Friday, July 17, 2015

Westward adventures - Wandering into Yellowstone

Originally I was planning to be backcountry hiking until Friday, so I wasn't going to head to West Yellowstone until late Friday afternoon, but since my plans chanced, I went ahead and booked a car from National at 10:00 and figured I would get a head start on the day.*

On my way back from Trapper Lake, I passed two rangers who made made small talk with me, wished me a good hike and then came across a third ranger just behind the first two who stopped me and asked to see my backcountry permit. Less than a quarter mile from the trailhead, so I wasn't expecting that, but I took off my pack and pulled out the permit which he looked at for a few minutes and then told me, "You really should keep that somewhere more accessible so you don't have to take off your pack." True, but I should also have been told that rangers would randomly stop me while I'm hiking and ask to see my permit instead of being told to put the permit on my tent and that rangers may stop by to see them. 

Since I got out of my campsite by 8:00, the morning views on Leigh Lake were even better than the first time!


I ended up getting on the road around 11:30 and headed back through the Tetons to get to Yellowstone. The speed limit as I got closer to Yellowstone dropped to 45 mph and stayed there or below the whole time. I was planning to stop at a visitor's center and get more information on camping options and recommendations for what to see... and somehow I ended up at Old Faithful before seeing any signs for a visitor's center, so I decided that even though it was mid-day, I'd check it out. Big mistake! First, it was a Friday, just after lunch and about a third of the parking lots were closed for repair, so it looked like the airport - people inching along hoping they'll see someone pulling out of a spot and then circling around and around until they can finally get a spot. I did one loop and then immediately headed back out to the main road and decided just to go to the next visitor's center and ask for more information there. No sign of another visitor's center, so I just headed into Montana and out the west entrance into West Yellowstone. 

I did a quick stop at the race expo and then headed to my hotel for a shower. When I checked into the Super 8, I was the only car in the parking lot and the only other people around were from the KOA next door heating up their food! After a great nap, I grabbed my stuff and headed back into town for dinner before my volunteer shift at the Yellowstone 5k. When I was at the hotel, I asked where I should head for dinner and the woman at the front desk recommended the Wild West Pizzeria & Saloon downtown. Much to my surprise (and delight), it ended up being a Steelers bar!


My friends back home definitely got a kick out of the fact that I was in two random western states and managed to find Steelers fans.

I had volunteered for the Yellowstone 5k earlier in the week because they were still asking for volunteers and were offering 50% off a future race for anyone who helped them out. Since I didn't have any plans for Friday night (other than sleeping in a real bed), it was an easy choice for me. My role was to help out at the t-shirt exchange at the end of the 5k. The cool part was that we were stationed right at the finish line and got to see everyone come across the line. It was also a perfect evening - sunset over the mountains and lots of cheering for all of the finishers!






After the 5k, I headed back to the hotel and re-arranged all my gear again since I would be living out of the car again for another 3 days after the race.


Up next the Yellowstone Half Marathon race report!

*Notes about National and my adventures trying to leave Jackson Hole
I won't bore you with all the details, but basically, you're not allowed to park a personal vehicle on premise, so they told me to go park across the street at a grocery store. When I drove down there, of course there's a sign that says "no overnight parking" and after talking with the store manager, she confirmed I would be towed if I left my car there overnight and her only suggestion for parking was on the street near the post office. I ended up calling the visitors center and asked them what I could do and they directed me to a parking garage downtown. The good news is that it was free parking for 48 hours, which was an awesome find, but then I had to walk over a mile back to the rental agency to get my new car. This entire process added an extra 1.5 hours into my getting out of Jackson and certainly didn't put me in a good mood to start my journey. 

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