The campsites at Bridge Bay Campground in Yellowstone are primitive. They include a variety of heavily wooded to open field sites that are mostly on uneven pavement without electricity or water. Most are in some proximity to at least one tree and a bathroom. The bathrooms are heated with several stalls and sinks although they do not offer hot water nor showers. We have never been to a park with as much caution to bears, so the bathhouses’ dishwashing room and heavy metal food storage containers onsite were nice to have…maybe necessary.
Campsite G284 was particularly nice compared to others as it offered a semi-obstructed view of Yellowstone Lake across a pasture that was frequented by bison. Many of the campsite were packed in tight among other campsites or trees. The bison actually walked through our campsite and could be heard munching grass from our windows at night. A pair of large elk hung out in the pasture between another campsite loop.
Yellowstone is huge! Much larger than anything we imagined, it is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island…combined! Yellowstone Lake, for example, if 2.5 times larger and 2 times deeper than Georgia’s Lake Lanier, which is a huge lake in Georgia. All of this at an average altitude of 8,000 feet and beyond makes it such a unique environment.
It is easy to put in lots of miles to see all the sites. We spent most of our time at the Grand Prismatic spring and Old Faithful geyser. We were told the crowds were way down due to Covid-19, but still felt like lots of people as parking spots were sparse at those sites. Old Faithful is surrounded by the feel of a tourist town with several hotels, restaurants, stores and even a gas/service station that we ended up using.
Not long after leaving Gering, Nebraska a truck dropped something in the road that punctured our tire on the border of Nebraska and Wyoming. Unlike 99% of our drive there happened to be a small city nearby. We stopped in a McDonald’s. In the process of changing the tire our jack broke in half. Being Sunday morning at 7am we were left to McDonald’s patrons. Eventually, a local man helped us get setup. However, it was a good thing we made it to Yellowstone and had our spare tire checked at a Yellowstone service station, because the spare had a small leak and was 14 years old, original with the car!
But before we got to Yellowstone we ran out of gas. In Casper, we had slightly less than half a tank not know there were no gas stations for almost 100 miles between Casper and Shoshoni and no cell phone service. Twenty miles short of Shoshoni our car stopped. Realizing a 40 mile walk roundtrip would take the good part of 8 hours, Matt resolved to waive down help with an empty gas can. Almost immediately a fellow camper from New York stopped and offered to siphon gas from his generator. About a gallon was obtained with gas spilled on him and Matt. Fortunately, while this was happening a K9 state trooper stopped to check. He agreed to follow us toward Shoshoni toward which we only made it halfway. The trooper gave Matt a ride the rest of the way. On the trip Matt discovered that the trooper was in the process of traveling to another department for the following week and just happened to be driving through at the time. Despite all the circumstances it was the best possible help we could get. A $25 gas can filled with 5 gallons and we were back on our way.
Our last night at dusk we drove to Hayden Valley with hopes of seeing bison herds. The scenery was breathtaking. The herds not found. But as we slowly passed a roadside bull an oncoming driver told us that a bunch of wolves were seen further down the road. First, we spotted one walking along the river bank and as amazingly rare as it was we eventually moved on. To our surprise further down there was a pack of 3, 2 black and one grey, wolves traversing the hillside. From a distance of a couple hundred yards we couldn’t make out details, but saw the forms hunt between the sage brush, stretch and peer out among the hills and valleys. It was certainly a highlight of the trip to be outdone…
The morning before we would depart we went on a short 1-mile hike down a gravel road a mile from our campsite. On the walk we passed several other hikers. Then, about 3/4 of the way in the forest opened to a meadow where there stood on four a large adult grizzly bear. It was 30-50 yards away which is at most half the recommended distance. We slowly retreated as our hearts raced realizing the rarity of what happened. We left a note pinned to the trailhead with fish hooks and told the rangers when we returned to our campsite. The ranger confirmed it was a big deal and that she had never seen a grizzly on that trail she walks frequently.