After traveling through Oregon, I was seriously saddened to turn the Northeast corner of my journey. Homebound, is a bitter sweet thought. I was greatly anticipating the upcoming experience in Yellowstone National Park as my family was meeting me there for a few days. I’m so thankful to have a mother crazy enough to drag my younger brother, sister, cousin and his puppy across the country to see me; I’ve missed them like crazy! I arrived a long couple of hours before them and made a hot green tea on my camp stove while I waited to see the white Chevy truck pull into the campground.

We spent our first day at the lake that was glistening in the sun. I was hopeful that Brier might catch a Cutthroat Trout for us to take back and cook on the campfire, but instead we decided to check out the infamous geyser, Old Faithful and eat at the lodge. One reason that I really enjoyed exploring Yellowstone was its general accessibility. There are extreme boardwalk pathways built almost everywhere because of the volcano caused unpredictably of the ground’s surface. Yellowstone has a fascinating landscape filled with multitudes of mesmerizing thermal features including geysers, mud pots, paint pots, waterfalls and hot springs. Each of the openings into the Earth are so drastically different; some with travertine terraces, crystal clear or bright blue water, others like mud or viscous white like milk or some colored vibrantly orange or putrid green caused by highly acidic bacteria. These bacteria are called Thermophiles and are ancient and highly adapted bacteria that thrives only in extremely hot temperatures. Each one of these thermal spectacles was so unique and engaging. Here we had dinner at the Old Faithful Inn. The magnificent piece of classic American architecture, standing 5 floors high, was built in 1903. Its huge golden pine log structure was originally insulated with bison fur.

The next morning after waking at our campsite amidst the Lodgepole Pine and Spruce filled forest, my sister Johanna was startled by the unexpected visitor of an enormous bison bull wandering right through our campsite! Their presence in the park in general is just awesome to me.  I’m thankful that such a creature still lives relatively in the wild and wasn’t completely driven out of its natural habitat in America. As far as wildlife goes, we spotted tons of elk, fawns and some with massive racks, little critters like pikas and squirrels and a Grizzly from a far. One must always be “bear aware”, I wondered if there were any close by as I stared into the crackling campfire and heard thunder rolling in.

We had an unexpected dilemma with my cousin Breyden’s little pup, Mud. Somewhere on the adventure across the country he picked up Kennel Cough and in just a couple days, health wise, spiraled downward. The joy of having him along with us soon became heart wrenching; it was imperative that we got him to a vet, the poor little guy. I might advise not to bring a dog on an extended stay to Yellowstone, especially this time of year as cars are hot and dogs aren’t permitted on nearly any trails. We figured it out though, stayed in a cabin on this night and the resilient little guy was his wild little self again by the next day.

Our last day there, we explored some waterfalls and wound up at Roosevelt Lodge, another charming and historic place in the park. I gazed out at the cool blue mountainous night through the old glass windows of the lodge. My mother and I enjoyed conversation on the porch lined with rustic rocking chairs and moths flying about the lanterns.

I treasured what I thought was the last of my family’s company at the lodge for lunch the next day before we said our sweet goodbyes. Driving out of the park, the meadows beside the mountains on either side of the road were filled with a herd of over 200 bison. Tails were swishing and some had little birds perched on their backs. Two young bison kicked up dust as they played and butted heads. I stopped my car in between two enormous bulls and was astonished at the sounds of their loud breath, grunts, groans and guttural bellows. Surrounded by bison and with the grasses blowing in the gentle breeze, I embraced this last Yellowstone experience. I thankfully opted to take the insanely beautiful route of the Beartooth Scenic Byway {212} northeast into Montana. Unaware, I was so stoked to find this daring drive; surprised at the severe switchbacks, amazing mountain views still with pockets of snow and tiny small purple and gold wildflowers along the highway. Just as I was wishing that my family was here for this, I spotted them at an overlook! Turns out that Rock Creek Vista Point at 9, 190 ft. elevation has tons of very friendly chipmunks. It made me so glad to see the smiles these little critters put on my brother and sister’s faces and to see all of my family one last time before I returned home. : )