Caverns, Disasters, and Fires Oh My!!!

Navigators Logs Sunday, August 21st, 2016 thru Monday August, 22nd, 2016

Anaconda, MT to Island Park, ID (168 miles)

20160821_111301Before I get to the craziness of yesterday (Monday the 22nd) I need to quickly recap how we got to Yellowstone.   We left Fairmont RV Park at approximately 10am and headed East on I-90 which took us through Butte America and up and over the Continental Divide for the 1st of many times planned on this trip. Along our route we decided to stop at the Lewis and Clark Caverns, the 1st State Park of Montana. 20160821_114325Upon our arrival at the lower visitor center we unhooked the truck and drove up the mountain to the upper visitor center and signed up for the 2 mile 2 hour hike through the cavern. The hike up the hill was a killer but as I kept telling myself it’s the first of many killer if not kill me hikes on this trip. Once we made our way to the entrance of the cavern it was almost all downhill from there. We saw some amazing formations and felt this tour was one of the most up close and personal tours of caves we have been in. I especially liked the travertine slide in the middle we had to slide down to continue our way thru the cavern. 20160821_142329We highly recommend this tour but note it’s a difficult tour due to the large hike up the mountain, lots of tight spaces, stairs and even duck walks.

After the tour we headed back down the mountain, re-hooked back up to the Disco and continued our way down Highway 287 towards Yellowstone. We refueled for the first time on this trip in Ennis and put in almost 69 gallons of diesel costing us $165.01. Ouch! We still had over a ¼ tank before we refueled so it could have been worse. In all since our last fill up we went 419 miles averaging 6 miles per gallon. Double ouch… to be fair we did climb 3 mountain passes and have quite a few hours on our generator and towing a F150 truck behind us… oh the reality of RVing. But its still worth every penny and mile!

20160821_183837Once back on the road it was a short jaunt down to Island Park and our home for the next six nights at the National Forest Service’s Buffalo Campground. Our 1 of only 2 pre-reserved campsites this whole trip. We are located approximately 25 miles SW of the West Entrance of Yellowstone. Our campsite is beautiful amongst the trees and just yards away from the Buffalo River.

Monday morning we got some much needed sleep-in time and we slowly got ready to spend the day in Yellowstone. And this is where our day went to (pardon my French) shit. I wish I could say everything was hunky dory all day long and this would become a feel good post from here on out but sorry… nope… not even close.

So here is how our Monday went…

20160822_162139I (Stacey) started to load the truck with all our necessities for a day long truck hike. With pretty much everything inside I went to shut the truck door and at the same time little Miss Sofi decided she was going too and well yes I slammed the door on her… right across her tiny little back. SHIT!!! (Again sorry for the language but this was a lot cleaner than what really came out of my mouth when it happened.) I reopened the door and Sofi then fish flopped to the ground like a fish out of water. She had the wind knocked out of her and hadn’t regained her breath yet which was SUPER scary. When I thought she was breathing I then placed her on the ground to see if she could walk because I swore I broke her little back. She then proceeded to walk sideways and fall down fish flopping again. I quickly picked her up and ran her inside and freaked out internally. I grabbed a jar of baby food to see if she was interested (don’t ask me why… I don’t know why I mean really here I almost kill her and now I am trying to feed her) needless to say she wasn’t interested at all. We tried the walking thing again and this time she walked normal. So for the rest of the day her paws never saw the ground except to pee. She spent the entire day in my arms or in her doggy purse breaking every rule in Yellowstone about dogs on the trails. I didn’t care and momma bear would have come out if anyone tried to tell me otherwise. So that was shit factor number 1 for the day… one hell of a way to start the day.

20160822_122444As we made our way into Yellowstone a few miles inside of the park we noticed that one of the many wildfires in the park was pretty close to the road. We joked to ourselves saying hope that doesn’t fowl up our way home later today… well remember that one for later down in the story. We stopped at many of the stops along the road as we made our way North from the Madison Junction up to Norris and then up to Mammoth. We spent most of the day stopping here and there and doing several hikes along the way. We decided to spend our day in the Northern parts of the park as this area is suppose to get very busy later this week due to the Parks Centennial Celebrations planned on Thursday.

