Extraordinary Beauty of Yellowstone

Oct 22, 2018

by Alyssa Robare '19
Edited for content and length

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Life is a great adventure, accept it in such a spirit.” To me, this quote really came to life on the Yellowstone Junior Journey Trip that we embarked on this May.

Even though this was a domestic trip, we were still exposed to so many new surroundings, experiences, foods, and people that made this region of the U.S. seem so different from Florida. I have been fortunate enough to travel out West before, but only to California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, never to the Northwest. It was a brand new experience for me, one I was incredibly excited for and one I feel like I was able to get the full experience out of as I reflect back on my trip.

Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the U.S. & 3rd largest in the world.

The variety of opportunities we had on this trip was amazing! Yellowstone National Park actually spans over small areas of 3 states: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and it is home to half of the world’s active geyser population. A few of the stops we made included: Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Geyser Basin (specifically Grand Geyser, Castle Geyser, and Old Faithful), and my absolute FAVORITE stops, Grand Prismatic Spring and Grand Teton National Park.

We learned that volcanic eruptions had occurred multiple times thousands of years in this area that formed many of the breathtaking sights we witnessed. The Grand Teton mountain range is the most beautiful, snow-capped mountain range I’ve ever seen with fog covering the very top of the mountains, and trees framing that perfect view.

The stop I was looking forward to the entire trip was the Grand Prismatic Spring. If you ever see advertisements or postcards for Yellowstone, you will more than likely see what looks like a giant blue and orange pool, surrounded by bacterial mats. There is actual steam rising from the spring because of how hot it is, and the steam is colored orange and blue (one of the most insane things I have ever seen), just like the colors of the spring itself.

We were able to see some of the most extraordinary sights this world has to offer because this entire region was filled with the most natural beauty I had ever seen (I would honestly compare it to Norway in how pure and untouched everything looked). We even went on a 5 mile hike one day and casually ran into four bison walking up the road, where else does that happen? Speaking of the hiking, every step you take is completely worth it. Most of the trip does not include any strenuous activity, but on certain stops, like Tower Fall, you will be required to walk 2.5 miles there and back (even though you may get lucky and the road to drive there could be open).

Upper Mesa Falls in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
Upper Mesa Falls in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

If you’re an animal person like I am, you will definitely not be disappointed. We saw several hundred bison, a few black and grizzly bears, several elk, a coyote, and a moose while traveling to and from stops, and some while we were actually at our destination. Just don’t get too close (no matter how cute they are) if you do decide to sign up for this trip, they are still wild animals.

Speaking of trying new things, many of the students of our trip indulged in Yellowstone’s unique food options like bison (in burger form), elk (surprisingly tender and quite delicious), and pheasant, which until this trip I was not aware was a delicacy (and it tastes exactly like chicken). The cool thing, however, is how customary these foods really are in this area of the U.S. Of course they had foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries, but much of their menu was food that is hard to come by in any other area.

We also had several opportunities to interact with the locals at every place we went. A major thing I noticed when talking to them is how kind and willing to help they were. Even if one of us had a question related to the area that no one outside of the park rangers would know the answer to, they would try to direct us to someone who would be able to help us as much as possible.

My interactions with the locals left me feeling as though I want to be that type of person to the people I encounter from here on out. I want to help people as much as I can instead of giving up if I don’t know how to help. These interactions coupled with the beauty and serenity of the Yellowstone area truly make me believe that I could live there one day. It is less expensive than living in Florida and it feels like a real community, which is exactly what I am looking for if I ever decide to move.

My favorite thing about this trip, however, was how tight-knit our group became. When I signed up to travel to Yellowstone I only knew about 3 people who were also going on the trip, and while this made me nervous, it also gave me hope to find new friendships, and boy did I. We laughed together, cried together, made lame jokes together, and most importantly, we made memories to last a lifetime together.

Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs!

Climbing up hills to hide from bison so they didn’t trample us, freaking out about seeing a moose in real life, watching a young boy stick his finger into a hot spring, not once but TWICE, having snowball fights, and being surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery that the world has to offer are just a few of the numerous memories this trip imprinted onto my heart (even our trip leaders joined in on the fun).

This has by far been one of my favorite trips I have ever taken because it completely threw me out of my comfort zone. Leaving all of my newfound friends wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but this trip and its mountain highs and valley lows (literally, see, I mentioned lame jokes) are something we will always share.

So go. Sign up for this trip even though you may not know anyone because the beauty of traveling is creating new memories, and sometimes the best ones are made with strangers. Get lost in nature and explore to your heart’s content, you won’t regret it.

All in all, if I had to give 5 reasons to sign up for the Yellowstone Junior Journey today they would be:

  1. You get to experience some of the most amazing scenery this Earth has to offer.
  2. You get to travel to a new place with your best friends (and honestly, what’s better than that?)
  3. You get to see LOTS of wildlife like bison, moose and bears.
  4. You get to try new foods and it’s all delicious!
  5. It’s FREE (except for the deposit which is refundable and the money you bring for souvenirs) AND you get to travel with the best Chaperone, Dr. Malcolm Manners.