The Yellowstone Dilemma

September 19, 2010 - 12:23 am No Comments

Another early start, leaving Glacier National Park before dawn. On the snowy road just outside the park, we came across two horses that had been hit by a car or truck. Bloody and mangled, one obstructed a lane, another was on the side of the road. It was gently snowing, and the horses were not covered in snow, so it must have just happened. A grisly, sad sight.

Welcome to Blackfeet Nation

Heading south through Montana, the landscapes were beautiful and varied. Black cows dotting grassy, featureless hills. Slopes covered with red and green bushes. Giant, rocky mountains in the distance. Large, circular fields with center pivot irrigation. A blanket of dark gray clouds loomed overhead for most of the ride.

The roads between Glacier and Yellowstone are mostly narrow, two-lane highways. I can’t imagine how much traffic there is in the high season between these parks. But there was nobody on road today, so it was a breeze.

I did the driving. Stef hit the radio scan button repeatedly and entertained me with Mad Libs. She says I suck at Mad Libs.

It was just before Helena that a cop pulled me over for speeding. Stef had been doubling the speed limit all over Montana, and this guy stops me for going 86 in a 75. After telling him that we were on vacation and driving a rental, he cracked a half-smile, said he’d lower it to 85 in 75, and told me all I’d have to do is pay a $20 fine on the spot and that would be the end of it. Montana is cool!


Montana Speeding Ticket

We stopped in Helena for lunch. Seems like a fun, little college town.

As we neared Yellowstone National Park, Stef worked on a finely tuned itinerary for the next two days. We were a bit disappointed with the lack of wildlife we had seen up north, and we were very anxious to see bison and moose and bears in Yellowstone.

After passing through gateway town of Gardiner, we finally reached the Roosevelt Arch, marking the historical northern entrance to Yellowstone.

Roosevelt Arch

Stef & Jeff at Yellowstone National Park

45th Parallel North

We checked in at the visitor center at Mammoth Springs and learned that almost all of the campgrounds were filled up or closed for the season (a strange combination). Our plans for the next couple of days in Yellowstone counted on getting strategic places inside the park to sleep each night, so now our plans were shot to hell.

Tempers flared. Stef and I eventually agreed to make the most of our last few days, sticking to our itinerary as closely as possible and promising to be flexible when things didn’t go perfectly.

We took a quick walk around Mammoth Springs. Surprisingly unimpressive. The little pools of water are sort of colorful, but the most of it looks like a white, chalky mess.

Jupiter Terrace

Minerva Spring

Cleopatra Terrace

Main Terrace

Main Terrace

Happy Cyanobacteria on the Main Terrace

Happy Cyanobacteria

Dead Trees on the Main Terrace

Hit the road in search of a place to stay for the night and saw our first bison. Such cool-looking animals!

Bison Butt

Bison in the Grass

I pulled into one of the nearby campgrounds, but my charm wasn’t enough to secure a space. Stef got on her Verizon phone (Yellowstone is not AT&T friendly) and desperately called every motel in nearby Gardiner. We made our way past a bunch of neon “No Vacancy” signs to a Travelodge, where Stef got what might have been the last available room in the area.

Yellowstone Lodge Travelodge

There’s a lot to see in Yellowstone. Since we’re not staying in the park, we’re going to lose a lot of time driving. We’re going to have to pretty much wing it tomorrow.

Leave a Reply