Just before Tower/Roosevelt Junction on the Grand Loop we saw a 6 mile dirt road called the Blacktail Plateau and thought this would be a great chance to see wildlife as we hadn’t seen any bison yet and only saw a momma elk and her twins on the front lawn of the officer’s quarters at Fort Yellowstone. So we turn off the main road onto dirt and proceed down the dirt road. Do you think we saw anything? NOPE not a damn animal, just big rocks that would fool you for a second thinking it was a buffalo. We were skunked. As we worked our way back to the highway sitting at the stop sign to turn back onto the asphalt we look to our left up the highway we bypassed by taking the 6 mile dirt road and what do we see… an f’in bison traffic jam!!! Hundreds of bison on the highway. Now yes there is a pro and a con to this situation… the con we missed the bison our first opportunity to see one up close and personal but the pro we got around them with no delay. You should have seen the line of cars trying to get by the herd, we could have been stuck there for hours.

20160822_182246At this point we decided to take the NE Entrance Road through the Lamar Valley to hopefully see wildlife as we read this is one of the best spot to see bison and wolves. The bison didn’t disappoint and we soon were greeted along side our truck by several bison. As we continued to head East we saw probably a thousand head of bison off in the distance. It was an amazing site.

Due to our location and knowing we probably wouldn’t make it up this far again this trip we decided to go all the way to the NE Entrance and take a selfie at the Yellowstone sign just outside the park since we knew this sign wouldn’t be jam packed with tourists like the one at the West Entrance was. 20160822_191328So out of the park we went, we took said selfie, and then headed back into the park. Upon our return the Ranger asked us where we were headed and we told him the West Entrance as we are camped in Island Park and that’s when we got the next Oh Shit moment. The Ranger proceeded to tell us that the fire we saw as we entered the park was now within ½ mile of the road and it was possible they could be shutting down that road. SHIT! When we asked what is the next best way to get home he said normally the south entrance through Grand Teton and Jackson would the best bet but that road had just closed down an hour ago due to another fire burning in the area. SHIT SHIT! So then we asked what other options do we have… and sadly he said back up to the North Entrance and ALL THE WAY UP TO I-90 west to Bozeman and then back down the way we came on Sunday! SHIT SHIT SHIT!!! To make matters worse it was now 7:05pm and we were 120 miles from home and Spirit was back home crossing every paw waiting for our return. It was a race to try and get back to the West Entrance Road before they closed down the road.

20160822_200849Gary’s driving was great, he didn’t pass anyone in a no passing zone, he may have driven double the speed limit A LOT all while navigating unknown roads, walls of carpet (bison) and f’in tourists. There was another truck behind us who had somewhere to be as badly as we needed to be so the two of us hightailed it across the park in record time. Our fast friend behind us left us at the Canyon Village where we turned West and he continued South. Because cell service was spotty at best I was able to reach my Mom via text messaging somewhere along the way and she started searching for road closure’s and would keep us posted as we worked our way across the park. Almost 2 hours since the ranger told us we had little time before the road might close down we passed the fire.20160822_210333 It was on the ridge just above the road. Thankfully we were able to pass and make it back without a 300+ mile detour home.   We exited the park 2 hours and 5 minutes after re-entering it… amazing considering the ground we covered.

We finally could breathe deep and had only a short 25 miles back to camp. You’d think our fun and excitement was done for the day but no… a damn deer had a different thing in mind for us. You see literally 2 miles from our campground on Hwy 20 this little deer decided to cross the road right in front of us. Gary was attentive and saw the fawn crossing and slammed on the brakes and we skidded to a stop…. 2 feet too short of hitting the deer. The good news although we did hit bambi he got back up and ran away into the forest. When we got back to camp we checked the front end of the truck and no sign of damage to us or the deer… the only evidence of the encounter was a nose print on the bumper.

Wow what a day!!! Hopefully today goes better!



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