Articles tagged with: Yellowstone

Quick National Park Trip


National Parks: Glacier, Yellowstone & Roosevelt

by Curt Remington

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Fantastic! I got recruited for an impromtu road trip to three national parks: Glacier, Yellowstone and Theodore Roosevelt. Along with that, I would see 3800 miles of our glorious country, visit my mother in Minnesota, move our daughter to Washington, and do it all in five days.  Truth is, it was a trip to pick up my daughter, but I decided to squeeze in the national parks too. My schedule didn’t leave much times for the parks, so I planned to hit a few highlights in each, all at a whirlwind pace.

I set out from Bellingham, Washington on August 27th, taking a scenic route through the North Cascades.  I could have just stayed on the freeway, but what’s a few more miles? I sure didn’t want to miss any potentially stunning pictures. In the Cascades, I saw some beautiful rivers, mountains and waterfalls, but the lighting just was just too overcast for great pictures. Once over the Cascades, I made a brief stop in Leavenworth, Washington, a scenic tourist town that looks like a Bavarian village. I filled up on bratwurst, visited a few quaint shops and moved on towards the Columbia River and eastern Washington.

Glacier Park

After dark that night, I made it to a campground in Glacier National Park and crawled into a sleeping bag in the back seat of my Toyota Tundra. The next morning, I was up before dawn, hoping to catch sunrise over Lake McDonald. As I brushed my teeth, I debated on whether to throw the camping fee into the box. All I had really done was park in a spot for a few hours, not really what you’d call camping. I’d pretty much decided I’d pay, just so my conscience wouldn’t trouble . I arrived back at my truck to find the campground host filling out a registration in the dark. Wow, they sure get up early. I gave him the money and set out to get some pictures of Glacier.

sunsetDriving through Glacier brought back memories for me of many earlier trips. Just out of high school, I had decided to spend a year as a mountain man. My plan was to get a PO box in West Glacier and camp in the mountains south of the park. After about a month alone in the mountains, I decided that civilization in Minnesota wasn’t really so bad. Years later, my wife and I brought our kids to Glacier for a week of rafting, hiking and sightseeing. It was one of the best vacations we ever had.

With these memories going through my mind, I arrived at Lakerivertwo McDonald at sunrise. Like the day before in Washington, the scenery was beautiful but a bit cloudy. This is a definite problem when you only have one day in a park. I shot a whole bunch of pictures anyway, so I’d have something to discard later. Go figure.

Making my way deeper into the park, I stopped at a few trails and falls, hitting the trails at a run with camera gear flopping at my side. Back in the truck, I started climbing Going to the Sun Road, which was carved into the side of the mountains in 1933. The road is always narrow and winding, but road construction made it incredibly so. I folded in the large mirrors and reflected on memories of another earlier trip. Shortly before my mountain man experiment, my dad lent my friends and I his Winnebago, so I could do some scouting. Looking at the cliffs which overhang the road, and the shear drops, it was obvious why motorhomes are no longer allowed. Sure enough, I managed to bang the Winnebago into a cliff, moving over for an oncoming car. I don’t think my dad even mentioned the dent. What could he expect from a bunch of 18 year olds?

horsesAlthough it was August, Logan’s Pass had three inches of new snow and a horrendous wind chill. Hidden Lake, and the trail to it, was still beautiful, so I sat on a rock overlooking the lake and meditated for 15 minutes. A great alternative to Hidden Lake, is to hike north from Logan’s Pass to Granite Park Chalet, a rustic and remote lodge surrounded by alpine meadows, jagged mountains and grizzly bears. That all day hike was too much for this trip. Next, my quick tour took me to Saint Mary Lake, Two Medicine Lake and into East Glacier. Just east of the park, I came across some very rugged looking free-ranging horses with lots of scars. I’m sure there were some fascinating stories behind all those wounds.

Once I left Glacier behind, all I had to do for the rest of the day was drive across what remained of Montana. For those of you that haven’t done this, Montana is one seriously large state. Highway 2 has long straight stretches that seem to go on forever, and it is indeed big sky country. I reached Wolf Point, as the sun was setting, and turned south onto Highway 13. Between Wolf Point and Glendive, I lost count at roughly 60 mule deer, including one with the most monstrous set of antlers I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, it was way too dark for pictures. Near the North Dakota border, I pulled into a rest area to get some sleep.


Theodore Roosevelt National Parkbigsky

elkBy dawn, I was up again photographing an elk herd, just outside Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Over the years, I had taken I-94 through the park more times than I can remember. A few of those times, I had thought of stopping and visiting the park, but I always thought it looked like a bunch of little, dried-out hills with nothing much worth seeing. Why waste time on my way to Glacier? where they have some real mountains.

Once in the park, I felt a real connection, driving and running among its buttes, plateaus and gulleys. The connection may have been due to a past life I had as an Oglala Sioux Indian, spending much of my time in South Dakota’s black hills. Or, maybe the blissful feeling I felt was because the sun had finally come out. For whatever reason, I sure enjoyed the winding road through the park, stopping for pictures of bison, prairie dogs, antelope, grouse and wild horses. If I’d known there was so much wildlife, I would’ve stopped years earlier.



