Tag Archives: West Yellowstone

10/13/2019 Canyon Village, Tom Minor, Pony Express, day 33


Buffalo Crossing RV Park

Ellen and I both thought Buffalo Crossing was less appealing than Pony Express!  With snow melting, Buffalo’s roads were muddy.  It was difficult not to bring sandy mud into Li’l Beast.   They did have water available during the day.  We topped up our drinking water and flushed & cleaned our waste tanks.  Funny, the black tank didn’t flow right away.  On went the tank heater and the icy log jam broke.  Love that tank heater.

I called Pony Express early in the morning to reserve site 5 tonight.  Pony Express isn’t much to look at.  Everything works very well, there’s plenty of heat and hot water in the showers.  That’s a huge plus in sub freezing weather.


Today’s Low Temperature



Today’s High Temperature

About the weather…  Today we saw an enormous temperature swing.  The overnight low was 10 F.  The high hit 76 F.  No kidding, I was comfortably walking around at Canyon Village in a shirt over a T.

We left Buffalo at checkout around 11:04.  We’ve been moving slowly in the morning.  Lots of cappuccino and some CNN.

Hayden Valley

To get to Hayden Valley from West Yellowstone, we drove to Madison Junction, turned left toward Mammoth Hot Springs, then turned right toward Canyon Village.  We hit some icy spots in the pass headed to Canyon village.  Dropping into a valley over the pass there were cars parked in the road looking to the right.  Cool, wildlife.  I pulled off the road as much as I could (not much) and stopped.  Ellen grabbed the binoculars, but didn’t need them to see “them”.  THEM.  Now that we know relative size, it was clear what “they” were.  Not foxes, “they” were too big.  Not wolves, “they” were too small.  Coyote!  We watched two coyote hunt.   Ellen watched as I checked traffic to ensure there was room for cars to get by.  Traffic was low, we were good for a while.




Coyote are solitary animals.  It’s unusual to see two of them together.  We took a number of shots. 


At some point traffic was coming both directions.  Clearly we had to move and we did.  We drove on to Canyon Village.  Neither of us remembered stopping here for anything more than diesel last year.  As we walked into the General Store, we knew we had eaten here last year.  It was memorable for how good it wasn’t.  My “burger” was all onion and lettuce (good), but the meat and bun?  We both remembered, “overpriced and poor quality”. We walked around, looking at the memorabilia and walked out.  If you are looking for Yellowstone Memorabilia, go to the IMAX theater in West Yellowstone. We left.

At the visitors center we went separate ways.  I chatted up the Yellowstone Forever register gal.  Ellen headed to the rangers manning the entrance fee register.  I learned a bit about wolves and found an academic text about wildlife in the park.  Ellen learned that the migration was happening and that the bison had left Hayden Valley.  Most wildlife was headed up 89 to the north, leaving the high country!   I got my book, Ellen suggested we head more north, even out of the park.  We both had heard about Grizzly at “Tom Minor”.  Where the hell is Tom Minor?


On the Road to Tom Minor Campground



Tom Minor

OK, we’ll not drop into Hayden Valley if the wildlife has gone lower.  “Let’s go to Tom Minor.  It’s north of Yellowstone.”  I agreed and we drove off to Mammoth Hot Springs.  This took us west and north some 40 miles.  At Mammoth, I took a bathroom break.  I found Ellen talking to a knowledgeable ranger who know Tom Minor well.  He runs there.  He also suggested Old Yellowstone Road as something we should visit. Both are packed dirt roads.  The ranger mentioned going over the Yellowstone bridge at tom Minor.  River runner busses drive Old Yellowstone Road in-season.  The road is wash-burn in many places.   Neither road should be a problem for you.  Cool.  With an assurance that there were no cliffs on Tom Minor road, we left the park and headed toward Livingston looking for the Tom Minor turn-off after the bridge over the Yellowstone River.

Well, no!  Ellen pointed out a big sign, “Tom Minor” on the left.  What? No Bridge?  I U-turned (I’ve regained my mastery of the U-turn) and went back.  Sure enough a dirt road wound off to the right.  No Bridge?  Oh, there’s a bridge AFTER the turnoff. It’s an old rusted one-lane steel bridge.  Two signs announce loudly “6 Tons Maximum”.  Li’l Beast is just under 6 Tons or just OVER 6 Toms depending on water and waste tank loads.  “I’m sure we’re under 6 tons”, said I, hoping I was right.  With some misgiving, we drove across the bridge.  A bit further on we crossed another smaller cement bridge with no load limit and continued up a steep slope past some large log cabins, a few massive stone custom homes, and some ranch entrances.  To the left there were distant groves of aspen, stunned into drab brown by the sudden freeze. Fall colors are all gone to grays and browns.  We scanned the tree line for motion and found none.


