The road beyond Old Faithful to West Yellowstone eventually follows the Madison River.
Even though I don’t yet know where we will camp tonight, I take my time driving beyond Old Faithful toward the town of West Yellowstone. The crew and I explore the river banks and take short hikes along the way. We pass several steaming basins, but don’t turn in to join the tourists on the walkways and observation decks. Most have a sign on the road, “No RVS, trailers, or buses.” That’s okay. I see enough driving by.
Except for one enormous bison (at a point where I can’t stop for a photo), a moose, and a few deer, most of the wildlife must be enjoying the shade of the forest during the middle of the day.
West Yellowstone on a Saturday bustles with people scurrying about searching for ways to spend some money.
The diagonal parking on both sides of the main street is full of cars. The town’s theme is western, of course, with several businesses named Stagecoach this or that. I drive up to a supermarket but there’s no place to park a van towing a trailer. One block over I find another supermarket and a closed-on-the-weekend government building next door with plenty of asphalt for the PTV and BLT to rest upon.
On the way out of the supermarket, a lady rushes up to me.
She’s intrigued by the BLT, and even more so, once I answer her questions and tell her it’s my fulltime home. It’s fun to see a person’s face light up when they see the possibilities of owning a home-on-wheels.
North on Highway 191 toward Hebgen Lake, I see a sign for Bear Hollow Campground.
I drive in and meander around the loops. Charles, the camp host, approaches my window and cheerfully tells me the campground is full. “All I have is one empty site. It’s for handicapped, but I’ll let you have it.” No, not my kind of place. It feels like a city.
I ask about Beaver Creek Campground, which I saw on the map in my road atlas. It’s on Highway 287 off of Highway 191, close to Hebgen Lake, which is a fairly large body of water. He gives me directions and adds, “It’ll be cooler there, because it’s higher up.”
Usually I research a campground online while camped before choosing it as a destination.
I’m getting tired of the road and don’t feel like getting out the laptop. Beaver Creek is in the direction I want to go (toward Bozeman and real stores, not imitation ones) and the name sounds good. Wrong! Just because a name has wildlife and water in it, doesn’t mean that’s what you get. Anyway . . .
I drive past big and beautiful Hebgen Lake and learn an important fulltiming lesson.
Small lakes are best, the ones that are too small to be drawn in blue on the map. Why? Because big lakes are more likely to be rimmed with private homes, marinas, resorts, restaurants, and such.
Expensive sailboats drift across the unbelievably blue water. Uh-oh, this might not be good. I continue past Hebgen Lake Dam, as Charles directed, and go over a mountain (which Charles, apparently a western guy, called “a little hill”), and up a winding, paved road into the campground.
I explore all three loops.
I guess I’m getting very fussy, now that I’ve camped in such heavenly places. I’m disappointed in Beaver Creek Camp. What? No water feature? The creek is a hike downhill from the campground, too far for the crew and me to walk in bear country. Oh well, it’s pleasant enough and we’ll only stay overnight. Later I walk Bridget and Spike on the paved campground roads and discover several new wildflowers. Most of the campers come back at dinner time, probably from their boats at the lake.
Paul, the camp host from Hot Springs, South Dakota, drops by while I’m eating some potato salad at my picnic table.
Bridget and Spike lie under the table while we visit. Camp hosts are wonderful sources of information, even though they often come from other locales. I ask him about the campgrounds further north on Highway 191.
“Don’t go that way, “ Paul advises. “There’s a lot of construction going on right now on that road. If you want to eventually get to Bozeman, stay on 287. You’ll go out of the high mountains across some plains. It’s a pretty drive and easy.”
“Is there any place to camp along the way?” I ask, adding that I don’t like to drive far in one day.
“Oh yeah. You go through Ennis and Norris. At Norris turn toward Bozeman — the road goes right along the river – look for river access signs. People camp on both sides of the river. It’s BLM,” he explains. “There was a really bad fire up that way, but I don’t think it’s hurt the camping.”
Hmmm . . . He must be talking about the Madison River, the wide, fast-moving, but fairly shallow stream I first saw in Yellowstone Park. This sounds interesting. Driving across some prairie will be a nice change, too.
Fly-fishing is big on the Madison River, and there are several river access signs.
I turn at one of those signs to a campground called The Palisades. If you don’t fish, it’s nothing special . . . okay for an overnight, I guess. I let Spike and Bridget out for a break and then we keep going.
Further up the highway the hills turn dark brown and black, charred from the fire. The charming Madison River, however, steadily rolls along through her green banks that support mature junipers.
This is the area Charles told me about!
