Yellowstone National Park. Just the name of this iconic place conjures up all kinds of visions, from the world renown Old Faithful Geyser to bears, wolves, elk, and bison; to bubbly pots and lodgepole pines by the millions. To tourists, lots of tourists.
We actually didn't even have plans to go this year, but we were so close by in northern Wyoming that I checked campground reservations just in case. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I discovered that we could indeed get in!
There are quite a few campgrounds in Yellowstone that don't accept reservations (our preference, since we like to stay flexible), but most fill up by 7 or 8 am. To nab a site in one of those, we'd have to get going super early from somewhere outside the park, not really our style, as we tend to pull out of campgrounds in the mid-morning. Only one of the reservable campgrounds, Bridge Bay, had a site in our size and for the timeframe we wanted, so I quickly went ahead and booked a week online. I couldn't believe it; in about ten days, we were going to Yellowstone! Barry had already been twice, though it had been decades, so he was looking forward to going back; and I'd never been at all, so I was super-duper excited, of course!
We approached the park from the East entrance through Cody, Wyoming, after leaving the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The scenic drive between Cody and the park entrance was absolutely gorgeous. In fact, it was actually a bit more dramatic than the park itself, which is heavy on pine trees so doesn't have as many breathtaking vistas from this entrance, at least until you approach Yellowstone Lake.
Here's just a taste of what we saw on the way in. Pretty dramatic -- even when taken through a motorhome's windshield or side window.
Arriving at the park, we saw a lot of healthy lodgepole pine forests as well as many areas that had been burned over the years by wildfires.
I learned a lot about wildfires during my time in Yellowstone; notably the fact that in most cases, they are allowed to burn themselves out, since they are considered part of the natural life of the forest. They are normally only managed (i.e., fought) when they threaten human life or structures. As a result, Yellowstone is full of forested areas that bear the tell-tale signs of past wildfires. It takes many decades for them to fully regrow.
At least the burned lodgepole pines allowed for a much better view of Yellowstone Lake, when driving in from the east.
I also learned that there were several wildfires going on in the park even as we visited, so there would be areas of smoke during our week there. Here's a map showing the fires currently burning in Yellowstone. The Maple fire is massive!
Fortunately, the Bridge Bay Campground is on the shores of Yellowstone Lake and is far enough away from the wildfires that we didn't notice too much smoke most of the time; other than in the evenings from the many campfires in this huge campground!
We weren't overly thrilled with our assigned site in loop C, one of the four open/meadow loops A-D. We would have rather been in one of the forested loops, but as late as we booked and needing as large a site as we did, I wasn't going to complain.
Our site was a pull-through on the left side of the one-way road. This meant that Pearl's door opened directly onto the road without even a grassy buffer in between. I had to be very careful to have Paisley's leash tight every time I took her out, lest she run right out into the road, as she's always anxious to go outside.
Our site was also quite sloping from back to front. Note how many boards we had to use under the front tires to level poor Pearl!
We were able to set up our screen room behind Pearl, but it was inconvenient to have to walk around the back every time we went out to use it. And since there were no hookups at the campground, that was often, as we had to use our propane camp stove outside to cook, so we were often carrying pots, pans, trays of food, etc. back and forth between the back and front. Not ideal nor typical for most campsites we've had over the past months.
Ah well, it is what it is, and the price was certainly right. With Barry's Senior Park pass, we paid around $13/night. Of course, the campground had no hookups, so it was a dry camping (boondocking) situation. There were flush toilets but no showers. And although we could get two bars of Verizon 4G/LTE, the tower must have been completely overloaded as loading web pages was close to impossible, though we could do a little email. But because of the poor internet, I got really far behind on the blog; thus I'm having to post every single day lately in hopes of being caught up again one day!
Despite my gripes, one thing we did appreciate about the campground was that the hosts and rangers really did enforce the rules. There are signs on every picnic table at every campsite warning campers about leaving things out that might be attractive to bears -- even cookstoves, as they can have food residue on them. We dutifully brought our propane stove in after every use, but some campers did not. So part of our campground entertainment was watching the hosts drive around in a golf cart and confiscate items from sites where campers had left things out while they were off sight-seeing.
We got some good laughs out of this, but it is really no laughing matter. No one wants a beautiful bear to lose its life, but they can and have due to stealing food from campgrounds and becoming aggressive. The rangers and hosts are doing a great job preventing this, as we didn't see a single bear during our visit. While it would have been very exciting to do see one, it's much safer for everyone, especially the bears, if they stay away from the campgrounds.
Another big plus of the Bridge Bay Campground is its proximity to beautiful Yellowstone Lake. Although the view across was pretty smoky due to the wildfires, the lake was still very lovely, and every night after dinner we'd walk Paisley on a path down to the lake and even manage to throw her ball a few times, as there were only rarely other folks in the area during that time.
We'll have much more about Yellowstone in future posts, so stay tuned!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
Favorite Travel Blogs