Soda Butte Creek
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone NP, WY
The only park road open to cars in the winter runs through the Lamar Valley, America's Serengeti. It is a wildlife magnet, and you cruise slowly here, hoping to see predators. By the time you have hit the Lamar, you've seen all the bison and elk you'd ever want to see...coyotes, bear and wolves are your precious stones now. But the Lamar is rich AND beautiful. Hillsides soar impossibly high, sensuous in shape at the start, hardening to mountainous crags and the beartooth similarities as you approach the Absaroka Range on the far end. All of it encompassing the mile or so wide valley cut by meandering rivers, joining and flowing to join the great Yellowstone River. Yellowstone is the place I may have visited the most, though I've not been here in ten years, and my familiarity with it has brought many memories back. This January day was unusually warm, in the forties, leaving animals higher up the mountains, and me with an opportunity to concentrate more on the landscape than them. In winter, the crowds are gone, and a short walk from the road brings silence and the whisper, on this day, of a very slight breeze. I stand awhile in this place, reconnecting with my old friend.