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A Honeymoon In Yellowstone National Park
by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer
Bless the gentlemen with the foresight and perseverance to protect the land we now know as Yellowstone National Park. It wasn't easy. In fact, it took photographs and paintings to convince Congress such a place even existed. Of course, that was in 1872. If a Western-style honeymoon sounds appealing, why not combine it with a visit to one of our nation's most beloved parks?
West Yellowstone, Montana, makes an ideal home base for exploring the world's oldest national park. Not only is the park close at hand, but West Yellowstone has unique attractions related to the park.
In size, West Yellowstone is small, but accommodations of all types abound. We unpacked our bags at Hibernation Station, a group of rustic, but luxurious log cabins. However, the cabins weren't the only thing made from wood. Finely-crafted log chairs, log lamps, and log beds grace the decor, along with Western artwork. Their center courtyard features a magnificent bronze sculpture of two elk, antlers locked in combat. For the most romantic cabin, ask for number 39.
We began our visit to West Yellowstone with a trip to the IMAX Theatre, where the grandeur of the park spread before us on the gigantic screen. Next stop was the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, where we learned a bit about the re-introduction of wolves into the area and the history of the bears within the park. It was there we first encountered the numerous ravens found all over town. The bears were swatting at them like flies.
Horseback riding was on the agenda the next morning at Parade Rest Ranch. Having not ridden a horse in many years, I was jittery. Our young wrangler, Adam, was patient and let me use stair steps to climb atop my horse, Babe.
Once underway, it was a glorious two hours of riding. Adam's dog Brooklyn, wearing his work clothes, a worn yellow bandana, lead the five of us at a leisurely pace up into the hills. Ever watchful, Brooklyn was on the lookout for stray critters who might cross our path. A dog's work is never done.
Behind us, mountains shone in the morning light. Midway into the ride, Adam showed us a firearm strapped to his belt (gulp) "in case of bears", he explained.
The afternoon was busy. We stopped off at the Museum of the Yellowstone, in West Yellowstone, to learn about the early tourism of the area. Trains brought wealthy visitors to the region. It was fascinating to see the garments they thought appropriate for such rugged terrain. Voluminous skirts, with fancy hats for the ladies and suits and ties for the gentlemen. They brought so much luggage, an additional building was needed to store it!
From there we drove to the Earthquake Lake area to see the devastation caused by a major earthquake and the resulting landslide. The lake didn't exist before that terrifying night of August 17th, 1959, when the earth moved. A visitors center has been established where you can get all the facts and figures.
That evening we returned to Parade Rest for a western cookout in the hills overlooking Lake Hebgen. This time our transportation up hill was surrey with dancing red fringe, pulled by two sleek, black horses. Adam was again present at the cookout, but no sign of Brooklyn. No doubt the aroma of sizzling steak and chicken on the grill can cause a pooch to get over-excited.
Our final day was saved for the park. The wake up call came early, but I wasn't complaining. We were heading into the park before sunrise to listen for the bugling sounds of the bull elk, protecting his territory. Our luck held and we spotted a male and several females with young, crossing a shallow river. They moved cautiously through the water and didn't notice us or at least didn't care. Soon we heard the bugle sounds off in the distance. Behind the elk, the sky was just beginning the transition from darkness to light. No one in our van spoke, there was no need.
It was the start of a beautiful, September day in Yellowstone, with temperatures rising to an agreeable seventy degrees. The sun continued to smile on us as we made our way to the northern area around Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, where placid elk wander among the cars and tourists. I don't know what out-numbered what, gigantic camera lenses or elk.
Damage from the fires of 1988 was still visible throughout Yellowstone, but new growth proved Mother Nature can bounce back, regardless of how bad things appear.
We spotted elk and bison often and also saw two antelope, a fox and a coyote. The park is so vast, I had to remind myself we were still inside it, even after thirty minute drives. We saw waterfalls, enormous canyons and gently rolling plains, all-in-all a very changeable landscape. Gradually we turned south, finally ending our day at Old Faithful.
We missed an eruption at Old Faithful by just minutes, but I didn't mind since it allowed us time to tour the nearby lodges. In particular, I was eager to see the Old Faithful Inn, with it's 85-foot tall lobby. The wooden structure is amazing and a must-see. About seventy minutes later, the reliable geyser did it's thing, while hundreds of us watched. The park has many geysers, but none more famous.
Spring and Fall are excellent times for a honeymoon to Yellowstone, but summer is fine too. For more information on West Yellowstone as a gateway to the park, check out www.westyellowstonechamber.com.
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