Sometimes life intervenes. Our revised plans to camp in our tent on our trip out west started out well enough. We scored a nice campsite on the river in Teddy Roosevelt National Park, and managed to squeeze in a short bike ride on the wilderness loop after arriving. A bison spent the night on the banks of the river just below our spot, and in the morning he took a stroll right through our campsite! We decided to let him have it.
On good advice, we drove the Beartooth Highway to enter Yellowstone. Getting an early start, we were well down the road and into the mountains just as the sun began hitting the peaks. It only got better from there. The 68 miles took us a full three hours to cover, slowly winding our way around hairpin curves, ogling the views over the edge and stopping frequently to take in the scenery. We hadn’t even gotten to the park yet and we were already enamored with the locale.
Traveling at the end of the season, we assumed that the crowds in Yellowstone had thinned. But that wasn’t the case. Even the campsites were still in high demand, so rather than moving around the park we snapped up four nights in the Canyon Valley campground, hastily making reservations en route. Tall pine trees towered over our humble tent, needles carpeted the ground and plenty of space insulated us from other campers. All seemed well. But we only lasted two nights.
It wasn’t the thunder-snow that we heard rumbling and falling icily on our tent the first morning that drove us out. In fact, we luxuriated in the excuse to hunker down reading in our cozy sleeping bags until it ceased. It wasn’t the 25 degree temps the following morning. It wasn’t even the meager camp meals that we concocted over our ancient sputtering cook-stove.
It was the bugs. No, not the buzzing, biting, flying irritants that usually annoy campers. Pink-eye and flu bugs. Lingering gifts from a recent visit with our grandchildren took Rich down hard. And each successive day he worsened. No matter how cushy the air mattresses (and ours aren’t), there’s no pretending that we get a good night’s sleep on the ground.
Just as in bicycle touring, we instituted our trusty rule. When someone gets sick, no more camping. It’s the only way to get better. But scuttling Plan B was not that easy. Those late season crowds? They filled the lodgings too. After many phone calls, we scored a room in Grant Village that had just been released. Wincing at the cost but celebrating our luck, we repeated the search in the Grand Tetons.
So much for our free-wheeling campervan plan. Goodbye outdoorsy tent camping. Hello Plan C – warm, inviting park lodgings with electricity and soft beds, secured with advance reservations. I’m entirely certain that the park sights will still be stunning.