• Why Do We Keep Going?

    Why Do We Keep Going?

    My husband and I set off into the woods at a brisker than usual clip. Sooner than I hoped, the trail made good on its short-but-steep reputation. After a short lag, my steps slowed because there was no way I could keep that pace at that grade all the way to the top. We’d tried {Continue Reading}
  • Sometimes It’s Not What We Think It Is

    Sometimes It’s Not What We Think It Is

    About a year ago, I spent the morning disc golfing with my husband and our kids. This meant I was out with my family (which I love), on a path through the woods (which I also love but not as much), trying to hit a target with what amounts to a heavy frisbee, (which I {Continue Reading}
  • How to Get Moving Again

    How to Get Moving Again

    “Time to get going,” Dad said as he thumped on the tent I shared with my husband.  Going? I could barely move.  I freed my beleaguered body from my sleeping bag and crawled from our tent out into the morning chill. Stiff and sore from the previous day’s ride, I picked my way across the {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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. {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • 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 {Continue Reading}
  • Thriving in an Unfamiliar Life

    Thriving in an Unfamiliar Life

    My great-grandma was a woman of summer. She kept a garden. She grew the flowers and vegetables that graced her table. She picked the berries that topped our ice cream. Every once in a while, I helped her in the garden or the berry patch and it always shocked me when she showed up wearing {Continue Reading}
  • What We Already Know About Navigating by Faith

    What We Already Know About Navigating by Faith

    Leaving the comforting bustle of the crowd, I stepped off the boardwalk onto the geyserite-strewn path. This was my first solo hike. I was leaving from the Old Faithful area, where I lived and worked, to make a six-mile round trip journey to a backcountry waterfall. The first section of the trail skirted the edge {Continue Reading}
  • One Truth for Navigating Unfamiliar Terrain by Faith

    One Truth for Navigating Unfamiliar Terrain by Faith

    From the trailhead, the narrow, uneven path took us up a short, steep incline between towering pines. The road below and the river beyond were visible between their trunks. Lodgepoles, their growing habits produced tall, straight poles topped by comparatively tiny Christmas trees and created a sheltering canopy over the trail. At the top of {Continue Reading}
  • Yellowstone: How to Get There

    Yellowstone: How to Get There

    What’s the best way to get to Yellowstone?  Here’s the simple answer: However you want to. But, with five entrances and the fact that life is never really that simple, here are a few questions (and entrance highlights) to help you sort it out. What is your mode of transportation? Bozeman is the closest airport. {Continue Reading}
  • Friday Field Notes | A Little Geography

    Friday Field Notes | A Little Geography

    One strange thing about the internet world is that I don’t actually know where many of you live. Oddly, though, because of this unfamiliar terrain we’re collectively navigating, I can probably pretty accurately guess that most of us are at home much more than usual. How’re you doing with that? Today I am meh, but {Continue Reading}
  • Friday Field Notes | Good News When the News is Bad

    Friday Field Notes | Good News When the News is Bad

    My son is studying abroad this semester. In northern Italy. Until this week, I hadn’t heard much talk about northern Italy outside the context of his travel plans. Now it’s all over the news. He was supposed to start classes next Monday. On Monday of this week, his university closed because of the coronavirus. As of Thursday, the {Continue Reading}
  • Friday Fields Notes | Light

    Friday Fields Notes | Light

    In his book, For Everything There is a Season: A Sequence of Natural Events in the Grand Teton-Yellowstone Area, naturalist Frank C. Craighead compiles decades of observations of outdoor happenings into week-by-week entries. At least, they’re weekly entries between February 27 and December 3. The remainder of December warrants only one entry. And January 1 {Continue Reading}
  • Three Small Steps for Walking by Faith

    Three Small Steps for Walking by Faith

    Twenty-three Decembers ago, my husband, our one-year-old son, and I moved to Pella, Iowa. When we were still in the shall-we-or-shall-we-not phase of the process, my dad mentioned that he thought that bald eagles wintered in that area. In a word, I was shocked. I’d grown up a mere hour-and-a-half from Pella and never, not {Continue Reading}
  • Walking by Faith Through New Things

    Walking by Faith Through New Things

    We set off, my family and I, into the high desert. Unfamiliar territory, it was marked by slot canyons and stark terrain. We were mountain hikers, more accustomed to treading over soft, tree-lined paths than through stony expanses. Trailhead signs warned that heat kills, admonishing all who dared pass to carry two liters of water. {Continue Reading}
  • Do You Need to Turn Around?

    Do You Need to Turn Around?

    It was one of the first hikes we took together, my husband and I. It wasn’t long—only a few miles, but the one stretch was steep. The descent wasn’t bad. The destination—a steel suspension bridge spanning a canyon in the middle of wilderness—was worth the trip down and even back up. Still, that thigh-burning return {Continue Reading}
  • Fall Field Notes

    Fall Field Notes

    Good morning to you on this fine autumn day! Today I’m doing something just a little different and sharing a few field notes, a gathering of what the landscape of life has been teaching me. If you have a moment to pause and ponder what the landscape of your life is teaching you, I’d love {Continue Reading}
  • Walking by Faith Through Tough Terrain

    Walking by Faith Through Tough Terrain

    The first trail—as in, an unpeopled, into the wilderness, marked-by-blazes-instead-of-a-worn-path trail—I remember taking was to the petrified forest in Yellowstone. I was fourteen, with my family, on our second visit to the park, and we’d finally stopped believing that we would be consumed by a bear if we left the crowded boardwalks and entered the {Continue Reading}
  • Five Surprising Tips for Walking by Faith from Hiking in the Dark

