This past week we hit Yellowstone National Park. We traveled from the very Eastern edge of Wyoming through to Cody, which is one of the closest cities to the park and the one-time home of Buffalo Bill Cody.
Buffalo Bill is famous for producing his Wild West shows. He is also somewhat disturbingly purported to have killed 4,282 Bison over the course of eighteen months.
We arrived in Cody at about 7:30 pm, and we had made no plans for where we would spend the night. As we drove in, we were caught in a wicked and captivating storm. As luck would have it, these clouds were filled with hail, which pelted our RV as we sat patiently in the Kmart parking lot, waiting to make a break for the McDonald’s across the street to indulge our shameful fast-food habit.
We were hoping to find a boondocking spot for the evening, but that is something you’d really prefer not to do in the dark in unfamiliar terrain. Unfortunately, the storm had cut down the margin of time that we were working with to practically nothing. I won’t say we panicked, but there was a hint of concern in our conversation that continued to grow as the sun went down. We tried calling a few RV parks in Cody, but found every one of them was booked (touristy area). We found ONE with a spot for us, for $40 a night with with water and electric hookups, who warned me that they were in the midst of construction and we would basically be sitting in a dirt parking lot and she didn’t want me to be disappointed. Yeah. A little late for that.
You might be thinking, what about a Walmart or a Cabellas or something like that? Can’t you park there? Well, we were SURE that Cody would have restrictions against parking overnight in retail store parking lots, so we didn’t even consider that option. Many of the more touristy cities rely heavily on RV-camping business and have this type of restriction in place so that you must use their RV parks. We were SO sure of this, that we didn’t bother to actually fact-check ourselves….
We eventually decided that daylight be damned, we would try to find a boondocking spot where we could park in the mountain valley. It was not a choice either of us were thrilled about, but we felt that given circumstances it would have to do.
As we we began hurriedly driving toward the mountains, we were quite fortunately forced to drive right by the Walmart on the way out of town, which was absolutely packed to the brim with parked RVs. AHA! Lesson learned…. I picked out a cozy little spot in the lot and joined the close to 15 other travelers who were passing through on their way to Yellowstone.
I will say, aside from the lack of hookups, the Walmart parking lot was VERY comfortable. They had a whole section that was clearly designated for RVs, and they even had a recycling station set up where you could throw away your cans and bottles. Kelly and I were so happy to have found a free and easy place to stay, we ended up staying there for a few nights. Sometimes if we have been out in the middle of nowhere for too long it can be fun to go bop around Walmart and oogle at the endless supplies they have.
While in Cody, we took Max to the vet – he needed a refill on heart-worm pills and had to get some booster shots. While Max posted up uncomfortably on the examination table to endure the necessary hardships, the vet chatted with us about where we were from and where we were headed. She advised us that in this neck of the woods we should be on the lookout for 2 predators that can be dangerous to dogs (not to mention humans…): rattlesnakes, and grizzly bears. She told us with a very straight face about her first week on the job in Cody, where a dog came in after having a run in with a grizzly. The dog was essentially fine, but it’s owner had his face badly mauled because he only had a shovel with him at the time of the attack (both lived). To which Kelly replied: ONLY a SHOVEL? One would think that having a sturdy long-handled stick with a wide flat metal end would be a pretty decent weapon in such circumstances. Apparently not!
The vet recommended that we get bear spray, which is basically an industrial sized canister of pepper spray. It can shoot up to 30 feet. We have had it on us ever since. I like my face the way it is, thank you.
Over the weekend, we relocated to a small campground closer to the Yellowstone entrance. The mountains were filled with oddly shaped rocky outcroppings.
The next day we set off in the car to do what can’t be done: Yellowstone in 1 day. We tried our best to see as much as possible. I think we did a pretty good job! We managed to see: A pelican and a bald eagle within spitting distance of each other, an otter, an immature moose, a black bear and 2 cubs (from a distance, thankfully) a wolf eating a carcass (also from a distance), and numerous bison (which are different from buffalo, I learned. Buffalo are the animals with 2 horns and what looks like a part down the middle of their head and they can be found mainly in Africa and Asia. Bison are what we have in the USA.)
We also saw various hot springs, geysers, and bubbling pots of mud and clay:
Old faithful erupting:
And probably the highlight of the day as we were leaving: The bison traffic-jam.
I literally could have touched one if I had leaned just a little. But I didn’t. Because I’m not stupid.
All in all – a very successful trip through Yellowstone. It was a lot of driving, and I would recommend staying overnight somewhere in order to break it up a bit (which is maybe a duh, but we didn’t do much research before heading over there). It is a neat place, and my favorite part was seeing all the animals. After Yellowstone, we took off for Montana, where we are now staying at a GREAT off-the-grid camping spot where we intend to be until our tanks run dry. More on that coming up!