Into Yellowstone

Friday, May 8

Today is another short driving day, from the Walmart parking lot in Billings, MT to the Conoco/Town Pump tuck stop in Livingston about two hours west. A good chunk of the day is spent at a rest stop midway between the two on I90. Why? Because it’s bad form to stay too late or arrive too early at a place you’re going to spend the night for free, it’s like loitering. A lot of locations actually have a rule about the number of hours you’re allowed to park.

In good company at a rest stop on I90

In good company at a rest stop on I90

The best thing I’ve found to do in this kind of situation is spend the majority of the day somewhere you’re not staying the night. Day parks, museums, libraries, and more can all be viable places and are admittedly more fun, so long as there is enough room to park your rig there. I use Google Earth, which gives a satellite view to scope out what the parking lots of various locations look like to determine if Cas and Bertha will fit. As I’m focusing on saving money and there isn’t much between Billings and Livingston, a rest area will do. It’s another overcast day with intermittent rain showers.

How a lot of my lunch stops on the road look

How a lot of my lunch stops on the road look

Livingston is pretty exciting, because for the first time on this trip, I see mountains!

I had an image in my mind that Montana was all forest and mountains, so I’ve been surprised by all of the grassland and rolling hills. It’s made for an easier than expected drive not having all the ups and downs to tow over, but seeing new terrain always excites me. The mountain tops are shrouded in cloud, and where the clouds thin snow is visible! Not a bad backdrop for my parking spot tonight.

Mountains behind Livingston

Mountains behind Livingston

My weather app says the low is suppose to stay above freezing, but around 8 pm it’s already a good five degrees colder than predicted and a few snow flakes dance through the air on a stiff breeze. Cold sleeping weather. To make up for my lack of propane heat, I throw a sleeping bag underneath my usual bed covers. The sleeping bag is rated to 40 degrees (it’s quite compatible and normally lives in a storage bin in the back of Bertha), but with blankets overtop and multiple layers on, I stay plenty warm.

How to stay warm without heat

How to stay warm without heat

Saturday, May 9

This is it, arrival day! Old Faithful lies 110 miles south of Livingston, only the small town of Gardiner lies between. I fill up on gas at the truck stop where it’s still cheap (gas in national parks and tourist towns is always more expensive, do yourself a favor and top up before entering one).

Mountain ranges stand to the east and west, with highway 87 meandering through the valley between. It’s beautiful to drive through in the spring, and probably would be in the fall too. New leaves are coming out on the cottonwood trees in the valley while ample snow still decorates the higher elevations. Today the clouds are fewer, and it’s easier to see the peaks.

Dirty windows make for not as clear a picture

Dirty windows make for not as clear a picture

Found the entrance sign!

Found the entrance sign!

The climb is gradual up the narrowing valley and into Gardiner where a lot of road work is in progress. After driving over a mile or so of dirt road littered with pot holes, I pull over at the first available pullout after the pavement starts back up to make sure Cas is okay. What’s this? Oh, apparently I’ve arrived at Yellowstone! I rarely ever make it into the pullout to catch a photo of the entrance sign, it was completely accidental this time.

After entering the park, the climb becomes more dramatic. Cue the obligatory rig-in-scenic-pullout pictures!



Other than these brief stops for rig pictures, my focus is on getting to Old Faithful in a timely manner. I made a phone call when I entered the park and so my employer is expecting me to arrive before long and I can’t stop to sightsee. That’s okay, I’d rather go back and see the park without Cas attached, it’s just easier.

Road work

Road work

I’m doing pretty good, until I pass Golden Gate where a long, long long long stretch of the road is dirt only all the way to Norris. I creep along at about 10 mph on the uneven road, and then have to wait nearly 30 minutes for my turn to go where the road becomes one lane. Well, the view could be worse.

Steam rising behind the trees, must be thermal activity!

Steam rising behind the trees, must be thermal activity!

At last the construction ends and the rest of the route to Old Faithful is pretty painless. Maybe it’s different coming into the park from other directions, but coming from the north entrance the road grades really aren’t bad at all for towing, not as dramatic as in Zion, and definitely not as dramatic as Death Valley.

