When I think of the west, I think of wide-open spaces, big mountains, and the peaceful winding rivers that connect us all. One particular area of the west that embodies this all is Yellowstone National Park. This geographic marvel is full of geologic wonders, big mountains, vast valleys that seem to go on forever. Home to roaming buffalo, massive herds of elk and deer, the infamous wolf, and my favorite Yellowstone’s native cutthroat.
Getting out there
I traveled to Yellowstone in August with my family and my wife’s extended family. At first, because of this COVID scare, I was hesitant to even go. Mainly because of it being the most visited national park in our country. Needless to say, we needed to get out, so we packed up the truck, put the baby in her car seat, and headed north from Evergreen Colorado to the great Yellowstone National Park. A twelve-hour drive taking the scenic route highway 40 over Berthoud Pass, through Granby and on to the canyon headed towards Walden Colorado. Stopping every once in a while to wet the line for a little peace of mind and the potential of making a fish rise.
Along the way, there is a small town in southern Wyoming called Saratoga, where the majestic North Platte river runs through. The river can be your guide for a while, watching it meander in and out of sight while driving. I love looking for fishing spots and imagining what lurks beneath. It is an easy beautiful drive through Wyoming making our way through Lander home of my favorite outdoor leadership school NOLS. On to Dubois where we found a great camping site right on the river to spend the night. Getting away from the city lights and the hustle and bustle of Colorado is what a trip like this is all about. Just laying out taking in the beauty of the night sky noticing how bright stars can be, rejuvenates the soul. After a little soul searching and a little food we crawl into the tent, snuggle into our sleeping bags, and drift off to sleep dreaming about the next days to come.
Teton & Yellowstone National Park
We entered Teton National Park early the following morning just about sunrise. What a sight to see. The rising sun on the Teton peaks are images that no picture will ever give justice, absolutely stunning. The roads are long and windy it's hard not to veer off the road because of the amazing views you have along the way, but before we knew it we were at the gate of the place we came to see, Yellowstone National Park. Butterflies in my stomach, just so excited. Teton National Park borders the southern entrance to Yellowstone, going from one amazing place to another instantly. Tall lodgepole pine border the road as you enter into the park streaks of sunlight beaming through the forest. It's incredibly picturesque.
It was my wife’s first time back to the park since she was a child. Being that I have been through the park a few times before I was so excited for her and our little two years old Lilah. One of the best parts about the park is no doubt the abundant, magnificent wildlife, that at times, are no more than an arms-length away. Driving through beautiful pastures full of herds of elk completely unconcerned and undeterred by our presence. Within minutes of entering the park just sets the mood for what the rest of the park has to offer.
A few tips
Along the road, you will see countless other features like geothermal pools, boiling mud, massive waterfalls, gorgeous lakes, and incredible geological formations. These are sights that are directly off the road, although amazing to see, can be cause for traffic issues. If going just to see the main sights, one can get stuck sitting in traffic for hours, just to move 10 miles.
Knowing that an issue with Yellowstone is the number of people it is important to go there with a plan in mind. Do your research beforehand, pick the destinations you want to see the most, and know that a two-day trip is not nearly long enough. The sights are cool and great for families but the real magic is getting off the beaten path. Strap that bear spray on your belt, pack a backpack, and head out to the unknown.
When I think about the west I think of solitude and vast open spaces. This is where Yellowstone truly shines. Countless day hikes some easy, some hard, but in the end, you will know why making that decision was the right one. The heat of the day is when the crowds are around so wake up early and arrive home late. At least that is my motto for enjoying this magnificent place.
When traveling through some of Yellowstone’s valleys you get the concept of why it is coined "big country." You can see for miles. My favorite valley and one that I was so excited to revisit and show my family is the Lamar Valley. This is the place where you might be able to spot the wolves, bears, and of course the buffalo. It is also home to the Lamar River, a tributary to the great Yellowstone.
You may not have known that Yellowstone has its own native fish species called Cutthroat. These fish are the icing on the cake for me. On this trip, I had a partner in crime, my brother in law who loves to fish as much as I do. Fishing and the great outdoors is what feeds my soul and sharing this with my loved ones is what I live for. What I love about fishing is where it can take you. We had four kids and four adults in our group ages from 2-15 all eager for adventure. So I took them to a place that is dear to my heart. It's a couple of mile hike in but pretty much straight up. Then it opens up to this incredible mountain valley with a beautiful river that runs through it. Home to the fish I love so much. The team was doing great till just after the crux of the hike.
Then we hear BEAR SPRAY!
I look behind me and see my brother in law covered in a red substance. We rushed back to see if he was ok. His daughter was tired from the hike and climbed up to him for a little break, at the same time using the bear spray as a foothold she kicked the safety clip off and released the burning pepper spray all over them. I immediately took out my first aid kit to see if there was anything I could use to help ease the burn, to no avail. So we used water and a damp shirt to help with the pain and that seemed to help a little. Being closer to the river valley than back to the car we decided to get to water first. We made it to the valley and both immediately barrel into the water. It was the right decision considering the options. They were both absolute champions, took a hard situation, and persevered. Sometimes you don’t know what is going to happen in the backcountry it is important to be prepared and ready to make the hard decisions.
We were not able to fish that day but the way I look at it those situations are what make adventures, adventures. Not all trips are sunshine and rainbows. My icing on the cake this trip is a memory that I will look back on and smile. And a memory that I share with the most important people in my life.
Yellowstone can be filled with amazing memories so get out there and create your own adventure in the west.
Learn more about Yellowstone National Park