I have never laid eyes on the sky as crystal blue as it was in Yellowstone National Park. It was an unplanned stop on our cross-country road trip, as many of our stops were, and it was my favorite of the four National Parks we visited. We stopped at a picnic area for the bathrooms and just through a few trees we could see Yellowstone River. As I walked out from under the canopy of trees my eyes were drawn up to the bright sky. It was as though I was experiencing the vastness of the sky for the first time. It was only the squeals of delight from my children that brought my attention back down to the earth.
The river was just as perfect as the sky – clear, clean, and sparkling. This was what my children were squealing about; they were begging to get in, even my oldest who tends to despise getting wet and dirty. I was still in a dreamland, so my husband took charge and plunged into the crisp, cool water with them. The sight of the four of them splashing in the water with the beautiful sky behind them sent a flood of happy mother feelings through my entire body. I’d stay here forever in this moment if I could, I thought.
I didn’t make it down the boardwalk to see the hot springs because the littlest monster refused to get out of the van. I was fine with this because I was honestly having anxiety about taking him down the boardwalk to begin with. There’s no railing and it’s rather crowded and he’s a bit like Forest Gump; he runs everywhere he goes. I was aware of the dangers of leaving the boardwalk and was struck with anxiety at taking my little Forest down it, so I was quite alright with sitting tight with him in the van.
There are signs warning not to leave the boardwalk, but as they walked, my husband and the older two monsters witnessed a man jump off the boardwalk to touch the hot spring. Unsurprisingly, he wrenched his hand away saying, “man, that’s hot.” The signs make clear that touching the hot springs with bare hands isn’t the worst danger. Death in National Parks is a very real danger. At the hot springs of Yellowstone the sand is so soft in places you can easily sink beneath the sand never to be seen again. We didn’t know at the time but later learned this had happened to a man just a few weeks prior to our visit. Stay on the boardwalk; it’s for your own safety. You have been warned.
Because Yellowstone was an unplanned stop I hadn’t had time to properly research the best spots to go. We weren’t entirely sure how to get to Old Faithful but managed to find it toward the end of the day. We didn’t know how often it went off or how long we would have to wait. There wasn’t a big crowd when we arrive and we found good seats to wait. The littlest monster eventually became a bit restless with waiting, so I took him for a walk where he was able to release some of that jumping energy on some nearby logs.
As the crowd became thicker I thought it must be getting close to the time, but before I could say we needed to head back to our group the littlest monster said he needed to poop. I walked him back up to the building and his usual quick poo took an unusually long time. As I paced the otherwise empty bathroom waiting for him to be done, a voice came over the intercom announcing Old Faithful would be going off in two minutes, and I laughed out loud. Of course I would be missing the geyser because a kid needed to poop. Tis a perk of motherhood.
Because it was so late in the day I wasn’t going to wait for the next gust. The highlight of my day had been at the river. We loaded up and set off to find a hotel, which became an adventure all on its own. We didn’t know where we were going so we headed south which took us through another park. It was several hours before we got into a town with a couple of motels. Unfortunately, a forest fire started by a lightning strike several months prior caused many residents in the mountains to evacuate. As a result, all the motels were full except for the Motel 6, which had one room available. Call me snobby or whatever you like but when my husband said it was $179 for one night at the Motel 6 I said, “No way am I paying that much at a Motel 6.”
We drove on for what should have been about forty-five minutes but ended up taking an hour and a half. Or maybe it just felt longer on the never ending stretch of road. It was around 11pm when we finally reached the next town with hotels, and sleep came easily for everyone.