Tales from the Trail

It’s a Sign: Yellowstone

It’s a Sign: Yellowstone

Most of Yellowstone’s signs are posted along roads, at trailheads, or in front of points of interest. Sometimes, though, they’re situated down the trail—a billboard of sorts in the woods. We once came upon such a sign on the gentle beginnings of Uncle Tom’s Trail, its...

How to Plan a Winter Trip to Yellowstone

How to Plan a Winter Trip to Yellowstone

  Yellowstone in winter is an adventure in comparatives. It’s more majestic and less crowded than in other seasons. It’s more difficult to get around. (Even the animals take the road.) It’s also more difficult to do simple and necessary tasks. (Consider a visit...

One Surprising Reason to Visit Yellowstone

One Surprising Reason to Visit Yellowstone

Leaning against the stone stairway of the historic Fort Yellowstone building, I watched the autumn scene unfold. A massive bull elk stood sentry over his painstakingly collected harem. His occasional bugles rang through the settlement—reminding the cows that he was a...

There’s No Guarantee of Your Safety in Bear Country

There’s No Guarantee of Your Safety in Bear Country

It wasn’t until the third hike of our week in Yellowstone that we found the dreaded bear frequenting area sign planted in the dirt at the trailhead. I sighed. Every time I see this sign I’m not only frustrated that it gives absolutely no useful information, I’m left...

Where to Stay in Yellowstone

Where to Stay in Yellowstone

Back when I worked in Yellowstone, I enjoyed desk duty at the Old Faithful Visitor’s Center (now the Visitor Education Center). Even back when park visitation was 2.5 million (as opposed to today’s approximately 4 million), the crowd pushing against the counter and...

How to Be Prepared: Do Not Run

How to Be Prepared: Do Not Run

My youngest daughter was eight when my family and I found ourselves in the path of a bear at close range on the trail. (Read more here.) As kids are prone to do, her response to learning there was a bear heading down the trail in our direction was to make an...

Yellowstone Weather: What You Need to Know

Yellowstone Weather: What You Need to Know

Yellowstone can deliver extreme weather—in any season, without warning, and sometimes on the same day. That is the number one weather reality to keep in mind when packing for a trip to Yellowstone. Here are some others:  For every season, prepare for it to be colder...

How to Plan Your Yellowstone Vacation

How to Plan Your Yellowstone Vacation

Planning a trip to Yellowstone? Consider these 10 things to help you plan your Yellowstone vacation. Make a plan--one that includes a plan A, and a plan B, and possibly a plan C. Bison choose their own crosswalks and cross the road slowly. In herds. Wildlife block the...

Don’t Walk Alone: How to Be Prepared

Don’t Walk Alone: How to Be Prepared

Tyson the Bison That, according to the signs in the Madison Campground bathroom, was the name of the bull hanging around in the campground. The signs prompted campground residents to be aware of his presence so as not to accidentally get too close. Even docile-looking...

How to Prepare for Your Yellowstone Vacation

How to Prepare for Your Yellowstone Vacation

After a season of working in Yellowstone, a lifetime of return weeklong visits, and years of talking with friends about their upcoming or completed trip to the park, I’ve figured something out: There is a difference between planning a trip and preparing for one. A...

When to Make Reservations for Yellowstone

When to Make Reservations for Yellowstone

When I worked the desk at what was then called the Old Faithful Visitor Center, there were two questions I dreaded. First, "Are there any campgrounds with openings?" The second was related. "Are there any hotel rooms available?" While there was never a particularly...

How to Be Prepared: Don’t Leave it Behind

How to Be Prepared: Don’t Leave it Behind

“You’ve got a griz!” The call came from the picnic area below—just seconds after I had discerned that the brown shaggy head and shoulders cresting the hill twenty-five yards to my left was not, in fact, a bison. It was a bear. Wherever it was headed, we were in the...

4 Must-Have Items You Need in Yellowstone

4 Must-Have Items You Need in Yellowstone

No one really wants to take time from what we want to be doing in Yellowstone to shop for something we didn't think to bring along. To save you that headache, here are a few must-have items you'll want to put on your list of things to pack:  Sunscreen Yellowstone’s...

Gifts and  Graces | Spring 2023

Gifts and Graces | Spring 2023

When it comes to navigating the landscape of life, I find it dishearteningly easy to drift toward reacting in fear or finding my way by feel rather than walking by faith. Maybe you know what that’s like.  One practice that helps me stay on course is to pay attention....

How to be Prepared: Make Noise

How to be Prepared: Make Noise

“It’s time to turn around,” my husband said.  Relieved, I pivoted on the spot. J and I were in Yellowstone’s Bechler Region, a remote area with no roads, plenty of waterfalls, and its share of bears. It took the morning just to drive there. After spending the rest of...

Hiking with Kids in Yellowstone

Hiking with Kids in Yellowstone

  We started hiking with our kids in Yellowstone while they were still babies. Because of that, we've embraced some mindsets and strategies to foster a pleasant hiking experience for everyone. We want them to be happy, safe, and motivated to keep going. (And we...

Picnicking in Yellowstone: What You Need to Know

Picnicking in Yellowstone: What You Need to Know

  “He’s a good big brother, helping his little sisters like that,” said an older woman as she walked past us on her way to her picnic table.  “Thanks,” my husband and I mumbled together, remembering.  Our kids were playing quite happily together along the shore...

How to Be Prepared: Be Alert

How to Be Prepared: Be Alert

Crossing the gravel parking lot, Dad and I turned toward the Gardner River. Worn by wildlife and fly fishermen, the narrow path that paralleled it wasn’t an official trail. We knew it only because of the hours three generations of our family had collected here at...

Gathering Winter’s Saving Graces

Gathering Winter’s Saving Graces

  For Yellowstone's bison, it's the end of this season that's most dangerous. They've spent the winter foraging for frozen foliage by swinging their heads back and forth through the snow like a bucket on an excavator. After a long winter of burning their reserves...

Where to Hike in Yellowstone: 5 Short Hikes

Where to Hike in Yellowstone: 5 Short Hikes

  By temperament, I am hard-pressed to choose a favorite anything. Ask for my favorite food, color, or book and I’ll give you two. Or maybe three. Sometimes more. So here are not one, two, even three favorite short hikes in Yellowstone. Here are my favorite five,...

Are You Prepared?

Are You Prepared?

My husband and I were just approaching the trailhead when I saw the sign. Again. WARNING: BEAR FREQUENTING AREA. The weight of impending doom settled on my soul and my mind launched in with its barrage of questions. How many bears? Is it one or a mama with cubs? How...

How We Prepare Him Room

How We Prepare Him Room

Zipping my jacket to my chin, I picked up speed in hopes of generating more body heat. Before long it would be warm—possibly even hot—but that would be later. For now, the October sun hadn’t been up long enough to chase away the overnight chill. Earlier, when the...

Where to Picnic in Yellowstone: Our 5 Favorites

Where to Picnic in Yellowstone: Our 5 Favorites

Because I promote picnicking as the best way to deal with the inevitable and recurring need for food,  here are some YNP picnicking realities and a few of our favorite picnic areas. (Note:  Each is near water—either beside a river or above Yellowstone Lake.) Our 5...

Navigating by Faith When We’re Disoriented by Life

Navigating by Faith When We’re Disoriented by Life

At the switchback, I paused for a breath and surveyed the landscape. Interested as I was in the spruce and fir trees dotting Lamar Valley’s faded grass, what I really wanted was to see how far my husband and I had come so I could figure out know how much further I had...

Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Proverbs 4:26