My new home base is located right across the road from Old Faithful, in a big employee complex of dorms, small houses, mobile homes, and RV sites – I think everyone who works at Old Faithful from NPS employees to concessionaire employees probably lives here. I meet up with my contact from the Yellowstone Association, a friendly guy who leads me through the maze of parking lots and little roads to my assigned site.

The not-so-good view

The not-so-good view

It’s a mixed bag. Being on the beginning of the last row, it has more space and privacy than most of the other RV sites that are quite crowded together, but a new dorm building is under construction next to it, so the view looking that way isn’t very pretty – I also expect it’ll be loud on weekdays when crews are working on it. There’s also a lot of trash to pick up from cinder blocks to bits of foam insulation… even a rotten wooden pallet and canvas. I spend a good hour or so with a plastic bag collecting small trash and hauling the big stuff out.

There’s only one other RV in the row I’m on, located right next door. Our two sites share a communal firepit and picnic table, as seems to be common for all of the RV/mobile home sites. The rest of the row is small houses (seemingly unoccupied right now) and storage buildings.

While I’m picking up trash I meet the neighbors, a retirement age couple from California with their two dogs. They’ll also be working with the Yellowstone Association (YA) inside the visitor center, same as me, and are also new this year. They seem like good people, I get a peek inside their 5th wheel and sent home with fresh garlic cheesy biscuits, mmm.

The better view

The better view

The other thing I do today is walk to work! There’s a paved walkway from the employee complex across the road to Old Faithful. I forgot to time it, but I think from my site it’s about 15 minutes.

I’ll write more about the Yellowstone Association and what my job entails once I get started, but for now I’ll just say I’m working as a sales associate at the bookstore inside the visitor’s center. I discover while taking my look around that Old Faithful is predicted to erupt in about 20 minutes….heck, why not?

It’s a cold day and the weather is in flux with peeks of sunlight and light snow showers, often at the same time. Despite this, there are still a fair number of people out with me sitting on the benches watching steam issue from a hole in the ground. About three minutes after the appointed time (it can be plus or minus ten minutes according to signs), a gurgling sound starts, and water splutters from the hole. The eruption isn’t immediate, but builds higher and higher, holds steady for a time, then slowly declines. I imagine once I start work I’ll learn everything I wanted to know and then some about this geyser… and I’m looking forward to it! What a unique force of nature. What an amazing place. I think it’s going to be a great summer!

The first of many Old Faithful eruptions this season!

The first of many Old Faithful eruptions this season!

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Sunset through the pines from my back window

Sunset through the pines from my back window

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  1. Eric on August 20, 2016 at 1:49 am

    Cool Becky! I worked at the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone years ago. Very unique place….do they still give employee discounts to stay at the various campgrounds?

    • Becky on August 20, 2016 at 10:26 am

      The Lake Hotel is very pretty, I bet that was a fun experience Eric. I’m not sure what you mean by camping discounts. Employees pay less for their site than visitors do for theirs, but no discounts for campgrounds other than the employee one we’re living in.

  2. Terri on May 23, 2015 at 7:01 am

    Definitely going to be a great summer – I can feel the excitement in your posts!! That is so cool to see it erupt like that and I love the photo that I see in this post that now graces the top of your blog. Having good neighbors is a HUGE plus, too, as I am sure you know. Good to know about the not arriving too early or too late to where you stay for free.
    Terri recently posted..If you think you can’t, you won’t. So, just do it.My Profile

    • Becky on May 23, 2015 at 11:49 am

      Old Faithful’s eruptions last about 4 minutes, it takes 45-50 seconds for them to reach full height, then they slowly taper off. Which is great, because it gives a person plenty of time to ready their camera for a good shot. πŸ˜‰

  3. CJ on May 18, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Road work?! I guess… Tight quarters but what a lovely spot for your summer gig. Saw a young girl was gored by a bison trying to get a photo in the park. Some forget they are wild animals. Can’t wait to read more…have a wonderful time!

