Just a few weeks ago, we were staying in Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park. I would love to know the max capacity for this massive place – the largest wooden lodge in the USA. It was a welcomed stop in an actual motel sandwiched between ten days of camping though the parks – The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and North Dakota Badlands. During our trip, we drove through herds of buffalo, saw a bear lounging on a tree branch, took a boat ride across beautiful Jackson Lake and hiked a few trails. I am still pleased, looking back on the trip, we invested two weeks to explore and experience that part of the world.
Packing up the whole family for a trip like that creates memories. I’m grateful for the opportunity we had to do it. Here are a few reflections from being in the vast nature out West.
Within the parks alone, there are landscapes that are universes apart. At one moment it’s a small, winding, mountain road, then a few miles later, you see a vast, wasted flatland with nothing but rolls steam coming from the ground. There are large animals like moose and bear – both of which we encountered – down the cute little prairie dog. We saw prairie dogs, as far as the eye could see, standing straight up, near their hole, as if waiting for someone. When God created the heavens and earth, there was more variety than one could ever realize.
I take life for granted.
Every little insect, flower or trickle of the stream plays a role in nature, but only for a season. Some of nature, never seen or touched by humans, will go through it’s life cycle, accomplishing it’s purpose, then grow dead. Life is short. And though I’m living it – thereby always thinking about it – I take it for granted too often. I’m often too focused on myself and not enough on others. I need to be more loving and giving, more free and merciful. I need to respond in the joy to the things around me and to people around me.
Tall mountains, serene lakes, vast prairie areas, amazing streams, waterfalls and picturesque landscapes. It’s all like being around a really positive person all the time. I began to notice that praise comes naturally when your surrounded by it. As we drove through nature, I found myself saying these phrases over and over, “Wow!”, “That’s amazing!”, “Beautiful!”, “I love that!”, “Where’s the camera?”
Simplicity is important.
The simple life is not easy to attain. Less stuff. Less schedule. Focus on basics. In a sense, it takes a prolonged season, at least for me, for the compression in my life to loosen and for the dreams and visions to begin to peculate back to the top, at times coming with more clarity than before. I’m by nature always on, thinking about what’s next and packing out the opportunities on the schedule. Time apart in nature helps me gain a focus on the importance of the soul. Reminding me that I need to create these times on a regular basis with a regular day off.
Time away is not only investment for your personal life, it’s an investment in your ministry or professional life. Much like what a weekly Sabbath does, though on a smaller scale, a longer period of time away from the regular routine helps sharpen your thoughts, confirms that the world doesn’t revolve around you, and helps you regain the energy needed to tackle big things with clarity.
Camping really connects a family.
Our family isn’t really a camping family. We do go to church camps, but typically stay in motel type rooms. We also, for a few years, have gone camping one night, in the yard of my uncle’s farmhouse. It’s basically kid camping – set up a tent, make a fire and have supper outside, wake up, pack up and go home. So, when we journeyed out to camp for a week in and around national parks, I was amazed at how much it connects a family. Just the basics require everyone – figuring out the meals, the set up, bedding, loading and unloading – no matter your age you can take part. Then there is time for sitting around the fire, taking walks, and exploring. Waking up with the sun and going to bed early really creates a slower pace which allows for more talking and memories.
Where We Stayed:
Colter Bay Village | Grand Teton National Park | Moose Junction, WY
West Yellowstone KOA | West Yellowstone, MT
Old Faithful Inn | Yellowstone National Park
Buffalo Bill Village Cabins | Cody, WY
Medora Camp Ground | Medora, ND
K Bar S Lodge | Keystone, SD
A FEW MORE PICTURES