Story & Photos by: Jess Downer, Renata Stone
It's been too long since we last had a weekend of adventure. Or at least, since we documented it properly through the lens. And since we're long overdue for another episode of our favorite series, The Weekenders, we decided to give you a doozy this time. You know the drill. We find a spot on the map that lies within a few fingers distance from our own salty city--some breathtaking place we can travel to and fro in a weekend's time--and we high tail it in the right direction, windows down and landscape-appropriate playlist blaring. We land, we sleep, we eat, we explore, we look around with our jaws agape, then we head home for Monday's familiar, if undesirable, routine. It's a weekend.
This time around, Yellowstone National Park, pals. Sigh. Her reputation obviously precedes us, so this tale needs little in the way of introductions. Suffice it to say that this is a place of many wonders, just a few of which we can bring you in the photos below. Never you mind that, though…the point of this series isn't just to show you what we've done, but rather inspire you to do it yourself. What you see below is a mere five(ish) hours away. Grab a ride, turn up the tunes, and get a gander of this resplendent realm that we get to call "home."
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WY, 5 hours: There is a place so hauntingly beautiful and stirring in its uniqueness that it compelled America’s leaders to forge an entirely new and unprecedented system for preserving its unique natural places. Conserved originally for the bizarre thermal features that paint the landscape in turquoise blues and hellish shades of reds, oranges, and blacks, Yellowstone’s most stunning feature has become her wildlife. Wildlife that you’ll find ambling a little too close to your Subaru in an abundance, size, and diversity that is truly humbling. We of the Salt City count ourselves lucky for many reasons--add proudly to that list the fact that we are within a long weekend’s drive of the king of all National Parks. Given that the reserve is larger than most states, Yellowstone isn’t hard to find. Our chosen corner involved about two albums of I-15 North (the new Lumineers is so good) and another few albums of Highway 20 (if you don’t know Gregory Alan Isakov, you’re welcome) to arrive at the West Entrance.
Check In: Yellowstone Under Canvas, 890 Buttermilk Creek Road, West Yellowstone, MT – If you’ve read any words this COLLECTIVE has ever put on paper (screen), you'll know that if we’re going to have a roof over our head it’s going to be a well-designed one. And in this case, a canvas one. We squealed with delight to learn Under Canvas--you know, that soul-wrenchingly gorgeous “glamp”ground featured in The Weekenders Moab edition last year--popped up another piece of woven paradise. The Yellowstone version comes brimming with all of the amenities we’ve come to love about Under Canvas: a fire ring, well-kept restrooms, a hot cup of coffee in the morning, hospitable staff, and more Big Sky than your lungs could ever take in. But the bonus feature here is really the laziest of rivers winding its way through camp. You know what to do. And if you don't, see below.
Eat Out: Cafe Madriz, 311 N Canyon St, Bar N Ranch, 890 Buttermilk Creek Road – When in the wild, our hearts and stomachs are best warmed over a cast-iron skillet. The park's bumper bear population, however, makes campfire cooking an imprudent proposition. Worry not, weary rustlers, the town of West Yellowstone serves up more than a few worthy eateries. Our top pick was Cafe Madriz, a quaint tapas spot with gambas al ajillo to rival anything you'd find in a big city (oh, the ample portions). If you're hanging your hat at Under Canvas, you'd best saunter over to Bar N Ranch. Their no nonsense American fare and cowboy vibe are just the ticket after a long day of exploring the park.
Spend Pesos: The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, 201 S Canyon St. – We all know the best things in life are free, and, National Parks pass aside, Yellowstone epitomizes the phrase. With 3,472 square miles of thick forests, scarred river valleys, gurgling thermal features, surging waterfalls, and roaming wildlife, you won’t need to flip a nickel to enjoy the highlight of your year. Worthy of some time and tender, however, is the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, a not-for-profit wildlife park that puts you right in the mix with packs of grizzlies and wolves that are unfit for wild living. Arriving just before close at 8:30pm is a sure bet to catch some grizzly fights and howling wolves waking up for the night.