More Hiking and Campgrounds

more-hiking-camping1Tuesday, August 16

As of today there are six weeks and one day until the 100 mile Hike Club concludes, and my coworkers and I are feeling that deadline fast approaching. I’m at 62.5 miles right now which isn’t bad, but if I keep going at my current rate I won’t hit 100 in time, so it’s time to step it up.

Few people know that Yellowstone has a natural bridge. It’s a 2.4 mile hike, on the north end of Yellowstone Lake near Bridge Bay Campground. The trail is mostly flat (by Yellowstone standards) and follows an old road that use to take visitors right up to and on top of the bridge.

There isn’t a lot to see on the way in terms of scenery, it’s set in a young lodgepole forest with a couple small meadows. We do see three marmots, several other rodents, and a few birds including a gray jay however, and as with most of the park bears are a possibility so come prepared.

The land bridge is more impressive than I was expecting! It’s 50-some feet tall and 20-some feet wide and even this late in the season there’s a little water running under it. You’re not allowed to cross it anymore, in fact there’s a big gap in the rock that goes all the way through so I wouldn’t feel comfortable on it anyway, but you can hike up behind it and get quite close. I love the old tree growing out of the middle of it, my coworkers and I wonder if the roots are what’s holding the rock together.


The last natural bridge I saw was in Missouri this past spring, and while this one isn’t as big I think it’s neater looking. It’s not as thick which makes it easier to see that it is in fact a bridge, and it’s also easier to photograph.


Afterward, I convince my coworkers to take a quick trip through the campground.


It’s huge! Over 400 sites on ten or so loops, a person could get lost in here if they’re not careful. The first few loops are more open, the ones farther in are forested and offer a bit more privacy, but even these offer only so-so separation. I prefer campgrounds like the little NPS ones in Lamar that I reviewed last post, but I know some people would like this better.


It’s $22.50 a night, and includes flush toilets no but showers. Generators are allowed, it is a reservation campground, and there is a dump station but no full hookups. One big plus though, you’re within walking distance from the lake and marina, which has boat rentals and tours as well as a general store.


more-hiking-camping7Thursday, August 20

Brr! One thing I’ve noticed about living at high elevation this summer, there’s often a huge disparity between the low and high temperature for the day. A 30 degree difference is quite normal, and 40 degrees or more is not uncommon. My phone says it’s 25 degrees out, but will get up to 69 by the afternoon.

There’s frost on the windshield as I’m getting ready for today’s trip, but my unprotected water hose remains unfrozen. While it can get cold at night, it doesn’t stay below freezing long since the temperature climbs so much during the day so for now my plumbing isn’t in danger. I dress in layers and head out.

Today’s original plan was to drive the Beartooth Highway between Cooke City in the northeast corner of Yellowstone and the town of Red Lodge, but I have my doubts from the very beginning. Smoke from the wildfires in Idaho has been moving into the park the past few days, and today is the worst I’ve seen it. I hold out hope that maybe the air will be clearer on the other side of Mount Washburn on the northern range.

I left the contrast on this picture as-is to show you how hazy it is. On the rest of the photos I fiddled with contrast and brightness to try to make them as clear as possible

I left the contrast on this picture as-is to show you how hazy it was in person. On the rest of the photos in this post I fiddled with contrast and brightness to try to make them as clear as possible.

Nope, it’s worse. Remember that “top 10 things to know about full-timing” post I put up not long ago? This is a classic example of how plans need to be written in jello because things can go wrong. Today’s a poor day for sweeping vistas, but there are still plenty of things I haven’t seen yet in Yellowstone that don’t require being able to see far. So I focus on those. Like this beautiful view of Tower Falls, just over 100 feet tall and surrounded by hoodoo rock formations.


It’s only a quarter mile or so hike from the parking lot at the Tower General Store and is paved for easy access. If you’re up to more walking, you can choose to hike down to the shore of Yellowstone River (unpaved) for an additional half-mile of distance, but once you go down you’re committed to climbing back up again!

Loved the geology of this area

Loved the geology of this area

Right across from the Tower General Store is Tower Campground. This brings me up to four out of twelve Yellowstone campgrounds toured.

It’s small and there’s quite a bit of climb to get into it and one hairpin curve. If I had to guess I’d say the sites would be less level at this one given the terrain, but again I don’t get out of the truck to snoop because the campground is quite full and there are a lot of people around.


I do like how high up it is, it’s a neat location. It’s another NPS campground with only vault toilets, no hookups, no generators, first come first served, 31 sites, and max length for all equipment of 30′ (so no Cas).


One nice thing about living here, I’ve learned where a lot of the “neat” stuff to photograph from the road is, so that when it comes up my camera is primed and ready. Like this cliff of columnar basalt, formed from rapidly cooling lava. There’s a pullout to get pictures of it but this time of year it’s often full so if you can get a drive-by picture, more power to you.


