My second piece of advice is STAY MORE THAN A DAY! I wish we had another day, or two, or seven, to explore the place. And keep in mind, we actually saw a lot in our one day!
It is apparently necessary to photo-document your arrival.
Before we get into that, rewind!! We arrived at Yellowstone on Wednesday night after a day of driving through the hills of Wyoming and Montana. Upon leaving Gillette, WY, we headed for the hill mountains…
…with only a quick break for breakfast and a photo in Buffalo, WY, right off I-90. (My brother used to live in Buffalo, NY, right off I-90.)
We thought we’d roll up, grab a campsite and have sausages going on the fire by 7 pm. Hahahahahaha! As we learned later, this is the most popular time of year to visit Yellowstone. We also learned that by mid summer Yellowstone and the surrounding area had received 200,000 visitors more than its previous record high. By now, it is estimated the number has reached near 300,000.
After being denied campgrounds in the park –– and the ones in the surrounding towns –– we started going door-to-door to all lodging establishments in the town of Gardiner. We must have stopped at half a dozen places with no luck. When I popped into the Best Western I was told, “Sure, I have one room left.” Then she paused to listen to her colleague sell that room over the phone. “Sorry, that was the last room.”
We finally found a room at the Yellowstone Village Inn, which looks like a western log lodge. It was really cute. I wouldn’t have voluntarily paid what we paid –– which was about three times the amount we’ve paid for the previous nights –– but I really enjoyed it. (And yes, the room had a hairdryer!)
Knowing we had a place to sleep, we began our Yellowstone journey with Buffalo burgers at the Antler Pub & Grill that resembled a hunter’s cabin. The burger was delish and the décor was…
This is where we learned all the interesting facts above that would have been better to know prior to our arrival. We also heard some interesting stories.
The waitress told us how brave the bears are and that she found one scratching at the back door of the kitchen a few days earlier. And how a brave stupid “daring” busload of “international” tourists tried to go up and pet one. “Yuup! They tried to pet it,” she said, with a look of warning. “You don’t pet a bear.” Oh no? Gee, thanks for the head’s up!!
She then told us a story about how a ranger caught a couple posing for a photo with their infant son sitting on an elk, horse back-style. The ranger stopped them, explained the dangers involved and [pretended] to go on his merry way. He ducked behind a tree, and when they thought he had gone they tried to it again. He wasn’t so nice the second time around: he issued them a $500 ticket. Personally, I think he should have let natural selection run its course. But that’s just me!
Following dinner and stories, I took a wander around the dead animals in the grill noting a very large stuffed bear. “Did you read that story?” she waitress asked. “You gotta read that one. Hunter almost died shooting that thang.” Ooooo, bear attack on a hunter?! I like the sounds of this! The framed news story told of a hunter’s trip to Alaska to take part in a guided bear-hunting trip. He shot the almost 12-foot bear three times, but there were so many other bears in the vicinity (I like to believe they were mourning), it was days before they could collect the body. In the struggle to transport the 12-foot, thousands-of-pounds bear back to wherever it is you take a bear of that size on a hunting trip, the hunter suffered a heart attack. No bear mafia. No wild-animal gangs. A heart attack! (Hmmmm, can we say karma?) He lived, but only after being rushed to a hospital a couple hours away by heli. And the guy didn’t have health insurance so ‘between the cost of the trip, the transport and all the hospital bills, it was a $119,000 bear.’ I don’t know much about hunting, but if you spend your free time outside among potentially violent animals and guns, WHY DON’T YOU HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE?
It was an interesting introduction to Yellowstone –– one we would not have gotten if we had spent the night roasting sausages over an open fire.
And there was so much more to come… stay tuned!!