We traveled for a month accross the country seeing beautiful vistas and marvelous sights. But my favorite spot on our McGlew family camping trip was Yellowstone National Park. While playing in streams and looking at Bridal Veil Falls was fun, I was fascinated by the bubbling mud. The hot streams, geysers, mud pots and other geological wonders were amazing. My favorite was the colorful ones; ore-colored orange and deep steaming aqua blue. I wonder if that is why my sister Susanna became a geophysicist instead of an oceanographer? She is still working with geothermal energy today.
My first glimpse of Old Faithful was on that infamous cross country trip, a problematic idea (7 people cooped up in a camper for over a month) which I recall we actually truncated slightly because everyone just wanted to get home to a hot shower that did not involve wearing flip-flops or sudden bursts of cold water.
The timeless joy of Yellowstone National Park is worth seeing over and over. Undaunted by that childhood family trip, I took my own kids there and saw the wonders anew through their eyes. The park preservers are right: the wonders of the parks help us imagine. “They carry a glimpse of the past into the present,” says David Quammen in a National Geographic article The Power of the Parks. We get to see, and show our children. what the American landscape was like before highways and skyscrapers existed.
My latest trip was a foray into the park from West Yellowstone, Montana with my grown-up kids. While the moose evaded us, we saw bears and many other kinds of wildlife. The hiking was fun, the mud pots even more fun, and Old Faithful did not disappoint!
I loved the cabin we called home for 3 nights and I loved the town of West Yellowstone. Not only was it right near the park offering an easy, uncrowded way in, but it featured some fun “tchotch-ke” shopping and some great restaurants. It also had a rodeo, just on its outskirts. As my award winning bronco-riding brother-in-law advised, when I talked about the amateurishness of the show — all the great riders start somewhere. Braving the mosquitos that bit even though we all wore insect repellant, we enjoyed barrel racing, hog-tying, and of course bronco riding. The main feature of the show (well, at least it was the longest event) was watching one of the cowboys re-groom the dirt for the final event. He drove the rodeo equivalent of the Zamboni to the tune of “They Think My Tractor is Sexy”. It was a fun glimpse into another world.
My favorite place in town however, was Buckaroo Bill’s the restaurant where we got food to go. It actually was a sit down restaurant, and it broke my heart not to sit in the “covered wagon seating section”, but we had to make a choice between dining in style and attending the rodeo. Vacation is so difficult sometimes! I took a quick picture of the wonderful, creative way the ordinary booths in the back of the restaurant were transformed into covered wagons, the lighting dimmed and the ceiling painted with reflecting stars shining over the pen of stuffed buffalo to create the perfect Overland Trail atmosphere and went back to wait for our order. In spite of my love of all things prairie, the best part of the restaurant was how efficent the “help” was. The waitress was a 13-year-old girl who took our complicated order and got everything right. The cooks (her parents I assume) had our order ready in barely enough time for me to take one more look at the covered wagon seating. And the cashier was her 10-year-old brother, barely tall enough to see into the drawer of the register, cowboy hat slipping precariously with every move, “ringing us up” with no mistakes and counting back our change.
You would never see THAT in New York!
Next time I visit Yellowstone I am going back via the West Gate and dining in the covered wagon booths in West Yellowstone.
© Jane F. Collen June 21, 2016
IndexCardCure. stepping into nature to renew the creative spirit