After unfruitful early morning trips to Many Glacier and back up the Going-To-The-Sun-Road, I decided to break camp and was off for Yellowstone National Park by noon. I made it to Bozeman and stopped at the Walmart there for groceries and decided to spend the night in their parking lot and see if I could get into M & W Repair tomorrow for a lube and oil on the motorhome.
As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.
This happens to be one of the better Walmarts for boon docking, what with it’s lush green lawns for the dogs to run around on and the convenient location on the outskirts of Bozeman and just off the Interstate ramp.
Took a drive north on the back roads above Bozeman while the motorhome was getting it’s oil and lube done. Interesting farm country and horse range, but I didn’t really find anything to shoot and returned to pick up the motorhome around 4 PM and decided to head on for Yellowstone.
Left I-90 in Livingston and headed south on Route 89 towards Gardiner and the entrance to Yellowstone. I had been told by M & W that it appeared my rear running lights were not working so, as it began to get dark I found a fishing access area just off the highway to spend the night. Really nice spot, quiet, no lights, beautiful, cool, star filled night, and I got myself a wonderful night’s sleep.
Greeted this morning by a flat tire on my tow dolly, really discouraging since the tires on the dolly were just replaced back in the Yukon, only weeks ago. I got it changed without any trouble and headed off for Mammoth Hot Springs, arriving there around 11 AM.
I have never had any desire to visit Yellowstone during the summer months and fight the millions of visitors there during the hectic vacation season so have always visited before Memorial Day or after Labor Day and have never had any trouble getting a spot to stay at the Mammoth Hot Springs campground. But today I am greeted by the attendant and told there are no campsites available !
Told that they have been full every morning by 8:30 since early May. I guess that means that Yellowstone will probably now never again be visited since winter visits are out out of the question with the motorhome and that would now seem like the only time the place will not be full.
So, I decided to head through the park to the Gros Ventre Campground in the Tetons and hope that Grand Teton National Park was not also suffering from late season overcrowding. Traffic was terrible on the northwest loop of Yellowstone due to road rebuilding, but OK once to Madison Junction.
I arrived at Gros Ventre around 4 PM on a hot afternoon and signed in for 4 days on Site #75. Really uncomfortably warm until the sun went down, then cooled off quickly. Unfortunately, the campground was all but full and I unfortunately had rude neighbors all around, lights, generators until 10 PM, car engines running at 11 PM and late arrivals nosily setting up camp at midnight. What ever happened to an “off season” ? These crowds are starting to get to me !
The campground was full last night … and Gros Ventre campground is almost never full, even during the summer ! I am out very early on an absolutely beautiful morning, yet am stuck behind a line of about a dozen cars at the intersection of Gros Ventre Road and the main highway, and it isn’t yet 7 AM. Even at this early hour the main highway is all but bumper to bumper traffic in both directions .. what is going on here ! I have never seen crowds like this here before.
Granted, it is about as beautiful a day as one could ever hope for, but, come on, this is supposed to be the off season.
I head up to the Oxbow and as I round the bend and this wonderful view of Mount Moran appears, I am blown away by the amount of cars and people here at this early hour. The large parking lot is full and vehicles line both sides of the road for half a mile or so. There are easily two or three hundred people here, and that is without any tour buses present. Photographers line the shoulder of the road, shoulder to shoulder !
This is just too much ! I have got to get away from all these people.
Cottonwood Creek Road is the answer. This very rough dirt road screens out the traffic and is about all that the Prius with it’s low clearance can handle, but it gets me away from the crowds, at least for now. Plus it has this wonderful perspective on Grand Teton, and while not today, it quite often also has large numbers of elk and pronghorn.
Having had enough of battling traffic, I head back to the campground and wait until very late afternoon to venture out again.
I find very little, other than loads of people, as I make a long loop of the park. This young bull elk and his little harem are all I find. Normally I wouldn’t bother to show these unremarkable images but I was pleasantly surprised at how well they came out, since they were taken in the dark !
In fact, these elk images were taken at the same time as this shot of the brilliant full moon.
This happened to be the night before the lunar eclipse, an event that unfortunately was marred by cloud cover here. Really hoping the crowds clear out after the weekend and I get to enjoy this place, one of my favorite all time places to visit.
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