Road Trip – Yellowstone

Rick took our eldest son to Spring Training in Phoenix, and our younger son on a road trip to the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion.  So, I asked our daughter where she would like to go and her quick answer was “Yellowstone!”  My quick response was “All right!” 

We met in Las Vegas, overnighted, then flew to Denver and on to Jackson Hole where we picked up our rental car. Our first two nights were spent in a resort right next to the steepest ski run in the country.  No snow, but (oh no!) promise of rain.  We picked up information at the Jackson Hole visitors center, paused to enjoy the viewing station overlooking the marshland and headed for the National Museum of Wildlife Art housed in a stone building built to look like the ruins of a Scottish castle. The standout memory I had from a previous visit was a Robert Bateman painting of an elephant.  That magnificent painting was no longer on display, but another Bateman masterpiece (a bison) dominated a wall.  Carl Rungius wildlife art filled a room.  New artists were on display, docents meandering among guests, offering slips of paper to vote for our favorite.  

On to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone!   

The nice thing about women traveling together is the pace.  We arose without an alarm, took our time doing our devotions, had a leisurely breakfast in a restaurant and headed out for our adventure.  No schedule of getting from point A to B in record time.  We had our hotel reservation in Canyon Village. So, no worries about “no vacancy” and sleeping in the wild with bears trying to fatten up for winter hibernation.  They are omnivores, after all.  We stopped frequently. She took hundreds of pictures. (I bought postcards.) We paused at the nicer rest stops and just flat-out enjoyed the scenery – which is spectacular.  The Grand Tetons were crowned with mist.  Lakes shimmered blue steel and reflected clouds.  

Yellowstone is a land of white mammoth tiered springs, geysers, boiling mud pits, caves that rumble like a dragon, and steaming ponds of glorious color.  Sulphur fills the air.  Think of Frodo and Samwise Gamgee crossing the Dead Marshes and traveling the Mountains of Mordor.  Signs warn visitors to stay on the boardwalks.  Think of walking on the crust of a live volcanic plain. The bison know where they can stand safely and keep warm during the cold nights of early fall – and later, the frigid days of winter.  People don’t.  We stuck to the paths laid out by those who had traveled before. 

The northern circle is a steep, winding road with sheer drops into valleys below.  We ended up behind a driver who kept slowing down, until he was twenty plus miles an hour.  Think 10 mph.   Cars lined up behind him like a train.  Some honked.  He finally pulled into one of the many turn outs.  We speculated that he might be from the Midwest and had never driven this kind of terrain.  The poor man may still be there, parked in that space, hugging the steering wheel. 

We saw bison!  One or two here and there, and then herds near the Yellowstone River.  We saw elk!  The male with his impressive rack of antlers guarding his harem.  An Osprey!  Hawks!

We saved the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the falls for the last day and took the circular one-way drive along the rim.  Chipmunks!  A pica!  Ravens marching around in their shiny black suits.

The sun came out when we headed for the Sylvan Pass and Cody on the other side.  I wanted her to see the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a Smithsonian affiliate.  We wandered, left, ate lunch and came back to wander some more.  Before heading for the hotel, we went through every building at the Old Trail Town of 27 buildings including Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Cabin, homesteader cabins, wagon barn, and a small cemetery.  Jeremiah Johnson is buried there.  (Robert Redford portrayed him in the movie.)

My daughter has a unique sense of humor that had me laughing often during our week together.  (There were a few times when other sightseers overheard a comment and laughed with me.) I was going to write down all her quips and observations, but by the time we got back to our room, I’d forgotten what we were laughing about, and she wasn’t helpful with reminders.  She did teach me a song called “Tom the Toad” * she learned on a youth group outing. To the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree”:

            Oh, Tom the toad

            Oh, Tom the toad

            Why did you hop up on the road?

            You were my friend

            And now you’re dead

            You bear the marks of tire tread.


            You did not see yon passing car        

            And now you’re stretched out on the tar

            Oh, Tom the toad.

            Oh, Tom the toad.

            Why did you hop up on the road?

She taught me another – “Roadkill Stew” * to the tune of “Three Blind Mice” – but I will spare you that one.  (It’s more suitable for Alaska where locals sign up for moose killed on the road.  One moose provides enough meat to last a family an entire year.)

Thankfully, we didn’t run into a moose, and all the Tom Toads were nestled happily in their hidey holes. Only bison appeared beside the road. We all waited in silent, gaping respect, breath held, as they strolled along wherever they wanted – as we quietly, very carefully, eased on by. 

*from “Gross Songs.” Copyright Twin Sisters IP, LLC.