Yellowstone National PArk
If you know us at all, you know that we firmly believe that the point of a road trip is not the destination- that is simply one of many stops along the way. So from the moment we left home until we returned again, our road trip was about taking the road less traveled just to see where we would end up.
We only had one day in Yellowstone, and our first stop was a small hike to Trout Lake. It's not necessarily a destination the Park is known for, but it had somehow found its way onto our itinerary. We pulled up first thing in the morning, surveyed the trailhead, and nearly got right back in the car. It was frigid. Annie had been feeing a little carsick. We still had hours left to drive that day. And yet, the prospect of what awaited us at the end of that trail beckoned. We dressed in layers, grabbed the camera, and set out.
Now, when I think about what we might have missed if we had just driven past, I am so grateful that we didn't! Annie, the self proclaimed "polar bear of Yellowstone" was such a trooper. Those little legs carried her all the way up the hill and down into a picturesque valley, complete with mountain views reflected in crystal clear waters. We practically had the whole place to ourselves, with the exception of one lone bison grazing across the lake from where the trail led is down to the shore.
"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks." - John Muir
Back in the car, we made our way along the north road, stopping to see herds of bison and a group of elk, and even walking the crowded walkways of Mammoth Hot Springs. And every time, without fail, the view up close was far better than the view from the car window.
Badlands National PArk
Still, the longer you are on the road, the easier it is to rationalize driving through and driving by. On our way back east, we made a similar trek through Badlands National Park. With miles of road ahead of us, we were faced with a detour almost as soon as we entered the park. Should we stay on the main road? Or should we venture down a dirt road toward Roberts Prairie Dog Town?
I look at these pictures and just shake my head at what we would have missed! Mountain goats, Pronghorn antelope, buffalo, and prairie dogs gathered as if to greet us, and once again, the path we almost didn't take became one of our favorite experiences in the Park.
With the year we've had, it was probably easier on this trip to just be glad for the change of scenery. But I hope that the sentiment stays with us on future road trips when the hurry of life starts to crowd back in. Because in the end, I have no recollection of how long we were on the road on either of these days or how many hours "behind" these stops put us. I just remember feeling like we were doing it- living our life, seeing the world, not in any hurry to pass these memories by in order to be on our way.