Part 3: Yellowstone

Hello! If you’re just catching up, last time we were in the Badlands National Park and I was having existential thoughts about deceased forests.

From the Badlands we continued west to Shoshone National Forest, crossing the Little Bighorn Mountains. We stopped in Cody, Wyoming for a truly bad coffee milkshake first. (It had potential, but I got a shot of Irish Cream in it and things went downhill. No one’s fault but mine.) The S.O. was quite taken with the Little Bighorns and I wish we’d had more time to explore, but thus is the nature of the roadtrip. There are some things you get to see, and others you blow right by.

In the Shoshone National Forest, we made camp, took a dip in the river, killed a bunch of giant mosquitoes, and formally entered bear country. It was my first time having to use a bear box at a campground. Usually when we’re backwoods camping we just run our stuff up a tree. They’re pretty neat little contraptions.

Dawn at the campground.

The next morning we got up extra early again, threw our things in the car, and drove to Yellowstone.

If you’re a person who’s willing to rough it, I can definitely recommend camping outside of Yellowstone to make sure you find a spot and keep costs down. It was only about thirty minutes to the entrance to the park (there are several) and we were able to start our tour of this giant and varied space early. Everyone comes to Yellowstone for the geysers, and I’m not going to lie, the geysers were cool. But there was so much fascinating about this place.

The only geyser we actually saw erupt.

There are bubbling pots of liquid mud, pools that seem bottomless in jewel tones of onyx and sapphire. There’s a whole lot of wildlife, waterfalls that astonish, and a canyon that is absolutely jaw-dropping. That’s just what we got to see.

The Black Pool, which apparently used to look very different before people tossed coins into it and changed the pH.
The Abyss, which was honestly my favorite. The pictures do not do it justice.

It’s sort of hard to believe that a place like this exists on Earth. That is a little bit how the Badlands was, too — astonishing, too real to be real. Even with the immense traffic at Yellowstone, and even though part of the park was closed, the S.O. and I were so glad we had decided to pass through. We got to the park at 7 am and left at dusk, and we could have stayed for days.

The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River.

We did very little hiking on the day we were in Yellowstone. I think that could have been incredibly rewarding, but you don’t have to be particularly able to enjoy this park. It’s very accessible compared to other places we have explored, perhaps because it’s such an iconic location. While I’m not sure how a wheelchair user would find it, a lot of the sights we enjoyed most weren’t far off the road or parking lot. Some things, like the best waterfall views, required a little bit more exploration, but honestly I think most folks who are reasonably mobile and could handle a few stairs would find this a really rewarding trip. (And not everything would require stairs!)

Saying goodbye to Yellowstone.

Once we left Yellowstone, we had a long drive to Helena. Helena was a laundry stop — we rented a small house for the night, treated ourselves to a slow start the next morning which included a very bad game of chess and wandered around the downtown before heading north. It was a lovely little city, and a welcome respite from living out of a tent.

From there, we headed north to our last planned stop!

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