Landscapes Through a Lens: Exploring the Wonders of Yellowstone

Kamala Varadarajan
Grand Prismatic is arguably the most iconic feature of Yellowstone. Its enormous size makes it difficult to get a good sense of its scale without hiking up a nearby hill. Photo by Kamala Vararadarajan

Yellowstone is internationally renowned for its breathtaking glimpses of nature, from impressive mountain peaks to incredible wildlife viewing and stunning geothermal activity. With nature’s most magnificent sights, it sounds like a kind of paradise, and after spending over a week in the park, I would agree. My family spent seven days this past summer hiking and gazing in awe at the landscapes in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in Wyoming.

While both parks are only a one hour drive away apart, each offers very different views of nature. Grand Tetons’ signature sky-scraping, glacier-topped peaks are the highlight of the park all day, but are infinitely more so when framed by the setting sun. In contrast, Yellowstone’s rolling valleys are home to seemingly never-ending herds of bison that stop traffic, packs of wolves and occasional black and grizzly bears. We soon found out that a line of stopped cars is a definite indicator of a mother bear and her cubs, which are usually harder to find and more dangerous on hiking trails.

 A coyote prowls around Lamar Valley searching for an evening meal. Yellowstone’s valleys are the best spot for wildlife spottings, especially during dawn and dusk. Photo by Kamala Varadarajan

With numerous wildlife sightings, I found it hard to live in the moment and not keep my eye in the camera, snapping close-up shots of the animals. In retrospect, while the photos are invaluable souvenirs from the trip, the feeling of being within 100 yards of a wild bear cannot be replicated.

Yellowstone’s colorful geothermal activity was like nothing I had ever witnessed before, with geysers spewing water tens of meters into the air and emitting (sometimes rotten-egg smelling) vapor. Old Faithful geyser was somewhat anticlimactic considering the hype, but the other geysers in the same area more than made up for it with their brightly colored bacteria and bubbling, boiling water.

Morning Glory Pool is a hot spring near Old Faithful geyser. The color is produced by colored bacteria that thrive at a high temperature. Photo by Gopala Varadarajan

Spending a full week immersed in the best of nature, without Internet connection, was quite an experience, one that I think everyone needs to have to appreciate our world and its natural beauty.