I know I said Glacier National Park was our last stop on our National Park to Park Highway tour, but the drive from Glacier down to Utah would’ve been incomplete without a victory lap in the Nation’s first National Park – Yellowstone.
Although Yellowstone gets the credit as being the first National Park, Yosemite Valley was actually the first area set aside by the federal government for the protection of the land for the enjoyment of the people.
On our previous visit to Yellowstone we saw Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Lake and the Grand Prismatic Geyser Basin but we never got to one of my favorite spots – The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It felt poetic to end our National Park to Park Highway trip in the first official National Park.
On our National Park to Park Highway journey we traveled over 7,000 miles in just over six weeks. We traversed mountains, deserts, plains, boring interstates, big cities, remote forests and just about every habitat in between. We endured scorching heat, freezing cold, rain, and wind, but luckily most of our days were sunny. We spent over 200 hours in our truck, the rest of the time in the outdoors (and a few rented rooms).
After seeing the deepest canyon in the world, the deepest lake and tallest sand dune in North America, rare animals, endangered glaciers and more beautiful vistas that we could count, you’d think we’d be hiking to Yellowstone Falls with our fists in the air, We Are the Champions playing on the soundtrack. In actuality, we limped along in our grubbiest clothes, grateful to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
|Me and Baby L hiking in our pajamas – the only cleanish clothes we had left.
Planning a grand adventure is often more fun than executing it. Don’t get me wrong. I’d travel the National Park to Park Highway again in a heartbeat, but six weeks living on the road with three small children doesn’t count as a vacation in my book. An experience, yes. Vacation, not so much.
“When we get back I’m gonna need some alone time and then we should go on a date,” Mountain Dad said on one of the many long drives between beautiful places. I completely agreed. Being nonstop with our kids meant we were always on. Always within earshot of their tantrums, on guard to keep them safe, preparing food, beds, clothes, and taking them on bathroom runs. I love those little monkeys, but I felt ready for a break.
That’s what makes this trip so wonderful. Now that I’m home I can look back at the photos and remember with awe that we DID that. We accomplished a great family goal – to travel the National Park to Park Highway. My kids got to see the glaciers in Glacier National Park before they all disappeared. Big E had experiences he vowed to tell his grand kids about. Little G learned to ride a bike at the Grand Canyon. Baby L crawled over terrain meant for mountain goats (She took her first steps four days after we returned). We had experiences we would never forget, despite the grubby clothes, extra work and long hours in the car.
We may not have had We Are The Champions playing as we hiked the Yellowstone Falls trail, but there was music in the air when we finally arrived home. The moment we pulled into our driveway, we heard the wafting notes of the finale of the Music Man welcoming us back. Our neighbor, Sundance Mountain Resort, puts on an outdoor summer musical every year and it was just our luck to arrive home as the final overture sounded. It was as if they knew we needed a proper welcome home.
|Each of the National Parks we visited on the National Park to Park Highway tour.
Now that we’re home, real life is back with a vengeance. School, work, home and real life responsibilities vie for attention. At times I wish it we could just pack into the truck and take off again, leaving all of it behind. I know every adventure takes time and effort, including the adventure of rearing outdoors loving kids.