After my run-in with the law on I-90 I decided to leave it after 600 miles and headed across Montana the 100 miles or so to Yellowstone. I wanted to get there as early as I could as I was planning on camping and I didn’t have a reservation. I stopped for breakfast in Ennis, MT which was a real little Wild West place, the waitress called me Honey as she refilled my coffee. Although I did manage to find (steal?) a Wi-Fi network so I could update my Facebook status, very important for today’s traveller.
I stopped briefly at the nicely rhyming Earthquake Lake, formed after a massive earthquake blocked the Madison River, a reminder of the geological instability of the area. It all looked very benign, but the dead trees still sticking out of the water were a bit erie.
So onto Yellowstone proper. I had heard about the huge crowds and sure enough about 10 minutes past the gate (free entry day, yay!) the traffice ground to a halt. Having a huge camper van thing in front of me I couldn’t see what was holding us up, so I was just calmly sitting there when, from behind the camper van, two bloody enormous great buffaloes lumbered past the car. As you can imagine, frightened the living hell out of me. They looked at me with their big crazy staring eyes and carried on their merry way past the traffic jam. Very Yellowstone.
My first night was not a great success. In order to keep costs down, I had bought a cheap sleeping bag when I purchased the tent in Ketchikan, thinking, it’s Summer, it’ll do. I’ll let you into a little secret, it didn’t do. Not by a long chalk. Yes, the calendar read August, but I hadn’t really taken into consideration that Yellowstone is over 2000m above sea level. I have never been so cold in all my life. At 3am I had to get into the car and turn the heating on. I ended up sleeping the rest of the night in the car. Not a happy camper. I did get to see the stars though – I’ve only seen the Milky Way twice and both times I was absolutely freezing and high up, the first time being at 4300m in Bolivia.
I liked Yellowstone, the landscape was on the pretty side, rather than stunning, and every couple of miles you see clouds of steam appearing above the trees, making it look kind of other-worldly. I joined 15000 other tourists and watched Old Faithful do its old, faithful thing and then I went for a walk (all the while singing out loud as recommended in my Bear Aware pamphlet) to the Lone Star Geyser which erupts every 3 hours or so. I timed it nicely and got there about 30 minutes before it erupted. Whereas Old Faithful shoots high, it only goes for about a minute, this one went on for nearly 20 minutes, very cool.
After this, I went to West Yellowstone to buy a proper sleeping bag and watched the sunset over the Madison River, and very beautiful it was too.