    Five Surprising Tips for Walking by Faith from Hiking in the Dark

    We set off, a dozen trainees, gravel crunching under our feet, toward the foreboding forest. We’d congregated at twilight to learn to hike in the dark. Like the rest of the greenhorns, I’d shown up with my flashlight because, obviously, we would need something to light the way.  What we needed, according to our trainer, {Continue Reading}
  • Walking by Faith | Using the Right Muscles

    Walking by Faith | Using the Right Muscles

    We left our car at the pullout, walked past the bungalow-sized glacial boulder, and started down an easy path. Short, flat, and offering a good view, the Cascade Overlook Trail promised to be a good wakeup hike. Enveloped in a thick evergreen wood, we relished the rhythm of quiet conversation and companionable silence mingled with {Continue Reading}
  • Walking Together

    Walking Together

    There is more to setting off on a hike than hopping over the back fence with a loaf of bread and a pound of tea à la John Muir–turn-of-the-nineteenth-century naturalist, writer, and outdoorsman. While his shortlist encompassed food and nutrition, survival and sanity suggest we take more when we head into the woods. We need {Continue Reading}
  • One Question for When You’re Finding Your Way

    One Question for When You’re Finding Your Way

    The gradual slipping away of the pine-lined path went unnoticed—by me anyway. We’d set off that morning, wanting to spend just a little more time on the trail and in the park before heading home from our week in Yellowstone. Situated along the way, the Gneiss Creek Trail would do well, we thought. It was {Continue Reading}
  • Two Ways of Waiting

    Two Ways of Waiting

    Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn gift shop hummed like a hive. All the time. Except when Old Faithful was about to erupt.  Then, every visitor in the area was out on the boardwalk, waiting. After a short lull, the gift shop—site of my summer job between high school and college—began to fill with customers. They came {Continue Reading}
  • Waiting for Tomorrow

    Waiting for Tomorrow

    Dad and I were the last to check in. The arrival window for the nature writing class was from four to eight, and the sun hung low behind the distant mountains when we stepped out of the van and onto the gravel parking lot. We’d put it off as long as possible. We’d been busy {Continue Reading}
  • Putting Myself Aside

    Putting Myself Aside

    With winter’s chill rolling off him as he and his siblings came in from the wintry night air, my son asked, “Can we have our friends over to play boot hockey?” Flanking him, his sisters, echoed the question silently with their eyes. We live in Iowa, and of the ten years we’ve lived in a {Continue Reading}
  • Why We Don’t Feed the Animals

    Why We Don’t Feed the Animals

    One evening, toward the end of my shift at the Old Faithful Inn gift shop, I saw a woman circling the front of the store, searching. When I approached her to offer assistance, she turned and said, “Where do you keep the food for the animals?”  Food for the animals? I was shocked that anyone would {Continue Reading}
  • Pondering Life Outside {Why it Matters}

    Pondering Life Outside {Why it Matters}

    A strange sort of geography took my parents, my brother, and me from Glacier National Park in northern Montana back home by way of a one day drive through Yellowstone. It was 1989, the year after Yellowstone’s Summer of Fire. We’d watched it unfold on the evening news. Night after night reporters stood in front {Continue Reading}
  • Trail Talk

    Trail Talk

    Happy May! Isn’t it wonderful to finally not be cold? If you’ve read around here long, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I am a conflicted outdoorsy type–an avid indoorswoman and a reluctant hiker.  Reluctant or not, time, experience, and maturity have brought me to a love of the places trails take me, {Continue Reading}
  • Walking When You’d Rather Wait

    Walking When You’d Rather Wait

    A couple of Mays ago, our family was in Yellowstone, standing in line at the Visitor Education Center at Mammoth Hot Springs, waiting to find out if a trail was open. Because the wait was long, we ended up eavesdropping as a ranger recommended the Sepulcher Mountain Trail to the older couple in front of {Continue Reading}
  • Pondering Life Outside Challenge

    Pondering Life Outside Challenge

    According to C.S. Lewis, “No man would find an abiding strangeness on the Moon unless he were the sort of man who could find it in his own back garden.” My grandma began schooling me in the wonders of the back garden early, when I was just a little girl.  Among the things I looked {Continue Reading}
  • Whether We Perceive It or Not

    Whether We Perceive It or Not

    Cool mountain air drifted in through our open window, carrying high-pitched beeps and deep rumblings that broke into my slumber. I lay in the dark of our tiny room at the back of the lodge and tried to place it. A tractor? A road grater? I recognized that sound. I knew what it wasn’t but {Continue Reading}
  • Winter Gifts and Graces

    Winter Gifts and Graces

    Regardless of what the thermometer reads today or tomorrow or next week, winter is winding down. I’ll just repeat that, mostly because I need the reassurance. Winter is winding down. I need the reassurance because I believe something that isn’t true: Everything will last forever. Whether it’s the balmy breezes of a green spring that {Continue Reading}
  • For When We Find Ourselves Waiting

    For When We Find Ourselves Waiting

    Bundled against the sub-zero temperatures, we left the cozy warmth of our cabin to brave Yellowstone’s deep winter chill. At twelve below zero, the temperature was up seven degrees already that morning from the previous afternoon’s negative nineteen. After fumbling over my own thick, clumsy fingers to fasten snowshoes to boots, I wondered what kind {Continue Reading}
  • The Spiritual Discipline of Expecting Delays and Great Scenery

    The Spiritual Discipline of Expecting Delays and Great Scenery

    Because of the invisible cord that ties writing to life, it is with some trepidation I acknowledge that my anticipated writing topics for the coming months center around a theme which can be summarized by a road sign, especially a road sign in a construction zone bearing this kind of verbiage: Expect delays and great {Continue Reading}
  • Beginning Again

