Driving Yellowstone roads reveals beauty

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. – It was 9:20 p.m on a Wednesday night. My advertising class had just ended. As I was heading out of the School of Communication, I saw classmate Marwan Alenezi and yelled to him.

“See you in a few hours!”

Oh my God, it gave me goose bumps to realized how close it was to our departure time to Yellowstone National Park.

As I drove home, I made a list in my mind of all the things I had to pack. I got home nervously, packed quickly and tried to fall asleep. The excitement gave me insomnia. Sleeping prior to the trip was not an option for me.

At 3:53 a.m., I put my boots on, grab my carry-on, called an Uber and headed to the Miami International Airport. The first flight was from Miami to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. I was so exhausted that I felt asleep before the plane took off.

The second flight was from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Salt Lake City International Airport. The insomnia kicked in once again. No sleeping for me. I just stared at the mountains from the small oval plane window.

Once landed, we had a five-hour drive to our final destination: West Yellowstone. As I sat next to Vivian and talked about how hungry we were, my mind was long gone. I was too concentrated on the road and Snapchat.

Sunrise viewed from the airplane near Dallas-Fort Worth (Photo by Maria Hernandez). Sunrise (Photo by Maria Hernandez)

My goal was to keep myself entertain and document each step of the journey. I was collecting the Snapchat stickers of the towns we crossed on the way. I was loving every minute of the road.

No road is long with good company. Surprisingly it was quicker than I thought. I was too mesmerized with the mountains on the sides of the road.

As we arrived to West Yellowstone, the sun was starting to set. We stayed at the Moose Creek Inn. Wooden walls with a western accent gave this motel a unique twist.

The next day, we had to be ready at around 7 a.m. I woke up long before my alarm went off. I could not sleep of excitement. I was just too eager to see with my own eyes Yellowstone National Park.

Mountains (Photo by Maria Hernandez) Mountain sightseeing on our way to West Yellowstone (Photo by Maria Hernandez).

We all gathered before sunrise trembling in the 30-degree air next to the white van.  As we drove to Yellowstone, the small shops and restaurants started to fade and mountains conquered the sight as we went through the entrance gate.

I felt like I was getting connected with nature and admiring each corner of the park. There’s no place I would have rather been.

The roads were narrow, curvy and filled with sightseeing. The first day we drove though the North Loop Road and we had an early meeting with Amy Bartlett, a Parks spokesperson.

DCIM102GOPRO Riding along the Grand Loop Road of Yellowstone National Park (Photo by Maria Hernandez).

While we waited for the Albright Visitors Center to open, we saw a small group of elk hanging by the grass. Marwan rapidly walked towards them to get a picture and I instantly just followed his lead. As we watched the elks, I started observing the entire area where the park headquarters was located.

The green grass was decorated with brown fall leaves. The mountains were infinite on the horizons. And the animals wild and free. I felt like the brisk mountain air was clearing my soul and making me admire the valuable things in life.

As we drove from Mammoth Hot Springs to Tower Falls to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and then Norris Geyser Basin, my eyes were set on the road again. My head was spinning. I looked to the right, then quickly to the left and then to the front and after to the back. Everything was astonishing beautiful, I did not know where to lay my sight.

Elk outside Albright Visitors Center (Photo by Maria Hernandez) Elk outside Albright Visitors Center at Yellowstone National Park (Photo by Maria Hernandez).

Driving around and spotting hidden geysers, steam vents, unexpected bison and piles of mountains was the peak of my day.

“Road tours are very popular,” said Amy Bartlett, “a small percentage gets out of the car, a lot of people drive around.” I was not surprise with that. Every turn, curvy and long path accompanied with the scenery was a masterpiece.

As we entered the Yellowstone National Park on the second day, my eyes were mesmerized with the surroundings once again. We drove the South Loop and, shockingly, it was as beautiful as the first day.

Our first stop was the Grand Prismatic Spring. It was colder and a bit foggy so we couldn’t visualize the tones of blue and green as well as we had hoped. The boardwalk had a layer of ice on the walking trail, making it slippery and difficult to walk.

The boardwalk of the Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park (Photo by Maria Hernandez). (Photo by Maria Hernandez)

As we drove to Old Faithful, we saw what I desired to see the most, a grizzly bear on a hillside near a river. It was so unexpected and perfect.

Sometimes unexpected moments are the most memorable.

We stopped the car and everyone came out except Vivian. I asked her “Aren’t you coming?” and she replied, “No way, I’m staying here where I’m safe.” As I swiftly walk closer to the large bear keeping a safe distance, I kept picturing myself running towards the van as the bear came after me.

I was scared and excited at the same time. It was a bittersweet experience but I was longing for that opportunity for so long. When I reached a distance I considered safe, I stopped walking and admired the big black grizzly bear on the horizons.

From where I was standing he looked so small and innocent compared to the nearby trees and mountains. But I know how huge and unsafe he actually was. Then I turned around and walked back to the van happily with what I had seen, trying not to step on bison poop.

Bison graze near the Grand Loop road of Yellowstone National Park (Photo by Maria Hernandez). Bisons (Photo by Maria Hernandez)

The only place I had to see was the Yellowstone Lake at West Thumb.

Unfortunately, due to the time of the year, everything water related was closed. We drove next to the lake instead. I thought it was beautiful to see it from the road. We got to see it from so many different angles. It made me realized and admired how big, blue and fascinating the lake was.

The mountain and fresh air I smelled. The horizons with the green trees I saw. The Norris Geyser erupting I heard. The frozen rails I touched to not fall. And the American cuisine food I ate at the park made this experience worthwhile, unique and eye opening for me.

Green leaves on the ground at Yellowstone National Park (Photo by Maria Hernandez). IMG_9629


Yellowstone National Park Entrances

Yellowstone has five entrance stations. Access to each entrance and hours of operation varies by seasons.

North Entrance:

Near the community of Gardiner, Mont. The only entrance that opens to vehicles all year. The closest commercial airport is at Bozeman, Mont.

West Entrance:

Next to the town of West Yellowstone, Mont. Usually opens from the third Friday in April to early November. Nearest airlines service is West Yellowstone, Mont., Bozeman, Mont., Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

East Entrance:

Depending on the weather, this entrance opens the second Friday of May through early November. The closet community and airline service is Cody, Wyo.

South Entrance:

Limited services are available near this entrance but, the closest airline service in Jackson, Wyo. Opens from the second Friday of May through early November.

Northeast Entrance:

Near Silver Gate and Cooke City, Mont. Typically open year around for vehicle access to Cooke City through Gardiner, Mont. It may vary due to weather conditions though.

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