Monday , December 9th 2019
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Yellowstone 2019 – Day 1

Yellowstone 2019 – Day 1

We left the property of our Boondocker's Welcome host in Blackfoot, Idaho around 11:00 and took I-15 north to Idaho Falls where we then got on U.S. 20 north and took it all the way to West Yellowstone.

All the RV parks and campgrounds in the West Yellowstone area I knew of were still closed, so I had my eye on three or four free boondocking spots. The farther north we went, it became clear that at least two of those weren't going to be possible due to snow.

But my primary choice was the Bill Frome Memorial County Park on Henry Lake. It's a free campground with a boat ramp – dry camping of course. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the road there was still covered in snow. The campsites were clear, but the road just wasn't passable. For a moment I considered getting out my little folding shovel and ….. nah, we'll move on to another plan.

We stopped at one lodge with RV sites, and they wanted $48 for an electric hook-up or $40 for dry camping. Moving on.

In West Yellowstone, we found one motel/RV Park that was open. Water and sewer wasn't available, but we could have electric for $50 a night in what may be one of the worst RV parks I've ever seen. Nope.

Our intent was to camp close to West Yellowstone so we could visit with our friends Leesa & Gary who would be workamping there. However, their park delayed their arrival due to snow, and they won't be here until after we are gone. So, we decided to keep going and camp at Mammoth Hot Springs Campground near the north entrance to the park. It's the only campground in the National Park that is open year round and is currently open. We had camped there with our big fifth wheel in the past, so we knew we would fit.

The west entrance road just opened this past Friday, and we knew we could get all the way to Mammoth, so we entered the park around 4:00, and I figured it would take about an hour and a half to go the 50 miles to Mammoth Hot Springs due to lower speed limits and road construction.

Not far into the park, we stopped for my first photo.



It's sort of "mud season" as the snow is melting, and the landscape isn't pretty in most places, but there are exceptions like the photo above.

Shortly after that, we had our first Bison in the road.



Many of the side roads and picnic areas were still closed as we made it to Madison Junction and then continued north. After a lengthy construction delay, we had this view a few miles outside Mammoth Hot Springs.



In our past visits to Yellowstone, the little town of Mammoth Hot Springs was a great place to see Elk. Today, however, there was a small herd of Bison wandering around.

We continued through town and made it to the campground. There were plenty of campsites available, and we chose Site 8 which is pretty level, dry, and long enough for the motorhome and Jeep.





There are no hook-ups, but we came prepared to dry camp and that was no big deal. The water is turned on, so we can fetch water if we need it. At $20 a night, it's double what we paid last time we were here, but given our options, we'll take it.

After getting settled, I drove around a little toward the town of Gardner. The first few miles of that five-mile stretch have always been a productive area for spotting wildlife in the past, and it didn't disappoint today. I saw plenty of Elk, some Mule Deer, and a lone Bison that I spent some time with.

Here are a few Elk photos.





That cow crossed the river and crossed the road right in front of my Jeep. I gave her a wide berth.



I scanned the hills for Bighorn Sheep as I've seen them there before and it's a "sheep management area". No sheep, but I saw some more distant Elk and a few Mule Deer.



After that, I sat in the Jeep having a little alone time with this Bison.



He approached and I could hear him breathing and tearing the grass out.




After watching for several minutes, I headed back to the campground where I took this photo of our rig from a different angle.



Rather than stopping, I drove back into Mammoth Hot Springs where I watched the small herd of bison for a couple minutes before driving out toward the northeast entrance for a few miles looking for more wildlife. I saw more distant Elk, but nothing else.

I pulled over to turn around at the Undine Falls parking area. I went ahead and got a photo while I was there.



And with that, I drove back to the campground. Linda made us some pasta, we relaxed and called it a night.

Having never been to Yellowstone this time of year, I had no idea what to expect. Though much of the park is still closed, we're off to a pretty good start.

We'll see what else may be in store for us the next couple of days.