our yellowstone summer vacation
“Do you remember all of this?” my husband asked, gesturing toward the famous geyser spewing skyward.
We were seated on a downed lodgepole pine tree, our backpacks at our feet. What seemed like thousands of tourists stood on the broad wooden deck around Old Faithful in front of us, standing four and five people deep, cameras and cell phones and video cameras raised high into the air to get a better shot. We were many yards back, at the grassy periphery of the Old Faithful viewing area, where it was less crowded, and also shaded by a grove of the tall pines. The dead, bleached-out pine tree made for a wonderful seat for our tired legs. The kids were off to our left, laughing and squealing over an inside joke.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “I remember different things.”
I was ten or eleven when my parents took my brother (who was six or so) and me to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone was just a small part of a 6-week road trip across the country, from Florida to California and back. And though I don’t remember the near-boiling waters of Old Faithful erupting out of the hot earth, I remember waiting for the geothermal show to happen. Mostly, I recall feeding the marmots with my brother, Clay. Those furry brown creatures would stand on their hind legs, like little tiny people, and take potato chips from our hands.
I don’t remember specifics of Mammoth Hot Springs or of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone or of Lamar Valley. But I remember a grinning Clay running into a grassy meadow filled with a herd of giant elk. Perhaps the elk were actually bison, but elk is in my memory. The elk scattered, galloping away, much to the disappointment – and fury – of the numerous tourists (and my parents) who had their Polaroids and film cameras aimed at the wildlife. It was pretty typical of something my brother would do.
I remember sundresses and sandals, giggles and laughter, sunlight and warmth. I remember standing on the banks of the Snake River and overhearing my father talk about wanting to fly fish in that river. I remember spending a night (or nights) in a two-story chain hotel in West Yellowstone, and I recall swimming in the chlorinated hotel pool at the end of a full day in the park.
Mostly, though, I remember being very, very happy.
My daughter is ten this summer, and my son is seven. We worried – or maybe it was just me who worried – that they might not appreciate our grand summer vacation to Jackson Hole, the Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. I was completely wrong, however. My children were the perfect age, just like my brother and I were back in the early 1980s. Our entire family loved this experience. It goes on record as my favorite summer vacation yet.
I want to share more of my vacation with you, but perhaps not all in this post, tonight. I’m considering sharing our itinerary with you, because I think it worked out so incredibly well. I think that maybe others of you, especially those of you who have children and are planning this type of vacation, might find it useful. Would this suit you? Or do you prefer to see just pictures? Pictures are good, of course, but even the photos I took don’t do the trip justice.
There will be no recipes; that I can guarantee you. We cooked not one single bit on this trip, and I have a total of three photos of food from the entire vacation. Meals were important (of course!), but not the priority. This vacation was not about food. It was about family and nature and love. It was about finding joy again.
I’ve found that there are no words big enough or powerful enough to describe how amazing this vacation was. “Our vacation was great,” is something I’ve said repeatedly. The phrase is completely accurate…and is also lame and misses the point entirely. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you it was just, well…it was perfect.