Yellowstone National Park with Gwyn and Angie

8th - 11th September 2013

To avoid the National Park scrum for camp sites, we'd decided to camp just outside the town of West Yellowstone, in the National Forest camp ground called Baker Hole. It was cheaper, less stress, more scenic and allowed more privacy than the sites in the Park and proved to be an excellent choice.

Just after we set up camp, the weather turned wet and stormy, so we passed a pleasant but damp afternoon exploring the small town. Gwyn and Angie did a spot of window shopping while Phil and Christine decided to brush up their handgun shooting skills at the local range. Neither were great fans of guns and the power of the weapons always seemed to take them by surprise but who knew, one day they might be glad they knew how to shoot! The range master was very patient and both paper targets were officially declared dead at the end of the session!

The following day arrived with beautiful weather and we headed into the Park to explore.

Midway Geyser Basin

On the way to Fairy Falls

On entering the Park, we joined the first of many “critter jams”. Someone in a vehicle would spot some form of wildlife, slam on the brakes and stop in the middle of the road to take photos, wherever they happened to be, causing a major tailback. Most of the jams were caused by Elk or Buffalo sightings. We'd thought the Park was busy during our last visit in July 2008 but now, during the supposedly quieter autumn period, it was bedlam. Sometimes it was impossible to park at the major sights. We did manage to snag a spot at Biscuit Basin early in the day and took Gwyn and Angie for their first taste of the Park's volcanic activity.

The next “must see” in Yellowstone was, of course, Old Faithful. A reliable geyser which blew its top at regular intervals, allowing the tourists to line up in droves to witness the spectacle. Mostly by luck we arrived five minutes before the expected time and managed to squeeze into what we hoped would be a good vantage point. Old Faithful kept us waiting a good twenty minutes or so and then the hot water began to shoot up high into the air. It was only at this moment that we realised that we were sitting downwind of the geyser and when it did its thing, we were engulfed in steam, not giving us much of a view!

By now we were growing weary of the hoards of people and decided to take a hike. Apparently a National Park survey discovered that most visitors would walk a maximum of ¼ mile from a parking lot to see something, so once you set off on a longer trail, the crowd would quickly thin out. We hiked along the edge of Midway Geyser Basin where we'd earlier failed to be able to park and off into the new growth pine forest. Presumably the area had been cleared by a fire a few years earlier. The falls were gorgeous but unfortunately the camera battery decided to give out half way there.

Off to see some old geysers!

My glasses steamed up!

On our way back home to our camp site, we did manage to grab a parking spot at the Midway Geyser Basin and were able to take the board walk tour around the Grand Prismatic Spring among others. The buffalo didn't seem to observe the “stay on board walk, unstable thermal area” signs and had left large hoof prints and buffalo pies in the sensitive thermal area where they had warmed their hooves!

Day two of our Yellowstone adventure took us north to Mammoth Hot Springs. This time we were sure to leave early enough to easily find a parking spot. On a previous visit we had narrowly escaped a parking ticket! We toured the stunning Lower Terraces area, which we'd missed altogether last time due to the parking trauma.

Roaring Mountain

Mammoth Springs – Lower Terraces

Again, half a day in the heavily visited areas and we were keen to take a hike in the wild. As we began our trip along Beaver Ponds Trail, we were hoping that it wouldn't be too wild. We were warned that a Grizzly Bear was eating berries on the trail and a Young Black Bear was making a very poor attempt at hunting an Elk further along. The bears were a scary prospect but a spooked male Elk equally so. Our friends suddenly regretted having left their bear spray in the tent at the camp ground!

Quickly we caught up with a couple of newly weds from New Jersey who were also not keen on being bear food, so we hiked in pleasant company with them for the six mile, beautiful hike through the woods to the beaver ponds. Fortunately we didn't encounter the hungry bears and although we did finally come across the Elk, he seemed quite calm having found a good hiding place!

Christine struggles to lift one Bighorn Sheep horn, imagine having two on your head, all the time!

Beaver Ponds

Spooked Young Male Elk

Well hi there, mind if we overtake?

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Having safely completed our hike, we parted company with our new friends and headed to the ice cream shop, to fortify ourselves for more tourist activity. Next we were off to Artists Point at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was on the access road that our friends got up close and personal with a large buffalo which was taking a leisurely stroll along the yellow line in the middle of the road!

The Canyon's beauty justified the long detour to visit, it's multi-coloured glory as stunning as ever.

Next morning we enjoyed watching the spectacle of our friends packing up their tent in the freezing conditions of the early morning. No fashion victims here.

We headed into the Park for our last day's visit.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Tent Packing Uniform

We made a stop at the Artists' Paint Pots and then headed west into the Lamar Valley. The valley was famed for its wildlife sightings and we were rewarded with countless buffalo and elk. We hiked Slough Creek and across the river from us was a major spot for buffalo.

We left the park via the North East Entrance, new territory for Harvey-the-RV. Between us and the Bighorn River lay the Beartooth Scenic Highway. It was already early evening and the half hour wait for roadworks didn't help but we managed to wind our way slowly up to the top of the almost 11,000 foot Beartooth Pass and make our way out of Wyoming and back into Montana before dark.

There we just had to wind and weave our way around the hairpin bends back down to a more reasonable altitude! Harvey survived the trip just fine, despite a strange smell from his transmission as we coasted down the steep roads in a low gear to stop him from running away with us! Unfortunately there weren't many pictures of this adventure, we were reluctant to stop Harvey as he toiled his way up and it was pretty hard to stop him on the way back down!

On the way to Beartooth Pass

And on the way back down again!

Our plan to stay in the National Forest camp grounds just outside Yellowstone Park had been foiled when we found them closed for the season. On further consideration we decided it would probably be a lot warmer to camp at a lower altitude and headed to the town of Red Lodge. Here, even in the dark, we managed to find free camping in a fishing access just outside of town.

Sunset at Red Lodge

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