Friday, July 6, 2018

Spectacular Yellowstone Park delights foreign guests in high season

And they're off! British guests John and Sue Speight, left and second from right, visited Christene "Cookie" Meyers, Bruce
Keller and Nick and Nora recently, for a week of travel through south-central Montana and into Yellowstone National Park.
Thumbs up to Yellowstone Lake and the historic Lake Hotel from our
English visitors, John and Sue Speight, of Yorkshire, with Bruce Keller.
They enjoyed our "off the beaten path" tour of our corner of Montana.



YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK is best shared with friends -- and most pleasantly, with chums from another country.
We showed off the nation's oldest national park recently to our friends, John and Sue Speight, an adventuresome English couple we met a few years ago on a Southeast Asia cruise.
Stellar view from Lake Hotel, the park's oldest accommodation.
A few years ago, we hit it off at our table on Celebrity's Millennium, traveling together to Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam. We share a love of travel, nature and the outdoors -- they own a farm and bed and breakfast in Yorkshire and we spend part of the year in the rural Northern Rockies. We all love to read and enjoy music.
So when we discovered Yellowstone was on their bucket list, we offered ourselves as tour guides, and they accepted with pleasure.  Next year, we'll visit them in Yorkshire and they'll show us the sights of this lively, lovely and historic part of the United Kingdom.
Up the Sioux Charley trail near Nye, Montana, a prelude to several days
in Yellowstone National Park.  Here John and Sue Speight and Christene.
THE TWO flew from their home to Denver and spent two days driving through Colorado and Wyoming to our Montana place not far from Red Lodge.  We knew they would be tired before tackling the park, so we began our week together with short jaunts to Red Lodge, Roscoe and a hike up the Stillwater Gorge towards Lake Sioux Charley.
They were amazed at the vastness of the American West.  They're accustomed to driving through a country or two in a day on the Continent, and can be at their vacation home in southern Spain in hours -- from door to door.
Sue and John Speight joined tourists estimated to reach near 4 million this
year, in their visit to Yellowstone National Park, here at the Lower Falls.
SO TAKING into account the expanse of Yellowstone -- and our limited time together -- we decided to tailor a tour to their desires and interests.
They'd never seen a wolf or bear outside of the Discovery Channel, and we knew we hadn't much of a chance of spotting either critter on the parks busy summer roads. So we decided to take them to the wonderful Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.  
Stop and smell the roses -- and taste the cappuccino, here
at the charming Piccola Cucina in Red Lodge.
WE'D WRITTEN about this delightful place before, where birds and animals that cannot be returned to the wilderness are cared for.  Exhibits, films and demonstrations delighted our friends and the four of us spent a lovely afternoon there after a fun lunch at Bullwinkle's.  That was most of one of three full YP days, which included driving from our Lake Hotel base to places  which we knew would be less crowded. The area around Norris fascinated them with its geysers, hot pots and well designed boardwalk.  
Bison in the fields and on the roads were a highlight
for our guests from Yorkshire, England.
BECAUSE WE KNOW what high summer season means in terms of crowds,lines and slow-moving traffic, we asked them to prioritize. "You're in charge," said Sue. "You know your park and the highlights -- and we appreciate avoiding crowds as much as possible."
We studied Yellowstone's main road, the Grand Loop, and decided we could not tackle the entire loop -- even in the three days we had with them. Our "scenic tour" actually began before the park, because we'd driven into Yellowstone via Bozeman, Big Sky and the beautiful Gallatin Canyon, on US Highway 191.  We'd also spent two days exploring the Red Lodge, Roscoe and Stillwater areas, so our guests already had an introduction to the wonders of Montana's back roads. We decided to skip the places we knew would be crowded. That included the most visited attraction of the park, Old Faithful, the Old Faithful Inn and the pools on the walking paths. Fine with our fellow crowd-avoiders.  
A visit to Lake Hotel is a must, even if you're not staying there.
The beautiful lobby features live music and the restaurant is tops.
OUR BRITS enjoyed what we chose instead -- the hot pots, petrified sequoia and a colorful exit through Mammoth and Gardiner where they posed by Teddy Roosevelt's arch. We also nixed the Grand Canyon's Artist Point view of the Lower Falls, the most traditional stopping off point.  Because it was backed up with cars and campers, and Uncle Tom's was under construction, we took our guests instead to Lookout Point, a stunning vista of the falls, closer to Canyon Village with an active osprey nest. They also enjoyed a hike into Fountain Pots near day's end, when the crowds thinned. And they saw geysers at Norris Junction, without the crushing Old Faithful crowds. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to see the wonders and we also saw bison aplenty.
WE AVERAGED 35 or 40 miles an hour in our guests' car, taking our time, stopping as bison meandered across the roads and into the fields to graze. A few times we were at a standstill.
It's 142 miles around Yellowstone's main loop, which doesn't sound like much, but with stops and starts, it can be at least five to seven hours. Most people split it into at least two days.
You may not see a grizzly bear in Yellowstone, but you can enjoy friendly
service and fine Montana fare at the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe.
Our best advice for delivering a thumbs-up tour for guests -- foreign or domestic -- is to give them something unusual.  If they want to avoid crowds, as our Brit pals did, and wish to soak up a few spectacular parts of your area, take them to favorite local places. Once in the park, there are plenty of mud pots, geysers and pools aside from the most famous ones. 
OUR GUESTS were thrilled that they did get to see a grizzly -- up close. We took them to a delightful dinner at the friendly Grizzly Bar in Roscoe. Complete with tasty, grass-fed Montana burgers.

Four gentlemen decide to give up women and other "distractions" in
"Love's Labour's Lost" -- here on stage at Fishtail Family Park.
UP NEXT: Montana's beloved Shakespeare in the Parks has been delighting people in five states for 46 years.  We take you on the road with the troupe, presenting two of the Bard's classic works in 61 venues with nearly 80 performances.  We enjoyed "Love's Labour's Lost" this week at the Fishtail Family Park. We'll let you know how to catch the company for "Love's Labour's Lost" and "Othello."  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post each week, a fresh twist on the arts, travel, nature, family and more.


  1. Wow. Lucky Brits. We live in London and have had Yellowstone on our bucket list for so long the bucket is rusty! You have inspired us to make this trip while we can still "kick". Great photos and lively storyline.

  2. New Orleans WanderersJuly 8, 2018 at 8:48 AM

    We love "your" Yellowstone. Thanks for the insights.

  3. Top Traveling TwosomeJuly 13, 2018 at 12:11 PM

    Great days sharing Yellowstone with friends....always enjoy hearing the potpourri of languages at the various view points.