Yellowstone traffic is the best traffic

We got to our KOA in West Yellowstone (which, it turned out, was in Montana not Wyoming…) right at dusk on the 28th. We pulled in, leveled, and the girls and I walked to the playground and then explored the camp store. We got drinks and the girls (preemptively) bought Yellowstone t-shirts.

We’ve been holding the line on the no screen rule on this leg of the trip. But in the evenings the girls are allowed to jump on their phones and check in with their friends. (Also, in Fort Benton they convinced me to let them download PokémonGo. They thought it was hilarious when they found a Pokémon on our toilet in the bathroom at the hotel.) So, at our campsite, they hunted Pokémon before retiring to the RV and watching some of their favorite YouTubers before going to bed.

The next morning, we headed out to Yellowstone. We wanted to see some geysers and the upper falls. Everyone had a list of wildlife they wanted to see: bears, moose, bison being at the top of the list.

Yellowstone at this time of the year is packed. And it didn’t help that they were also doing some road work in the park. There were some stretches of road where only a single lane of traffic was open and we had to wait for the other direction’s traffic to go by. We used this time to open all the windows in the RV and enjoy the slow roll through the park. Most of the roads in Yellowstone follow rivers. There are no bad views. We spent the time scanning the landscape looking for large animals and feeling the mist from the light rain storms that blew by. We saw a prairie-dog-looking critter on the side of the road. We saw a crow here and there. But mostly we saw large expanses of open wilderness.

What’s that smell?

As we came upon our first geyser, I was reading the park brochure. The girls were shocked to hear that most of the park is a giant caldera, and that they were driving on the top of the mouth of an active volcano.

We waited in a line of cars to get into a small parking area so we could walk to check out the geysers. All the RV spots were taken up by cars and we thought we’d have to roll on through, but at the end of the lot, a guy in a truck pulling a camper told us he was leaving and we could take his spot.

We parked, masked up (there were a lot of people) and headed out to see what we could see. It turned out we could see three different types of thermal features: hot springs, mudpots (fumaroles or pools of bubbling mud), and geysers. It was stinky (like sulphur), other-worldly, raw, and beautiful. We wondered what the indigenous people thought about this area before it was tamed with boardwalks and signs explaining the science.

From there, we thought we’d go see old faithful, but when we pulled into the massive, packed parking lot, we decided to skip it (sorry kids! You’ll have to see old faithful on another trip) and headed to the upper Falls.

We missed the pull off where you can see the falls from a distance (Dolly’s not the kind of vehicle you just “turn around”) so instead we got to hike right up to the water’s edge. Being that close to that much water, moving that fast over a cliff is exhilarating. We noticed a small purple flower hanging on the rockface right above the falls. I said: imagine what the falls look like from that flower’s perspective. That was too much for Iris. She shook her head, as if shaking the image away and wanted to leave, saying she didn’t like edges. I held her hand and we headed back to the parking lot, where Dolly sat, patient waiting.

Dear Dolly Folly

We’re finally starting to get the hang of RV life a little. Routines are settling in. Dolly seems to be cooperating (knock on wood). And as I write this we have one week to go.

Eric and I still disagree on how fast to drive Dolly down steep grades. I’m a fan of the tow/haul button and going elderly slow. He hates the engine sound when tow/haul drives up the rpms and prefers to pump the brakes down the hills, resulting in me turning into the “please slow down” stress machine. Arguments ensue. Nobody wins. Dolly rolls on.

Next stop: Big Horn National Forest and then on to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

We did finally see some bison on the way out of Yellowstone, but our wild animal tally for the whole trip remains markedly low.

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