My parents and my brother Eric, and his wife and two young sons made the trip from San Francisco and meeting at Yellowstone was the basis for our entire trip. They had all flown to Salt Lake City and rented a van to make the 7 hour drive north to Yellowstone. The “van” turned into a bit of great luck when the rental company couldn’t provide them with a normal sized minivan and instead gave them a Ford transit van that sat 13. That meant instead of us driving around the park in two vans, we could all ride together with Uncle Eric. It also meant I could take a break from driving.
Now we all grabbed a quick breakfast at the Canyon Lodge Deli as well as sandwiches for a picnic lunch later in the day. We set out north on the Grand Loop Road to the Lamar Valley along the North Entrance Road.
We had one of the great experiences of our lives on the Specimen Ridge Trail in Lamar. We had walked about a mile up the trail and were close to turning around when cousin Vincent first noticed Bison ahead. We pressed on and came across a herd travelling across the valley. A herd of hundreds of them, young and old, all running north, eventually to cross the roadway and cause another Bison Jam. We came within 25 yards of the passing herd, but never felt threatened by them. Only a few of them ever slowed to take a look at us.
We moved on from there and headed a little further east to picnic along the Soda Butte Creek. My only complaint about Yellowstone Park was the inefficient signage for trailheads, bathrooms and turnouts. We wound up buying a extra trail book later this day after several misguided stops. After lunch we attempted another trail but inadvertently took a stock trailhead, which did not provide a bridge over the Soda Butte Creek. So we didn’t get far. When you have a group of 11 including little kids, it’s easy to cruise on by the signage for “Stock Trailhead” and not realize that really means “Horse Trailhead.”
Our next stop was Roosevelt Lodge at Tower Junction, where we had reservations for an organized two-hour trail ride to an Old West Cookout. This was obviously not cheap, but something our girls were really looking forward to. The boys, including David, were too young to ride, so my parents arranged to take them on a covered wagon ride to dinner.
I wish the trail ride had been a total success but it was not. The rules: you cannot carry anything with you, including camera, phones and jackets. I opted to leave my coat behind, only to have a cold rain start 15 minutes into the ride. Somehow we didn’t get completely soaked before it blew over, but we were freezing the rest of the ride. More frustrating was not being able to take photographs, and even worse, our group of 6 was split up amongst the group of about 20 riders, so we couldn’t chat with our daughters as we rode. I could have lived with the no camera rule if they had made some provision to allow us to get a group photo somewhere along the ride but they did not. When we asked about this later, we were told the camera’s are just too dangerous. Ok, but two years earlier, we did a similar ride on the steep trails of Bryce Canyon NP and was allowed to bring my own camera, AND the wrangler arranged a nice shot of my daughters and I proudly up on our horses (ok – mine was a mule) that he took himself. Lastly, for middle aged city folk, a two-hour ride is about 1 hour too long. We were very sore by the end.
We all agreed, the cookout was delicious and a lot of fun. We just felt for what we paid for the riding experience, it could have been a little better.
On the ride back to Canyon Lodge, we saw this unfortunate RV off the side of the roadway. I believe it was a rental.
Full photo tour available at : https://pmusser.smugmug.com/American-Road-Trip/