We pulled into Yellowstone through the south entrance, taking US Highway 287 which turns into the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway, a road that was constructed to provide scenic vistas to visitors to two of America’s most popular National Parks. The road is immaculately landscaped, the tall evergreen trees that normally hide the mountains have all been pruned of their curtain-like branches allowing cars bearing license plates from Maine to Hawaii spectacular views of the Grand Tetons and Lewis and Jackson Lakes. We set up camp at Indian Creek campground, and drove north to the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Mammoth Hot Springs contains an incredible collection of old buildings built by the army, the original governmental agency tasked with its protection in 1876 before the NPS was established in 1916, a handful of generally tacky tourist amenities, a plethora of elk and an even larger number of tourists photographing the elk. We ventured on to Gardner, Wyoming, a wholly pleasant surprise of a park-border town after our experiences in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Afterwards we jumped in the Boiling River, which, contrary to its name, is not boiling, but was altogether a pleasant experience. We then watched the crowds (and geyser) at Old Faithful. The next morning we met a group of fellow college-aged travelers from Boston in our campsite. They lovingly dubbed themselves SLAM, an acronym for Sylvan, Luke, Amir, and Max. These young, hopeful fellows had driven across the plains of the Midwest to the Badlands and to Yellowstone. They were heading towards New Orleans. We shared in similar experiences of travelling along I-90, such as seeing the World’s Only Corn Palace, living off of baked beans, and witnessing the tourist trap that is Wall Drug in South Dakota.
Bidding them ado, we took highway 89 to Bozeman through a flash hail-storm. In Bozeman, we purchased a new Coleman Stove and groceries and carried on to Glacier National Park. We drove through the Salish and Kootenai Flathead Lake Reservation to reach Glacier. The reservation provided spectacular views of the sun setting along the northern Rockies. Because the larger, more accessible campsites were full in Glacier, we drove thirty miles along a rocky dirt road to reach Bowman Lake Campground. The road was not impossible. However, at three in the morning, this trek challenged our patience and brought out our most desperate dispositions. In the morning, we discovered that an incredibly scenic lake was in the backyard of our campsite. We decided to stay in the area of our campground and hike along a trail that connected multiple lakes. On our second day of Glacier, we drove along the Going-to-the-Sun Road that cuts across the entire park and rises along mountainsides. This was by far the most scenic roadway we have travelled along. On this drive, we all decided that Glacier National Park may rival as the favorite national park. At the highest point of the road, we parked the car at a visitor center and hiked along the Highland Trail which runs along the side of (what used to be) a glacial mountain. We not only encountered an incredibly beautiful view of the rocky mountains and valleys, but also indifferent mountain goats. As I attempted to take a photo of the magnificent landscape and complained that I couldn’t capture its entirety, Arthur responded, “Well, that’s the point. It’s impossible to capture this.” We finished the drive, and went to our temporary home. In the morning, we interviewed the campground host, who told us of his memories of visiting the Bowman Lake Campground as a child with his parents.