In his latest novel, Peter Heller sends quirky Brooklynite and private eye Celine and her salt-of-the-earth partner, Pete, on a road trip from Denver to Yellowstone National Park to find out what really happened to a National Geographic photographer who disappeared twenty years ago and was presumably mauled by a bear. The photographer’s body was never found and now his daughter wants to know the truth. Even though she’s busy tracking down leads, dealing with someone on her tail, and trying to get answers before it’s too late, Celine can’t help but appreciate the beauty of the landscape. We love Heller’s descriptions of nature, and Celine’s adventure had us dreaming of our own road trip—without a mystery to solve, we’d have time to stop for more than diner food! Here’s some of the places we would add to our itinerary:
Just outside Lander, Wyoming, Pete and Celine spend their first night in a camper near Sinks Canyon. The state park offers climbing, hiking, fishing, and a look back to the past with petroglyphs that are approximately 5,000 years old. The “Sinks” is where the Popo Agie River disappears underground. It reappears a quarter mile later at “The Rise.” Nobody has been able to explore the underground part of the river, so its twists and turns are a mystery.
Jackson Hole is the place to go for outdoor adventure. You can take the tram to the top of the mountain and ski down, like Celine did when she was younger, or you can go whitewater rafting down the breathtaking Snake River. If you’re looking for something less extreme, there’s the National Elk Refuge where about 6,000 elk spend the winter, or you can eat, shop, and relax around the Town Square, which is famous for its antler arches. Just don’t tease the geese!
Celine might not be interested in the usual Yellowstone attractions and the crowds that they draw, but Old Faithful is an institution. It erupts roughly every ninety minutes, and the water shoots an average of 130 feet into the air. In order to avoid the tour groups, try to get there before 11 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Still not interested in competing for a view? You can watch a live webcam.
The Lamar Valley is one of the best locations to view wildlife in Yellowstone. It’s no wonder that it inspires Celine to pull over and Pete to write a touching journal entry. You can spot bison, black bears, bighorn sheep, coyotes, elk, grizzly bears, mule deer, and more. It’s also one of the top destinations in the world for wolf watching. If you’re driving through, there are lots of places to pull over for a quick glimpse, but the area is also great for hiking and there are even a couple of campgrounds.