Road trip: Spontaneous drive to Yellowstone, anyone?

Ah, Bozeman. There are a million reasons you’re “the last best place.”

Take the highlight day of the road trip so far. How many other places offer the chance to drive to Yellowstone on the spur of the moment and still get back in time for dinner?

… That’s right. It’s a very short list.

Here’s how it happened. Our hosts in Bozeman are Jennie and Dave Lockie, owners of Mountain Arts Pottery, a wonderful shop just outside of town. Oh, and it’s also the site of The Coffee Pot Bakery, home of Jennie’s award-winning cinnamon rolls.

The first morning in town we did a quick run on Peet’s Hill, a network of trails through sagebrush and wildflowers that offers panoramic views of the circle of mountain peaks surrounding the valley. Then we headed over to The Coffee Pot to enjoy some coffee and pecan caramel rolls – yum!

Really, it was Jennie who inspired our day trip. Although we had talked about getting to Yellowstone before our party of four became three (Angie was scheduled to fly out on June 29), we hadn’t made any definite plans. But as we stood chatting with Jennie, she said, “Really, it would be a shame not to get to Yellowstone, as close as you are now.”

We couldn’t have been any more conveniently positioned for such a trip. We were on the road to the West Yellowstone entrance and were only 70 miles away – which, in Western terms, is sometimes how far people will drive for groceries. Been there, done that.

We realized it would be silly to pass up such an opportunity. So, we piled into the car and headed southeast.

Spontaneous day trip on top of a somewhat spontaneous road trip? Check.

I’ve been to Yellowstone at least four times over the years, and I still haven’t figured out what it is that makes it so appealing. It’s such a unique combination of undisturbed landscape, rugged mountains, plentiful wildlife and primordial hot springs.

Maybe President Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.”

What made this trip memorable though was the excitement of the other girls. They were discovering one of America’s treasures for the first time.

But the best part?

We were able to spend almost two hours in the park before heading back to Bozeman in time to check out the Bogert Farmers’ Market, which, quite frankly, puts any other farmers’ market to shame. Freshly baked bread. Homemade salsas and jam. Apple crisp. Locally made beef jerky and bratwurst. Fruits and vegetables. Clothing, jewelry and crafts. Live music.

I can neither confirm nor deny that we sampled pretty much everything.

We capped the day off with dinner at La Parilla, home of the Bombay Bomburrito; some relaxing on the front porch; and a sunset walk up Peet’s Hill.

In summary: Best. Day. Ever.

Up next: Boulder, Colo., by way of the Tetons.

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