    • Becky on May 18, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Yes she was 3-6 feet away from the bison, when 25 yards is the required distance established by the NPS. It’s sad how many accidents would be prevented if people would just follow the rules.

      And yes, loving the Old Faithful area and the rest of the park. So neat here. Hope you have a lovely summer too Cozy!

  4. Lacy on May 17, 2015 at 1:54 am

    WOW! I’m so excited for you and can’t WAIT to hear about your adventures and work experiences. We honeymooned in Yellowstone nearly 30 years ago and had an amazing time hiking and fishing. We’ve never made it back………but someday!

    • Becky on May 18, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Yes Lacy, it’s worth coming back to!

  5. Reine in Plano on May 13, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    Glad you’re there safely and looking forward to your posts. I do have one question. You mentioned you didn’t have propane heat. Didn’t you get the furnace installed earlier this year? Just curious. Have a great summer.

    • Becky on May 14, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Not a furnace Reine, needed to get the water heater replaced. Thanks!

  6. Ron on May 12, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Do you have WIFI at the campsite?

    • Becky on May 13, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      Yes and no Ron. This is the first place I’ve worked where there’s been no WiFi offered. So I upgraded my phone plan with Verizon so I can use my phone to create a WiFi hotspot using wireless data. This means I have to be really careful with what I do online, because I have a data limit.

  7. Furry Gnome on May 12, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Becky, hope you have a spectacular summer! Should be wonderful to be there all through and take your time seeing things.

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks Gnome!

  8. Janett on May 12, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Yay…you made it safe! I was wondering if the trip would be a nail-biter for you but from what you’ve posted it really didn’t seem that bad. Do you feel like you picked a good route now that you’re there or would you have changed anything? I know you’ll follow-up with all the details for us so I’m curious how your schedule will work too, like how many days worked before a day off? Your cell phone pics are always awesome; like Old Faithful sequenced like a sunset (you’re good) but the one with cattle grazing under cloud kissed mountains is absolutely beautiful! Your dirty window just made it look like a painting. This is definitely going to be an exciting summer for you…can’t wait to read more about it.

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Yeah Janett I can’t say whether it’s better or worse than any other route because I haven’t taken any other routes yet, but I had no problems getting Cas here… other than the road construction. πŸ˜‰

      I’ll post more about work once I know more. Glad you’re enjoying these posts!

  9. Oystein on May 12, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Happy you made it and settling in. I look forward to your post and adventures. Wish I was there.

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      You should make it a goal to come out here sometime Oystein, you wouldn’t regret it. Thanks.

  10. Rick Phipps on May 12, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Becky, I just started following your blog and you are lucky and smart going to Yellowstone. We met an older couple who worked there a few years back and they had a great time working the store and the boat rental. They said working around all the young people made their summer one of the best ever. Good luck and keep posting!
    Rick Phipps recently posted..Camping and Cooking at Cherry GlenMy Profile

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      I almost worked at Yellowstone my first summer on the road Rick, but the pay isn’t as good here as at other parks, it wouldn’t have been enough to cover my living expenses. Luckily with the blog and e-guide income, it was a viable choice for me this year – I do feel very lucky. πŸ™‚

      Thanks, and there is much more about Yellowstone on the way.

  11. mike german on May 12, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Becky you are going to have the best summer ever. I am so jealous…there is no place better to spend the summer in my opinion than in the mountains. I am from Wyoming and grew up on a sheep ranch outside of Casper. We used to go to Yellowstone every summer and what an amazing place. All I can say if have the best time ever and don’t feed the bears. lol

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      It is a very unique opportunity Mike, I’ve lived by the ocean, forests, grasslands, desert…and now I get to add mountains. The last I needed to complete my goal. πŸ™‚

      You must have had a very fun childhood. I bet I would have loved going to Yellowstone every summer as a child…. though Clear Lake in Wisconsin wasn’t bad by any means, that’s where our annual family camping trips were. πŸ™‚

  12. PamP on May 12, 2015 at 10:11 am

    So excited for you. I’ve been to Yellowstone three times in my life. First time when I was a kid with my parents in 1954. Yes, my parents actually fed bears through our car windows. I remember being scared of their huge claws and slobbery mouths. How stupid humans can be? At least we know better now. i don’t blame my parents, they just didn’t know the dangers. The bears were only going for the easy food.