We didn’t drive to Tom Minor Campground at the road’s end.  We turned around in a driveway with two dogs who oversaw our manoeuver.  We didn’t see Grizzly this trip.  “Next Time”  We’ll revisit Tom Minor’s around dusk the next time we stay at Gardiner.


The drive back through Gardiner, Mammoth, Madison Crossing to West Yellowstone was uneventful.  We saw elk as we descended toward West Yellowstone.  The drive is wonderful.  It rises through Douglas Fir and Lodge Poll Pines, along rivers, and through gorges.

Pony Express RV Park

We arrived “home” at site 5 around dusk.  Temperature was dropping.  We work like a well oiled machine setting “camp”.   We can be setup or ready to leave in a matter of minutes. 

Now at 8:30 and 31 F, Ellen has cooked a stir-fry with noodles that was excellent.  She has showered.  We’re watching CNN’s review of how Trump’s unfounded Ukraine conspiracy came to be.  We’ll watch “Last Week Tonight” a bit later.


We’ll drive south to Grand Teton tomorrow.  We could go north and east to Canyon Village through Hayden Valley then back south of Old Faithful, or we could go directly south past Old Faithful.   That depends on how we feel tomorrow.  I think Ellen would like to mark Hayden Valley mentally “for next time”.  We’ll figure out where we’ll stay once we’re close to Jackson.  I’ve been told there are three massive bull moose in the south Tetons.  Moose grow huge.  They would be something to see.  I loved the Tetons when I first saw them.


10/12/2019 Early Morning West Yellowstone , day 31


Another snow storm will roll in next week.  That storm will close the pass to Grand Teton National Park for a few days.  The road between Grand Teton and Yellowstone usually stays open through October, usually.  That storm will force us into Grand Teton probably before Thursday, 10/17.

We are both in excellent spirits.  The Beast is doing extremely well in the cold.  It dropped to 6 F this morning.  Today’s weather for West Yellowstone is partly cloudy at 44 F, Old Faithful shows sunny and 41 F.  Though colder, we’ll drive over the pass toward Prismatic Pool and Old Faithful.   We’ll stop by Firehole River again.

Pony Express RV Park

AllStay’s rating for this park is two stars.  That’s abysmal.  This morning I would rate the park FOUR STARS.  Yes, it is a small parking lot sitting between two motels on a side street with no view.  In high season I’d expect traffic on the street at all hours.  With a few inches of snow on the ground and very cold temps, the bathroom/laundry room is critical.  Both are extremely well heated and close by. There is boat loads of very hot water.  I had a long luxurious shower.

Where Grizzly was full yesterday, only six of the 16 sites are occupied here.   Ellen heard a motor home arrive last night.  Yes, the park does not look inviting when you first see it.

We’ll move to Grizzly RV Park tonight.  I could change my tune then.

Some photos taken over the past few days.


The Lone Maple, Rocky Mountain RV Park


Moonrise, Rocky Mountain RV Park


Hot Spring Pool before Gibbon Falls



Steam Frozen on the Pines



Gibbon Falls


Fly Fishing Madison River


Firehole River and Meadows

10/6/2019 Lamar Valley at Sunrise, Day 26



The American Serengeti

The last time we tried this, heavy snow over the very first pass turned us back.

We awoke at 5:35 AM in pitch darkness.  Stars were out.  The sky was clear and the morning felt abysmally cold, though “only” 31F.  We made coffee, put “everything” away, pulled the push-out in, brought the Antenna down, disconnected, and drove off.  We left at 6;25, not a stellar departure, but good  enough.  “Next time we’ll setup to leave before bed.”

We stopped briefly at the park entrance and headed up the hill.  To get to Lamar Valley take the first left in Mammoth onto Grand Loop Road toward Tower.  Temp when we left Gardiner was 31 F.  As we climbed from Mammoth it dropped to 26 then 24.  At tower the road to Lamar Valley branches left.  We were beginning a climb with a drop off to a narrow field and trees to our right when Ellen nearly shouted, “Bear” , then ‘Grizzly”.  First light was breaking over the ridges.  We could see clearly, yup, a grizzly.  It ran across the road maybe 50 yards ahead, scampered down to and across the field, and disappeared into the tree line.   I immediately stopped right on the road at the first sight of bear, well before it crossed the road.  The car behind us also stopped.   Our sighting was on the rise to Slough Creek.


What Happens When You’re Unprepared for “the shot”

From Slough Creek, the road runs along the Lamar River, through a canyon.  It rises through pine trees curving left and right, then descends into and rises from a small valley (that could be part of Lamar Valley).  It then rises and drops into a stunning vista. Lamar Valley is a long expansive plain of grasses and sage, cottonwood and aspen groves along the Lamar River, and evergreen trees rising up the slops in the distance.  The sun had risen, but was still below the ridge line.

We stopped at the first paved pullout on the valley floor and scanned the tree line.  Nothing.  We skipped the next few turnouts.  One turnout ahead was busy.  Ellen and I both thought a. We’re too late and b.There won’t be parking for us.  I slowed to a crawl and pulled into a space big enough.  I had to pull forward barely scraping a rock with the left suspension. OOps. 

