by Dee Wieninger

After all the fretting before and during my husband’s bucket list trip to Yellowstone, God has revealed some amazing lessons that had little to do with me…or did it? If you’ve read some of my previous stories you know of my fear of the combination of mountains, snow and moving vehicles. A few days before the trip there was a snowstorm in Yellowstone which heightened my anxiety about even going. In an attempt to ease my mind, both daughters encouraged me that if I didn’t want to drive around Yellowstone with Fred I could just stay back at the resort and relax and enjoy some solitude. For some reason that just didn’t seem plausible. It just seemed mandatory that a married couple do “everything together”.

Our trip to Yellowstone started in Denver where we took the Amtrak California Zephyr train through the Colorado Mountains to Salt Lake City. I’m not sure why I didn’t fear a train running off the tracks and soaring down a mountain side. Probably because, years ago I had already experienced losing control of my truck and doing donuts across a windy, lightly snow-covered highway in the Appalachian mountains of western MD. As they say, “Once bit, twice shy!

Our drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone was beautiful. The weather, along with the roads, was clear and if we were moving into the mountains, it was so gradual I never noticed. There were no overhangs or terrifying drop-offs, so I stayed pretty calm. 

We spent one night in Jackson Hole and only saw snow flurries, but nothing on the road. A few miles out of Jackson Hole we stopped at a pull-off to take pictures of the Grand Tetons, which were amazing, and that’s when we started to see snowy roads.

Upon arriving at the south entrance of Yellowstone although snow covered trees and vistas were beautiful the conditions of the roads became cause for concern. I was already determining that I would not be looking forward to exploring any further. Getting to the unit was my main goal. The more direct southwesterly route we were supposed to take into West Yellowstone was closed due to the snow.

We had to go about 36 miles north to take the northwesterly loop to the West Yellowstone entrance. It was horrendous! Just enough riding on snow and ice to determine that the resort unit was probably my permanent location for the duration of this trip.

The next day Fred’s itinerary included Old Faithful, the original route we should have taken to enter the resort that was closed the day before. I started crying and told Fred I really didn’t want to go. As our daughters had encouraged before leaving for this trip, He said, “I didn’t have to go and that I could just relax in the unit”. In 47 years of vacationing, I can’t remember not doing everything together. This was the first time he did his thing, and I did mine and we lived to tell about it! When Fred got back, he shared all his amazing photos and stories and I shared all about my relaxing day reading, watching TV, eating junk food, and watching the men shovel the snow off the roof of the building next to us. Now, if I had gone with Fred, I would have missed that! Ha-ha!

The second day of enjoying my solitude in the unit, it was announced on the weather channel that additional snow was heading our way, so I decided to return home and being the mountain snowman that he is, Fred decided to continue his adventure. Again, we each did what was most comfortable for us.

I headed home alone. I had an adventure on a bus, in very nice weather, back to Salt Lake City. It was ironically comical that the bus driver wanted to share a beautiful view just outside of the Yellowstone Park area and took us down a snow-covered road and parking lot. Oh well!

The bus dropped us at the Salt Lake City airport where my hotel shuttle picked me up. I enjoyed a quiet evening with room service and flew home the next day. Fred had more adventures for a few days and returned home five days after me. I’m not sure I had ever been more grateful to be home.

Before the trip I had everybody and their brothers praying for me as I feared that “car, mountain, snow” combination and truly did not want to go. When I returned home, I tried writing about our trip. I struggled to hone the lessons the Lord wanted me to take away. Hard as I tried, I just wasn’t grasping my fear, pain, alone, faith-filled lesson from this trip’s experience. I wallowed in guilt and shame that I couldn’t seem to muster the faith to relax and just trust God that no matter the weather and driving conditions he would keep us safe. I admit that even the day we were to leave I contacted my doctor to obtain a prescription for Xanax just to help keep my anxiety to a minimum. I prayed that the Lord would show me the lessons to take away from this whole experience. It wasn’t too long that God answered that prayer and revealed that my stress and drama over this whole trip-planning and execution-wasn’t about me. It was about Fred. I cried as the Lord reminded me of past trips where Fred had very little compassion or understanding for my feelings of concern of driving in hideous weather. But on this trip, he sincerely understood that my fear was real and did what he could to alleviate them, even if it meant exploring Yellowstone alone and the added expense to allow me to flee the oncoming storm and return home. The Holy Spirit reminded me how Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” three times because Peter had denied Him three times. This was our third “mountain trip” together and although our trip to Lake Tahoe Fred was much more compassionate (Doing the Difficult On Purpose) now, he truly understood that Dee’s fear is real, and he rose to the occasion to help and support me on this trip to Yellowstone! God wouldn’t remove my fear because He wanted Fred to say, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you”, by loving me! Oh my goodness! God is so amazing and good!

My new Godly mantra includes four main lesson takeaways from this Yellowstone trip. “Do it afraid, do it in pain, do it alone, but most of all do it in faith”  I almost didn’t even go with Fred on this trip. I wanted to avoid the stress and anxiety I knew would bring to both of us. I thought it might just be best for Fred and me to avoid it all together. But I did it afraid. I would have missed the amazing Zephyr train trip, the beautiful drive through Salt Lake City, Jackson Hole, seeing the Grand Tetons and even witnessing the beauty of the snow in Yellowstone…when I was brave enough to look up away from the roads!  

I did it in pain. My mobility issues can often stop me from attending events knowing the discomfort I would experience. In my fear, I could have used my pain as a more acceptable excuse to not go, relieving me of any self-induced guilt or shame. 

It was all I could do to venture into this trip afraid, in pain, and at times, alone, but it took faith to make those first steps forward. I kept telling myself things like, “I think the train ride will be a blast” and “it will be so nice to just get away alone with Fred.” but those thoughts of “snow on roads” that I just couldn’t seem to take captive, plagued me.

Fred and I both did some things alone. It really wasn’t necessary, or even required, that we do everything together. We are different people with different likes and preferences. I don’t know why I felt required to do everything Fred wanted to do. Agreeing on some of our decisions certainly made the trip more tolerable. I pray this new found freedom will help me be more excited when planning any future trips.


“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”” Psalms 77:11-12 NIV