Greetings From: Yellowstone National Park

The bubbling thermal pools at Yellowstone National Park are colorful but dangerous. Tourists who fall into them are quickly dissolved by the acidic water.

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

We didn’t see Yellowstone.

Not really.

Oh, we visited. We spent the better part of two days in the park. We waited for Old Faithful. We braked for buffalo. We walked through sulphur-smelling steam coming from colorful cauldrons bubbling with caustic water. We joined roadside crowds to watch elk in the distance. I filled up a memory card taking photos and video. We bought souvenirs and checked the park off our list.

The Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park.

All said and done, we had what was probably an average tourist’s Yellowstone experience.

Which means we barely saw anything.

Yellowstone is the second-largest national park in the lower 48 states (only Death Valley is bigger). There’s ~3500 square miles of it – more than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Yellowstone is three times larger than Yosemite National Park.

While living on the road full-time in an RV gave us great freedom, it also came with constraints.

We weren’t on a vacation – I needed internet service to keep our online businesses afloat. We had to be careful with our budget. To satisfy those two constraints we had to sleep one hour and two states away from the entrance to Yellowstone.  

Our dinner view – sunset over the Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri River.

We weren’t hardcore outdoors people. We had a saying; “Your tolerance for inconvenience defines the level of your adventure.” As a family we could tolerate living in an RV, but all four of us weren’t excited about long hikes, sleeping in tents, cooking over campfires, and worrying about bears.

Schedule was another constraint. In-park camping and backcountry hiking options in national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite are very popular. They need to be reserved months or a year in advance. We learned that reservations brought stress. Without having to be somewhere on a certain date and time, we could change plans and directions to suit the weather, availability of friends, or work opportunities.

It all sounds logical to explain. Yet, I can’t think about our time at Yellowstone without some angst over what we didn’t see. What wildlife did we miss out on? What photos of great mountain vistas could I have taken? Who might we have met out there in the backcountry?

MsBoyink cooks up a tailgate supper while traffic exiting Yellowstone National Park backs up.

Our time on the road was a huge blessing, an experience few families will have. I have to be thankful for whatever part of Yellowstone we got to see.

And who knows? There’s always the chance for another visit in the future. And maybe our constraints will be different then.

Yellowstone National Park is open year-round. Plan your visit to Yellowstone at nps.gov/yell/index.htm.