I've wanted to go to Yellowstone, the first national park of the sweet U.S.A., since I watched old western films of the fifties with my granddad as a little girl after school. There was always something so alluring about the backcountry and the fact that everything seemed so wild and untouched. It's safe to say that I've been waiting for this day of our road trip since before I was putting it together.
I woke up around seven in the morning and found that our host, Jordan (Rebekah's husband), was making us breakfast before we headed out. Rebekah made us salads last night, so to have pineapple and a delicious egg sandwich with Sriracha and cheddar was almost overwhelming. I don't think my heart was prepared for the part of the trip where nothing and everything felt like home at the same time. Jordan also made Emily and I pour-over coffee and put them in cute Yellowstone mugs because he knew that's where we were headed for the day.
After our breakfast, we headed out to Yellowstone. We were welcomed by bison and wildflowers immediately. It was so overwhelmingly beautiful and organic; everything felt so raw and open.
There are so many different shades of Yellowstone; blues, greens, browns, reds, and every corner brings another variation. It was absolutely incredible and perhaps the fact that I had no expectations of the wilderness we were entering into allowed for the colors to move me in a powerful way. Florida's hauntingly beautiful swamps and cypress-covered rivers aren't anything like the wide open plains of Yellowstone.
The first places we wanted to see in Yellowstone was the Grand Canyon of YNP and the Upper/Lower Falls. I'd try to describe these places to you, but no words or even the photos you'll see will give Yellowstone the justice of the true beauty that it contains.
On the drive to the falls, we saw the Yellowstone River to one side of us and rocks riddled with wildflowers all around.
Do places like this actually exist outside of books?
There were so many people all around us and even though that's normally a huge negative for me, I loved seeing everyone else's response to the awe they felt in their hearts at our Creator's handiwork. How mesmerizing it is to see the sweet melody of His hands and to see each heart He wove together by hand be moved by that melody!
On our way to the canyon from the falls, we found a little (read: huge, but not as big as a mountain) rock to climb on top of and look out at all of the beauty and wonder in Yellowstone. One of my favorite things is when you can see the clouds casting shadows over a mountain range and there was plenty of that. This place is life-changing.
Pure, living, flourishing wildness. It felt wrong to be stuck on a man-crafted deck instead of with bare feet on the rock beneath us. I can't imagine what seeing Yellowstone back when the Shoshone tribe and other American Indians thrived here would be like; when bison were even more plentiful and there was no Grand Loop Road or gas stations and gift shops.
There were so many pullouts on the road to our next stop (Yellowstone Lake) that followed along closely to the river. We stopped to take more pictures and tried to absorb our surroundings. I say tried because it's difficult to completely comprehend the majesty of Yellowstone.
The bison in Yellowstone don't mind holding up traffic or coming right up to the window. I swear every time Emily and I changed seats another bison would walk straight up to my side. I've named this one Baldwin because it means "brave friend". He walked straight at my car for a good little bit before turning to come up close enough for me to touch him. Don't worry, I didn't pet him. I just snapped a few pictures of him and his hungry brother.
Among bison and wildflowers, we found a few sulfur springs on our way to the lake. If you look closely, you can see three bison enjoying their day in spite of the awful smell of sulfur springs, one in the trees and two bathing in the sun.
Oh, Yellowstone Lake...
In case you couldn't already tell, Yellowstone National Park has it all. Mountains, rivers, wild animals, wildflowers, and a lake that looks like the ocean. This was my favorite part of YNP and it was here that I really felt the thickness of God's presence. For some reason, I was reminded of when Reepicheep goes to the shore at the end of the world into Aslan's Country. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be on the other side.
Funny story about Old Faithful:
Emily and I actually didn't care about seeing it much. My mom texted me and asked me to make sure we went and took pictures of the geyser and since we had spare time (can you believe we had anymore spare time after all of those pictures!?), we went ahead and stopped. We got to the geyser at 3:10 and it was estimated to erupt at 3:15! Talk about God's perfect timing! It was so incredible to see just how high the water erupted.
Our last stop was Mammoth Springs before we headed back to Rebekah and Jordan's house. Our campsite was full and first-come, first-served so we were a little disappointed when we couldn't camp in Yellowstone, but also really excited to go back to a place that felt like staying with friends. These photos from the drive are so shallow compared to the depth of actually staring into the vast views.
Mammoth Springs was incredible. The colors were rusty, the trees were dead, and there was still life in the birds and the weird extreme-enviroment plants that were growing all around. Emily and I actually went off of the man-made wooden path to get some of these photos and we found out later that people have died doing so because the crust of the earth is so thin at this place, that when people step on it, the crust gives way to the boiling springs below. WHOA! If we had known that ahead of time, we definitely wouldn't have gone out at all. It is pretty exciting to say we've done it, though.
I did all of that in one day, people, and here's what I learned:
Pay attention to signs
Being present is about focusing
Focusing is about choosing to be present
Life is an adventure where we make the choice every moment of God's will or our will
Gas is cheaper in Yellowstone than surrounding cities
It's okay to break plans
God is bigger than we've ever imagined or ever could
There are still places left where no one has touched
ever free, ever true, ever kind.