In early June, after my son was finished with school for the summer, we all piled into the car with all of our gear and drove West. This is a story about that trip, accompanied by photos taken with my iPhone and the Hipstamatic camera app. For those of you that don’t know, this is by far my favorite camera app and I use it almost exclusively when I shoot with my phone.
I’m hoping to provide a fairly brief narrative of the trip and be able to share some of the photos I took on my phone. I’ll eventually post more of the pictures I shot on film once I get that processed and scanned (not sure when that will be).
We left Saint Paul, MN on Friday morning and ended up that night in Dickinson, ND. For those of you that have been to this part of the country, it’s not exactly picturesque. In fact, it’s downright boring. It’s nothing but the northern plains as far as the eye can see. Dickinson isn’t much to speak of either, as a matter of fact.
The next morning we piled in the car and set off for Billings, MT. We stopped at Little Bighorn National Monument on the way. Once we entered Montana the scenery improved, or at least–it was something different. Lots of grassland with grazing cattle.
We took advantage of rest stops when we could, cognizant of the time it takes to drive across the country, but also wanting to enjoy what we had driven so far to experience. Max loved it.
Little Bighorn was interesting. It was a bit of a detour to get there from our road to Yellowstone, but worth a trip. The art they have there, and they way they’ve commemorated the battlefield is pretty nicely done. The visitor center was informative as well, and the tour guides did a nice job of telling the story of the events there.
There were a lot of graves. But I suppose that’s really all it is now–a graveyard.
Our final day of driving was the approach of Yellowstone, by way of the Beartooth Pass.
The Beartooth Pass was one of the coolest parts of the drive out to Yellowstone. Driving up the side of a steep mountain up to almost 11,000 feet was spectacular, and a little frightening. At the points where the road narrows and there is no shoulder, and no guard rail, and you can’t see anything past the steep edge…it was nerve-wracking to say the least. But we made it up without any issues and we stopped multiple times to survey the beauty below.
It took us a long time, but we wanted to enjoy the road, which several guides had said is one of the most beautiful drives in America. It sure didn’t disappoint.
Max enjoyed getting out and tromping through the snow at the summit of Beartooth Mountain. Snow on summer break? He was giddy about it.
Once we arrived at the gates of Yellowstone National Park, we were given a map and told that to reach our campground–in virtually the center of the park, overlooking Yellowstone Lake, we’d have to drive another 2-2.5 hours! We hadn’t realized that the park was so large, but it’s absolutely enormous.
With that in mind, it took us a long time each day to drive to the various parts of the park we wanted to spend each day in. We managed to see all of the major parts of the park, and by the time we left we all felt as though we had seen basically everything we would want to. As awesome as it was, a return trip my not be necessary.
We also spent a day in Grand Teton before heading back home.
Along the way, we spent some time in South Dakota, checking out Mount Rushmore. I found it far more impressive than I had imagined I would before we arrived. Unfortunately, it was also completely packed with people.
By the time we got home, we were all tired of driving and ready to sleep in a real bed again…but the mystique of the American Road Trip lives on. It’s a great experience for anyone growing up here and damn near a cultural tradition (despite ever-higher gas prices).
If you’re thinking of heading out west, I’d highly recommend it. Even the relatively small portion that we saw was really impressive. Load up the car, pack up the tent, fill up the tank, and head for the open road. I’m sure you won’t regret it.