    Beginning Again

    Oh, I have something special to share with you today: a guest post from one of my favorite writers on the internet: Tresta Payne. I was encouraged and challenged by what she’s offered here, and I hope you will be, as well. All creation groans for a new beginning, and here we have January–the clean {Continue Reading}
  • Because Our Moments Matter {Steps Toward Making the Most of Them}

    Because Our Moments Matter {Steps Toward Making the Most of Them}

    Cue the music. It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love. Every song you hear seems to say… I haven’t noticed the world falling in love, and if we were sitting down together to write that song this morning, the lyrics might play out a little differently. It’s that time of year {Continue Reading}
  • Fall Notes

    Fall Notes

    Fall is traditionally my favorite season. Its crisp leaves and cool air combine to make it a time I want to linger on indefinitely. This one is half-gone and I’ve kind of missed it. At least that’s what I thought before I took a look back. I haven’t missed anything. There’s been life and learning, {Continue Reading}
  • When Christmas Surprises You

    When Christmas Surprises You

    Dad and I crossed the steamy asphalt, melty ice-cream cones in hand. We’d driven cross-country to Yellowstone for a nature-writing seminar and stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs for two reasons: huckleberry ice cream and piano music. The ice cream was a sure thing. The piano music, though? That was a different story. Randy played four {Continue Reading}
  • Tracks and Transitions

    Tracks and Transitions

    Out west, our family sometimes stays in a cabin on a parcel of land plunked down in the middle of a national forest. There—with no cell service, no cable, and no wifi– we watch the weather unfold in the sky rather than on radar. A couple of years back, a sunny September afternoon was overshadowed {Continue Reading}
  • Sparkling in an Unfamiliar Life

    My great-grandma was a woman of summer. She kept a garden. She grew the flowers and vegetables that graced her table. She picked the berries that topped our ice cream. Once in a while I helped her in the garden or the berry patch and it always shocked me when she showed up wearing slacks. The {Continue Reading}
  • Christmas In August

    Christmas In August

      Steamy air radiated from the asphalt as we crossed the road in front of the diner. Dad and I had traveled to Yellowstone for a nature writing seminar and a quick stop at Mammoth Hot Springs for an ice cream cone marked the transition from our leisurely tour of the park and three days {Continue Reading}
  • Summer Notes

    Summer Notes

    Seasons–the days, the weeks, and even the months they are made of–are easy things for me to give away. I saw this tendency when my son and daughters were small and I referred to them as the age they would be on their next birthday rather than the one they were in that moment. I see it {Continue Reading}
  • No: A Long Bridge to Yes

    No: A Long Bridge to Yes

    When I slipped off the wide gravel road and into the woods, I knew it was a risk. The worn, earthen trail between the trees was wore a dark, saturated look, as if just a few drops of rain would transform it into shoe-sucking mud. At first it was solid and often grassy. Before long, {Continue Reading}
  • What Gives Her Away

    What Gives Her Away

      Elyse was four when she first showed us how brave she was—and what mattered enough to bring that bravery out. We’d moved, pulling into the driveway at a new house after dark on a Sunday night and popping out for a pre-school visit at nine the very next morning. During our tour she cast {Continue Reading}
  • Embracing a Big Summer {& a Giveaway}

    Embracing a Big Summer {& a Giveaway}

    While the rest of the world waited for February 2 and  Punxsutawney Phil to declare just how many more weeks winter would hold on, I looked to February 1. That was the date I allowed myself to count the days until my kids would be done with school and off on summer break so we could all be home {Continue Reading}
  • When the Mind Won’t Stop {5 Ideas That Might Help}

    When the Mind Won’t Stop {5 Ideas That Might Help}

    There you are, on the couch with your kids, in the stands at the game, at the coffee shop with a friend. You’re sitting. You’re supporting. You’re socializing. But you haven’t stopped. You’ve pushed pause. Your body is still, at least enough to watch and cheer and talk, but your mind is running. Writing a {Continue Reading}
  • Waiting For What We Can’t See

    Waiting For What We Can’t See

     Along the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and  Cooke City, the meadows are open and greening, quite in agreement with the calendar: spring has arrived. Leave the dry, temperate north end of Yellowstone and try to head into the interior, though,  and you’ll see a place still in waiting. The most obvious sign: You can’t actually {Continue Reading}
  • Gifts and Graces: Spring Edition

    Gifts and Graces: Spring Edition

    Yesterday I hurried into Walmart for a few things and emerged–much more slowly–pushing a cart. Right outside the door I caught the fragrance of something I’d seen but not stopped to appreciate on the way in: flowers for sale. It was the scent of spring. I try, with varying degrees of success, not to focus so much {Continue Reading}
  • Every Day We Show Up

    Every Day We Show Up

    Encouraged by this post? Receive an audio file of another story from the stage:The Single Seat. Subscribe to the quarterly{ish} newsletter in sidebar.  Every Monday during the winter, I drive into town. There, twenty young actors and a few directors gather to work. We block scenes so the actors know where they’re supposed to be, when. {Continue Reading}
  • Overwhelm: A Bridge Toward Saner Living

    Overwhelm: A Bridge Toward Saner Living

    J and I took our first trip to Yellowstone together twenty-two springs ago. As we zipped down the interstate ahead of schedule in the middle of the afternoon, I realized we could make it to the park that night. We could cancel our along-the-way reservation, drive to the Old Faithful Inn, and wake up already there rather {Continue Reading}
  • Winter’s Good Graces {and Why to Keep Track}

    Winter’s Good Graces {and Why to Keep Track}

    The bleak midwinter, Christina Rossetti called it. And while her poem is lovely, living with continual strings of short, cold, sunless days is not. I believe that there is a time for everything, even bleak days. And yet. It’s at such times when my practice of pausing occasionally to ponder the path, to take stock of each season’s gifts and {Continue Reading}
  • Seeing Blue Beyond the Grey {and Welcome!}

