The darkness of newly fallen night greeted us as we entered Yellowstone National Park on Saturday, June 29th of 2019. It had been a long drive from Seattle, WA to West Yellowstone, MT and we’d only just entered the park around 10 PM. We’d traveled approximately 800 miles over twelve hours to arrive at the Roaring Mountain parking area before I attempted to join my passengers in slumber.
My 6’3″ height does not acclimate itself well to sleeping behind the wheel of a 2001 Chevy Impala, a fact I’d discovered during our previous trip to the Pacific Northwest when I attempted to sleep in the same position at a rest area just outside of Boise, ID in July of 2017. During the previous trip, the goal was to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument around sunrise, before completing the journey home to the Black Hills of South Dakota. This time, it was to visit Mammoth Hot Springs to witness the sunrise from that already magnificently beautiful location.
Needless to say, I did not sleep well…or long. I was on the road again at approximately 3:30 AM and we arrived at the lower terrace parking area around 4 AM.
We spent the next couple of hours there, and as the first faint hints of dawn emerged behind the mountains to the East, I knew my lack of sleep had been entirely worthwhile. The photos above should serve as testament to the sacrifice being justified.
Returning to the car, we continued through Yellowstone, driving into the Lamar Valley and then reversing course to travel South through the Hayden Valley region so as to exit Yellowstone via the East entrance, returning home via Cody, WY and Highway 14 through the Bighorn Mountains.
Along the way, there were bears. We tend to get lucky during our time in Yellowstone where wildlife is concerned. This trip was no exception. Walking the fine line between maintaining a safe distance and getting close enough for worthwhile shots of the beautiful creatures was as much a challenge for me as it ever is, but I’m not one of those people who can remain safely in my vehicle when taking small risks can produce better results. The photos below are the result of my lack of caution, so you can decide whether it was worthwhile or not.
Another seven and a half hours later, after driving the remaining 430 or so miles, we returned home shortly after 5 PM, after being away for 16 days.
We had intended to spend a few days in Yellowstone National Park followed by another few days in Glacier National Park during June of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic made that objective disappear. There will be no vacation for us this summer either, as I’ve changed jobs and, in the process, sacrificed the weeks of annual vacation time I’d earned with my tenure at the previous place of employment.