Along with touring the park, I managed to cover North Dakota and half of Minnesota, arriving in St Cloud early enough to get a truck wash and oil change. The next morning, I arrived at my daughter Sarah’s apartment so we could load her stuff into the truck. I was surprised to find that even leaving her furniture behind, her collection of stuff exceeded the carrying capacity of my full-size, extended cab Tundra pickup. We stuffed as much as we could in, while she decided what to leave behind.

Our next stop was the Twin Cities, where we spent a night at my mom’s. I also managed a side trip to visit some old friends. I mean ones that I’ve known a long time. They’re not that old.


After a good breakfast at mom’s, we set off towards Yellowstone. The drive was a great opportunity to catch up with happenings in Sarah’s life, and to share all the summer’s events in Washington. It was also an opportunity for her to try out her dad’s traveling style, eating and sleeping in the truck along with driving almost constantly. No point in wasting time. Unfortunately, the truck had gotten a little less comfortable now that it was stuffed with so much stuff. I just thought back to my life as a Sioux in the 1800’s and knew that I’d survived much worse. We spent the night sitting upright in a truck stop, listening to semis coming and going. Maybe Sarah will look back someday and think that “if I survived traveling with dad, I can survive yellowstoneanything.” Like my usual routine, we arrived in Yellowstone at sunrise, hoping to get some of the best photography light of the day. At least that’s what I was hoping. Sarah may have been hoping to get some more sleep. Just after crossing into the park, we came across a herd of elk. The stubborn animals wouldn’t move out of the trees and hold still for a picture. Well, I was pretty sure there were plenty more animals in the park. Our first scheduled stop was Lamar Valley, a broad open valley that’s known for its abundance of game. Unfortunately for Sarah, in addition to “scheduled stops,” traveling with me involves lots of unscheduled stops for wildlife, steamscenic overlooks or because the lighting looked just right. She, and the rest of the family, spent a week with in Europe with me in June, while I shot over 1600 pictures, so she probably knew what to expect.

After stopping for antelope, a bison and waterfalls, we made it to thebuffalo Lamar Valley. In order to find game, all you need do is watch for cars lining the road. We pulled in with the rest of them and watched as a distant wolf pack moved in on a bison herd. The wolves were unsuccessful with their hunting, but it was wild to watch. Anyone remember Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?

Farther up the valley, I got out and ran around a rock formation, looking for a scenic photo angle up the valley. Rounding the corner, I almost ran into an ornery looking bison. As he glared at me, I defensively drew my camera, thinking about the warnings that more people are attacked by bison then by bears in the park. As I took his picture, his only reaction was to stick his tongue out at me, then he went back to standing around. Good thing I found a lazy bison.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was an inspiring sight. The upper and lower falls have flows as high as 60,000 gallons of water per second. The 1200 foot deep canyon is steep and colorful. After the falls, we hiked around Norris Geyser Basin, careful not to step off the boardwalk into steaming water.


After Sarah’s exciting Yellowstone tour with dad, she was anxious to get to her new home in Washington, a condo near our house. I even offered to pull over in another truck stop for some sleep, but she was sure that driving straight through was a better idea. We got to Bellingham at four in morning, ending the fast-paced scenic national park tour. Sarah is now living happily in Washington and enjoying occasional picture taking outings with her dad.  

Summer Vacation to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons & Minnesota

Road Trip: National Parks and Minnesota

by Curt Remington

Bull Bison, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

After an exhausting fourteen-hour drive, and a long wait in line, a friendly man in uniform at Yellowstone National Park’s Norris campground greeted us. “Yep, I’ve got your reservation here for next weekend. You’re here kind of early, aren’t you?”

Toyota Tundra

Home Away From Home

Drats! I thought (or something like that). We must have read the calendar wrong. From the crowds we’d seen, it was apparent this could be a problem. I practiced my grounding meditation technique while he typed into his computer and commented that the whole park had been full every night of the summer. After 10 minutes of computer searching and talking to other employees, he did manage to find us a site for the night. They must hold one or two for such emergencies. Thank God!

The next step, in the check-in process, was listening to a long list of rules regarding camping in grizzly bear country. Rangers can fine you for even leaving a water bottle sitting on a picnic table. Those bears must be hungry. Leaving food or toiletries out is a definite no-no.

Grizzly Bear, Rachel & Heather

Grizzly Bear, Rachel & Heather

Although we camp regularly, we hadn’t used our largest tent for years. Upon setting it up, I was shocked to discover what dreadful condition it was in. Why didn’t I set it up at home first? It almost looked like a bear had already gotten to it. What actually happened is our kids had let it blow into a lake where waves, sand and wind took a terrible toll. The poles were bent. The fly had holes, and worst of all, the zipper would no longer stay closed. The embarrassingly lopsided tent stood open as an invitation to all the bears and mosquitoes in the area. Shortly after we erected the tent, it started to rain.

