Church Trip 2023

Bozeman, Travel Home

Day 14

It’s finally time to head home. At last, after two weeks on the road, we’re driving to the airport in Bozeman, MT to fly back to North Carolina.

This morning, we woke up long before sunrise, packed up all our belongings at our cabins in Mammoth, and started the drive north towards Bozeman, bidding farewell to Yellowstone. It was another cold, frosty morning, so at least we didn’t get too hot while loading the car. We were treated by hearing one last round of elk bugles as we put our bags in the car.

One More Moose

I didn’t really plan for much excitement on our drive north. In fact, I’d already packed up all my camera gear and hiking equipment, including most of my warm clothes, as I figured I wouldn’t need any of those things on the flights home. As we drove north on US-89 through Emigrant, MT, I spotted a large animal grazing in the marshes right off the side of the road. It was another bull moose!

After watching him for a while, I decided to quickly unpack my camera gear, which was thoroughly buried in my carry-on, wrapped up in clothes for padding. If I didn’t, I knew I would regret it later. The moose ate his breakfast for a while, and after taking some photos, we decided to move on so we wouldn’t be late for our flight.

We ran into a local photographer who had been following that particular moose for a while. He had been there about 30 minutes before us, and said there were two moose then – the bull and a cow. He showed us a great shot he’d taken of then two of them frolicking in the water.


The drive north through the Paradise Valley was gorgeous. With the Absoroka Range to the east, the Gallatin Rangeto the west, and the Yellowstone River in the valley, it’s about as picturesque of a drive as one could imagine. The sun reflected on the mountaintops, and sent rays shining through the cloud cover. I wish I’d been able to capture the beauty of the drive, but it was difficult from the back of a moving car.

Livingston Community Bakery

Soon, we arrived in Livingston, MT, a small town that was originally a hub for the Northern Pacific Railway. It has a classic western downtown, and is quite larger than I expected. The town has seen some revitalization recently, and has lots of interesting dining and shopping options. I’d love to visit again sometime.

We stopped at Livingston Community Bakery to get some pastries for breakfast. Between all of us, we got a couple of donuts (sugar and maple), an orange cinnamon roll, a chocolate croissant, and a ham and cheese croissant. All were very good, but we didn’t have much time to enjoy them because we were in a hurry to get to the airport.

Livingston Community Bakery
Livingston, MT

A small bakery with a surprising selection of baked goods. Worth a visit!

* – Would definitely visit again

** – Exceptional, must visit if you’re in the area

*** – Worth making a special trip to eat there

For more info on food ratings, click here.

Ghost Town Coffee Roasters

Now on I-90, we drove east through the Bozeman Pass towards Bozeman, MT. This was another gorgoeus stretch of road that I wasn’t able to document well. We stopped at Ghost Town Coffee Roasters for one final caffeine boost before we got on our flight. I was very impressed with the coffee shop – and once again I wish we could’ve spent more time here.

Ghost Town Coffee Roasters
Bozeman, MT

A quality coffee shop with well-curated menu items.

* – Would definitely visit again

** – Exceptional, must visit if you’re in the area

*** – Worth making a special trip to eat there

For more info on food ratings, click here.

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport

We arrived at the airport, where Dad dropped everyone and all the luggage off at the front door, and then returned the rental car while I wrangled everyone and everything else inside. The BZN airport was very crowded, but we managed to get through security on time. I still maintain that it’s one of the nicest airports I’ve ever been in.

I would’ve loved to have spent some time in downtown Bozeman, but American had changed our flight’s departure from ~14:00 to ~10:30, so we had to forego revisiting. After a short, but smooth flight, we landed at DFW for a layover before our final leg home.

Lunch // DFW

At the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, we roamed the halls in search of some brisket, but there was a disappointing absence, especially for a major Texas airport. We wound up getting some burgers, fries, and milkshakes from Shake Shack in lieu of barbecue – a tasty substitute, although not very healthy. This was my first time in the Dallas airport; I thought it was fairly easy to navigate, but it seemed in need of renovation in spots.


After about a 3 hour layover, we boarded our flight back to CLT. App was playing football at UL Monroe this evening; the game kicked off just as our flight took off, so I reluctantly paid for in-flight WiFi so I could stream the radio broadcast. We landed in CLT fairly late, rounded up our luggage, took the shuttle to get our car, and started the drive back to Granite Falls. We got settled in the car just in time to hear App kick a game-winning field goal to beat the Warhawks as time expired.


Here’s a brief video from today.

The Best Things we Saw Today


The best thing I saw today was… “the bull moose”.

The best thing I ate today was… “the ham and cheese croissant”.


The best thing I saw today was… “the bull moose”.

The best thing I ate today was… “the chocolate croissant and the burger from Shake Shack”.


The best thing I saw today was… “the bull moose”.

The best thing I ate today was… “the orange cinnamon roll”.


