A dirtbagger’s experience camping in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park
I didn’t know what to expect when I threw my clothes into a suitcase, packed up my camping gear and peeled out of the parking lot exclaiming “so long” as I watched my apartment building disappear from view. The only thing I knew was I had to experience the mountains at least once before school started, and Wyoming seemed like the perfect place.
Wyoming has a low population and I had plans to stay away from the crowds. I started driving and driving until I didn’t think I could bare seeing any more fields of “amber waves of grain.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful right away, but after looking over hundreds of miles, you begin to wonder just how many miles are left.
I stopped in Billings, MT, and proceeded to fill up on gas, as giant wind gusts belted me and my vehicle. That night, I called it quits after my GPS made the announcement that I was two hours away from Yellowstone. I managed to find a high commodity place to get a wink of sleep, with bathrooms and a place to park my car. A rest stop. Hopping out of my vehicle with leg cramps to follow, I pulled down my seat and made my bed for the night. With car camping, it’s common to see pictures posted on social media, with layers of blankets and coffee, where you can wake up to a beautiful view. I shrugged to myself, “Well, the interstate isn’t a beautiful view, but at least I can sleep.” Not to mention, it was the week of Sturgis, so bikers throughout the night cruised into the rest stop with their exhaust echoing behind them.
After only a few hours of sleep, I departed and made it to Livingston, MT where, at Faye’s Cafe, a crab and lobster omelet melted in my mouth with the help of cheese, the name alluding me now and something I probably still can’t pronounce.
Finally, I had made it, sighing with relief, I passed the large sign greeting me, “Welcome to Yellowstone National Park.” In fact, it was the first National Park to be designated as such. With rainbow pools of sulfur springs and geysers like Old Faithful shooting high into the sky, I was keenly aware of the reality that Yellowstone sits on top of an active, ancient volcano.
A couple of nights spent in Yellowstone, and I confronted a black bear wandering past me. It looked at me as if he had more important business to attend to than my gawking face. I departed to the Teton Mountain range, where miles of sagebrush and sharply curved mountains cut through the skyline.
I hiked, camped, tried my best to dodge the crowds (tourist towns are receiving a record number of visitors), and busied myself by swimming in mountain streams and ponds. This trip was enthralling, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other… even if the leg cramps had carried on for the rest of the week.
After returning home and entering into my apartment, I kicked off my dusty hiking boots, logged onto my school email, finally ready to start the school semester.