Aside from our love of one another, there is one activity that brings my family together more than just about anything on this earth—enjoying the outdoors and wildlife.

Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding areas have been one of my family’s favorite outdoor destinations for as long as I can remember. Earlier this summer, my family and I took advantage of a trip to visit my grandfather’s hometown, Spencer, Idaho. Spencer is in Northern Idaho, near the Montana border, only a 30-minute drive away from Yellowstone. More often than not, if we plan a trip to Spencer, we also take in the sights of Yellowstone.

Spencer is one of the smallest towns I have ever stepped foot in. My grandfather is the oldest of 17 children (all from the same parents), and I’m fairly certain that his relatives make up the majority of the population.

Spencer is so far removed from any other civilization that the night sky is unaffected by city lights. It becomes so dark that you feel like you are literally in the middle of nowhere.

I had wanted to take advantage of a pitch-black night sky for quite some time and experiment with astrophotography and star trails that become visible during long photo exposures at night. Fortunately for me, only 10 minutes up the freeway from where we were staying was the abandoned schoolhouse where my grandfather first went to school in Humphrey, Idaho. I also wanted to get some pictures of the old building, so it was really the best of both worlds.

After a successful night of astrophotography, we packed up the next morning and made the 30-minute drive over to Yellowstone.

I’m not sure which aspect of Yellowstone that I enjoy more, the beautiful landscapes or the amazing wildlife, but we were fortunate to see our fair share of both on our trip.

Black bears and grizzly bears scattered along the terrain between Mammoth and Roosevelt, wolves perched on hillsides in Lamar Valley, along with intense hailstorms and breathtaking rainbows and cloud formations—I saw all of it within the first  five hours in the park.

Yellowstone is a special place to me. The minute I leave, I instantly want to return.

Yellowstone is open year around, and each season offers unique characteristics and advantages.


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