Over Labor Day weekend, I was lucky enough to take a road trip to Yellowstone National Park with my wife and friends from Seattle.
It was the fun, loosely-planned type of trip that’s much easier to make now than it will be in a few more years. For our friends from Washington, it’s only a matter of months before those plans require planning around the schedule, needs and limitations of their first child.
None of us had been to Yellowstone before, so we intended to hit all of the main attractions in the park, including Old Faithful and Yellowstone Canyon. Despite some less than stellar weather and different cabin amenities than were promised, it was a spectacular trip to the world’s oldest national park.
While visiting the Fountain Paint Pots trail, I eavesdropped on a park ranger leading a group along the boardwalk through the steaming geyser pools and belching mud pits. He was talking about the fact that the unique features at Yellowstone led it to be the stand-in for the planet Vulcan during the filming of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”
The ranger concluded the story with the gaffe in the credits of the movie, which listed Yosemite National Park as the filming location. In addition to being timeless, the story managed to be especially topical, with the National Park Service celebrating its 100th year and today being the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek television series.
If you stumble into the Transcript Bulletin’s newsroom at a random point in the day, it’s possible that some science fiction or fantasy story could be the topic of debate. A recent spat saw Tooele County reporter Tim Gillie defending Capt. James T. Kirk from the next generation of reporters backing Capt. Jean-Luc Picard.
That’s nothing compared to the frequent Star Wars conversations that spark up between Tooele City reporter Jessica Henrie, sports editor Tavin Stucki and myself, especially in the lead-up and immediate aftermath of the release of “The Force Awakens.”
Even as I write this, I’m listening to the soundtrack from the Mass Effect video game series, which I’m replaying and my wife is experiencing for the first time. The space opera is a game with a surprising emotional punch among the exotic locales and fascinating aliens.
The fun of science fiction is that it’s escapism and allows the person watching or reading to see wild frontiers that live only in our imaginations. Star Wars, Star Trek and Mass Effect are just three of the more popular ways that Earth-bound humans can reach out and touch the stars.
The trip this past weekend, however, was a nice reminder that some of the most fascinating things you could imagine are found right here on earth. Walking among the aquamarine geyser pools, the wild cousin of the domesticated hot tub, and watching the 80-foot tall plume on Old Faithful provided sights I’d never seen or experienced in real life.
While we were only there for the weekend, I could tell that Yellowstone National Park was a special place. In addition to the otherworldly volcanic elements at the park, the deep canyon and towering falls provided a more familiar but impressive spectacle.
Even the wildlife at the park aimed to impress. We were able to witness sights like a bison rolling on top of a geyser as an impromptu steam bath for its undercarriage.
We saw a lone coyote stalk, catch and eat a small mammal in one of the expansive fields that line the roads in Yellowstone, amongst the tightly packed forests.
The trip even included a chance to spot two wolves along the Gibbon River, a pure white wolf that came to the water to drink before disappearing and a large gray wolf that patrolled the embankment.
In an age where the wonders of the internet, CGI creations at the movies and our unbridled imaginations can divorce us from reality, it’s nice to get back to nature. Especially when that return reminds you of how fascinating the world we live on really is.