Long before Ken Burns produced his TV series on our national parks, my sister Kay and I discovered their beauty and magic. We drove our 80-year-old mother across Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, camped in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, explored cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, drove Cadillac Mountain in Acadia and wept at the glory of the Grand Canyon. But of all the places we have traveled, Yellowstone National Park keeps calling us back.
My first trip to Yellowstone was in 1965, driving there with my parents and sister Paula in Dad’s new burgundy Ford Galaxie. Artist Point, the Fountain Paint Pot and Old Faithful whizzed by as Dad kept driving westward. Yellowstone was not his ultimate destination. But that short visit stayed with me.
I have been back four times since then: Once with my husband to celebrate our 40th anniversary, once with our two sons as part of a Minnesota-to-California road trip and two times with sister Kay. There is something about that place: Maybe it’s the water/mountain/blue sky combination, or the good chance of seeing bears, buffalo and mountain goats. Driving through the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone’s north entrance makes me so appreciate the foresight those early dreamers had.
We are not backcountry hikers. We are not overly adventurous. But this park, like all the others we have seen, is a place to connect with fellow travelers and abide in glorious nature.
If you have never been to Yellowstone, here are my 10 best suggestions:
• Drive Lamar Valley at dusk.
• Sit on boardwalk benches and wait for Old Faithful.
• Have an ice cream in Old Faithful Lodge,then look up and admire the architecture.
• Every time traffic is stopped, grab the binoculars and figure out what everyone is looking at.
• Stay at Chico Hot Springs Resort and rent a rustic cabin. Then pour a glass of wine and watch the sun set over Paradise Valley.
• Stop at the first pullout after the south entrance; let your children get their fill of rock cliffs perfect for jumping into the river.
• Have breakfast at Lake Yellowstone Hotel; the trout and eggs are a favorite.
• Have cocktails at Lake Yellowstone Hotel; look out over the lake and enjoy the baby grand piano playing in the lobby.
• Take your picture under the Roosevelt Arch.
• Travel with someone you love. Share the adventure.
Chris Paulson lives in Columbia Heights. She plans to return to Yellowstone with her sister Kay in September.