Posted August 3, 2017
It’s a trip of a lifetime – Yellowstone. It certainly was for our family years ago, when the kids were still kids. Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, buffalo roaming. We didn’t see any bears, but the elk walked around our cabin cluster like they owned the place (which, in a way, they do).
With about 96 percent of Yellowstone National Park located in Wyoming (Montana and Idaho have slivers of it), the nation’s first national park and the state share an identity. Yellowstone is home for bison and a number of other animals; the Wyoming state flag has a great big bison on it. The park, the West, the Rockies, open spaces – all beckon Americans from every corner of the country. Energy takes them there and helps create memories that last forever.
From the time the park was created in 1872 until the early 1900s when paved roads started being built, most visitors took a train to gateway communities such as Livingston, Mont., or Gardiner, Mont. Then, a stagecoach to Yellowstone.
Today, some 4 million visit Yellowstone a year – with another 3 million visiting Grand Teton National Park to the south. More than 75 percent of those visitors come between the months of June and August. And it takes energy for these millions to escape the daily grind and enjoy Wyoming’s dramatic landscapes. Hundreds of thousands arrive from around the world at local airports, while millions more motor in by car and bus.
Hitting the Sites with Energy
Some hardcore adventurers hike around Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres, or Grand Teton’s 310,000 acres. But the majority of visitors drive from one breathtaking site to the next. And for those looking to put the driver’s wheel in someone else’s hands, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Yellowstone’s concessionaire, offers diesel and gasoline-powered bus shuttles and boat cruises. This allows park goers to focus on the Wyoming scenery and wildlife instead of the road. The Grand Teton Lodge Company likewise offers bus tours, again possible because of petroleum products like gasoline and diesel.
Making the parks accessible are some 310 paved miles of road leading the way to the famous sites in Yellowstone, from the Old Faithful geyser to the Boiling River, and another 152 miles of paved road providing access to the breathtaking vistas of Grand Teton. This more than 460 miles of road is paved with asphalt, which is made with asphalt cement, a petroleum product.
Whether lining up the kids in front of Old Faithful for a once-in-a-lifetime photo-op, or using a zoom lens to get a close-up of a grazing bison, energy also is a key component for recording the moments a trip to these parks provides. From digital cameras and camcorders to do-it-all smart phones, components made from petroleum are there to make them work.
Smartphones are now standard equipment for any park adventure and come loaded with feature-rich cameras. These cameras allow for nearly instant photo sharing, such as putting that shot of the kids lined up at Old Faithful on Facebook or Instagram. And to make them light and durable, they use energy, like petroleum-based plastics for their cases and natural gas-produced aluminum for batteries and other internal components.
For seasoned photographers, who are a bit more serious about their picture-perfect moments in the parks, more traditional style cameras, both the digital and film variety, are also made of energy. Petroleum-based plastic is often used in the bodies, while camera lens can either be plastic, again made with petroleum, or glass, which often uses natural gas to heat the glass to shape and purify it for clarity.
So, as millions of visitors make the trek to these iconic Wyoming parks this summer, taking in incredible natural sites and the stunning diversity of the wildlife, energy will be their partner – getting them there and playing a role as they experience the wonders and then bring them home.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.