There was a small cluster of people, three or four with spotting scopes trained on the sagebrush.  “What are you seeing?”  “Wolves, there are four of them in the sage brush just behind the near short tree right there.”  And there they were. There were four gray wolves, two cavorting about and two more interested in bedding down.  A while later two more moved in from the left, a white and a gray.  While we watched a covey of grouse appeared in the foreground and jumped about.  Ellen noticed a pair of bald eagles in a cottonwood by the Lamar River. Two bison ambled by in the background.  Back to the wolves, a seventh ambled in from the left.  Then a fellow who had been on the hill behind us mentioned there was a wolf coming in from the right near the cottonwoods.  He/she was close enough to see without glass.  Under the spotting scope we saw a large, well fed coyote.  Just as I focused on the eagles to take a “phone-scope” pic, they flew out of the tree.

The wolves disappeared into the grasses and sage.  The eagles flew off.  The bison had wondered to the far right.  We were about to move on when a herd ( harem, herd, group, flock? ) of prong horn ( antelope, deer, sheep ? ) charged out of the pine trees and ran at high speed through the sage and grasses.  Seen in a full gallop, these are magnificent animals.  They are very fast.  In no time they had run out of sight.


Typical Yellowstone Traffic Jam

We drove further down Lamar Valley, slowed then stopped for a herd of Bison, then turned back.  We ate at Mammoth Dining Room, which has a limited, way overpriced menu; then headed to Gardiner for more hand warmers, cough drops, and whatever else we might need/want.



Boiling River

Along the way we pass the turnoff for Boiling River. We’d seen crowds at the river each time we passed.  Yesterday we tried to stop for a “look-see”.  The two parking lots limit size to 20’ and road side parking was full.  Today it was nearly empty!  We had no trouble parking and walked the quarter mile to the “boiling river’”. It is a spot along the Gardiner River where hot springs flow into the cold river.  People have piled rocks in circles creating warm bathing pools that go from cool, to warm, to hot.   Ellen soaked her feet while I watched our gear.  The trick is to go with a bathing suit, towel, the clothes on your back, and little else.  We passed one woman walking back wearing a resort-style terry robe.  Smart.  We’ll go back in the next day or so better prepared.

I felt a wee bit strange taking photos here.




Can You Spot the Snake?


Strangely Inappropriate


Mid Sized Bull Snake Warming Itself

That Bull Snake was remarkable.  It slowly extended its head and maybe 6” of its body over the hot water.  Then it dipped just touching the water and rose back.  It did this three times. Then it got brave and submerged into the water.  Like a baby touching a hot stove.  It snapped back in a U shape and buried its head.  One Smart Snake, assuming it didn’t badly burn itself.

Parks Fly Shop

Finding specialized equipment in Gardiner off season is practically impossible.  The shops/outfitters who would carry such things are all closed.  Every last one.  Looking for river shoes, a local recommended we try Parks Fly Shop.  “They’ll have stuff for wading for sure!”   Well, no, they don’t.  In fact the friendly guy manning the counter said, “You don’t want to go wading in river shoes.  You’ll break your toes.” He went on to say his pinkie sticks out like his thumb, he’s broken it so many times.  “Don’t wear river shoes and no we don’t carry any, sorry.”  He was not trying to up-sell us.  He was seriously saying “don’t do it”.  We’ll use our old sneakers instead.  As for a fly fishing outfitter and based on what I know about fishing, I can very highly recommend these guys.

Rocky Mountain RV Park

We’re back “home”.  Water, electric, and cable are all connected.  This day has tired us out.  Jessica came by with her one year old, June, to settle up.  They’ll stay open through the 15th, though the water will be shut off tomorrow.  Water will be available near the office after that.  Yes, we can use the sewer, just run a bunch of water.  

Rocky Mountain RV Park is outside Yellowstone Park.  We have to drive a bit more to access Mammoth and other points of interest.  However, unlike campgrounds within the park, we have electricity, sewer, and water here.  Then too, we use our Senior Pass for free access to the park.  We go in and out of Yellowstone as often as we want and at no charge.

Say Hi to Curtis, Jessica, Payton, and June when you visit. 


Today was a cold and gloriously sunny day. Low temp going to Lamar Valley hit 24 F.  High temp today hit 69 F.  That’s a huge temp swing. Tomorrow should be even better than today.   Wednesday will be tough.  We’ve heard temps as low as 1f overnight with sub freezing temps for 24 hours.  Ouch.  I expect we’ll be tethered to electricity  all day Wednesday to run our tank heaters.  They would drain the batteries in under 6 hours.  Running the generator overnight is not an option.  So an electric hook-up is necessary.


We’ll stay in Gardiner through Wednesday.  We’ll go to Lamar Valley again tomorrow.  Today was glorious.