Sabbatical Days 70-73: Midnight drive to Yellowstone

We left for Yellowstone just before midnight on the 70th day of sabbatical, driving by the light of a full moon. 

All of our other weekend and week-long camping trips have been leading up to this one. We will be camping nomads for four weeks before we return home exactly 1/4 of the way through our sabbatical.

Our itinerary looks something like this:
Week 1: Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Week 2: Glacier National Park (Montana)
Week 3: Canada! Probably Banff or that area…
Week 4: Making our way back to Denver via the Badlands (South Dakota)

You may be wondering why we left for Yellowstone at midnight. It’s only a 9 hour drive from Denver afterall. Well, one of the things we included on our vision board was “leave at midnight for an adventure.” If you’ve never done it, you should. It’s a unique experience. Peaceful. No traffic. Sleeping on the side of the road or at a truck stop. And you have different conversations when it’s the middle of the night.

The highlight of this 11 hour drive was our stop at the Country Store in Dubois, Wyoming, which boasts the world’s largest Jackalope exhibit! Simply amazing. I love the unexpected surprises on road trips.

We drove through Grand Teton National Park on our way into Yellowstone, and before we even made it into Yellowstone, we spotted two bears from the car!


Grizzly? Or Black Bear?
Definitely a Grizzly
Yellowstone Day 1: We spent our first day in Yellowstone setting up camp. This is our first time camping in one location for an entire week, and so we took the time to set up the generator, the sun shade and even hang the clothesline. Since we’d both pretty much stayed up all night we then took a long nap in the heat of the day, and it was HOT! My phone said high seventies, but it felt like ninety degrees or more. Side note: Trent invested in a travel CPAP machine that runs on a solar panel, and he tested it out, and it worked great! Huge solar power fans!


Yellowstone Day 2: Although we had been to Yellowstone before several years ago, we had only driven through for a day since we were staying 80 miles away in Jackson. So, there was plenty that we didn’t do or see. In fact we only saw the southern loop and spent 9 hours doing that. So on our second day in Yellowstone, we toured part of the southern loop again, stopping at our favorite sights from the first time and a lot of the sights that we didn’t see back then. Below are some of the highlights.

Old Faithful Geyser
We saw so many paint pots and mud pots and steaming fumaroles, that it’s hard to keep them all straight!


Downstream Gibbon Falls
Gibbon Falls
Nature Walk to Amphitheater

Animals spotted:
A few Buffalo 


For dinner, we had chili and passionfruit sangria, made by a Boulder, CO company, Decadent Saint. Camp food usually feels a lot like eating at a ball park to me, so the fancy drinks somehow make up for that. After dinner, it was hammock time!

Fridge wasn’t working and we had to throw out a lot of our food. Sad face. More to come on this saga in Day 3.
Solar panel that charges Trent’s travel CPAP blew down and was damaged. No CPAP for Trent tonight. Thank goodness I brought ear plugs!

Yellowstone Day 3: We hit our stride on the third day. One of my goals is to get 15,000 steps a day, so in addition to driving the rest of the southern loop, Trent found a great hike that would get us most of the way to our step goal in one two-hour trek to a waterfall. The hike was along the southern rim of The Canyon and on to Old Tom’s Trail. At first it was just a lovely stroll, but then came the switchbacks and the 328 nearly-vertical stairs to the viewing platform of a beautiful waterfall in Yellowstone River.

Along the drive, there were a lot of other highlights:

Mud Volcano 
Dragon’s Mouth Spring
Bison Herd
More elk
Lake Yellowstone

Other highlights:
My brilliant husband fixed the fridge and negotiated with the company that made his CPAP to replace his solar panel free of charge. It will arrive to our campsite in two days! That man simply makes things happen! Love it! And how amazing that we can receive it in the middle of the wilderness!


Overall observations: I am so much happier when I am plugged in to nature and not the television or other electronic distractions. Yes, I am working on my computer right now, but only to reflect. I’ve been using my phone sparingly and almost exclusively to take pictures and do a few quick posts to Facebook so friends and family know what we are up to.

When we first added Yellowstone to our itinerary, I admit I was actually a little “blah” about it because we’d been here before and I am always so eager to have new experiences. What I am reminded is that every day is a new experience if we are only open to seeing all the possibility that it holds. That means slowing down and being intentional and purposeful in everything. 

When I’m not intentional and purposeful, camp life sometimes seems really hard. I mean everything takes a certain amount of effort. Walk a quarter mile to wash the dishes. Walk five minutes to the bathroom. Wait in line for a shower for an hour. But when I change my perspective, I have the opportunity not only to enjoy the experience more, but to to grow from it and consider how to apply lessons and practices to my non-camp life. Life is simpler and I like it.

Right now in my life I’d rather: 

  • Wait in a long line for the shower at camp than at the King Soopers grocery in Stapleton. 
  • Eat soup, hot dogs, and crackers for every meal than worry about what’s for dinner every day. 
  • Read a book under a tree with mosquitoes nagging me than read email at my desk with a colleague nagging me.  
  • Get blisters from my hiking shoes  than from my heels. 
  • Get in my steps while hiking to a waterfall than hiking to a meeting. 
  • Walk a quarter mile to the bathroom than to the parking garage at the mall. 

You get the idea. 

I’ve come to realize that what’s really hard is the non-camp life I was living prior to sabbatical. Getting wound up over every little thing. Worrying about things that were out of my control at work and at home. Rushing from meeting to meeting, all the while obsessing over all the email that was going unanswered. Spending every ounce of my energy bouncing from one problem to the next, trying to solve it. Without ever really taking a minute to breathe, or to reflect, or to just be. There’s not much else to do when you are walking to and from the bathroom, or scrubbing dishes under the pine trees. You just are. And I like it.
Next stops: Kayaking on Lake Yellowstone, driving the Northern Loop, then on to Glacier National Park!


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