We had been dreaming about Yellowstone for years. Seriously, years!! Over the course of the last year, Justin had read a book called, Death at Yellowstone, and we enjoyed hearing the sometimes scary, often funny and very Darwinian way in which some people had perished in the great wilderness of Yellowstone over the course of the last hundred and fifty years. Nothing gets you more excited about a camping trip than learning morose facts about death to frighten your children.
No trip to Yellowstone is complete without the obligatory viewing of Old Faithful, and we were able to watch the great geyser explode not once but twice during our week long stay at the park. The videos you see on TV really don’t do it justice and it’s something we recommend seeing at least once in a lifetime. We were at Yellowstone in the first week after Labor Day, and the crowds around Old Faithful weren’t as bad as expected. We could sit on a bench and really take in the magnificent beauty of mother earth blowing her load. We feel the best view is to grab a seat in the outdoor second floor balcony of the Old Faithful Lodge. It’s even more spectacular to watch the “explosion” when you can see it from above with a glass of champagne or bourbon in hand. As we took in the spectacle from the terrace, a light, sunny rain began to fall and seats began to open up (ah, old people!) making it the perfect way to end a day full of beautiful hiking. Dinner at Old Faithful Lodge is nice as well, considering you’re eating in a rustic dining hall over a hundred years old. Almost makes you feel as if Teddy Roosevelt himself would pull up a chair and join you.
There were so many great memories we made during our stay at Yellowstone: evening campfires with my brother (who Micah nicknamed Master Wu for the duration of the week), a family of large elk walking through the campground, hiking on the boardwalk in the Geyser Basin among the tempered pools and hot springs, hiking at Mammoth Springs where we encountered only two other people during our five mile hike, and viewing the bison and deer roaming in the Lamar Valley. As great as those memories are, the two best experiences we had at Yellowstone were riding our bikes among a herd of bison and hiking within the Yellowstone Canyon.
Since Micah had been riding his bike for a total of a week’s time, we thought it would be a great idea to take a short family bike ride. What we thought was a flat, short bike trail turned out to be an eight mile ride through a large bison herd, huge overflowing mud ponds and a picturesque lake. The kids handled the challenge very well, but it is very daunting riding through a fifteen large bison herd, each animal weighing a ton or more. We had learned a few days before that bison will flick their tails when agitated and ready to charge, so we kept a slow pace on the trail and kept watching for any sudden tail movements. When a bison is ten feet from your child, who is new to this whole bike riding thing, it can be stressful, but memorable. These wild animals are majestic and to watch them roaming on an open plain with a beautiful mountainside behind them, is humbling. Even though the kids were a bit scared as they road past, it is a memory they still bring up often and we were proud of how well they handled themselves.
Yellowstone Canyon is a duality of beauty…..an enormous amount of water charging through solid rock and yet a feeling of peaceful serenity. When you stare at the water, which Justin did for nearly an hour, you feel almost euphoric. You can truly experience the power of water….. hypnotic, fierce, dangerous, and yet somehow calming and peaceful. We spent an entire day enjoying the canyon from all angles and took four hikes in total. The first was to see the giant waterfall up close, where the Yellowstone River charges over the cliff edge creating a spectacular waterfall. You watch the force of the water, which cut through the canyon creating large rock cliffs over the course of millions of years. Our three other hikes took us on a 180 degree view of the falls from afar. The last hike of the day, to Artists Point, had the best view of Yellowstone Falls. The crowds are large, but you can still find a quiet moment to take it all in. If you have just one day at Yellowstone, which would be extremely sad, spend your time exploring the amazing national wonder of Yellowstone Canyon. It will do far more for your body and soul than watching an exploding geyser, even with a cocktail in hand.
It was hard to say goodbye to Yellowstone after having dreamed of it for so long. And it was hard to say goodbye to my brother as well, who had spent ten days exploring with us. But the memories we made together, the things we saw and did, will bring us joy for decades to come. Yellowstone just has that thing about it that brings peace to one’s soul.