So, what do you do when you have a faulty tent and nowhere else to go? For five nights of our vacation, four people and our dog crowded into the truck to sleep for the night. This was a character building and bonding family experience that our kids can tell their kids about someday.

The first night, Rachel slept in the front seat, got up in the middle of the night and threw-up. The next night, Heather slept in the front seat, got up in the middle of the night and threw-up. Other than throwing up once, both girls seemed to be in fine health the rest of the trip. They both theorized that the discomfort of the seat raised havoc with their stomachs. On my night for taking the front seat, I slept in a more upright position, avoiding any such turmoil.

Bubbling Pool at Yellowstone

Bubbling Pool at Yellowstone

In Yellowstone, we covered many miles and saw a vast variety of wildlife, including a grizzly, pronghorn, wolf, elk, eagle and herds of bison. Be sure to bring good binoculars, because much of the wildlife is off in the distance. Along with wildlife, Yellowstone is known for its geothermal features. In fact, half of the world’s geothermal features are in Yellowstone. After dinner, we toured many of these, including Old Faithful, the neighboring geysers and bubbling pools.

We set out early for Grand Teton National Park, with the kids still asleep in the back of the truck. This is a definite advantage to camping in your vehicle instead of a tent. Like in Yellowstone, there were an incredible number of tourists in Grand Teton National Park. It made me appreciate the lack of crowds in Washington’s North Cascades, our home hiking grounds.

Grand Tetons Mountains Over Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Grand Tetons Mountains Over Jackson Lake, Wyoming

After grabbing a campsite, we drove to Jenny Lake, the most popular spot in the park. Jenny Lake is beautiful and is the starting point for many fine hikes. We set out for one of the most popular trails, Cascade Canyon. Our outing started with a quick boat ride across the lake. We then joined swarms of people on the climb up toward Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Many people don’t go farther than these two scenic stops, so the crowd thinned considerably past Inspiration Point’s Jenny Lake overlook. Scenery on this hike is spectacular, including waterfalls, lake views and an alpine canyon surrounded by jagged peaks. That evening, we watched the changing clouds and colors over Jackson Lake, as the sun dropped behind the Grand Tetons Mountains.

While the girls slept in, we stuffed our pathetic tent into a dumpster and set out for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. This place is worth seeing. It covers five acres and includes connected museums with five different themes: Buffalo Bill, the plains Indians, western art, firearms, and the Yellowstone region. My wife Mary and I especially identified with the Plains Indian museum, having had a life as Oglala Sioux, approximately 150 years ago. Near the end of that life, I even toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

The next morning’s adventure included Teddy Roosevelt National Park’s thirty-six mile loop drive. This winding road brings you through rugged badland terrain with wild horses, prairie dogs, deer and more bison. A big bull bison crossed the road in front of us, so I set out after him at a jog. He stopped and turned towards me, giving me a “leave me alone or else” sort of look, then he continued down into a ravine.

When we reached Minnesota (where most of our relatives live), we borrowed a luxurious motorhome from my sister and brother-in-law. This was so much better than sleeping in the truck! Our next two days included large family get-togethers. We ate a lot of delicious food and visited for hours.

Simple Meditation (Cover)

Simple Meditation (Cover)

On August 7th, Mary and I did a presentation on my book (Simple Meditation) at The Valley Bookseller. The St Paul Pioneer Press had run a great story that detailed my search for solitude, trying to escape a hectic life with 70-80 hour work-weeks. There were far more people than chairs at the event, and participants actually stood patiently through our 45-minute talk. The store sold 26 books, and we received a very warm reception. Amongst the crowd were friends, relatives and classmates that I hadn’t seen for years. It was very heartwarming to get such support.

On their first day of yacht ownership, my sister and brother-in-law hosted a cruise on their 37 foot Carver. This is a very comfortable way to get out on the water, one we could get used to.

Our last day in Minnesota, I finally used my whitewater kayaks for their intended purpose, rather than just as luggage compartments strapped to the top of our truck. Mary’ brother, Jeff Hobbs and I found some great kayak surfing waves on the Apple River in Wisconsin. Later that day, we kayaked again, on the St Croix River.

In Minnesota, Mary and I had become spoiled by luxuries like motorhomes and yachts. On the way home to Washington, we desperately wanted to avoid another night in the truck, so we called every motel for miles and even stopped at a few, inquiring about vacancies. At one such stop, at a truck stop/motel in Montana, we watched a drug deal taking place in the two cars next to us. My wife and kids were all yelling things like, “Hurry up and get us out of here!” I did.

Every motel we tried was full for the night, so we spent our last night in the truck, sharing the wayside rest with bikers returning from Sturgis, truckers and some rugged looking travelers. After another uncomfortable night in the truck, and twenty-eight hours of driving, it sure felt great to arrive at home.