    Because it intersects with two subjects that fascinate and teach me,  the rhythms of the seasons and Yellowstone, I bought a book, For Everything There is a Season: The Sequence of Events in the Grand Teton-Yellowstone Area. Through it, I see the general happening of Yellowstone’s year from afar. Week by week, it lays out which birds {Continue Reading}
  • Taking the Best of One Year Into the Next

    Gravel crunched under the tires as I made my way through early morning’s darkness down the lane, away from my home in the country toward a hospital in the city. Des Moines has six general hospitals and I could picture and plot a route to every one of them. Every one except the one where {Continue Reading}
  • Look at the Pretty Lights

    Our headlights cut through the blinding darkness of the December night, illuminating the country highway as my littlest girl and I made our way home from church. “Look at the pret-ty lights, Mom-my,” she called from her car seat in the back of the van. “Do you see the pret-ty lights? I like the pret-ty {Continue Reading}
  • Gifts and Graces

    Gratitude. It doesn’t always come naturally. grat i tude noun the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Along with the continual quest to lift my eyes so I can see, I’ve been trying to acknowledge life’s gifts and the little graces of each season. It’s a practice that helps me cultivate {Continue Reading}
  • Bridges Between

    One fall, when I attended the University of Iowa, I went a few weeks between visits home. When my parents drove me to school, the fields were full and green. When they brought me home, the fields stood empty. Even the combines and trucks had gone home. Growing up in rural Iowa, I’d never experienced fall {Continue Reading}
  • Because Winter is Inevitable

    Once, long ago, before babies and moves to houses in new communities, I picked up the beginning of an understanding of the seasons—their rhythms, their tasks, their hard realities. Learning to be a mom to three babies while finding my way in three different towns left room for little else in my brain. I traded {Continue Reading}
  • The Light of Summer

    As the sun set over the baseball field at the end of a sweltering July day, I sat in the stands and tried not to long for fall. Extreme heat is kind of my kryptonite, so I found myself fighting to not wish the light of summer away over a little discomfort. Summer, hot as it is right {Continue Reading}
  • Because of New Normals

    On the eve of our son’s return to college when the kids were snarly and I was weepy, my husband looked at us and said, “Transitions are always tough.” They are. I know. But I forget. With his words barely out into the air between us, I remembered Yellowstone’s roads and the rough transition from spring-summer-fall to {Continue Reading}
  • On Clearing and Cultivating

    Eight years ago, two months after we landed in a new place, spring unfolded like the twelve days of Christmas, each morning bestowing blossoms of a new color. Crocus peeked over the winter’s covering of melting snow. Creeping phlox draped over the rock wall and tidy circles of hosta poked through the mat of the previous {Continue Reading}
  • Rest Along the Way

    We sprinted up the switchbacked trail, pausing occasionally to measure how far we’d come, to rest our already used-up legs, to fill our lungs with as much oxygen as the mountain air would give. In previous years, I would have decided that it wasn’t worth it. Not the rush. Not the climb. Not even the destination. But over {Continue Reading}
  • All Because of a Little Fire

    The springtime landscape in rural Iowa wears a mosaic of ever-deepening swaths of green broken by plots of freshly turned fields and charred black ditches. Growing up, I saw the burns and wondered why people, including my farmer-grandparents, endured the stress of trying to contain a fire they’d set themselves. They serve all manner of useful purposes, these {Continue Reading}
  • She Needed Me to Play

    Sometimes, when we head west, we land for a few days at a cabin. In a meadow in Custer National Forest, it’s far enough from civilization that the siren song of phone, internet, and television falls silent, replaced by the gentler sounds of wind in the trees and water dancing over boulders. There, the weather unfolds in {Continue Reading}
  • Tracks in the Snow

    The twelve-passenger van made its way down Yellowstone’s snow-covered road not on traditional tires, but on treads meant to traverse the groomed roadway. Gone were the crowds and the fly fishermen of fall, replaced by seas of white broken by swaths of evergreen and dots of brown, bison in search of last year’s grass to {Continue Reading}
  • Adele and the Rearview Mirror

    At our Christmas celebration the cover image of a magazine in my parents’ living room caught my eye. It featured Adele. I like reading about celebrities, usually in germ-infested copies of People magazine at the doctor’s office. I wasn’t at the doctor’s and this wasn’t People. It was Time magazine. All I knew about Adele was that she’s {Continue Reading}
  • Where She Belonged

    I woke, just after midnight, to contractions. Forcing myself to remain motionless under the covers, I tried to convince myself that it was nothing more than a long series of Braxton-Hicks and go back to sleep. But the contractions were strong and regular, each one arriving with just a little less time between it and {Continue Reading}
  • Because Sometimes We Forget

    Once upon a time I looked at the empty picnic tables at interstate rest areas  and wondered Who uses those?  I never saw them in use and our stops were always quick and utilitarian. Then J and I had kids. Each of our three children was less than a year before we carted them off on their first {Continue Reading}
  • Do Not Approach

    The girls and I emerged from the cozy, fire-warmed lobby,  braced ourselves against the chilled morning air, and took to the sidewalk that led to Mammoth Hot Spring’s historic chapel. Aware of the cow elk lounging on the lawn between the buildings along the way, I said, “Don’t worry. I won’t risk our lives on the way to church this {Continue Reading}
  • Influenced By the One That Came Before

    Summer’s green is wearing thin. Before long, it will give way to the colors of autumn. Some years, summer’s heat and its green march across the lawn arrive with a suddenness that suggests we’ve gone straight from winter to summer with no stop for spring. This doesn’t happen with autumn. Thanks to the turning of the {Continue Reading}
  • Because

