Our 2021 Road Trip #23: Follow the Yellowstone Road

Yellowstone National Park sign!

One of the park’s less natural formations.

Day Five. 8:45 a.m. MDT. Primary objective reached. FINALLY.


Yellowstone mountain slopes!

Sure hope y’all aren’t tired of landscapes!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. We were each raised in a household that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state family vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. Eventually we tired of some of our self-imposed limitations and figured out how to leave the comforts of home for the chance to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

Technically not even 2020 stopped us. We played by the new rules of the interim normal and wandered Indiana in multiple directions as safely as we could. This year the long-awaited vaccines arrived. For 2021 we agreed we had to go big. Our new primary objective was Yellowstone National Park, 1500 miles from Indy…

Yellowstone tiny waterfall!

The wonders come in all sizes, starting with this tiny waterfall and working their way up.

Yellowstone National Park is big. Like, really big.

Seeing it all in a single day is impossible. Hundreds of miles of roads, comprising one colossal circle with a plethora of digressions and turnoffs, wend around countless beautiful points of interest that would all take many days to see for a 100% Achievements score. As of June 2021 that was impossible anyway — the entire northeast quadrant of the circle was closed for road construction. We made the best of our day and tried not to let FOMO drag us down.

Yellowstone ski slope, or not.

Skiers have options somewhere in the park. This probably isn’t one of them, what with killer trees at the bottom. Or maybe this is an expert slope. We wouldn’t know.

As I’ve pointed out and will never feign otherwise, we’re not expert hikers or campers. Folks far more rugged than us enjoy taking the time, undergoing the training, and spending days or even weeks in Yellowstone with the necessary equipment and lack of amenities. Our expedition was more of a sampler-platter approach, in which we learned what 180 miles worth of Yellowstone would look like from our humbled perspective. The overall result was several different synonyms for “WOW.”

Yellowstone Lake reflection!

Our first recorded glimpse of Yellowstone Lake, which took forever to circumnavigate.

Among other milestones, Yellowstone gave us our first and best excuse to splurge on an America the Beautiful Parks Pass. For one intimidating price, travelers can purchase a mirror hanger and card that grant access to all the national parks they can reach within a single year. Yellowstone was our first official national park of this vacation, and would not be the last. We eventually got our money’s worth, and still have seven months left on our pass as of this writing. We should probably do something else with that.

Yellowstone dead trees!

We’ve never seen so many dead trees in one place in our entire lives. And that’s including libraries.

We hoped it wouldn’t take long to enter the park. The line was considerable but thankfully moved quickly. The entrance gate wouldn’t be the worst line of the day. Once inside the park, we spent the next two hours driving and driving and driving to reach our first specific attraction, whose identity you can guess if you know the place. We stopped only once along that stretch, at a gift shop for facilities and sundries, plus some brief menacing from a large blackbird in the parking lot.

Yellowstone Lake!

The view of Yellowstone Lake through dead treetops.

This chapter covers the two-hour span from entry to the first truly Main Event. As with a few previous galleries, all photos here are presented in the order in which they were taken, to emphasize all the beauty that surrounded us and how it kept metamorphosing with each passing mile. Yellowstone is, as the kids might say, a LOT.

Yellowstone Lake picnic table!

Yellowstone Lake has limited picnic seating available if you arrive early and go where the other tourists aren’t.

Yellowstone bison!

Our first sighting of a Yellowstone animal larger than us. I promise we didn’t approach any of them closely enough to win ourselves a Darwin Award.

Yellowstone lake steam!

Stem is not an uncommon sight in Yellowstone. Expect far more in upcoming chapters.

Yellowstone Lake ripples!

Ripples across supernaturally blue Yellowstone Lake.

Yellowstone trees and steam!

Steam vents abound.

Yellowstone pond puffs!

Even the smaller water bodies are prone to cloudy spewing.

Yellowstone bison!

Another bison chilling and taking the scenery for granted.

Yellowstone panorama!

Like a swamp and a golf course had a big, awesome baby.

Yellowstone angle lake!

Yellowstone Lake: even better if you add ACTION ANGLES!

Continental Divide sign!

We began with a sign, we end with a sign. Anne was excited to reach the fabled Continental Divide. Mostly it just sat there, but conceptually it was a cool goalpost to reach.

And those were just our first two hours in the park. To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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