FABULOUS YELLOWSTONE PARK

Yellowsone park

Our Story

The summer when we were first married, my wife and I decided to take off in our brand new Mazda 323 and hit the open road to begin our life’s adventure together. We wanted to go to Yellowstone Park. We planned to drive from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Fargo, ND and then turn right. This turned out to be the “road trip” of a lifetime. Here’s how it all went down.

I was going to be the primary driver during this trip. We had scheduled a departure time of 2:00 AM. The idea was to drive from Winnipeg to Fargo which had been done many times before in the dark of night. Ideally, the sun would be rising as we drove out of Fargo and we stopped for breakfast. Here is where our careful planning paid dividends.

Mode of Transportation

Stowed in the back seat of our little hatchback Mazda was my mother’s green cooler. The cooler had been in the family for decades – the veteran of trips to Gimli, Neepawa, Killarney, Lockport and once, to far away Minot, ND. Packed inside her were pre-buttered bagels, Kraft Cheese, ice packs, a couple of plums and some grapes. A separate plastic bag held a sharp camping knife, camping cutlery sets, a cutting board and some napkins. Beside me, a hot thermos of coffee lay in the cupholder.

Pack the Car

Once we hit the Fargo City limits west on I-94, my co-pilot jumped over the front seats and back into the rear compartment where she skilfully prepared our first feast of the adventure. We came upon one of those well-placed REST AREAS where we pulled over and ate our breakfast while looking out over the vast prairie landscape that lay ahead.

Our objective, now that we were energized, was to drive for as long as humanly possible. We had a lot of mileage to cover on this trip so the more we could knock-off on this first day the better off we would be in the long run. Also, worthy of note, there isn’t a whole lot of excitement to be found on I-94. other than Fuel Stations, Washroom facilities, Convenience Stores and most of the time, all of these were in the same building!

The Journey

We continued our journey through the States of North Dakota and Montana where we found that I-94 had merged and become united with I-90 at Billings, MT. Now was our time to break south and journey down US 212 so we could find a campsite suitable to pitch our tent in Red Lodge, MT. Red Lodge is affectionately known as The Gateway to Yellowstone Park.

It was nearing 10 PM as we rolled into the campground. It took all we could muster to make camp and pitch a tent in the fading light. It was also a little cooler at night than we had expected. But hey, we were newlyweds. We managed to stay warm

Early to Rise

We set our alarms for 6 AM. We had a full day planned and we knew we had to negotiate the Beartooth Pass en route to the Northeast Park Entrance to Yellowstone Park. We did not know what the elements would hold for us up here in the Beartooth Mountains but one look up Highway 212 now in the fresh light of a new day, and we knew it was going to be magnificent. We had not fully noticed the evening before how the landscape had changed from flat prairie to rolling hills and now winding mountain roads.

White Out at 11,000 feet

One thing you learn the first time you white knuckle your way through a Mountain Pass is the higher you go, the more narrow the road becomes. Engineering at 11,000 feet above sea level is a bit more complicated than we tend to realize down at Prairie Level. There just isn’t enough mountain rock at the peak to blast out a four-lane divided highway. It’s 2 lanes – share the road – and don’t be in a hurray.

Still, as calm as one might be, nothing can quite prepare you and your little Mazda mini car, for a complete blizzard white-out in July on a 2 lane roadway with little wire flags marking the side of the road. The other side of the road marker is well, down and off the road. There are a few colourful words to describe the physical and emotional changes that happened to us that morning.

After seemingly hours of panicked driving, we finally rounded a curve in the road and truly one of the most spectacular scenes we have ever seen unfold before our wide eyes. The sparse mountain top of the blizzard conditions now gave rise to trees glistening with the fresh moisture of the fallen snow. The road widened as the plateau expanded and now a small mountain pond was alongside the highway. Water was flowing and bubbling in and out of the remaining snow. A body of water half covered in snow and ice. Spectacular!

Another bend in the highway and the snow was all gone. Mighty trees emerging out of ancient granite stone were all around us. This was the great state of Wyoming and we had entered Yellowstone National Park.

yellowstone park

 

Famous Geyser: Old Faithful

History of Yellowstone

Yellowstone Park was established by the U.S. Congress on March 1, 1872, as the country’s first national park. It is also generally considered to have been the first national park in the world, though some naturalists and others have argued that there is evidence that indicates that the creation of Yellowstone was predated by the creation of Bogd Khan Mountain National Park in Mongolia, which may date from as early as 1778. Yellowstone was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1976 and a World Heritage site in 1978

The Roosevelt Arch, built in the park’s Army era, is said to have been the idea of Hiram M. Chittenden of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He felt that the approach to the park was barren and lacked suitable grandeur. Park administrators and townspeople agreed, and plans commenced for a grand new entryway to Yellowstone.

In 1903, the partially constructed arch was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt, who laid the cornerstone at a ceremony that drew thousands of guests, and much fanfare.

The Arch was not originally intended to honour Roosevelt but was so named because the president happened to be vacationing in the park during the  Arch’s construction, and was asked to speak at the dedication ceremony. To construct the Arch, hundreds of tons of native columnar basalt were hauled from a quarry in the area. The completed Arch rises 50 feet high, and can still be seen from miles away.

roos arch

After the dedication, Theodore Roosevelt never returned to Yellowstone Park, so he never visited the completed Arch.

 

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