    Because the things of earth end, because beginnings arrive disguised as endings, because this week brings both to our family in the form of college–a repost. It made sense when I was young. The cicada’s song signaled school’s imminent return. I enjoyed school, so maybe it didn’t make sense, but as a child, it was {Continue Reading}
  • It Changes Everything

    The pontoon pulled away from the dock and turned toward the open water where we drifted past brown and pastel cabins tucked into the trees along the shore. Under the influence of the overcast day, that was all there was to see. The sky, typically the star of our evening cruise, offered nothing but dismal {Continue Reading}
  • Why Summer Matters

    A tiny ball of feline fluff has taken up residence in our garage. She moved in at the invitation of our youngest, herself a petite bundle of boundless energy. Our girlie made the little grey cat a bed, set up a feeding station, and installed a litter box, and then she set up a pup tent for herself. {Continue Reading}
  • The Bird and the Wire

    Summer mornings, I walk the gravel line between the drone of highway traffic and the twitter of birds in the pasture. A road that knows few cars and fewer houses, its ditches prosper rabbits and bees and the birds which lay down my morning soundtrack. I rarely notice the animals when I walk. Because I’m prone to tumble, I tend {Continue Reading}
  • Celebrating Spring

    Spring is well underway and I’m celebrating. Some of these celebrations are borne from intention while others occur as naturally as breath. They are, in random order: Color Green grass and leaves, flowering trees and shrubs are here. They’ve created a feast for my earth-tone weary eyes and I am grateful. Time After a long {Continue Reading}
  • What If?

    My husband was away recently for a few days of out-of-town work and instead of going to sleep at reasonable hour, I stayed up and binge read the blog of a writer I’d heard interviewed earlier that day. I read her entire blog–all five years of it–over the course of two late nights. (Because what sane {Continue Reading}
  • One Step Toward Perspective

    It’s early April, and here in the midwest, already spring’s verdant march across the lawn toward the front door is more than a hint or a dream. The bright landscape leaves no question that winter, though it could at any moment clench its frosty fist, has lost its grip. A new season is under way. {Continue Reading}
  • The Wonder of Winter

    There is a time for everything. I know this. I believe it. The thing is, when a sliver of life overwhelms me, I forget it. I tend to operate on the assumption that whatever is going on in my life–good or bad, joy or sorrow–will last forever. The seasons, especially as they change, remind me {Continue Reading}
  • On Breaking Trail

    We pulled into the gravel parking lot at the base of Bunsen Peak, piled out, grabbed day packs and water from the back of the vehicle, and set off. Dust had barely begun to accumulate around our ankles when we saw him: a lone bison, a bull, just twenty-five feet off the trail. Someone was going to {Continue Reading}
  • Everywhere

    We’ve taken to watching a little football at our house on Sunday afternoons and when the talk turns to the Super Bowl, I remember the day I found some unexpected beauty in Yellowstone. Oh, I expected to find beauty, but not indoors, not around the television, and not watching football. In memory of that day, {Continue Reading}
  • A Great Deal Of Good

    Two Septembers ago my family spent a few weeks in South Dakota. It wasn’t a vacation; it was a working trip. My husband tucked us away in the hills and commuted every morning into Rapid City. The kids and I did schoolwork and read and whiled away the remains of the day until he came back home. What {Continue Reading}
  • A Little Thing

    The littlest things make a difference, little things such as bits of scarlet in a tangle of brown on a winter’s day. It’s often true, what Blaise Pascal wrote: A little thing comforts us because a little thing afflicts us. A little thing can make all the difference. What little thing is making a difference for {Continue Reading}
  • Roads in Transition, Part 2

    On December 12 the National Park Service posted a news release to inform the public that Yellowstone’s interior roads would open on December 15, just as predicted. Yellowstone’s fall and winter travelers knew when the road crews would start to let the snow build, when they’d get dangerous, and when they’d be safe for snow machines. {Continue Reading}
  • Room, Or No?

    The year I got married, my husband’s mom told me she’d read that the Christmas season brings thirty-nine additional items to a woman’s already overflowing to-do list. At the time I thought the number seemed a wee bit overstated but with age and experience, I’ve learned that the exact number doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, {Continue Reading}
  • Roads in Transition

    The sun dawned in the steely sky and peeked through trees veiled by the falling snow. It had begun the night before and lingered, fine and heavy, through the day. “It’s slick,” my son told me when he returned from his mid-day Calc class. I must have looked concerned because he amended his statement. “The {Continue Reading}
  • Gifts

    Fall is days from turning in its papers for the year but between the early sticking snows and arctic blast I nearly missed it. And not only its existence–I almost missed its gifts. Fall is my favorite season but it just didn’t look like its typical self this year. Neither did its gifts. Normally my list {Continue Reading}
  • Anchor

    Once in a while, we encounter the remains of a colossal tree on the trail. Sometimes we find an immense trunk laying on the ground rather than stretched to the sky. Usually, though, it’s a remnant of a root system tipped into the air that gets our attention. We always stop when we see a tangled mass {Continue Reading}
  • Before It Blows Away

      The screen door crashed and muted footfalls raced across the carpet. “Come outside and look at the sky before it blows away!” called my littlest girl. “Before what blows away?” “The sky, it’s beautiful! But the clouds are moving really fast. I’m afraid you’ll miss it if you don’t come now, before the clouds {Continue Reading}
  • For When It Rains On Your Parade

    A few Saturdays ago, I woke to thunder and began to pray that it wouldn’t rain. Seconds later, I realized that it was 6:30 a.m., the time when my post The Best Thing One Can Do  was scheduled to land in inboxes, mine included. I wasn’t following Longfellow’s advice for a rainy day. Sometimes weather is a {Continue Reading}
  • Rest Area Closed

