Yellowstone at Last

                After what seemed an eternity we got away from Cheyenne with a sweet running engine.  In fact I think our fuel efficiency has improved giving me the thought we may have had a turbo charger problem long before it caused a Check Engine Light to illuminate.  I will have to drive a lot further and at my normal slower than most speed to try to verify this claim.  However, on our way from Cheyenne to Yellowstone we got much better MPG than normal and I was driving faster than I usually do.  The ordeal in Cheyenne is a story all of its own.  While it was very frustrating, in the end we felt the good people at Floyd’s Trucks were doing all they could to get us out as quickly as possible.  We certainly couldn’t complain about the charges and the trucker’s lounge was a great place to hang out while waiting.  We learned a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a long haul trucker with aging trucks that sprout load ending problems at a whim.  At least our delay was just that a delay.  For many of the people we met at Floyd’s their problems not only cost them the time and money to perform the repair, but they lost the load that had been attached to another trucker who took home the money.  It is a pretty tough life out there for the independent trucker, especially when things go wrong.
                We got out of Cheyenne just after 3 PM on June 1.  We were a little tired and certainly didn’t want to push too hard, so we drove only as far as Glenrock, Wyoming.  Glenrock is one of those towns that can easily be missed by the modern motorist.  Some forty-five or more years ago when Interstate 25 was put in Glenrock was by-passed.  Unless you need gas or something to eat or a place to stay there are not a lot of reasons to stop.  We needed a place to stay and we found a campground just east of town that seemed to be pretty good according to the campground book.  When we arrived we found that it wasn’t quite that good, but certainly acceptable for one night.
                On Saturday we drove the relative short distance to Sheridan where once we got settled into one of our favorite campgrounds, Peter D’s, we were able to spend the afternoon and evening with my Aunt Rose Marie.  We were joined at dinner by my cousin Fred Patz and his cousin Dede Patz.  We were treated to a wonderful dinner at the Wyoming Chop House.  This is a small chain with different names in the various locations in northern Wyoming and southern Montana.  This is a new location in Sheridan as they had outgrown the original location within weeks of opening.  The menu is the same in all the restaurants even though they have different names.  The food is really very good.  It was a great get together. 
After dinner we all went back to Aunt Rose’s to watch a great DVD we had been given by one of our fellow camp host couples, Rick and Donna Dumar, called Showdown in Elktown.  The DVD is a BBC production highlighting the elf rut in the Mammoth Hot Springs area of Yellowstone.  We have shown it to several family and friends since receiving it with great reviews.  It is both educational and very entertaining.  Google it and see if it is on You Tube, it is worth the effort.
                Early Sunday morning we headed north and west via Interstate 90 through Billings, Montana and to Livingston, Montana where we turned south on US 89 for the 52 mile drive to the North Entrance.  We had chosen this route for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost following our recent turbo charger issue I did not want to wander too far off the main arterial highways until the new one had a chance to prove itself.  Second, although this is not the shortest route to the park it certainly is the fastest.  We wanted to get to Mammoth during daylight hours.  Finally, I wanted to top off with fuel outside the park in order to get the best price and have as full a fuel tank for the summer as possible.  That last one didn’t work out quite as well as I would have liked.  I will explain later.
                I had really over estimated how long the trip across Montana would take.  So with our early start we found ourselves getting to Mammoth in the early afternoon.  As we approached the entrance to the Mammoth Campground Connie asked whether or not we would see the Dumars checking in.  Sure enough, there was one car between their trailer and our motorhome in line to check-in.  The adventure was to begin.
                We had a great reunion with Rick and Donna and then went our separate ways to get settled.  Once we got leveled and the fridge making cold air again we walked across the street to say hi to Russ and Susan Farmer, camp hosts at Mammoth Campground.  The Farmers worked part of the season last year and were invited back for the full season this year.  It was good seeing them and getting caught up with how we had spent our respective winters.  Russ and Susan have the unenviable task of training two new couples as camp hosts.  We wish them the very best.
