I have been looking forward all summer to my sisters and brother-in-laws joining me for a trip up to Yellowstone. Though quite a ride from Laramie, it is still closer than I usually am to this glorious national park. Of course on the day of our departure from Laramie, California and Colorado wild fires cloak with thick, pungent smoke the stunning scenery that should enthrall us .
We are finally all back home now and in addition to a few pictures that I was able to edit to mask the hazy smoke, I want to share these pros and cons of visiting Yellowstone during a pandemic.
- I secure reservations at the Old Faithful Lodge just a month or so before our trip. The normal wait is about a year to get a room in this prime location.
- The lack of tour buses makes parking much easier at most of the favorite scenic areas. Three or four cars can fit in each tour bus site (if some of the drivers are friends)!
- We have unobstructed views and plenty of benches to sit on at Old Faithful each time we watch it erupt. A very unusual experience considering the popularity of this geyser.
- Not as many human targets on the road as I have seen in the past. Although at one bear sighting, it is difficult to maneuver past the excited tourists walking blindly into traffic while focusing their enormous camera lenses. With no peripheral vision they step right out in front of the Jeep. Eyes on the road, I miss the bears and the tourists (thank goodness!).
- The common areas of the Lodge (and other public buildings on site) have absolutely no furniture inside them. Not only does it look terribly bare and uninviting, but if you need a seat you must go outside and find an empty bench.
- A wildfire in the park closes the southern loop road to Old Faithful adding 3 hours travel to each end of our trip. Thank goodness, my sisters pack food or we might starve before we get to the lodge. I drive (mostly alone) from 7:30am – 6:30pm almost non-stop to get back to Laramie at our trip’s end because of this detour.
- Smoke in the area obscures many of the most stunning views. The Tetons fade in the haze appearing as a ghostly remnant of their normal grandeur.
- Because there is no inside seating, all meals are to go. By the time we find a place to sit outside each cool evening, our food is chilly too.
Overall I am happy we are able to visit Yellowstone this year. I love the diverse landscape and entertaining natural features that cover this enormous park. My family had never been here before and I am so thrilled to share a few days in this park with them.
In spite of a few inconveniences, the lack of massive tourist groups really does enhance our stay. The parking lot at Old Faithful will not normally yield a tiny spot for motorcycles. I learned that back when the Dawson Gang vacationed here in the past. This year that same parking lot has more empty spaces than occupied ones.