My anticipation grows. I drive around a bend in the road and the river comes back into view. Wow! What’s this? The river is dotted with brightly colored inflatables carrying happy people downstream! What a wonderful way to spend a sunny, Sunday afternoon!
I’m hit with a pang of envy.
I have my own inflatable boat, paddles, and gear, but, being solo, I have no way to get carried back. I want to float! Childhood memories of summer days, laughing with my cousins as we floated down the Battenkill River in upstate New York, rush into my mind. Sigh. I continue across the bridge and up the other side of the river. Gee, everyone’s having so much fun!
“Crew, we have GOT to find a way to do this!”
A short distance up the road we enter Red Mountain Campground (BLM, $4 with Senior Pass). The burnt hills all around are dark and ugly; even the campground shows evidence of the fire. A few young trees valiantly do their best to throw shade, but it’s thin and sparse. Drab, brown vault toilets look like grumpy guards keeping watch over black metal picnic tables and fire pits. The ground is flat and covered with dried-up, tan grass.
But, hey, I don’t care about all that! What matters is. . . A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT!
P.S. The crew and I are sitting in the PTV in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Bozeman where I have internet signal (none at Red Mountain Campground). It’s getting hot. I can’t locate the remaining photos I took in Yellowstone NP. I’ll have to add them at a later date.
I’ve read comments up to this point, but I’m not able to respond to all of them. I want to get some groceries (and batteries!) before it gets too hot for Bridget and Spike in the PTV. I hope you are enjoying my blog even though it’s lapsed into travelogue mode. I certainly enjoy your comments and miss not being online every day. Oh well, I have good reasons, right?
Are those pelicans flying overhead? Great pictures, Sue. I love Rivers–especially when I can hear them at night. That’s one reason I chose my trailer — the windows on three sides where I sleep. I hardly ever put the shades down so I’d wake up to beautiful scenery in the mornings. I just love the west.
Looks like a delightful campsite once, again. I liked the Bozeman area and walking through the town. Hope you have a great time.
Yes, they ARE pelicans! My previous reply was incorrect.
I do the same as you with my windows. I can hear the river when I leave a window open at night. I like seeing the stars as I lie in bed, too.
I agree… Bozeman is a great town.
You are making me want to go back to WY and explore some of my old camping and day trip areas. You are an inspiration to all women who fulltime or want to. Thank you!!!!!!!!!
I love the thought that my experiences may inspire others to live this type of life. You’re welcome, Pat.
You have the best possible reason for not posting everyday! You are in God’s Country! Enjoy it!
We love seeing tour posts when you do get online though! 🙂
Hey, Geri! We are having a great time. Montana looks like the pictures I’ve seen and much, much more. Can you believe the river? I’m going to get the crew and me ON it! We’ve already been IN it several times.
I hope by the time you read this, you have found a way to float downriver!!!!
Sue, do you have life preservers for the kids? I have one for Jack–has a handle on the top so *should* one fall over, you can grab him/her (most likely him) quickly. Well worth the money to get the good one. I have a neon green one for Jack–he was mortified. 🙂 http://www.backwoods.com/ruffwear-k9-float-coat.html
Yes, Bridget and Spike both have PDFs.
Am enjoying your blog, especially the pictures. Jealous, big time.
Hi Judie…. Hugs to you, too!
Sue….I follow your updates and look forward your adventures….Enjoy every minute, as you are blessed to be able to do what you do….We were camping at St. Joe’s Peninsula in Fl (Gulf Coast) last week and was talking with a camper neighbor who was in a Casita…I told her all about your site and she is planning to look you up….She had just downsized from a 5th wheel and loving her Casita….Look up St. Joe’s State Campground in St. Joe’s, Fl….If you ever get over this way you would love it…..Literally miles and miles of beach and dunes which is a wilderness preserve and so peaceful…..Enjoy!!
When we are in Florida, Chuck and I camp here all the time! Beautiful State Park and great campgrounds! Just a short walk over the dunes and you are at the beach, Gulf of Mexico! We can second your recommendation Sandy! We will be there in January!
St Joe’s SP is great. One of our faves in FL panhandle. We’ve stayed there in a popup and in our Casita. I love it! Except for the no-seeums, those little suckers BITE!
Get a ThermaCell. Works like a charm.
St George Island State Park is another great campground! Probably my 2nd favorite! Desoto County Park in Pinellas Co(Clearwater) FL is tops. Hmmm Sue, you’re not the only one that likes water!!!!!! Still cannot believe Bridget the Exporer and mr meek…..
Well, dag gum, it’s too bad Dutchman (a fellow full timer in a Casita for 9 years think), an avid kayaker, and you couldn’t work something out about shuttling each other. Last I heard he was east of you in Columbus MT for a bit and then heading west. Hope you work something out so you can get ON the water.
