On Shaky Ground, Part 1

via Daily Post: loop

I know I’ve complained about crowd size at National Parks before, but now that summer is upon us, and we’ve arrived at Yellowstone, it seems as if this park is bursting at the seams. Today, we abandoned our plans to visit the Upper and Lower Falls of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon because of traffic, and we’re not returning tomorrow.

We started out four days ago, driving to Yellowstone after an overnight stay at Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park. Unfortunately, the campground was at capacity, without any opportunity of staying an extra night… and we would have stayed had there been a cancellation, despite the broken water valve at our site. (Leah negotiated a $5 discount for the inconvenience.)

It meant there was little time to explore, given our late arrival after driving five hours from an overnight at Rawlins, WY, a whirlwind dust-bowl of a town that features the Wyoming Frontier Prison, a retired state penitentiary-turned-museum as its biggest distraction. Sorry, but we had little interest in “doing time” at a prison.

With limited daylight at Grand Teton, a hike around a portion of Jackson Lake was all we could muster.

Flowers and TetonsLakeviewmoored boats

The transition between Grand Teton and Yellowstone is seamless, with the South Entrance serving as the gateway to both parks along the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway.

Although we were towing the Airstream through the park to our West Yellowstone campsite, we elected to stop at Old Faithful to stretch our legs with a few thousand others.

old faithful crowd

But it was worth it!

people watching eruptionInside Old Faithful

After an abbreviated walk along the Upper Geyser Basin with half the population of China, we decided to call it a day. The setting and throngs of tourists left us uneasy to a “fault”.

UGB6Upper Geyser BasinUGB2UGB4

Arriving at Wagon Wheel RV Campground, an open over-crowded sand pit in West Yellowstone presented its own set of problems. Our designated reserved site had been cut in half. What was once a long splinter of space that would barely accommodate a pull-through trailer with tow vehicle, had now become two sites. Our front-side neighbor pulled through yesterday, leaving me the compromised backside of the plot to back into from the street.

back to back

It was like threading the Airstream through a narrow tube, backwards.


Leah was furious. With no other available space anywhere in the park’s vicinity, we accepted our fate, but not until Leah wrangled a $20 discount for each of our five nights.

The next day, we completed the 70-mile Upper Loop.  Our objective was to take the counterclockwise route to avoid early road construction delays between Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs. To complete the loop, we would need to leave Mammoth by 6:30 pm before the construction crew shut down the road. It took us ten hours to make the circle, but gave us many unexpected thrills.

full bisonBison profile1

We followed the road past Gibbon Falls,

Gibbon Falls LSGibbon Fallsmuddy water

to the Norris Geyser Basin,

Norris prismUGB1

where an Oregon idiot dissolved to death last year by slipping into a boiling spring. Apparently, he and his sister carelessly wandered 225 yards of the boardwalk trail near Porkchop Geyser. The Norris region is home to the oldest and hottest geothermal activity in the park.

smoke and water

There were no remains to recover.


Our leisurely drive continued uninterrupted, winding through numerous mountain passes and rolling meadows until traffic slowed to a standstill near a swarm of pedestrians who blocked the road with their vehicles parked and running. Parents with children were dashing across the road, weaving through an impromptu parking lot and up a knoll overlooking a valley. I managed to park the truck 50 yards away at a turn-in, and ran with my camera.

black bear dinnerbear2bears

We arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs by 6 pm as the bright sun was casting tall shadows against the terrace wall.

terracesUGB5Mammoth HS terrace1 (2)Mammoth HS terrace

Time at the top of the park was limited. Our newest concern was getting back to West Yellowstone before the road closed. Most of the way back was a work zone, with alternating one-lane traffic slogging through packed dirt until we reached the Norris junction.

That’s when things got strange…

Part 2 coming soon.

10 thoughts on “On Shaky Ground, Part 1

  1. Nice photos (I especially loved the ones of the bears). It’s wonderful our National Parks are seeing so much activity, but I don’t want it to be when I’m there (LOL). We are hoping to schedule our visits when the weather is still nice but school is in so the crowds are somewhat less, but it all depends on the final destinations and when we can get there. Thanks for sharing your photos and experiences. Safe travels. Dawn

    Liked by 1 person

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