Thursday, September 12, 2019

Yellowstone... no reservations

Yellowstone's big. Ya ya ya!
It's not small! No no no!
(now the jingle's stuck in your head... you're welcome)

Mammoth Hot Springs
The original plan was to stay outside the park where there was plentiful internet and dive into the park for day trips. After only two day trips like that we realized it wasn't going to work if we wanted to see all of Yellowstone in a reasonable time; getting into the heart of the park from the outside just takes too much time. 

Mammoth Hot Springs - top-down view
In Montana they have a saying about the 4 seasons being "almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction". So the roads within the park were subject to 30 minute delays here and there, in addition to the usual wildlife-on-road delays, it became quickly apparent we would have to think differently to make this work. To add another layer of difficulty to our no-reservation lifestyle, the main RV park on Yellowstone Lake was closed for repairs, displacing 400+ RVs into the other campgrounds.

Historical Yellowstone tour buses await a fresh batch of passengers outside the Mammoth Hotel

The restaurant at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
In the end we found some internet at a first-come-first-served campground near Mammoth by the North Entrance. This put us within easy daytrip reach of the Beartooth Highway, Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris, Madison and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

My impromptu office in the Map Room at the Mammoth Hotel
Verizon got a good signal here

This view at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was the first image to return to civilization, in painted form. It seized the nation's attention and sparked the desire to save this magical place for future generations to share; thusly the very first National Park was born. Even knowing for a fact that I stood there and shot this picture, it still doesn't feel real.

On our last day we also visited Old Faithful and it's accompanying lodges but it was a long driving day. Norris campground is also first-come-first-served and would have been a better launching point for this end of the park but there were only a couple of spots big enough for Loretta. Getting there and not getting in would have bounced us out of the park - we decided not to chance it and ended up suffering the long drive instead.

Old Faithful
It was worth it.

The light fixtures at the Old Faithful Lodge

Staircase at the Old Faithful Inn

Pendulum clock at the Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks sort of blend into one another, so when we finally felt like we'd seen enough of Yellowstone we moved Loretta South to Jackson Lake with a beautiful view of Grand Teton. Again, we nabbed a spot in the first-come-first-served campground for a night until we could wiggle our way onto a full hook-up site for a couple of nights. The nights have been shockingly cold off and on, plugging in is a nice treat.

This bison calmly grazed right alongside the road near Norris campground.
He didn't even budge when the cars passed within inches of him.

We had intended to boondock in the National Forests around the Tetons, but we're sort of loving the long showers and dual heaters. We'll see how it goes. For now we are luxuriating with the 50amp hookups in the shadow of Grand Teton.

Dry Camping at Mammoth Campground
The elk routinely wander right through camp

Stewie loves being a Savannah cat. He patrolled the campsite at midday,
and always came in well before Elk Hour, all the better to watch them from the safety of his window perch.

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