    Will be looking forward to hearing/seeing your adventures this summer. My favorite photo of this post is the second one with a pasture, strip of cloud, mountains and cloud again. Great Shot!

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      There are a lot more nice photos to come Pam, I liked that one too and I was basically shooting blind through my driver’s side window because I had to watch the road, haha.

  13. Jim at Growing Faith on May 12, 2015 at 9:20 am

    I’m glad you made it! πŸ™‚ Working at a bookstore sounds like a great job. My guess is you will meet a lot of nice people, and have a great time there. I plan to go out west later this year, maybe I will have to see Old Faithful for myself. Thank you for letting us see in to your life from the outside.
    Jim at Growing Faith recently posted..God WillingMy Profile

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Working at national parks you do meet the nicest people Jim, something I’ve noticed at every place I’ve been. The visitors are all on vacation, so they’re in a good mood. It’s very different from working retail anywhere else.

      If you come through, stop and say hi! You’re welcome and I’m glad you’re enjoying IO.

  14. Dave R on May 12, 2015 at 9:11 am

    From a fellow host (Oregon State Parks) some time this summer take a day trip to Red Lodge Montana. It goes over Beartooth Pass and is one the most beautiful roads in the USA.

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      I’ll see what I can do Dave, thanks for the recommendation.

    • Steve H on May 23, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Dave R is on target. The drive on Bear Tooth Pass Hwy (US HWY212) through Cooke City, MT, climbing to Top of the World, WY and descending into Red Lodge, MT is one to remember.
      Steve H recently posted..NE Entrance to Yellowstone Park/Cooke City, Montana OpensMy Profile

      • Becky on May 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm

        Thanks Steve, I’ve heard a lot about it from coworkers too, I’ll do what I can. πŸ™‚

        • Steve H on September 10, 2015 at 4:05 pm

          Happy to see you made Bear Tooth Pass!

          • Becky on September 12, 2015 at 9:48 am

            Pretty spectacular, although I could have done without the hail storm. πŸ˜‰

  15. Cathy P. of KS on May 12, 2015 at 7:00 am

    So glad that you have arrived safely and gotten settled in. I am SO looking forward to your sharing this adventure with us. Your blog puts a person right there with you! Great writing style.

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      Glad you’ve enjoyed it so far Cathy! Got a lot of pretty places to share next post.

  16. joe on May 11, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    the grand Teton and Jackson hole are nice . just the view of Teton and yellow stone park is the best.

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      A lot of people have recommended the Tetons, I’ve been hearing about them since I started traveling. πŸ™‚

  17. Jodee Gravel on May 11, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    We’re planning to be there next year about this time so maybe you’ll like it enough to return and I can catch you then!! Love the trees at your site, and having nice-biscuit-sharing-neighbors is a real treat. How sweet that OF greeted you immediately upon your arrival – after your trash gathering naturally.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Have a Nice Weekend????My Profile

    • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      We’ll see Jodee! I gotta say it’s not likely, because I love a new experience every summer, but it’s possible. πŸ™‚ You’ll enjoy it though when you get out here!

  18. Barak on May 11, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Welcome to Yellowstone!
    Victoria and I enjoyed it in May 2 years ago.
    Looking forward to hearing of your adventures there this summer.
    Barak recently posted..Weeks 6 and 7 of 52 Weeks of GivingMy Profile

    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      Nice photos! I’ve been to Gibbon Falls now, it’s quite pretty but doesn’t get as much visitation, so much to see, so little time I think.

