Monday, July 13, 2009

Yellowstone (and other color stones)

The following is a story of intrigue, deceit and suspense. Some material may not be suitable for squirrels (like Saran Wrap, but they still try to eat it).

My sister Angie and her husband Mark planned a trip to Yellowstone, and invited their relatives to go. Liz and I decided we should go (we hadn't been camping since the first month we met each other). There were some emails that went out before the trip about where to meet and what to bring. One of the emails had the coordinates of the Madison Campground (where we would be staying). Unfortunately there was something funky about the numbers. I looked on Google for the Madison Campground in Yellowstone, and it gave me 3 different places. I decided to go to Yellowstone's website, where they gave coordinates for the campground. Though, the coordinates they gave me was NOT to the campground, but to the southern entrance of Yellowstone (shame on them).
So I put those coordinates in my Garmin and we set off for Yellowstone. I had seen a map on Google on how to get to Yellowstone, and it showed a path through West Yellowstone (the north west corner of the park). Just north of Rexberg my Garmin instructed me to turn onto 1200 N. It was only a 2 lane street, but it was 45 mph and there was nice rolling green hills. I figured because the coordinates had the campground at the southern entrance, that the road was probably some local's route and that the sourthern entrance wasn't visited as much as West Yellowstone. After a while, the road turned from paved into unpaved, and not only that, but with a ton of small rocks. There was a speed limit sign that said 35 mph, but just going 15 mph was kicking up rocks and dust. I once again figured that it was only going to be a short ways and then we would be back onto better roads.
About the Idaho / Montana border the road did get better. There were no longer the tons of rocks. We stopped at a beautiful lake to take a picture - but hurried back in the car as 1.7 bajillion mosquitoes started attacking us. We drove past a sign for a scout camp and a reservoir. We had only passed a couple vehicles on the road. All the sudden (10 miles before the main road), my car suddenly started making this high-pitched, metal scraping metal sound. Not good. I stopped the car at once. After a little investigation and having Liz roll the car a little bit, I determined that the sound came from both front wheels. I figured it was something very bad (like an axle breaking loose or something with all those rocks and bumps).
There was no cell phone service, nor did we see any signs of life/civilization on our journey. I was afraid that we might have to try to hike out to the main road to get help (at this point it was 9:30~10:00 at night). Kind of scary. I started to get out the jack to take off the wheels to see if I could identify the problem.
Just then, a suburban with government plates came down the road. Turned out to be a BYU intern (named Trace) overseeing a night construction crew on the road just south of Yellowstone. The night was pretty slow and so his supervisor let him go do whatever, and he decided to try to visit a friend which was up at a scout camp up the road. He had never been up that road before. He offered to give us a ride to the campground (which we still thought was at the south gate of Yellowstone). We took some stuff (like our tent, sleeping bags, clothes) so that we could camp overnight at the camp and then hopefully come back to the car. Well, it turned out that the Madison coordinates were completely wrong. The campground was much closer to West Yellowstone.
Trace offered to drive us up until we could call our party and have them come down to get us. We finally found some cell service, and the only ones that picked up was Angie, who with Mark had left really late themselves, and were only to Rexberg. They said that the others at the campground didn't have cell service and in fact had to drive to about 5 miles of the west entrance to be able to call them. Trace offered to drive us all the way to our campground and Angie txt'd us with what numbered sites were supposed to be ours. We got there about midnight, then had to set-up our tent in the dark. It was a pain.
The next morning, my sister Marie offered to let me drive her car until I got cell service to call my dad to ask him what to do. I did that, and he got me some numbers of tow companies in Jackson (the closest town to where I broke down). I called one of those places and arranged to meet them at a place called Flagg (near where the unimproved road met the main road) at about 11:00. It was about 9:45 when I talked to them. When I got back to camp, the others had some breakfast ready, so I ate some. Then on the way south, there was a herd of bison blocking the road. Then near the south gate there was road construction with a huge wait.
Finally, at about 12:45 we got to the meeting spot. After some searching I was able to find the tow truck driver. We drove out to my car, hitched it up, and drove back to Flagg - all the time, telling me about how his competition gorged their customers, and that he was the only reasonable tow service around. When he got back, he got under the car. He found out that there were rocks stuck up somehow in something that was pushing something somewhere. Long generic sentence short - he took out the rocks and my car worked okay again. What was the bill you might ask? $450. Yeah, it hurt. But at least I didn't have to get towed to Jackson, find out that it was a huge broken thing and be stuck there for days.
I drove back into Yellowstone and was able to meet up with the rest of my party. Everyone else had already seen Old Faithful, so I didn't get to see it. But we saw many different kinds of geysers and mud pots. Some were a lot cooler then others.
The rest of the party was pretty cool. We all took turns making breakfasts and dinners. Liz and I did stew in bread bowls. Megan (Mark's sister) made fajitas. Marie and Nathan had us make omelets cooked in boiling water in plastic bags (wounds weird, but they turned out really good).
All together we were gone Thursday - Sunday. Not all of the park stuff was good though, occasionally there would be some type of animal that would get within 3 miles of the road, and people driving on the road would stop their cars in the road and watch, or they might pull their car off the road, and then stand in the middle of the road to watch. It infuriated me to no end. Although I am not that into gawking over any little animal, I can understand that some do. But there is no excuse to block traffic. They can pull off the road and stand on the shoulder like sane, considerate person. Sigh. I digress.
Anywho, here's a link to our pics


Michelle said...

I read the whole thing :) Quite the adventure. I go to Yellowstone every year for our family reunion, and I have to agree with you, there is a lot of unnecessary road blocking!

Seamstressguild said...

Dude, they make these things called "maps." Madison Campground is one of the largest in the Park, only 14 miles from West Yellowstone. Your lesson was an expensive one. (BTW, I found your blog thanks to my Google alert for all things Yellowstone.)

B. said...

This is a vacation you will remember quite well just because of all that went wrong.

I am so curious about what sites you researched the campground that you ended up with the wrong location. Computer Geeks are supposed to be good at these types of things.