When you do a coin toss to decide on a stay-cation or a road trip to Yellowstone, it's not hard to be excited to end up with heads (road-trip). That's how it started out a few weeks ago, with a few days to prepare we were off on our way from Los Angeles to Montana and the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
The drive was just over 1,100 miles but it was spectacular. We stopped to see family for the first night in Utah and then headed off the second day to go through the South Entrance through Jackson Hole. Gadgets like a suction cup designed for cameras and a pocket HD video camera made capturing video footage, hands free on the road.
We do a lot of traveling and until recently, it was mostly by air, and however, growing up traveling North America in our converted VW bus for weeks on end, you learn a few things about being prepared; from having a good water supply to having plenty of dog treats. Yes, we did, we brought our two-year-old golden retriever, Windy.
Coming up the Snake River through Wyoming was amazing; it did sprinkle a little reminding us that we would be seeing more rain as we traveled through the mountains. Although we were envious at times of the motorcyclists driving with the freedom of no helmets, we were sympathetic when a fast moving storm rolled through and began pelting everyone and everything with hailstones.
We entered the South Entrance of Yellowstone and went West on the Grand Loop Road on our way to exit through the West Entrance and make our way to our motel. When you have the goal of seeing as many points of interest as possible in the Park and capturing video and photos you need tools. For us, we had a new iPad from Apple with Wi-Fi capability. We used the Google Map to help us navigate up to the Park and our GPS in our vehicle to find places to eat on the road. However, once we were in Yellowstone, we pulled out the big guns, the iPhone/iPad app, GeoRoamer for Yellowstone. We used the "Follow Me" function, which auto-magically located our position with GPS as we drove through the Park. Best part, we didn't miss the interesting factoids from geologic to historic (especially the ones that were not marked) because there are about 150 key points on the tour around the park that are tied to GPS waypoints with audio and text file descriptions.
Day two in the park we drove from the West Entrance up to the North Entrance and over to the North East Entrance and then back. We captured some amazing images as we drove around from scenic to wildlife to extreme weather. We did experience delays due to construction in the Park, that's to be expected but it did take about 1.5 hours out of our time on the road. Our golden retriever, Windy, spent as much time with her head out the back passenger window as weather permitted. When we slowed down for photo ops with buffalo on the side of the road, she just watched, never barked once. Git along little doggie!
Day three in the park we drove up from the West Entrance to the East Entrance and over to Cody around Yellowstone Lake and through some incredible lush valleys. As many of our memories are based from visiting Yellowstone over the years, I can tell you, nothing can compare to when you are there experiencing it, breathing the fresh air and taking time to see nature's wonderland.
Which brings me to the conclusion of this post, and some things to think about when visiting Yellowstone and the surrounding towns, merchants and people who live there year-round.
- Wildlife does cross the road and traffic stops, sometimes for what seems like an eternity, so just breathe. Oh and if you see traffic, that is an indicator that there is wildlife close so keep your eyes peeled.
- Don't speed, the Park Rangers will pull you over and ticket you, and it's not worth going fast because of what you'll miss and what you might hit.
- Stop early and often and take photos at least and lend your hand to those who are taking photos too, by getting the whole group in the shot, you'll feel good. You can use a digital camera and take hundreds of photos that you can sift through later.
- Get on Twitter, Facebook, and friend the local merchants. We were tweeting and meeting people in West Yellowstone and found an awesome coffee shop off the main drag.
- Finally, if you only have time to drive the park, look for technology to help you. Our time was enriched in the park using the iPad app, GeoRoamer, because we could watch what was going on outside and listen to what we were seeing without cell service or Wi-Fi.
When you get back to reality, don't forget to share your experience like we have here, on Facebook or other places so you friends and family can enjoy the photos you have taken, for us, we have just about 500 photos that we uploaded to our Flickr account for sharing, some may seem mundane, like the weather photo with the story but it changes the experience from point to point and you never know, someone could relive a memory when they see that spot that you captured and shared. Or better yet, they could dream about a time when they will be traveling to Yellowstone.