If you like tourism like I do, then it is easy to appreciate what Yellowstone National Park means to Wyoming.
Some three million folks come to the world’s first national park each year. Almost a third of them are international tourists.
This reality came to me when a young Asian woman sat next to me recently on a flight from New Orleans to Denver.
It was hard for me to determine if she was American or one of those international tourists. It was also hard to figure out how old she was and what she was doing. She appeared to be traveling alone.
Then an older Asian woman came up the aisle and handed her a baggie full of chips, nuts and fruits. It was her mother.
I asked her if she was from New Orleans? “No, I am from Boston, “she replied, explaining that she was a graduate student at Tufts University. Surprisingly, I detected a slight southern drawl in her speech as she continued: “I grew up in Alabama. My undergraduate degree was from Auburn.”
“So why are you going to Denver?”
“My parents and I are going to Yellowstone National Park for the first time,” she explained. “We will be there a week.”
I couldn’t help myself with the next question. “Did you bring a jacket?”
She laughed and said, yes, she had been warned that the nights are cool.
I had my iPad in my lap so I showed her some wonderful photos taken in Yellowstone. She was impressed. She had heard of the park but the trip was her parents’ idea. They lived in New Orleans so they all decided to fly from there into Denver and then rent a car and head north for a week.
It was fun to give her some other ideas of where to go besides Yellowstone. She claimed to not have even heard of the Tetons. “You are in for a treat,” I said.
We also talked about the other gates to the park including passing through the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County and all the wonders of the east gates through the Park County entrances.
I continued showing her photos of Yellowstone and Wyoming. She was thoroughly impressed. She could not recall seeing much about the park before.
She was probably dizzy from all the information being showered on her in a short time but, no doubt, she was a smart gal and would now figure out a wonderful trip.
Wyoming tourism is so fortunate to have a lure like Yellowstone. Folks who come from all over to visit the great park usually come by car and that means driving through the rest of the state to get there.
For years, folks at the Wyoming Division of Travel and Tourism worked especially hard to steer Yellowstone visitors to drive the “long way” into the park by way of I-80, I-25 and I-90, thus traveling through a big part of Wyoming either going or coming or both.
Motels, restaurants, gas stations, gift shops and retailers have all benefitted from all the extra traffic they are getting because of Yellowstone.
I am partial, too, because Yellowstone is my all-time favorite place. We have been going there on a regular basis for 44 years. In the early years, we had an almost endless stream of out-of-state relatives visiting us with an eye on going to the park.
Because of my job requirements, I could usually only budget one day so we would get up at 4 a.m. and start the mighty trek. We would stop at Jackson Lake Lodge to view the Tetons and then head north. Next stop usually was Old Faithful and then the Norris Geyser Basin. Then the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and then end up grabbing a bite to eat at the Lake Hotel and taking in the vast Yellowstone Lake.
We would then head home, again stopping for a potty break in Dubois and walk back into our front door in Lander at 10 p.m. Whew!
Seems like we did that trip dozens of times.
So now, most of our relatives had already gotten that earlier rush-hour tour so future trips involved them spending a few days in the park to really get to know it up-close.
The park is almost always hospitable although snowstorms can hit in every month and in recent years, the traffic can be fierce, especially to us locals.
But Yellowstone always satisfies. It is the crown jewel of America.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com or fine bookstores.