    Two years ago my family, parents, brother and sister-in-law, nephew and niece, along with the ones who live in my house–the whole tribe—made the drive to our current summer gathering place: Campfire Bay in Minnesota. That was the year that the Minnesota government shut down while it wrangled over the budget. Minnesota itself remained open, {Continue Reading}
  • The Road Ahead: October

    My oldest childrenwere six and three when Jonah—A Veggie Tales Movie came out. When we went to see it, they hopped down the street toward the theater with glee. All their favorites were on the big screen: Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, Junior Asparagus, and Archibald the, well, we never did decide what Archibald was, {Continue Reading}
  • The Intruder

    A low rumble of a growl, that’s how it started. Our first camping trip found us buried further down a country road than I had ever traveled, stuck on one of those rural grassy drives between dusty gravel and green pasture. The little red Plymouth Sundance that I brought into our marriage lost the battle {Continue Reading}
  • What’s a Little Rain?

    Dad and I went to Yellowstone about a year ago—just the two of us, to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, for a nature writing class—and we did some hiking and camping along the way. Most of the time, the end-of-August days delighted us with warm sun and cool air, but the forecast and cotton candy clouds {Continue Reading}
  • On Trials Shared

    Gary Smalley, founder of the Smalley Relationship Center, says that the secret to a “close-knit relationship is shared experiences that turn into shared trials.” He mentions camping as one source for shared trials and a potential relationship-building activity. Makes sense. Camping is fraught with potential for trial. There’s the weather. The bugs. The work. The hard ground. He {Continue Reading}
  • The Road Ahead: September

    One Sunday I walked out of church into the late morning sun and noticed a friend’s sweet daughter prancing around near the street. She skipped right over to me when I called to her.  I got down on one knee so that we could see each other’s faces and we talked about the dangers of {Continue Reading}
  • Warning Signs

    Some summers my nephew and niece visit us. The kids picnic and put on puppet shows; they fish and swim and sleep outside and get bit up. They stay busy–all on their own–and they love it. One year, my daughter was recovering from a cracked elbow. She had a doctor’s appointment so I planned to {Continue Reading}
  • Soundtrack of Summer

    I planned to watch this year. Maybe it was lack of competition from central air units, but this summer’s been all about sound. Here’s a baker’s dozen of my favorites: “Goin’ out!” followed by the banging of a door Frogs. Oh, how I love their way of filling the air with song. Birds. Ditto. Cicadas. {Continue Reading}
  • Silver Linings

    I wrote this last winter but I couldn’t bear to post one more piece about snow. Winter had been too long and too deep. Summer always brings a day, usually in August, when I step outdoors and know that I will again be ready for snow. This is not that day. This strangely cool summer {Continue Reading}
  • The Single Seat

    During the first months of the year, a friend and I directed a play together: Outlaws, Goldmines, and Whatnot. On performance day, I realized that our directing work was done. Oh, we had makeup to help with, questions to answer, and I gave what one of the boys called my Storming the Beach at Normandy speech {Continue Reading}
  • What Made Her Sparkle

    My great-grandma was a woman of summer. She kept a garden and her table overflowed with its bounty. She picked berries for jam and to top ice cream. Once in a while, I helped her in the berry patch or the garden and it always shocked me when she showed up in pants. The garden {Continue Reading}
  • In The Silence

    Morning is quiet again. Sort of. The distant whine is gone and when I step out on my deck, birds are all I hear. The cicadas started early this summer–not the usual ones, not the dog day ones, not the ones that make me sad. These were the Magicicada Brood III, the Iowa Brood, the ones that emerge {Continue Reading}
  • Broken Bits

    I will not be posting during  June. Of the months of summer, it is June when my children are least busy and I want to put aside the distraction of the internet for that month. Between now and then, whether we–you and I–find ourselves at the ball field or the office, on the bike path or {Continue Reading}
  • Sometimes the Road is Dark

    We don’t always get it right out on the trail. We knew it would be close. Still, 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 camel paks while I reached into our {Continue Reading}
  • Gifts of Spring

    Bird song mingled with the rumbles of highway trucks. The force of green marching through the woods toward the house. Pastures dotted with red and black cattle and frolicsome calves on the hills. The sound of a sudden rain–the kind that starts out like it means business. The early morning changing of the guard between {Continue Reading}
  • The Quiet Walk

    There is more to a hike than a pair of boots, a granola bar, and the trail. There’s technique. At least that’s what they taught in the hiking class I took to satisfy a  college P.E. requirement. I was slow to come to a love of hiking and didn’t yet have it when my roommate {Continue Reading}
  • The Road Ahead: May

    Sometimes it’s the road behind that illuminates the way forward. A year ago we had a rare May snow. It was wet and heavy and didn’t stick around. It couldn’t. Our orbit around the Sun was too deep into the warmth of spring. So far, this spring is cold. It could snow again this May. Chances {Continue Reading}
  • Yeah, Little Girl, It Is

    This is a revised version of one of my first and favorite posts. I’m revisiting it today because when it originally posted, Along This Road had all of five subscribers. (Thank you, by the way.) It’s different from the original because I’ve learned that no matter what the blogging experts say, bullet points are not my {Continue Reading}
  • After the Rain

    It was hot when we arrived in Montana. Ninety degrees hot. In October. After sweltering for a couple of days, we drove toward Yellowstone over the Beartooth Highway, where the balmy morning temperatures plummeted into winter, one degree at a time. By the time we made it to Mammoth, the front had chased away the {Continue Reading}
  • The Road Ahead: April

    Sometimes the road curves. Some are gentle, bends visible from a long way off. Others stop my heart when their convoluted curve-ahead sign pops into view as I cruise along, a distracted driver relying too heavily on auto-pilot. Three mornings into April, the road stretches out straight as an Iowa highway. This will be a {Continue Reading}
  • Slow Saturday Mornings

