"This weekend we're going visit Yellowstone. Camping!" That's what Kelly from New York City and I decided last Thursday.
"It's gonna be freezing up there!" That was the reaction of whomever we revealed our plans to.
Now, Kelly is a 100% City girl and for my part I have had little experience in tent camping in national parks myself.
So we borrowed all our gear from people around town, packed our car including 5 winter coats, 3 pairs of gloves, a box full of tea and lots of good music for the drive up.
We had decided to camp at Mammoth Campground for we had been told that in fall, that's where you can hear bugling wapiti deer during the night.
However this Campground is situated in the northern part of Yellowstone. Coming from the South, this meant that we had to drive through all Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park (which are right next to each other).
People had advised us to make sure to arrive early enough at Mammoth to make sure that we would get a pitch on this popular Campground.
However, we couldn't resist and stopped a hundred times to admire the park's natural wonders, just a few steps off the road.
When we first saw the West Thumb geyser basin from the road with its multicolored hot springs right next to the shores of the enormous Yellowstone Lake we simply had to pull over. It felt really mystical. And as if that hadn't been beautiful enough, there was a herd of wapiti deer grazing right between the geysers who couldn't have cared less about us taking pictures of them.
Talking about Yellowstone's trusting wildlife: we saw an elk calf sucking from it's mum right next to the road and tons of bison chilling in the grass pretending not to notice all the people taking pictures of them.
In fact, some bison even blocked the road and when they eventually decided that maybe this wasn't all that much fun, one of them walked by my car window at such a short distance that I easily could have touched it.
We have come to the conclusion that the wildlife in Yellowstone must have a celebrity-like attitude towards humans. They must enjoy getting all the attention from the visitors. How else can it be explained that they hang out right next to the road rather than in one of the many remote valleys within the park?
Further up the road we enjoyed bubbling mud pools, magnificent waterfalls, and the beauty of the wild scenery.
So at the end of the day arrived late at the Campground with the result that we didn't really have a place to stay. But both of us agreed that taking our time to soak in the beauty of Yellowstone National Park has been worth it.
This is why we arrived late at the Mammoth Campground just to find it all full.
So we went on to Gardiner a town at the North entrance of Yellowstone for there was supposed to be another Campsite, just to find it all booked out, to.
By then the sun had set and we realized that we had forgotten our flashlights. We really didn't see us setting up a tent in the dark, with our mobile phones being the only source of light. Not to mention that we didn't have a place WHERE we could set up our tent.
"Stuff it!" we said "Let's go and eat something!
So we ended up at the … Saloon the only place in town still to be open.
It turned out to be a pleasant busy place.
Once we had entered Kelly exclaimed: "Hey, let's have a game of pool while we are waiting for our food." And once she had picked up the cue, I knew why she had been so excited about it. She turned out to be the best pool player I have ever seen. Well, I guess that pool really is somewhat more popular in the States than it is in Germany.
But once our stomachs were filled we looked at each other. And where to go now?
We figured out that it would be the best to just stay somewhere on a Campsite and that it would be better to sneak into the campground within the park rather than on the privately owned one in Gardiner.
Having returned to Mammoth Campground inside the park where we occupied an empty campsite we flipped back the seats of the car and slept in the trunk.
It was really very cozy! But a little short so we had to sleep with bended legs so that the next morning we couldn't move our legs for an hour or so.
Once we had signed up at the campground office (with the rangers accepting our apology for seizing an unoccupied campsite) we set up our tent.
Of course we had not thought about bringing a hammer for ramming the tent pigs into the ground. But who would need a hammer if there are rocks around?
Back to the stone age! We managed to bash in these tent pigs with the rocks until the tent was all set up.
And, hell we were proud of us.
We then went on a wonderful day-hike and when we returned we were just very happy that the tent was already set up. We cooked some spaghetti and I think it was the best pasta in my whole life, even though we had no salt for the pasta and no plates to eat from!
But the best was the dessert: Kelly introduced me to the treat of "S'mores".
Put a piece of chocolate on a cracker, grill a marshmallow on a stick over the fire, put the marshmallow on top of the chocolate, cover with another cracker, squeeze together and enjoy this sweet-as sandwich!
That night we slept like babies and the tent seemed to be the warmest, softest place to sleep ever, even though we had to wear four jumpers, heads and gloves and the pats were not blown up properly.
I am sure there was elk (wapiti deer) bugling that night, because we had seen them just a bit up the road. But we didn't hear a thing!
So, what did we learn from our trip?
Come early or make a reservation at the Campgrounds, bring flashlights, keep your sense of humor and let's go up to Yellowstone next weekend again!
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