                Soon it was time for some dinner, so we gathered up the Dumars and the six of us went into Gardiner to Outlaws Pizza for dinner.  I thought we were going to be asked to leave before we finally made the decision on our own a good two hours after we got there.  It was a fun reunion and great opportunity to get reacquainted and ready for a summer of work and fun (not necessarily in that order).
                On Monday we moved up to Indian Creek Campground in a loose caravan.  Just before arriving at the turn to the campground I spotted a moose in the willows along the Gardner River where Obsidian Creek joins it.  There were several people stopped along the road and people out of vehicles indicating there was something to look at.  I was slowed to nearly a stop.  My high seating position and great front windows I had the best view of anyone of this magnificent animal.  Unfortunately, Connie was driving the car in front of me and was paying attention to all the cars with drivers not necessarily paying attention to their driving while looking at the moose.  Therefore she didn’t see the moose.  Rick and Donna were able to see it, but I suspect Donna spotted it and pointed it out to Rick as he weaved his way through the traffic.  When we got to the turn to the campground, both sides of the road had cars parked nose to tail making navigation with the motorhome a bit spicy.  I was able to get through without hitting anyone and even managed to smile at all the concerned citizens who owned or rented those many vehicles.  Connie got the gate open and I blocked the entrance while she repositioned our car and got ready to shut the gate behind me so no one could get in ahead of opening day.
                Settling in on our site was like coming home.  I knew exactly where I needed to be and while Connie was off making sure the Dumars could get their power box unlocked I was able to park the coach exactly where it had been last year.  When Connie got back I was adjusting the blocks to lower the levelers onto.  It was my best landing in a long time.
Our First Campers of the Season.
This was what we awoke to on June 6th.
               Our third couple, Jack and Pat Scullen arrived mid-afternoon on Tuesday, so we were a team again.  We spent the rest of the week getting the campground setup by reinstalling signs and making sure the toilets were fully stocked and clean.  There were some minor repairs to campsites that had to be completed, but nothing that was too daunting.  It was really great to have the campground to ourselves for several days prior to opening.  It is so quiet out here and so beautiful.  All six of us went out to dinner on Thursday evening, the night before opening, and our last opportunity for all to be out of the campground at the same time.  It was another fun evening out.
                On opening day we got some last minute training from the bear guys.  They wanted to make sure we were as sensitive to the need to keep people and bears separated throughout the summer and to provide some training on the proper way to use bear spray and as importantly when to use it.  It was some great training and we had the opportunity to discharge some inert cans of the spray.  I am now more confident in my ability to use the spray if I need to, but would be happy to complete this career of volunteering without having ever needed to use it.
                We have had a variety of weather since arriving.  When we got here on Sunday it was really quite warm.  Windows open warm!  Since then we have seen rain, sleet, snow and high winds.  We lost power for several hours soon after getting settled at Indian Creek.  Since we were not open we were able to operate our generators during that extended outage.  I ran our generator for about five hours.  Add that to the 60 some miles I drove the motorhome after that final fill up and I am no longer sitting on a full tank.  However, I think I am at about the same level I was last summer and I had no problems with water forming in the tank from condensation.  So, we will see what happens.
                We have seen a ton of wildlife already.  There have been many photo opportunities.  Some were more productive than others.  I have included some of the better ones here.  Unfortunately, that moose got away.  I couldn’t drive the motorhome and take pictures at the same time.  We haven’t seen that big critter since that first full day in the park.
Bull Bison Scratching His Neck on a Large Rock
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Ewes and Lambs in Gardner Canyon.
A Very Young Elk Calf.  Possibly its First Encounter With Water
Mamma Pronghorn and Her Twin Calves
Mountain Bluebird Outside the Mammoth Restaurant
Young Grzzly Bear on Swan Lake Flats
Black Bear Along the Tower Road
Adult Red-tailed Hawk Carrying a Snake Back to the Nest and to Two Chicks
              Our first real workday isn’t until Tuesday, June 19th.  Hopefully, this will be posted by then.



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