A few more notes on West Yellowstone…

My memories of Yellowstone date from four years ago and are a blur of driving through the enormous park while towing a sizable U-Haul and being consumed as I processed all the ramifications of coming back on active duty. We dashed across the country to buy a house (sight unseen for Flight), catching a few major landmarks at a speed only surpassed by the Griswolds, and I jumped right into teaching Engineering well before we were remotely settled. I vaguely remember seeing colorful Paint Pots and enormous bison, but took little note of anything else. I am eager to savor our upcoming stretch in America’s first National Park.

But first, to WEST Yellowstone to, as Flight put it best, “Come Down” from our Grand Targhee experience and try to process that. We pulled into the Grizzly RV Campground and were very pleasantly surprised by the accommodations, perhaps the nicest we’ve yet seen. Each spot had incredibly lush green grass and this was so unusual that Flight made it a point to take off his shoes while telling me he was doing so because he wanted to feel that (pointing) grass under his feet while he cooked dinner. We both joked that it clearly far surpassed our backyard crab grass lawn in Maryland (unless, of course, you want to buy our house, then it’s exactly like that). We relaxed and regrouped, enjoyed dinner and visited with our friends from Seattle.

The next morning I was lounging in bed (I was writing) when Flight came in to give me the morning report. First he informed me that he learned why the lawn is so lush. Thinking I knew where he was going, I sat up and immediately asked, “Oh no, are they spraying chemicals right NOW?” Pause, “No, not chemicals. Sprinklers.” That took a moment to register and I realized we’d left all our fabric camp chairs out. “Shoot. Are the chairs all soaked?” “Well, sorta. There’s ice on all the seats.” !!! It had been a little chilly sleeping with the windows open…

Next he tells me that we are now officially in Bear Country (we’d both failed to pick up on that even given the name of the RV Park) and he’d been reviewing the precautions we should be taking.  I say “reviewing” because we’ve both been camping in bear country and should be well versed in the safety measures. For those of you new to the experience, the most important of these safeguards is to never leave any food (or anything that came into contact with food) out at your campsite, especially overnight. Oops. We left a bag with the remains of our swordfish dinner dangling from a hook on the back of Davista. All night. Knowing full well the answer my brain half formed the clueless question, “Bears don’t like fish, do they?” and I had this image pop into my head:

Brown bear catching salmon

Flight then mentioned we also (technically) should have put the grill away. He summarized our oversight perfectly.  He growled and pantomimed his impression of a bear swatting at something before he said, “Connected to the propane tank. Pop (big hand movement). Pshshshshssh (propane leaking out of the RV tank and hose as he continues growling and swatting). What could go wrong?” Hoo boy.  Lesson learned.

City slickers.  Probably inside their rig posting on Facebook.

I don’t like to admit this, but social media did allow us to connect with some friends from our Park City days who were staying at their family cabin just outside of West Yellowstone. Facebook is good like that. When Flight uses it, because I don’t.

While our Seattle friends were exploring Yellowstone proper (they had but one day to do so), we had an “ADMIN” day, meaning we meal planned, schooled, did laundry, grocery shopped, and relaxed before reconnecting with them in the evening to see a musical production at the Playmill Theater. There are two grocery stores in West Yellowstone and, while neither is in the same ballpark as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, I was please to see that they had some standards:

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No wine before then either, in case you were wondering…

Our Park City friends recommended one over the other and I was pretty stoked to run into them there as they, too, were replenishing their stores.  Impatient with my visiting over produce and eager to get back to camp, Keeper kept assuring me that we had everything we needed and could go now. After promising to visit more with them at the Playmill, (they too had tickets to see The Little Mermaid), I pulled myself away from our friends and returned to shopping. I asked Keeper for his patience because I had to meal plan (again) on the fly since some of the basic ingredients I had assumed we would find not be located (Who doesn’t carry chicken breasts that haven’t previously been frozen?) . Satisfied with our revised plan and all the goodies to support it, we headed back to join the fam before our night on the town.

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There are so many ways The Little Mermaid can be done terribly and the potential for having to just sit through such a production was being explored by my inner doubter. I cannot say how utterly delightful the musical was. The whole presentation was fantastic – the sets (our girls excitedly identified (in louder than stage whispers) all the other Disney references in Ariel’s Grotto), the singing (dead on, I thought as I mouthed all the lyrics from the movie version), and the acting (even while on skate shoes to simulate swimming) were all brilliant. Always drawn to the characters far more interesting than the princesses, I was captivated by the portrayal of both Sebastian the Crab and Ursula the Sea Witch. Happily buoyed by the entertainment, we chatted with our Park City friends and vowed to meet them at their cabin the next day and then enjoyed dinner with our Seattle friends.

At the Slippery Otter, we learned there would be a 30-minute or so wait. The other mom turned to me and said, “I think I would like a beer.” I hadn’t realized how great that sounded and gushed my agreement in two words, “Me too.” She then turned to our husbands and said, “We’re going to have a beer.” When they moved to follow us, she clarified, “No. WE are going to have a beer. You guys can stay here with this,” gesturing to the five kids. While I’m sad to have missed Firebolt’s dance moves (maybe?), our grown up girl time was very welcomed and a rare treat on this adventure.  After dinner of bison and elk burgers, we bid our Seattle friends farewell (they were moving on to Glacier in the morning) and looked forward to seeing our Park City friends at their cabin on the lake.

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