there in late May before school was out (and thus before the rush of the high season). I felt a spiritual aura there, which is undoubtedly more easily perceived when there are fewer people.

While visiting such spectacular spots in the Tetons as the Snake River Overlook and the Jackson Point Overlook up Signal Mountain, I found myself the only person there. I felt a tremendous sense of privilege at the opportunity to experience these magnificent vistas in solitude.

As I entered Yellowstone from the south, the land was blanketed with snow and the lakes were frozen. This was surprising to me, but being from Southern California and having rarely experienced this, I found it wondrous.


Yellowstone & Tetons slideshow

Slideshow: Wyoming's Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

Slideshow: Wyoming's Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

As I made my way to the northern portion of the park, the snow had melted and the wildlife emerged. A buffalo trail interrupted the drive a few times, providing an up-close and personal encounter with a buffalo from inside the safety of my car. The only time I encountered a bit of a crowd was courtesy of the wildlife photographers.

At one point I noticed what seemed to be nearly a dozen photographers fixated on what appeared to me to be an open plain. I asked an onlooker what they were looking at, and was told that they were waiting for a badger to come out of a hole. So it seems that the wildlife have their own paparazzi!

There was a similar logjam of people on the two occasions a bear was spotted. The first time I was too late to see anything. The second time I took a quick photo of a brown bear from a distance from my car as there was nowhere to park. But for the most part, there were plenty of opportunities to experience the natural wonders of Yellowstone in solitude.

Yellowstone is truly a majestic location. I saw elk resting by a gentle river, coyotes slip behind some trees, and many open, unspoiled vistas that fill the heart and soul with a sense of reverence.

Having visited Yosemite years earlier, I felt it was unlikely that Yellowstone would match the stunning beauty of its California cousin. But now I feel that one is not better than the other. They’re opposite sides of the same coin – the wonder of America's natural scenery, some of the finest and most soul-enriching in the world.

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Visduh Sept. 28, 2009 @ 6:53 p.m.

If the subject of Yellowstone ever comes up, I always say that every American should see it at least once in a lifetime. It is truly unique, and can win over the most blase of travelers. A long time ago, bears were always visible in Yellowstone, but a more enlightened management of the place decided that bear vs. human behavior were doing neither species much good. Now the iconic bears are seldom seen. But that doesn't mean that you'll see no wildlife. Bison (aka buffalo), elk, marmots, coyotes, and several other species are abundant. Elk are so plentiful as to become pests in some areas of the park.

If you have never been there, plan to go soon. Despite the remote area and access, and the broken down roads in some areas, it is a great place to renew your spirit and notion of what it is to be American and live in the USA.


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