    When my oldest two were four and seven and I was pregnant with the youngest, we went to Yellowstone. It was May. Deep snow lined the roads through the high mountain passes even while the sun made long sleeves unbearable. Because I’m into conversation, every night I would ask the kids and my husband what {Continue Reading}
  • Falling Down In Denver

    Occasionally my husband’s job requires him to travel. Once in a while, I tag along. He works while I spend silent hours with books. Our trip to Denver was different. He worked and I discovered HGTV. Forlorn and neglected, my books sat in a tidy stack on the bedside stand rather than spread across the desk. {Continue Reading}
  • The Wrong Things

    In their quest to unearth my son’s Star Wars chess set, my kids discovered a bundle of cards and letters I’d saved–drawings and cards they had given me, cards from my husband, and a letter from my dad. It was twenty-five years old, written during the early days of the summer I worked in Yellowstone {Continue Reading}
  • Lifelong Learning: Compelled

    When we drove away from Yellowstone earlier this month, we went only as far as we could get in an hour and stopped for a couple of days at a resort famous for its thermally fed, all-season, outdoor pool. We expected to relax with our bodies submerged in the therapeutic ninety-eight degree water as our {Continue Reading}
  • An Uncomfortable Question

    We dragged ourselves into Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel according to plan, just after midnight Sunday morning. We’d driven twenty hours and that last one was hard. We were all road-weary and my husband, who had driven most of the way, was done. I took the wheel as the temperature plummeted, the wind whipped up {Continue Reading}
  • Winter’s Question

    Of Earth’s four seasons, Iowa wears them all. Each has its own look, its own color, its own mood; and each its own job. Winter drives the birds south and the people indoors and the renewal of spring invites them back. Summer’s heat grows the corn and the crisp days of fall prompt every long-lived {Continue Reading}
  • Immeasurable

    Linking this weekend with Still Saturday and The Sunday Community.
  • More

    Twenty Januarys ago, the flat monotony of I-80 delivered us to the foothills of the Wasatch Range of the Utah Rockies and the threshold of the Big Cottonwood Canyon.  As Dad eased to a stop at the intersection leading to the canyon road, we saw a disheartening sign spray-painted on the face of a rock. {Continue Reading}
  • Watch With Me?

    During finals week of my sophomore year I noticed a two columned list, double-sided, on my college roommate’s desk. It was titled My Life From Now Until I Die. She had a lot to do. College is like that. So is life. In my first post here at Along This Road, after I accused my {Continue Reading}
  • Let’s Sit In Front!

    Two years ago my parents took all five grandchildren to Florida to the beach and Sea World and Disney World. Disney World. My mom looked kind of chagrinned when she brought it up, as though she was worried we might think they had taken leave of their senses. She had reason. When my brother and {Continue Reading}
  • For This December: On Being Stretched

    When my uncle and aunt left their Century Farm in Iowa to ranch in Oklahoma they offered me much of what had been sitting, unused for generations, in their attic. There were books. Heaps of them.  My favorites were the old ones with worn covers, among them a frayed copy of The Jungle Book with {Continue Reading}
  • On Feeling Lost

    Because I inherited my zeal for vacation planning from my dad, it wasn’t long after he invited me to go to the writing class that we began to plot the hikes we would take along the way. He charted our route, one that would take us into Yellowstone through the Tetons where we would revisit {Continue Reading}
  • For This November: Before It’s Gone

    “Come look at the sky–before it’s gone.” It was my dad. He was hard at work outdoors last weekend, building a wall with my husband and son. As usual, he had his eye on the sky and when he saw that the evening’s sunset was worth sharing, he did. My youngest walked with me into our {Continue Reading}
  • Every morning

    The Canyon Area is an outpost of civilization near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone boasting two stores, a post office, Visitor Education Center, hotel, gas station and campground. A slow drive down a wooded lane leads campers away from commotion and commerce into an enveloping lodgepole forest. Among the pines, loop upon loop of {Continue Reading}
  • For This Fall: What the Squirrel Doesn’t Know

    A thud near my head stirred me from sleep. The stirring wasn’t difficult. I was on the ground. We were camping, tucked away in a tent that hadn’t been warmed by the sun since we last slept in it in the back yard seven summers before. We weren’t in the back yard that morning. Back {Continue Reading}
  • For This October: Too Fast of Speed

    Calling my husband’s family a water-sport loving family is like calling the arctic North, chilly. They’re hardcore. He grew up on skis. He also grew up clinging to his dad’s shoulders as his dad perched on a chair which was balanced precariously on a plywood disk (the “saucer”) as it skimmed across the water behind {Continue Reading}
  • 28 Days on the Road: Some Things I Learned

    Today I’ll be linking up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky, sharing what we’ve learned over the past month, specifically what I learned during twenty-eight days on the road. Eight of those days I spent with my dad and the rest with my husband and children. Dad and I hiked and camped and attended a {Continue Reading}
  • For This Week

    If the road you walk this week narrows, if life rises around you and you find yourself in over your head, may you know that you are not alone. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be {Continue Reading}
  • For This September: When You Get in Over Your Head

    My parents are not lake people. They aren’t river people. When my brother and I occasionally talked about swimming in a nearby lake, they talked about field runoff. So when my mom told me we would be wading a river as we–my parents, the five grandchildren, and I–made our way from Iowa to San Antonio, {Continue Reading}
  • The Other Side

    My children are all in various stages of learning to wakeboard, a sport which uses the wake, that trail of water disturbed by the passage of the boat as it moves over the surface. They wakeboard because my husband comes from a water sport loving family. They’re a family of wakeboard enthusiasts, and for that {Continue Reading}
  • And Your Parents Have a Twelve Passenger Van Because?

