Yellowstone, Here We Come!

15 March 2020 by 1der Girl

  1. Actually, we did make it to Yellowstone in winter, but just not in a conventional way. On our Ski Bumming 2016 tour, we took a day off from the slopes and did a one-day snowmobile excursion into the park. It was incredible. One of these days I'll write up that experience and update this post. But in the meantime, don't hold your breath...
  2. I specifically mentioned Montana, because the park spans between Montana and Wyoming in the town called West Yellowstone, which is where, you guessed it!, the west entrance is located. To reiterate, the only one open during winter is the north entrance, just outside of Gardiner.
  3. At any campground, even at primitive ones, be sure to always go to the board (at the entrance) to claim / pay for your spot. Before depositing the payment envelope into the drop slot, pull off tabbed end and "mark" your spot by clipping it to the board. That way, people know the site is occupied and for how long. Also pull off the other tabbed part to clip on the post at the actual site; be sure remove it when you are vacating your spot.

Yesterday's post marks the day when everything changed — profoundly — forever, and I'm not referring to this trip.

We know COVID-19 is developing into something we never thought we'd experience in our lifetimes, and we're extremely frightened by the wrath it could bring to the world.

Words will never adequately express the incredible amount of gratitude and thanks we have for what we've experienced on this (and every) journey. We are so incredibly fortunate to be where we are now, in every sense of the word. Nothing is taken for granted.

1der woke me up this morning with an urgency in his voice. He waited as long as he could so I could sleep in a bit since I didn't sleep well after all that happened yesterday.

"If you want to ski anymore this season, we have to get going now, because BigSky is closing after today."

I groggily took in what he said. "What time is it?"

It was already 9:15 am. I was still in my sleeping bag and jammies and did the math: at least 30 - 40 minutes to get up, get ready, lower the top / button up Beastie, and buy fuel. Then an hour's drive to get to Big Sky.

Add in another 20 mins to gear up, then 10 - 15 mins for the wait and ride on the people mover to get to the slopes.

All of this was very do-able, and we could get on the mountain by noon.

"So what's the weather like?" I asked.


Crapola. I already knew the answer, but I asked anyways: "Do you want to ski?"

"No," but I'm happy to drive you there, and I'll just hang in Beastie until you're finished."

And that is just one of the reasons why I love 1der so much: he would drive me all the way to the mountain just so I could ski.

But I didn't want to spend the last day on the mountain — the first day of not knowing when things will ever be "normal" again — without him. All of this was too sad anyways, and not being together would make it even more sad.

"Nope. Let's pass."

Now for anyone who knows me, giving up a day on the slopes, especially when who knows when we'll get to ski again, is HUGE. Almost unheard of. But it's where my heart was.

First things first: some hot food and beverages for the guy "nextdoor." Unfortunately he left (I must have been really tired to have slept through his engine starting), and I sure hope he's going to be okay...

We spent the next hour talking about what we were going to do next. It is not possible to return to San Francisco at this time because a friend is staying in our house while we were away. She has been working at the gym (can we bacterial breeding ground?) and for other people, and living in a major metropolitan area where cases are rapidly increasing. Going back to San Francisco is waaay more risky than where we are, which is in a safe cocoon.

Keep in mind at this point, we have been on the road for six weeks. The entire time, no one has been in Beastie except for us. We have not been in anyone's house since March 6th (we've actually only been in three houses since February 3rd). We have only been in sparsely populated areas or ski towns since we left Salt Lake City more than a month ago. We have eaten nearly every meal in Beastie the entire time we've been gone. For all intents and purposes, we are very safe, and thankfully, the only few cases in this region are from traveling vs. community transmission.

So the best we could come up with? Let's to go Yellowstone.

We've always wanted to go to Yellowstone during our other Ski Bumming trips, but it was always too far from Jackson Hole, which is the furthest north / closest we traveled before the IKON pass[1]. If you're wondering why we didn't just go from Jackson: the roads are closed during the winter, and the only way to get in is through the North entrance, near Bozeman.

Before heading out to Yellowstone, we needed get some snowshoes for 1der. After visiting a couple stores and not finding anything decent for the budget, 1der had a great idea: Craigslist! And lo and behold, the perfect pair of snowshoes were for sale at a great price.

I mention this little story to plant a seed in all road warriors who haven't already thought about Craigslist as a resource while on the road. Definitely check it out. In addition to (hopefully) finding what you need, you'll have chance to interact some locals and find out the scoop.

The seller was really nice and gave us the lowdown on real estate prices in Bozeman. The market is crazy...

The nearly two hour drive to Yellowstone was spectacular.

Highway to YellowstoneWe were driving late in the afternoon, so the lighting made the scenery even more beautiful.

There are several campgrounds along this route, and it would be nice to come back and explore them one day.

You know you're getting close to Yellowstone when you see some RV parks outside of the small town of Gardiner, Montana[2], which sits just outside of the north entrance.

This welcome sign is actually in Gardiner, right around the corner from the Roosevelt Arch, which, BTW, is not the official park's entrance. That comes a short distance later when you arrive at the Ranger kiosk / booth.

The most incredible thing happened as we crossed the Roosevelt Arch. Almost immediately, we saw a bunch of bison in the distance to the right. Then just up the road, another group, which was pretty close. Then Elk. It was if we entered a wildlife refuge and the animals came out to greet us.

This is the second group of bison we encountered within seconds after crossing the Roosevelt Arch and before arriving at the official NPS entry / booth.

We arrived at Mammoth Campground, the only tent and RV campground that's open year-round. It's first-come, first-served, and we knew spaces were available because the NPS has an excellent webpage displaying occupancy data for each campground in the park.

We found the perfect spot[3], but because of the storm, it was covered in nearly 10" of snow and Beastie had to play snowplow. luckily we got in are all settled for the night. can wait see what adventures tomorrow will bring us these unprecedented times.>

1der Girl
1der Girl


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