Jan 23rd
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Home Adventure Travel Ideas Activities Parks & Nature Yellowstone National Park Adventure

Yellowstone National Park Adventure

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Yellowstone National Park
... a favorite family adventure

    Bless the folks with the foresight and perseverance to protect the land we know as Yellowstone National Park. It wasn't easy. In fact, it took photographs and paintings to convince Congress such a place even existed. Of course, that was in 1872. If a Western-style family vacation sounds appealing, why not combine it with a visit to one of our nation's most beloved parks?
    West Yellowstone, Montana, makes an ideal home base for exploring the nation’s oldest national park. Not only is the park close at hand, but also West Yellowstone has unique attractions related to the park.
    In size the town is small but accommodations of all types abound. Our family unpacked our bags at Hibernation Station, a group of rustic, but luxurious log cabins. If the kids have never stayed in a log cabin, this makes a good opportunity.
    We began our visit to West Yellow-stone with a trip to the IMAX Theatre, where the grandeur of the park spread before us on the gigantic screen. Next stop was the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, where we learned about the reintroduction of wolves into the area and the history of bears within the park. At the center we first encountered the numerous ravens seen throughout town. The bears were swatting at them like flies.
    Horseback riding was on the agenda the next morning at Parade Rest Ranch. Having not ridden a horse in many years, I, the mom was jittery. Our young wrangler, Adam, was patient and placed stair steps for me to climb atop my horse, Babe. The ranch offers corral rides for kids seven and under, while older kids can enjoy the trail rides with adults.
    Once underway, we enjoyed two hours of riding. Adam's dog Brooklyn, wearing a worn yellow bandana, led the five of us at a leisurely pace into the forested hills. Ever watchful, Brooklyn was on the lookout for stray critters that might cross our path. A dog's work is never done.
    That afternoon we stopped at the Museum of the Yellowstone, in West Yellowstone, to learn about the early tourism in the area. In those days trains brought wealthy visitors from the east to the region. It was fascinating to see the garments they thought appropriate for such rugged terrain, such as voluminous skirts, with fancy hats, for the ladies, and suits and ties for the gentlemen. They brought so much luggage, an additional building was needed to store it!
    That evening we returned to Parade Rest for a steak and chicken cookout in the hills overlooking Lake Hebgen. This time our transportation up hill was a surrey with dancing red fringe, pulled by two sleek, black horses. Adam, our wrangler friend was at the cookout, but we saw no sign of our canine friend, Brooklyn.
    On our final day we headed out before sunrise to explore the park and, especially, to listen for the early morning bugling sounds of the bull elk, protecting their territory. Our luck held and we spotted a male and several females with young, crossing a shallow river. They moved cautiously through the water and didn't seem to notice us. Soon we heard their bugle sounds off in the distance. Behind the elk, the sky was just beginning to show light on the horizon, an awesome sight.
    It was the start of a beautiful, September day in Yellowstone, with temperatures rising to an agreeable seventy degrees. In our van we made our way to the northern area around Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, where placid elk wander among the cars only out-numbered by tourists’ cameras clicking.
    Damage from the fires of 1988 is still visible throughout Yellowstone, but an abundance of new growth is proving that Mother Nature can bounce back.
    Driving along the narrow, paved park roads we spotted elk and bison often and also saw two antelope, a fox, and a coyote. We saw waterfalls, enormous canyons, and gently rolling plains, all landscapes in this vast national park. Gradually we turned south ending our day at Old Faithful Geyser and Old Faithful Inn.
    We missed the eruption at Old Faithful by just minutes. In particular, I was eager to see Old Faithful Inn, with its handsome lobby that opens to a height of 85 feet. The historic wooden structure is amazing and a must-see. Outside again, about seventy minutes later, Old Faithful Geyser bubbled and erupted right on time while hundreds of us watched. The park has many geysers, but none more famous than Old Faithful.
    Spring and fall are excellent times for a family visit to Yellowstone, but summer is fine too. For more information on West Yellowstone as a gateway to the park, click on www.westyellowstone chamber.com.

Trip Details:

Hibernation Station
Phone: (800) 580-3557

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
Phone: (800) 257-2570

Museum of the Yellowstone
Phone: (406) 646-1100

Parade Rest Ranch
Phone: (800) 753-5934

Yellowstone IMAX Theatre
Phone: (406) 646-4100

-- Kathryn Lemmon


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