When we said our goodbyes to all of our friends and co-workers at Lewis Lake, our intention was to do one last trip on the Beartooth Highway. We headed to the northeast entrance and the Beartooth Highway just outside of Cooke City. We made it about 5 miles east of the intersection of the Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highway. The road was blocked by construction and we were told the first gate to the Beartooth Highway was closed for the season. Ahh, the plans we make. So we turned around, took a little exploratory trip along the Chief Joseph Highway and ended up outside of Cody, WY looking for a place to camp. Since it was the first week of October the majority of the campgrounds were closed. Until we reached Wapiti Campground. Not only was it still open until October 12th, some of the most beautiful sites were still available.
We chose a site that was on the bend in the river, surrounded by bright yellow aspen and birch trees. What an incredible view across the river. We found 3 nights of firewood abandoned by previous campers-how perfect !
For the most part we had gorgeous Fall weather. Sunshine, blue skies, light breezes and cool temperatures. We had one rainy day and just a few sprinkles on one of the other days. This is such a sweet campground. The sites are spaced to enhance privacy and I’m sure in the Summer the trees provide cooling shade. We arrived at the beginning of hunting season so there were about 5 sites along the river that were closed. They close them because they are situated at the end of a hunting trail and the hunters typically hang their kill at the end of that trail while prepping it for travel. This is grizzly bear country and you can imagine the attention a fresh kill could attract. They don’t want campers to be in the way of the grizzlies who might be searching out scent !!
That same hunting trail was also a great hiking trail. The trail led to a spot overlooking the campground and the river. We only hiked a few miles out and back, since we didn’t want to be mistaken for elk by any over zealous hunters. The hunters, from what we were told, travel back much further on the trail by horse, so we felt like we were okay hiking on the entry portion of the trail. And of course we had plenty of bright orange clothing on just in case.
I referred to Wapiti as a last resort campground, I wish all last resort choices were as wonderful as this campground. Little did we know that this would be the last of the beautiful Fall weather we would enjoy. And enjoy it we did. We had a campfire every night; hiked every day, and cooked every meal we had outdoors. It turned out that this was the perfect place to end our Summer in Yellowstone trip.
By the time we entered Yellowstone the snow had started. It was snowing lightly but we knew from our experience with Yellowstone weather that we should head directly to Mammoth Hot Springs Campground to settle in for some gnarly winter weather .
And by the time we arrived at the campground, set up the van (took about 5 minutes) the snow started to fall. About 2 hours later all roads in Yellowstone were closed. That included the road through the Lamar Valley.
Every day we would get text message alerts telling us what roads were open. And of course the South Entrance was the last to stay open long enough for us to head to Jackson Hole.
By the time we arrived in Jackson the snow had pretty much disappeared at the lower elevation. We headed up to Shadow Mountain to boon-dock and enjoy this view for a few days. This National Park Camp hosting experience at Yellowstone NPS turned out to be more than we ever expected. We made new friends, had the best supervisor ever and created memories that we will always carry in our hearts. This was a beautiful trip and someday we will return-hopefully sooner than later. But you know our philosophy, if it’s meant to be, then it’s meant to be. Whatever life presents to us we will make the most of it and I hope you do to . Happy trails and safe travels my friends.
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. -Dr. Seuss