The “picket fence” grooves look a little like Devil’s Tower on the other side of the state, but it’s a different kind of rock.

If you look closely, you can see there’s two rows of it on the adjacent cliff overlooking the river. It’s a lot neater looking in person though.


Remember that Yellowstone River Overlook hike Jayne and I did a week ago? Today I take a quick walk along the opposite side of the river, and get a different view of that large thermal area, which I now know is called Calcite Springs. According to the sign, sometimes sulfur or even oil get superheated in the ground underneath and bubble up to the surface where it flows like molasses.


And here’s a picture of the trail we walked on last week. You can see the columnar basalt right near the top of the cliff, and the fins of eroding rock underneath. What a neat area.


Back at the parking lot, a small group of people have their cameras trained on something, two bighorn sheep ewes, and one lamb!


Next I park in a pullout in Lamar Valley and read in the truck for a while, sitting in the passenger seat with the door wide open to watch for animals in the valley. I see a hawk spiraling above for a while, a bison herd off in the distance, and a pronghorn wanders by on it’s way down to the water. Lamar has been called America’s Serengeti and I’d agree. If you want to see wildlife in Yellowstone, this is the number one place to go.


By noon I’m getting hungry, so I climb back into the driver’s seat and drive west from Tower Junction to Mammoth. More bison cause a brief traffic jam, but they’re quick crossing the road.


I’m going to cut the post off here as it’s already getting long and I need to hurry and get this up before it becomes prime time and I can’t get online – it gets so crowded at Old Faithful with so many people trying to use their phones that the cell tower becomes overwhelmed and it’s hard to get even a phone call out.


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Up next, more hydrothermal features and a hike in Grand Tetons!

Up next, more hydrothermal features and a hike in Grand Tetons!

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  1. […] reading Becky’s post at  Interstellar Orchard on the natural bridge hike, we were inspired to hike to the bridge. I’m glad we did the first […]

  2. Jodee Gravel on August 24, 2015 at 9:52 am

    It’s difficult to find anywhere in the West without smoke right now so lots of photos are going to be hazy for August 🙁 Love the geology there as well, and that basalt wall is incredible.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Our Last Weekend on the OlyPenMy Profile

    • Becky on August 25, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Yeah, our flags are at half mast for the firefighters who died in Washington. I’m glad Yellowstone has escaped it (so far) this year, but I feel for the places that haven’t.

  3. pamelab on August 23, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    Wonderful photos, again, Becky. Enjoy your posts so much.

    • Becky on August 25, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Thank you Pam, glad you enjoy them so much. 🙂

  4. Andy on August 23, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Hang in there Becky – I’m cheering you on from Florida. You’ll make the 100 mile club!
    Andy recently posted..Hiking Buck Lake Conservation Area (Eastern Trailhead)My Profile

    • Becky on August 25, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      71.2 down, 28.8 more to go!

  5. Jill on August 23, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Thanks Becky, so beautiful. I love every post you send.

    • Becky on August 25, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Jill. 🙂

  6. Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on August 23, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Howdy! Tell us again when your time in Yellowstone is up? Is it before or after the time remaining for the 100 mile club? Also, will hiking in the Tetons count toward your 100 miles? No matter what, you’ve already seen and hiked far more than a typical visitor. Of course, you DO live there, which again puts you in a relatively small “club”.
    Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets recently posted..Tent CampingMy Profile

    • Becky on August 25, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Hiking Club miles are due by the last day in September, October 1st or 2nd is going to be my last day of work Ed.

      And yes, everything hiked in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem counts towards miles which includes Tetons and the surrounding National Forests, but miles walked to and from work do NOT count which is tragic! 😉

  7. EmilyO on August 22, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Love your solar sunflower. My brother gave me one a number of years ago but sadly the flower broke off and it wasn’t much fun watching a stem go back and forth.

    I have learned so much more about Yellowstone, thank you.

    • Becky on August 23, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Sadly Emily my flower is broken on the inside and it no longer dances, Julie took a corner too fast when she was driving Bertha one day and it flew off the dash. I got it from Technomadia a couple years ago when they interviewed me at Badlands for their video series. Julie keeps saying she’s going to get me a new one but it hasn’t happened yet.

  8. Christi on August 22, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    One of my favorite Yellowstone posts! But I have said that a time or two this summer.

    Food for thought – we love your RV guide that you published this year. Very helpful and informative. Any chance you might do a Yellowstone guide for non-fulltimers? Say, something along the lines of “If you have five days in Yellowstone – don’t miss these stops?”

    I know that would be well received!

    Happy Hiking!!

    Christi in Mississippi

    • Becky on August 23, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Glad you enjoyed this Christi. 🙂

      I’m already working on a different e-book this summer (won’t be releasing details until it’s farther along), but I’ll give some thought to a “tour guide” style book for the future.

      Thanks, and take care!

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