So far, Montana falls into first place for most beautiful states in the country.
We stayed in Gardiner, Montana, right on the river, about 1 mile from the entrance to Yellowstone National Park - the first national park - set aside by Congress in 1872 for protection. This arch stands at the north entrance.
Yellowstone has a pretty diverse landscape. It is one of the most unique places I've been, with forest edging right up to geothermal super-volcano activity. Geysers, hot springs, numerous lakes, rivers, waterfalls. It was a pretty incredible experience. We saw elk, moose, deer, bird, foreigners, etc.
We went creek-walking, and swimming a couple different times. The hot springs and geysers flow right into the rivers, making the temperature pretty lukewarm. We experienced warm spots and ice cold spots while we swam around, it was pretty neat.
Grand Prismatic Spring was definitely my favorite.
I have been buying books about death in the national parks, starting with one in Yosemite, that I had read about in the Missing 411 series by David Paulides. Then I found one at the Grand Canyon. However, the most interesting one so far has been Death in Yellowstone. People fall in hot springs by mistake, or they jump in to save their dogs, or they get attacked by bears. Also, their families usually end up suing the NPS because of these unfortunate accidents. However, the author of the book has an interesting point to make, and I tend to agree with him: we go to the national parks to experience the wild. I would be less inclined to go if there were wooden paths, guard rails, and huge warning signs everywhere. The rangers give you all the warnings on the way in - "Don't approach or feed the bears" "Don't approach the bison" "Don't get in the 150-200 degree hot springs, and don't walk around them, as the ground is weak and brittle"... etc.
However, many people have been injured or killed because they have no common sense, or they just don't heed the park warnings. There are stories of people putting their babies on the backs of bison and bears for better photos! One of those stories ended with the baby's head getting eaten. It never ceases to amaze me at how stupid people can be!
We are always safe. We carry bear spray when we hike, and we stay on the path. Life is great when you possess common sense and you prepare correctly for being in nature!