    An insistent noise intruded into heavy sleep, waking me just enough to know that I had to silence it, but not enough to allow me to understand what it was or where I was.  I stumbled through the dark toward the incessant pounding, wanting only to find it and make it stop. It came from {Continue Reading}
  • For This August: Remembering To Be Thankful

    A trail’s name hints at what lies beyond. Usually it’s the destination: Mallard Lake. Sometimes it’s that the trail won’t be level: Mount Washburn.  Occasionally it’s a warning: Seven Mile Hole. Hikers need more than a hint. We need to understand the trail. We need to know how many miles we’ll be hiking, how long {Continue Reading}
  • Cicada Song

    Every summer the cicadas sing their song. Every summer it starts too soon. Every summer it makes me sad. It made sense when I was young. The cicada’s song signaled school’s imminent return. I enjoyed school, so maybe it didn’t make sense, but as a child, it was the best I could come up with. I {Continue Reading}
  • On Finding an Abiding Strangeness

    Mom and Dad first took my brother and me to Yellowstone when he was eight and I, twelve, to show us a world away from our little town but the showing began long before we packed the car and went west. When I was young we lived for a short time on my grandparents’ farm. {Continue Reading}
  • For This Summer: Letting it Go

    Each summer we gather with my husband’s family at his parents’ house. We converge on their home in vehicles stuffed with people and dogs, books and toys, luggage and anticipation. Mixed among all those are the lingering imprints of our lives. I can pack. What I can’t do is to remember to bring what I’ve {Continue Reading}
  • When We Make Our Way Back

    The last fight between my brother and I involved a fun-size Snickers bar. We were on our way out for a day of downhill skiing and both had our eye the same treat. He was twenty. I was twenty-four. We fought over candy. Travel has a way of bringing it out in people. It is important, {Continue Reading}
  • For This July: Lifelong Learning

    A few months ago, Emily at Chatting at the Sky wrote a post about what she had learned during the previous month. Her list was filled with the serious and the lighthearted and it made me wonder what, if anything, I was learning. By the end of the day, I had my own list and {Continue Reading}
  • A Hiker’s Tale

    On a lovely day, when our family was driving from one place to another, we detoured through a state park. It was a good day for a hike, so we got out of the car and onto the trail. It began atop a meadowy ridge where we walked together until the trail turned downward. Not {Continue Reading}
  • Waiting for the Pool to Fill

    We wore the road to Norris thin. Home to a geyser our family favored, it was a must-stop. Every time. Echinus’ eruption cycle was short, thirty-five to seventy-five minutes. A half-mile path through the woods led to the broad depression in the earth that was its pool. Draining at the completion of an eruption, it {Continue Reading}
  • Of Recipes and Risk

    My brother and I were just a little finicky when we were young. We didn’t like oatmeal. We hated onions. We loathed sandwiches. And what is typical lunch fare for a family at a national park picnic area between hikes? Sandwiches. Eventually, we grew out of it and now we’re both in the kitchen, facing {Continue Reading}
  • Part of the Journey

    Even though Mom and Dad first took us to the mountains when we were little, little enough that my brother and I had matching blue and white jackets, it wasn’t until we went to Yellowstone that we really hiked. Our early forays on the trail were not entirely successful. We attempted the peak of Mount {Continue Reading}
  • What Do May Flowers Bring?

    If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims, of course. Of all the cards I have received in my life, you would think I would remember one more profound. No. I remember this. A silly joke that comes to mind more often than seems right does what the best things do. {Continue Reading}
  • Perspective

    It could be anything – a soccer game, a wedding – and if it is to be held outdoors, the weather becomes a plot driving character in the day’s story. Like the girl from the nursery rhyme, when it’s good, it is really, really good, but when it’s bad? It might not be horrid, but {Continue Reading}
  • For This Spring

    Because we like snow, we watched it swirl through the branches of the tree that sits between our house and the pond. My daughter spotted a robin – our first of the year – perched on a branch, proof that winter will yield to spring. It will release its hold on the land and the {Continue Reading}
  • For This March: Great Expectations

    It’s hard to beat the Tetons. They are beautiful. It is easy to see why people would be in a hurry to arrive. Even so, there is beauty in the delay, if only we will slow down long enough to see it. Once, when we had driven up into Yellowstone from the Tetons, we met {Continue Reading}
  • A Tree’s Tale

    My husband is a mountain goat, climbing and clinging to the unlikeliest of spots with ease. Our children take after him and as soon as they are able, they scramble after him. Those poor, sad souls who aren’t yet able to climb with their daddy stay behind with me, and I shepherd them around the {Continue Reading}
  • A Good Name

    Last summer I met the son of a favorite great-uncle. My whole family was staying at a Minnesota fishing resort and when he came by, I, because I don’t like to meet people, at first let my mom go greet her cousin by herself. Eventually, though, I decided to be a grownup and go with {Continue Reading}
  • For This February: a Look Back

    I made a discovery this morning, the kind of morning that takes place in the middle of the night. The wind from the snow storm woke me up and because it is pointless to live with snow if I am not going to enjoy it, I got up, happy just to be awake while the {Continue Reading}
  • Bends in the Road

    I found myself staring at my computer screen, rather shocked at what I had written.  What had started out as a simple story about my little girl’s foray into the world with her Pa and how it carried over into our family’s life on the trail had turned, unbidden, into both a moment of parental vision for {Continue Reading}
  • For This New Year

    Last January it occurred to me that I was without focus so I decided it was time to set some goals and get myself back on track. I stuck with this quest for about a month before my enthusiasm waned and it all got set aside. I told myself that things had just gotten really {Continue Reading}