I have just returned from a 5-day trip to Yellowstone National Park, and I do not feel the urge to describe the logistics or elements of a trip to Yellowstone. There are plenty of resources covering this topic, and I recommend Dirt In My Shoes as a valuable source for national park trip planning. For this blog entry, I plan to explore some interesting human elements of a vacation in a national park.

I planned my visit to Yellowstone for mid-September, thinking the crowds would be thinned out by this time. The park was filled to capacity during my entire stay, and during mid-day, it was impossible to visit some of the more popular and famous sites. Only by entering the park at the crack of dawn was I able to see my list of hot spots.

The best part about turning 62 years old in July was the opportunity to purchase a lifetime national park pass. This was the first time I was able to proudly wave my freshly minted pass at the park entrance and drive through without paying. I hope to wear this pass out in the coming years.

Some surly people are visiting national parks. I had people yell at me for the misguided idea that I would run them over and for stopping for 30 seconds on a gravel road to look at a Bison. Apparently, they forgot their prescription for a chill pill.

I observed people unable to put their job aside for a few days to explore one of the most beautiful places on earth. There is access to cell phone service at the Canyon Village Visitors Center. One fellow stood out front on his phone, exclaiming he was tired of his wife dragging him through the park to see geysers and wildlife. He proceeds to roll into an acronym-laced discussion regarding his profession. Part of me wanted to confront him and tell him life is now, live for today. You will never remember what you are excitedly ranting about on the phone. Yellowstone and time with family are priceless and unforgettable. I concluded he would not take advice from an unknown questionable looking older fellow and decided to let it go. Besides, he might have punched me. My heart goes out to his family, and I hope he learns to better balance his life.

Fly fishing looks almost spiritual on television and in the movies. For me, trying to learn to fly fish right-handed in a 30-mph wind was not very inspiring. I am an experienced fisherman for southern fare such as bass, crappie, and catfish. I am a neophyte at fly fishing. It is a very different world. My guide switched my reel over to left-handed, and I gradually improved my casting skills. I eventually caught some fish, including a beautiful rainbow trout. I am not sure why I am holding the fish so gingerly in this photo. I think the sunscreen on my face is a nice touch.

Oh well, I was thrilled to catch and release such a cool fish. At the end of the day, my guide told me I did a great job fishing, considering I am a beginner and the challenging conditions of the day. I am confident he rarely shares this sentiment with his customers. He was an excellent guide, very patient, and considerate.

It is hard to find food in Gardiner, Montana. My wife was participating in a wildlife photography seminar and was not finished until 7 pm each day. Most restaurants in Gardiner close at 8 pm and are very crowded. We survived on Subway and pizza. Somehow, I managed to find an ice cream shop helping to make the food situation tolerable. We did have a great meal on our last night. We traveled to Cooke City, Montana, and I was able to eat some tasty rainbow trout.

I have now visited Yellowstone 3 times in the past seven years, and I do not need to go back for a while. Yellowstone is one of the unique places on earth; it should be on everyone’s bucket list. Reading about it and looking at photographs is okay, but it does not compare with an in-person visit. To make the most of your trip, I suggest you plan and then plan again. Yellowstone is a big place with many visitors. Do not let the stories of overwhelming crowds dissuade you, get out there and experience Yellowstone.

Make the most of this day!