Family Vacation. The phrase divines images of rv’s, wood sided station wagons, rambunctious kids, Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley, and lifelong memories – good and bad.
One of the top bucket list destinations for the classic family vacation is Yellowstone National Park. Halfway between the equator and the North Pole, if a nature lover thought of our remaining unspoiled lands as a giant temple, this acreage could be called the “holy of holies.” Yellowstone is one of the few, and one of the largest, complete ecosystems remaining on the globe.
Several people deserve credit for its preservation. Lewis and Clark may have been the first white men to see it, but starting with them feels morally wrong, because native americans lived here for hundreds of years – without ruining it – before L & C ever followed Sacajawea. Blackfeet, Flathead, and Minnetaree Indians lived here without the concept of ownership, and aside from the occasional fight, which the animals did as well, the land was fine. The Minnetaree name for the river was “Mi Tsi Asazi” – Rock Yellow River. Over the decades and generations, that morphed into “the Yellowstone River,” after which the park is named.
More important than Lewis and Clark’s passing by was John Colter’s solo exploration of this area after being discharged from the L&C expedition in 1807. Given the reports of Colter and a few others, Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act in 1872. For what it’s worth, Yosemite was a State Park before that, and Hot Springs, Arkansas was nationally reserved land before that, but Yellowstone was the first National Park. As much as Grant made it a park, Teddy Roosevelt made it famous. The Rough Rider himself was here to set and dedicate the cornerstone of the northern gate, and with his visit came the fascination of a nation.
This land was built – and is still being formed and reformed – by one of the biggest volcanoes on this earth. It blows steam and water; it bubbles pools of acid; it creates its own forest fires, and by this it creates its own weather, nourishing its own fauna and flora.
After all this, since the beginning of time, the Hogues hit it tomorrow. We will do our best not to leave a footprint, and I will do my best to share it here with those who can’t be here with us.
We flew from Little Rock to Denver to Billings, had some good pizza at Mackenzie River Pizza in Billings on the recommendation of a friend, and then drove to Gardiner to find the last room available in town for the night. Tomorrow morning we enter. Stay tuned.