We did get on the water . . . I would not be kept off it!
The floating does look lovely! Wonder if the water is really cold? It would be fun to sit and wave as the people float by you home.
The water is cold when you first go in, and then perfect once you are wet. The crew and I go in a couple of times a day. Sometimes I sit in my chair in the water up to my waist, reading a paperback. Soooo relaxing.
Love your “travelogue”. In 1993 we were in Yellowstone in the middle of July and there were lots of people. But, there is bench seating around Old Faithful for thousands! Was easy to get a seat. I encourage you to find a campground in or near Yellowstone and pay for a couple nights with the trailer. Then you could take a couple of day trips in the PTV. Ask around for directions to other geysers, waterfalls and boiling mud where there might not be as many people. There are hundreds of miles of roads in the park and most people only go to the places seen in pictures.
Hi Jerry, I could see that we were passing by some wonderful hiking trails, but I needed to find a camp for the night… Wanderlust pulls me up the highway! Maybe another year . . .
That’s just what I’m investigating. Downsizing to a casita and van so I can grow up to be just like RV Sue and have all these wonderful choices of where to go and where to stay. If a River Runs Through it or next to it then I’m all over it. That goes for an ocean and any lake without power boats.
Sherry, there are actually more solo women RVers than there are men. In past years, there’s been a misconception that women weren’t capable of going it alone. Barring health problems, I’d still be on the road, and doing it very comfortably in my small trailer. Sue is a good role model. The only advice I’d give women is, “Start as young as you possible can.”
I love your advice, hobopals! Hitting fifty last year, I started reading Sue’s blog, and I tell ya, I wanna start sooner than later.
Best wishes to you, Cynthia, getting on the road!
I second that, hobopals! I wish I could have started sooner . . . but I’m not complaining. At least I’m living my dream now!
I’m the same way, Sherry. I love a camp next to water.
I second that Sherry, water and no man made noise, heaven to the ears…..
Sue and Crew, love the pictures, now get in that water….
You’ll see in my next post that we did get ON the water (and we’re in it every day!).
I try to look for lakes with ‘no motorized craft’ restrictions. Jets skis are one of the most annoying devices ever to spoil a camping experience, IMHO. [until three years ago, I lived on a large river and summer was a cacophony of jet skis!]. Note: I’m SURE they are GREAT FUN for the users of them but, good grief! Spare me!
Sue, I don’t see how you can realistically answer every post and I doubt if any of us expects it. Surely do enjoy your blog! 🙂
You’re very thoughtful, mentioning my efforts to answer every post. I do enjoy getting into a discussion in the comments section of my blog.
I totally understand your irritation with noisy things when camping. It can ruin the experience.
WIth that wing pattern, the birds would either be white ibis, wood storks, or white pelicans. Given the ranges these species are known to inhabit, I would bet they are white pelicans. White ibis and wood storks are very rare in that part of the country, white pelicans are not. Just my two cents.
Love the pictures!!
Yes, they are white pelicans, smaller birds than the pelicans I’m familiar with in Florida.
Sue – wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I always enjoy your observations on camping life and nature – and whatever else presents itself!
Nice of you to let me know, Marcia. I’m happy you enjoy my stories of camping.
If there are that many rafts and tubes someone is probably running a shuttle,holler at one of the rafts I bet they can hook you up.
You are getting close to my favorite spot in the country.. If you go west to Butte then up 15 to Helena . between Helena and G reat Fall the Missouri River runs with the highway lot of gold paning and there are a ton of campsites at the river access points. Lewis and Clark came up that river.. Most of the riverside camps that have bathrooms are 4 dollars a night 2 dollars if you have a fishing license.
Great information, Ron! Thanks… I’m trying to plan our next move and this suggestion is very appealing.
I can understand your desire to get out of the hordes of folks milling about…but I wish you could have had a meal at a restaurant we ate at in West Yellowstone in Mar. 2003. I have no idea if it is still there but it was the best one I think we have ever eaten at!! SUPERB!! We were so surprised to find such yumminess in a small town like that one!!
I’m glad you enjoyed yourself there, Elizabeth. It’s fun to make discoveries like that. As for me, I don’t look for restaurants, especially in the summer when I have to leave the crew in the PTV.
Sue, some of the pics with the BLT and PTV parked looks as though an artist painted in the background behind you. The mountains and clouds are too perfect! Beautiful.
I’ve thought the same thing about some of my photos, Patricia. Sometimes I wonder if readers think I’m enhancing the photos with photo-editing software, but, honestly, I’m not. I only sharpen them, crop if necessary, and adjust lighting. The truth is… the mountains and clouds ARE perfect!