The best thing I saw today was… “the bull moose”.

The best thing I ate today was… “the burger from Shake Shack”.

Final Thoughts

I thought we’d each share our final impressions from the trip.

Most Surprising

Isaac – “seeing the last moose on the way to the airport; Rocky Mountain exceeded my expectations; Mount Blue Sky; how different the road from Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon was from the rest of Yellowstone”

Faith – “the number of moose we saw over the whole trip”

Jerry – “How good the coffee was at Vail Coffee Roasters (our third choice for the day), seeing all the elk outside the buildings in Mammoth”

Amy – “I ordered my first cup of coffee ever!”

Most Disappointing/Underwhelming

Isaac – “The days we couldn’t find food. Overall, this was not a good food trip, but not being able to find anywhere to eat in some places was shocking.”

Faith – “Not being able to get all the way to the waterfalls at McCullogh Gulch. Our meal at Old Faithful Inn was not nearly as good as you’d think it would be.”

Jerry – “The buffet at Old Faithful Inn was terrible.”

Amy – “I hope I never have to use another pit toilet as long as I live. My worst memory is getting altitude sick.”

Things Worth Doing a Second Time

Isaac – Mount Blue Sky

Faith – Blacktail Plateau Drive, Mount Blue Sky

Jerry – “Summit Lakes and Chicago Lakes are worth going back to.”

Amy – “I’d love to go back to Rocky Mountain National Park. Everything about it was beautiful.”

Things To Do Differently

Isaac – “Overall, I would definitely do Mount Blue Sky over Pike’s Peak. I’d also spend more time in the Snowy Range. I wish we’d picked out more hikes to do in advance.”

Faith – “Plan hiking times better with Walker’s schedule, and pack less stuff.”

Jerry – “Don’t sleep in a full sized bed.”

Amy – “Not eat at the BBQ food truck in Silver Gate.”

Rocky Mountain National Park Favorites

Isaac – sunrise at Sprague Lake, hiking

Faith – Moose in Grand Lake, sunrise at Sprague Lake, 

Jerry – seeing the moose cross the road in front of us near Grand Lake

Amy – the elk crossing at night, and hearing the elk bugle

Grand Teton National Park Favorites

Isaac – hiking to Hidden Falls, String Lake

Faith – kayaking on Jenny Lake

Jerry – Jenny Lake Boat Tour, watching Walker while Faith and Isaac hiked

Amy – Jenny Lake Boat Tour, picnic dinner, watching Walker while Faith and Isaac hiked

Yellowstone National Park Favorites

Isaac – “My favorites were the frosty morning in the Hayden Valley, sunset in the Lamar Valley and at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, seeing wolves twice, and Undine Falls.”

Faith – Blacktail Plateau Drive

Jerry – “My favorites were the bison stampede in the Lamar Valley and Blacktail Plateau Drive.”

Amy – “As we drove through the Lamar Valley on the final evening, it was like seeing Yellowstone going down for the winter. There was snow the following week. I loved hearing the live music in the Old Faithful Inn lobby. I’ll never forget the bison galloping towards us in the Lamar Valley, and having to run back to the car as I heard them coming behind me.

Best Food

Faith – “All the good coffee we had, wild game chili at Wonderland Cafe, sorbet at Josh and John’s”

Isaac – [in no particular order] – Bindle Coffee, wild game chili at Wonderland Cafe, Persephone Bakery, Josh & John’s ice cream and ice cream in Breckenridge, breakfast bagel from Yellowstone Perk

Jerry – “Pastries from Bindle Coffee, especially the plum-vanilla thing. Dutch Bros was much better than I expected. Breakfast at Persephone was very good. Josh & John’s ice cream was some of the best I’ve ever had.”

Amy – “the beef stroganoff at Rock Inn Mountain Tavern, coffee from Vail coffee, and maple nut ice cream from Breckenridge”

Best Lodging

Faith – “staying in the cabins in Mammoth”

Isaac – the cabin in Island Park, and townhome by the river in Estes Park

Jerry – “the place by the Big Thompson River in Estes Park”

Amy – “I liked the townhome in Estes Park, but my absolute favorite was the cabin in Mammoth. I loved that.”


Stay tuned for a few more trips coming very soon! Thanks for following along with our travels.

– Isaac & Co.

3 Responses

  1. Our trip was wonderful. We visited so many beautiful places. I really enjoyed being out west in the fall, especially to see the golden aspens.
    Each day of our trip was full of laughter, adventure, wildlife, and gorgeous views! Having Walker with us made it extra special! He was a little trooper!
    Thank you, Isaac, for planning such a perfect trip!! So many special memories that I’ll cherish forever!

  2. Glad you had a wonderful trip and are now back home “safe and sound”.
    Thanks for sharing your adventures!
    Stay safe and well!
    Merry Christmas!

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