Escaped the SW heat and headed north up I15 which we are getting to know quite well. This time we kept going until we reached Idaho and settled into a campsite at Henrys Lake and acclimatized for a couple of days. There are a few short hikes near the lake but most people either engage in water sports or use it as a base for day excursions into Yellowstone which lies a few miles to the east.
Plan was to spend time at three Yellowstone campgrounds and do day trips out of each one. I had reserved two nights at Canyon Village and four at the end at Grants Village. In-between I hoped to snag a first come first served site up in the NE corner of the park. As for today, our first day in, we refueled with coffee and pastries in west Yellowstone and crossed into the park waving our glorious senior passes as we passed the smiling ranger at the entrance booth. In need of exercise we found parking at Madison and set off on the Purple Mountain hike, a comfortable 3 to 4 miles round trip and about a 1,000’ of elevation gain. As always it was good to stretch the legs but we soon realized that the views were not going to materialize as the smoke from many fires in the West turned our panorama into a hazy blur between sky and mountain.
At Canyon Village we checked in with the campground to see what site we had been assigned. At all the reservable campgrounds you don’t select an individual site but rather a category such as tent, 40’ or , in our case, 30’ motorhome because all the larger 40’ sites were already taken. Now our 25’ RV fits into a 30 site we also had the Subi in tow and had to be able to park it off the road. H157 was a pull through and although it was longer that 30’ it was positioned in a tight turn with tree scars to show that large rigs had tried to maneuver through but suited us just fine.
Off for an afternoon hike along the south rim was severely curtailed by construction and we settled for some views past Inspiration Point that was the only open parking lot. Smoke again took away the crispness of the falls; maybe they will be better in the morning? On the way back stopped at the upper falls and saw where the Yellowstone River leaves the meandering plains and tumbles into the yellowish rocked chasm.
On our full day at Canyon we opted for the Seven Mile Hole Trail, about 12 miles roundtrip because we had to hike along a closed road to get to the actual trail head. This one is similar but not as extreme as the hike down into the gorge at Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. 4 miles through the forested rim and 2 miles down to the river which also passes through the obligatory Yellowstone thermal activity. Like a lot of our hikes so far if you can get going by 9 am it is peaceful and few other hikers on the trail. On our return we pass many more coming in behind us, groups having elected to make a more leisurely start.
Next day was stress day. There is a nice campground, Pebble Creek, out on the NE road running through the Lamar valley. I WANTED TO STAY THERE. But it only had 27 sites and there were no reservations. The park is pretty good with some statistics and you can see online if campgrounds are OPEN or CLOSED and what time they filled up at, Pebble consistently closed by 8 or 9am. We were up before dawn as we had to fill up with water as there was no RV water there, also no generators and of course no hookups – really nice if you can get in. Left Canyon before 6:30 am for the 1 hour drive over Dunraven Pass and then bison infested Lamar Valley. The gods were with us and we rolled into Pebble at 7:20am and were given 3 choices of sites, one overlooking the creek which we selected. Now I could relax!
For the afternoon we drove into neighboring Cooke City just outside the NE entrance. Ended up having a late lunch & beer at a roadside table and no cooking in the RV that night.
A hike up the Lamar Valley did not produce much wildlife viewing but gave us feel for the place – great horseback country.
Outside the park the Beartooth Highway summits at close to 11,000′ in pure alpine country. Open for only 3 to 4 months a year it was built in the depression to provide access to Yellowstone. On the other side the city of Red Lodge was a great place to re-provision.
I’m sitting in Jackson library uploading photo’s and editing this post. My notepad battery is running low and I think I will hastily publish this one and reserve the right to edit it for errors.