Holy sh!t, when people say Yellowstone is crowded in the summer, they are not kidding.
We were monitoring the campground status page in the National Parks website, which is a handy tool. And were hopeful we could wake up semi early and drive in to snag a campsite in the park by 10:30.
How wrong we were!
After a short traffic jam caused by a herd of bison (super cool!), we were denied camping at any place within the park.
Feeling slightly discouraged, we did a quick parking lot work out near the visitor center and then set off to see some of the sights.
The first stop on our sightseeing tour…. Old Faithful and surrounding geysers. We showed up and the parking lot was pretty full but finding a spot was easy enough because the lot is enormous. Thank goodness!
We walked the boardwalks and checked out the geysers and pools, listened to some interesting Ranger talks and then decided to wait twenty minutes to see Old Faithful blow.
She blew right on time and it was pretty neat to see in real life. However, a fellow attendee noted that “He could have been in Vegas and the fountains there were way cooler.” Some people 🙄. We wished he was in Vegas.
Next we sat in a crazy long line of traffic to leave the parking lot and headed down the road. We stopped at most of the roadside attractions, including the Sapphire pool and a few other geysers.
The Town of West Yellowstone
From here we set off into the town of West Yellowstone where we hoped to find camping.
The universe was on our side and as we pulled into Baker’s Hole Forest Service Campground at 4pm right as someone was heading out. Rodney (the camp host) let us know we were good to go, so we grabbed our cash and paid up for a few nights.
The next day we headed back into the park and drove out to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This was I think our favorite parts of the park!
The Canyon was spectacular and we did a few short walks around the rim areas, while avoiding the other tourists who seemed to have trouble walking.
Since we were already a ways into the park we kept driving, setting our sites on Lamar Valley. This part of the drive offered all sorts of beautiful views.
Along one point we were overlooking the river and on the opposite rim we saw a mama black bear and three cubs! It was fun to see, but what wasn’t fun to see was the hikers on the same side running after the bear to get photos.
We cruised into the Lamar valley around 5pm and finally were able to see some Yellowstone bison. They were walking all over the place, some way off in the hills some sauntering across the road.
We pulled the van over, climbed up on our Aluminess rack with our dinner and just watched (and listened) to them.
Since we knew we had a long drive back we set off homewards to Baker’s Hole.
On the drive back we once again were able to see the mama black bear and three cubs and dozens of people jumping out of their cars to take pictures.
Small World in Yellowstone
Saturday morning we had our first “small world” experience.
As we were waking up I kept hearing someone say “Joe Bauer, I think that’s Joe Bauer.”
Finally, we heard a knock on the door and we opened it up to see Chuck, previous owner of CrossFit Kenmore, the gym back home that Joe’s whole family attends.
It turns out they had pulled in the night before and were our neighbors!
Chuck and his family had set out from Seattle for some adventuring and ended up in Yellowstone right next to us!
It was fun to catch up and hear their stories and also just fun being reminded how small the world can be!
We kept it pretty low key Saturday and were gearing up for a work day Sunday. I (Emily) had been on vacation for a week so I was mentally prepping for going back to some sort of schedule.
Fairy Falls Hike
We then sped through a few more boardwalks and once again quickly were worn out of people.
The last stop was the Norris Geyser basin, where the Steamboat Geyser had actually erupted earlier that day and was still going off, which was amazing!
After crushing the boardwalks at Norris Geyser basin, we made some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches in the van and headed out of the park.
PS it’s so awesome to have a full kitchen in our van!
Little did we know, it was about to be a long drive…
Heading back we hit a traffic jam, where we moved about 3 miles in 45 minutes… all because of elk next to the road. Everyone ahead of us stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures.
Joe and I were baffled and fed up. Needless to say, if we go back to Yellowstone we will definitely time our trip a bit differently.
The Journey Continues
Monday we hit up some coffee shops again in West Yellowstone for half a days work and then drove a few hours to the town of Butte, MT where we stayed in the Wal-Mart parking lot for the night.
Tuesday we cruised the last bit to Polson to stay for a few nights with family friends Mike and Sheila Lebrun.
It wa so fun seeing Mike and Sheila, and they welcomed us into their wonderful home on Flathead Lake, where we spent a few days with them working and swimming.
They even took us out for a tour in their boat, although the surrounding forest fires marred our view a fair bit.
Thursday evening we set off toward Glacier National Park after reloading our groceries.
The first night we nabbed a boon-docking spot near the Blankenship Bridge which was as super cool spot right near the Flathead river.
Our plan was to wake up early and head into the park to nab a campsite at Apgar Campground and await the arrival of our good friends Jacky and Stacy!
Next up… Glacier National Park!