I recently visited Yellowstone National Park. This was the second time in my life that I have been there. The first time, I was a young teenager on one of maybe three family vacations we ever took. I don’t remember much about Yellowstone back then. However, what I do remember was a lot of driving and the earth smelling of rotten eggs. Needless to say, I wasn’t very impressed. I was more mesmerized with the helicopters scooping up water from the river with large buckets putting out the largest wild fire in the park to date. So when I decided to make Yellowstone a part of this journey, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. For one, I’m obviously older and my perspective on things are a bit different. And for two, a lot of time had passed since those fires.
As I left the sunny skies of Montana, I entered the foggy Wyoming park at the west entrance. I was tired from driving, hungry and it was very “peopley” out. This combination opened the door for my good ‘ol buddy Mr. Anxiety. I already knew I wanted to camp at Lewis Lake near the south entrance. It was known to be one of the last campgrounds to fill up and it was the cheapest. So that’s where I headed. I didn’t even stop at Old Faithful. I was on a mission. I needed a snack and to nap.
It took nearly an hour and half to drive to the lake. And then another hour to figure out my campsite situation. The payment area was a bit confusing despite the very detailed signage. There was a ranger station in the same parking lot but of course it was empty and locked. So I drove around the three loops until I decided on spot A2 at Loop B. It was close to a bathroom and it was empty. Good enough. I heated up water for a rather plain chicken and rice freeze dried meal. I didn’t care. I just needed food. And then sleep. I didn’t even bother putting up my tent. I just put up my black out shades and curled up in the back of my car and said good-night to my anxiety and the rest of the world.
After a much needed 3 hour nap, I crawled out of my car, bear spray in hand and decided to go exploring. Thankfully my anxiety had passed and the sun had found its way to me. I headed toward the lake.
On my way down to the lake, I noticed a young couple trying to figure out how to pay for camping. Knowing how confusing it was for me, I decided to see if I could be of some help. It didn’t take long to realize the problem was the campsites were all full. Every single one of them. Not just Lewis Lake…all of Yellowstone and surrounding areas. This cute couple had just spent three years fixing up their adorable 1950’s blue camper and headed here from Ohio for their first real big adventure. Here they were standing at the pay station with puzzled looks on their faces and no where to actually camp…now what?
Leaving their truck and trailer in the main parking lot, the young couple followed me up to my camp area so I could, at the very least, give them one of the two maps I had acquired. We chatted briefly about adventuring and the excitement and anxiety that comes with it. I felt bad they didn’t have a place to go. But what was I to do?
Looking around, I thought about all the kind hearted people who I had met on my journey. Every time I needed something, the universe magically made it happen. Why should this time be any different? I decided to meet my neighbors and see if they could help.
Without any hesitation, my camp neighbors agreed I could park my car next to theirs and the young couple could take my camp spot. Problem solved! The happy young couple set up their camp and continued on their adventure through Yellowstone. Meanwhile, my neighbors who are from Virginia became my new friends. We shared traveling stories, drooled over maps and they even shared their beer with me. What an amazing world we live in.
I finally made it to the lake for sunset and the harvest full moon.
The next day I woke before the sun and headed out for a full day of Yellowstone adventuring. Here are a few pictures:
Although there was still a lot of driving and the earth still smelled of sulfur, my experience at Yellowstone as an adult was a completely different experience from when I was 14. There is nothing quite like being on an active volcano surrounded by wildlife, happy forests, crazy tourists and spending the day doing whatever I want.
Love and hugs, Adventure Mel