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  • When is the Best Time to Go to Yellowstone?

    When is the Best Time to Go to Yellowstone?

    When is the best time to go to Yellowstone? I get this question a lot. Here’s the simple answer: Whenever works best for you. While simple is good, you may want something a little more, shall we say, helpful. Here it is: There is no bad time, no wrong time to go to Yellowstone. Every season is simply different, with unique characteristics, challenges, and gifts. Year to year, week to week, and day to day, the weather within each season varies. (Case in point: One year my husband and I visited Yellowstone in early September. We had rain, snow, cold,Read More »
  • 4 Things to Remember When You Hike in YNP

    4 Things to Remember When You Hike in YNP

    Soon after I started working in Yellowstone, I received a package from my dad. It contained his trail guide with a letter tucked inside. In it, he shared a list of nine trails he thought I might enjoy hiking, along with the page number where I would find the trail listed and why he included it on the list. He ended with some fatherly advice: Please remember to observe all the precautions mentioned in the book–even in the summer, you are in more danger from hypothermia than bears. Be careful and have fun. Love– Dad I still have the letter.Read More »
  • How to Foster Hope–Any Time of Year

    How to Foster Hope–Any Time of Year

    It was one of the first hikes we took together, my husband and I. It wasn’t long—only a few miles, but one long stretch was steep. The descent wasn’t bad, and the destination—a steel suspension bridge spanning a canyon in the middle of the wilderness—was worth the trip down and even back up. Still, that thigh-burning return haul reigns in my memory, especially when we consider taking any trail with the word “steep” in the description. Swagged across the slope like twinkle-lights on a Christmas tree, the switchbacked Hellroaring Creek trail supposedly moderated the mountain face into a more manageableRead More »
  • Navigating This Season {whatever it is} By Faith

    Navigating This Season {whatever it is} By Faith

    My legs rebelled at the unfamiliar sensation of sand rearranging itself under my feet. For my family, a typical hike meant packed-dirt paths through deciduous woods in Iowa or evergreen forests out west, not shifting sand in a desert canyon. But here we were, tackling new terrain. We walked along, faces tilted toward the slim slice of sky. We were at Capitol Reef National Park, hiking the narrow passageway of the Capitol Gorge trail. At the turnaround point, we noticed a sign for a spur trail. We could turn around or we could continue two-tenths of a mile up aRead More »
  • Our Steps Matter

    Our Steps Matter

    After clocking out from the early shift at the gift shop, I left the Inn for a long, leisurely stroll through the Upper Geyser Basin. Beginning at Old Faithful, I walked past lesser-known features and family favorites as I made my way to my destination: Morning Glory Pool. I didn’t need to invest any thought about how to get there. The boardwalk laid the course and I followed. Signs along the way were clear: STAY ON THE TRAIL. Geyser basins are dangerous places. In some areas, the thinnest of crusts separate our frail human frames from the seething intensity below.Read More »
  • Hiking with Kids in Yellowstone

    Hiking with Kids in Yellowstone

    Because each of our children made their first trip to Yellowstone when they were toddlers or younger, we’ve developed some favorites over the years, along with some strategies for keeping everyone motivated and mobile on the trail. Below are some tips for hiking with littles, along with a few of our favorite kid-friendly hikes.  Tips for Hiking with Kids Distance: There is a limit to how far little ones can walk, especially in the mountains, where the trails almost always seem to go straight up—or down.  One guideline I came across for how far kids can hike is this: oneRead More »
  • Walking in Tension

    Walking in Tension

    Crossing the empty parking lot, I zipped my fleece jacket to my chin and drew my fingers into my sleeves. It was August and already the mountain morning air held heavy hints of the coming autumn–known in Yellowstone as “early winter.” Side by side, my dad and I climbed the sloping path to Tower Fall. During my growing up years, Tower had always been a regular stop when my family visited Yellowstone. That first year, its 132-foot plunge impressed me but it was the large boulder perched at the brink that held my attention. I was sure it, like us,Read More »
  • Summer into Fall Challenge

    Summer into Fall Challenge

    I was finishing up the dinner dishes when my daughter, sixteen, slipped into the house and said, “You might want to stop and come outside. The sky is beautiful. I don’t think you want to miss it.” I’ve learned to listen to that girl. She pays attention. She’s attuned to beauty. And she loves to share it. She’s been at this sky-sharing practice for nearly half her life. The first time she did this, she was nine and there was a little more drama involved. She didn’t just slip into the house. Her arrival was accompanied by the crashing ofRead More »
  • Five Short Hikes in Yellowstone

    Five Short Hikes in Yellowstone

    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, all 2.5 miles or less: 5 Short Yellowstone Hikes 1. Red Rock Point | 1 mile, there and back, ending at the same trailhead: Offering a view of the Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, this trail takes hikers down a shady path through pine, rock, and even ferns to aRead More »
  • All We Need is a Little Light

    All We Need is a Little Light

    My husband and I have been hiking for years. Years. Still, we don’t always get it right out on the trail. We knew it we would be cutting it close. But, we hopped out at the picnic area, grabbed a late lunch, and prepared to hit the trail to Harney Peak, the highest point in the Black Hills. My husband filled our hydration packs while I reached into our well-stocked supply of both nutritious and just-for-fun trail food. And then, at 3:00 in the afternoon, after an evening and part of a long day in the vehicle, we set outRead More »
  • Embrace the Delays and Enjoy the Scenery

    Embrace the Delays and Enjoy the Scenery

    Eighteen hours into a twenty-hour road trip from our door to Yellowstone’s South Entrance, my high spirits tumbled at the sight of a sign. A happy-looking sign, it cast a shadow on my plan to get off the road and onto the trail as quickly as possible. It read: Expect delays and great scenery. It was a road construction sign in disguise. And I understood why. In Iowa, where I live, open roads and flat terrain allow travelers in construction zones to slow more often than stop. When a full stop is required, it’s usually short, and governed by aRead More »
  • Yellowstone: Our Family’s 5 Favorite  Picnic Areas

    Yellowstone: Our Family’s 5 Favorite Picnic Areas

    “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 in unison. Our kids were playing together—quite happily—along the shore of the Firehole River while we made lunch at a nearby picnic table. Just moments before, they’d been snarling at each other. While I was busy wondering how I would survive this vacation—and possibly their childhood—my husband simply turned in at the nearest picnic area.  It was a good move. The kids ran off some energy andRead More »