  19. Kylene on May 11, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Yea! I’m glad you arrived safely and it sounds like it’s going to be pretty nice! Justin says he knows the building that you’re at. πŸ™‚

    He was also telling me about how someone saw people wading in one of the sulfur pits and when they told the rangers, they said that they wouldn’t bother tracking them down right away, but in about a week, those people would show up in the hospital with about the worst foot infections ever seen! And *then* they’d go fine them. πŸ™‚

    I’m excited to see all your pictures from Yellowstone this summer! Is it okay if I use some as wallpapers on my computer? The mountains are so beautiful!

    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Sure you can Kylene! The pictures that I put up here on the blog are smaller though, not great wallpaper material. But if you let me know when you find one you like I can send you the full-size version in an e-mail or something.

      Yeeeah, a lot of the hot springs are so pretty because of the crazy microbes that live in them – not something you want to expose yourself to!

      Say hi to Justin for me, I hope you both are doing well.

  20. Kim on May 11, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    I can hear the excitement in your words. It’s going to be a summer to remember forever. What an experience!
    Kim recently posted..399 Days and NightsMy Profile

    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      Yep Kim! Sounds like you’re having a good time back home, can’t wait to read about your next adventure. πŸ™‚

  21. Todd on May 11, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    The first time I was in the park I was 10 yrs old. I remember all the bears we saw. They don’t let them hang around now days. Your not far from my favorite place to visit, the Grand Tetons & Jackson Wyoming. One of the prettiest places I’ve seen. Enjoy

    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      Too big a risk for attacks Todd, my mother told me about how visitors use to feed the bears from their cars, yikes.

      I’ll get down there. πŸ™‚

      • Rita on May 12, 2015 at 1:22 pm

        I was five when Mom drove us thru the park. Old Faithful seemed a lot bigger then. Mom was one of those visitors who got in trouble feeding bears. She had me throw crackers out of the passenger window so she could get a picture. The bear decided it was a shorter route to come through her window instead. She kept leaning further away (like on my lap, pretty much) and the bear kept on coming until her foot slipped off the clutch (another reason I like standard transmissions) and the car rolled and the bear fell back out of her window. Pfffffeeew. And this was after we attended a lecture the night before where the ranger stressed that we should not feed the bears.

        • Rita on May 12, 2015 at 1:24 pm

          Oh yeah. I should add that it was 1953!

          • Becky on May 12, 2015 at 10:11 pm

            Luckily things have come a long ways since then Rita. πŸ™‚

  22. Cherie @Technomadia on May 11, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    So super excited for you!! Welcome ‘home’ and have a fabulous fabulous summer full of amazing adventures!

    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Thanks Cherie! I’m doing a happy dance right now. πŸ˜€

  23. Ron on May 11, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Old Faithful is not the prettiest area of the park but your exploring options from there will be unlimited. I liked the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Fishing Bridge and the Grand Tetons all easy day trips from your campsite. At the north end of the park there are some Hot Springs open for bathing, just watch out for the nudies. Your campsite actually looks pretty nice. If you want to see tight camp sites check out the ones at Fishing Bridge. Enjoy, I expect it will be a great adventure. Ron

    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      My spot has a lot more room than most of the spots here Ron, so does the one next to me, the two of us got lucky there. πŸ™‚

      I think the Old Faithful area is plenty pretty, love all these trees! Went to the Canyon area yesterday, more on that coming up. I’ll probably wait on the Tetons until the faster route opens up June 11th, there’s a bridge under construction or something. Looking forward to seeing it all eventually!

  24. John L. on May 11, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Congrats on making it in safely! Old Faithful is wonderful! Glad to see they are finally building some new dorms!! Much needed for several years…..

    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      From what I’ve heard, it’s for Xanterra employees. The inside is finished and will be occupied soon, the exterior is expected to be done by mid-July.

  25. gumo on May 11, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    From the looks of things, I think you are really going to enjoy your summer job. It may turn out to be the best yet. I’ll be looking forward to your posts about your cool times in Yellowstone.
    gumo recently posted..Blog BluesMy Profile

    • Becky on May 11, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      I’ve been able to see a little of the park, there are a lot of pretty pictures incoming. πŸ™‚

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