The Native Americans called it “Burning Mountains.”

They thought an evil spirit lived among the meadows, rivers, forests, and towering mountains. If you witnessed the geysers or stepped into one of the scalding pools – you might think so too.

But good spirits live here. Animal spirits. Nature spirits.

I have just returned from my first (long overdue) trip to Yellowstone National Park. It is magnificent.

I traveled with my friend and fellow gardener, Maria, and her son. There were bets against our compatibility as journeying companions as we fuss and bother like two sisters when we are in the garden. But when it comes to travel, we are surprisingly compatible. Up at dawn to catch the sunrise and the wolves.

Chasing all day after animal sightings, we put 800 miles on the car – mostly in the park.

Fourteen-hour days flew by soaking up the park’s beauty –

From its barren, fossilized landscapes,

To its turquoise pools,

Snow-covered mountains,

Meandering rivers,

And expansive valleys filled with roaming bison, long-horn sheep, pronghorn, elk, coyotes, bears – and if you are very lucky, wolves.

Yellowstone is home to 67 different mammal species –

and a few birds as well.

As a photographer – I am deeply humbled. I lack the equipment or the instincts of my traveling companions for spotting and anticipating the animals’ moves.

But you don’t need to see the whites of their eyes to appreciate their place in the landscape.

Or the poetry of tenderness in such a rugged and wild place.

They loom so large in front of us –

but we are all just specks in nature’s place.

You can understand how people who live in this wide-open country have little understanding or appreciation for “city folk.” It is a harsh, unforgiving existence – but filled with an indescribable and addictive beauty.

It is hard to leave.

And I will return.

“Take nothing but pictures.
Leave nothing but footprints.
Kill nothing but time.”