Hebgen Lake was the site of a big landslide that buried the campground. Very tragic. Also, the movie “A River Runs Through It” was filmed primarily on the Gallitin River just out of Bozeman. When you get there, take a drive down that way, very scenic. Bozeman is called Little Boulder because it’s such a yuppie place (I lived there for awhile and went to the university) and expensive. The gal who started Sisters on the Fly has her rehab trailer place in Ennis, near Boze. Watch out for rattlers. I like Livingston, across the pass from Boze, lots of railroad history there and a cool old town. Wheat Montana has pretty good food, deli style. The drive up to Bridger Bowl is nice. The Museum of the Rockies is where Jack Horner works and is awesome. Have fun!
After I got to Hebgen I realized it was the site of the 1959 earthquake! I sure am bringing back a lot of memories for you. I like what I’ve seen of Bozeman after one trip in for groceries, a PDF for Bridget, and a stop at a great used bookstore.
We had planned to go to Yellowstone the year of the earthquake. I can’t recall what came up so that we cancelled (I was only 8 or 9). So we went a few years later. We wouldn’t have been camping though. My parents didn’t take up RVing until some years later.
I love reading everyone’s comments too, Sue, even though they aren’t meant for me. lol. I enjoy your blog and your commentary and pictures!!! I love the picture of the horse sticking his head out of the back of the trailer…probably enjoying the scenery too.
I took that photo as we were pulling out of a grocery store parking lot. Sometimes I am ready with my camera . . . I don’t always miss the surprise photo opportunities!
I just looked back and saw that you’ve been on the road in the BLT since August 17, 2011–Nearly a year now!! Reflecting back, do you have any thoughts about your favorite places/experiences in the past year? Anything you would do differently? Plans for next year?
We’ve had our Casita for a couple of months now and really have enjoyed it. Just returned from a trip to Cape Cod for a family wedding. Will probably take a couple of long weekends to northern Michigan in the next couple of months. Sure wish we could spend more time in it, but work just doesn’t allow it right now. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!!
I’m smiling as I read your comment. I’m so happy for you, enjoying your Casita.
I’ll probably write a reflective post on the anniversary of fulltiming in the BLT. I could never choose a favorite place…. so many great camps, yet so different . . . Next year I’m thinking maybe California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho…. Oh my, the choices!
Hi Sue, just curious are you headed to Glacier NP?
Not this year, Doris, even though we’re close. I’m saving that for another year when we can get there earlier in the summer. I hear there’s road construction going on this year.
One quarter MILLION blog hits and one year on the road. Do I hear “PARTY”
Oh Mick, you’ve got me laughing out loud! Par-TEE, Par-TEE, Par-TEE!!!
I wish we could all meet up on the road with you on August 17th to help you celebrate your ONE year of FREEDOM and DISCOVERY! Thank you so much for sharing your year with us! Happy Birthday!!!
See if you can’t find a shuttle service that can take you up the river so you can float down. I am going to do that next week on the John Day river in central Oregon. I can’t wait.
Hi Jim,… My next post explains how the crew and I got on the river! Enjoy your float in Oregon! I may be up there doing the same . . maybe next year.
For some reason I no longer am able to view your pictures. Hope that problem clears up, I miss seeing them. Pk
You’re the third person to tell me about that problem. I don’t know what it is. Did it come aobut because I have a new laptop? My new camera? I have no idea. I’m so sorry… I hope someone reads this who can give us some ideas on how to fix that.
We can see your photos just fine, and from all the comments you get on your photos, I assume the majority of followers are also getting your pictures. Maybe Pat should look to see if she has some walls or blocks put up to protect her computer from virus entry, that might also block her from seeing the beautiful photographs you take!
Sue, I have been following you (I believe it is called lurking) for a little while now and just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy following along on your life. It is always worth waiting for and you take me out of myself by providing the wonderful glimpses of the wilderness.
Thank you for that wonderful compliment. I’m very pleased you are getting some enjoyment out of my blog.
You have to drive down the 191 to Yellowstone. You will be next to the Gallatin River. There are great spots to boondock. I spent a few weeks at a campground near Big Sky. This is the where the film was shot. There is no prettier country.
Sue, I came back to read some more comments and just wanted to say something about your pictures not being able to be viewed for some people. I was using my daughter-in-laws’s computer and checked your post and saw that the pictures were real small and I couldn’t view them. I went on my laptop and was able to see them just fine. My daughter uses internet explorer and I am using google chrome…don’t know if that is the difference or not.
Thanks for the info, Ginger. Funny thing is . . . I’m presently using Internet Explorer to post the photos. I’m glad you could see them on your laptop.