Well how do you top a total solar eclipse from the top of a mountain?
You don’t. You don’t even try. What you do is you chill out with some friends, so we did.
We had made plans to stay in the same RV park in West Yellowstone with the friends with whom we’d watched the eclipse prior to their moving on up to Glacier NP and our moving on into Yellowstone proper. If you’ve never been to West Yellowstone, it’s probably not what you would picture. It’s a postage stamp of a town just into Montana and bordering (outside of) the national park that serves as a jumping off point into the park as well as sort of an overflow campground and accommodation spot for people who couldn’t get any place to stay inside the park.
On the surface it’s a little cheesy, with about a mile and a half square grid packed with hotels and RV parks, punctuated by T-shirt & souvenir shops, mid-brow eating establishments with flashy lights out front and the odd “adventure park.” But I have to tell you that that RV park was really nice. Full hookups, lush green grass (first time we’d seen that in a while), and plenty of space. And the town has a charm to it if you know where to look, which fortunately our friends did (he grew up in Montana, not far away from where we were).
They arrived first and were told that though we wouldn’t be parked next to each other, we were quite close and “in the same row.” “Row” must have a different meaning there, not to mention “close.” Perhaps they just meant we were at the same RV park. No matter though, we all had bikes, and were exhausted from the day’s events anyway. The kids did a little mini movie night using our outdoor TV (first we’d used it!) and crashed out.
The next day was our friends’ only day to explore Yellowstone, so they spent the entire day doing that, while we were grateful for a “down day.”
Laundry, relaxing, bike ride, relaxing, teepee building, relaxing…
One of the W Yellowstone gems our friends knew about and had dialed us into was the Playmill theater, which has an in-residence theater group that puts on various plays throughout the summer. They were doing The Little Mermaid that evening, and we’d gotten tickets for it. There was definite cheesiness potential, but I have to say that they did an extremely good job with it — everyone was entertained. They even do an intermission in which all the players come out with play-themed treats that they’d made themselves — root beer floats, brownies, “poopcorn,” etc. Good clean fun, and well done.
Thereafter we moved down the street to the Slippery Otter for more hearty high ranch food (read: elk and bison burgers, etc). Firebolt, perhaps inspired by the busking musicians in Bozeman, decided she’d see if she could earn some spare change by doing an aggressive dance to the ’80s music that was playing outside while we waited for a table. It was an interesting musical interpretation, and an interesting face to accompany it (she later designated it her “bear face,” and I can’t disagree).
Alas, only about 21 cents taken in, and that may have been the seed money.
What was fantastic, though, and spurred later conversation about the important stuff, i.e. where we want to settle after this adventure, was having dinner with our friends in a relaxed, non-rushed environment at last. They live in Seattle on Lake Washington, and my previous visit there had stricken me deeply with a sense of “I’d love to have this sort of neighborhood setup, and even better to be around these people.” That was one of the reasons I’d hoped we could all (as a family) visit them at home, but unfortunately it hasn’t worked out. But this evening got Tacco and I thinking and talking about the difference between moving someplace that we like, but don’t know anyone, versus moving someplace where we at least have a foothold and some friends/family we know we want to be around and have our kids be around. It’s a great conversation to have, and one we will revisit many times I think before we settle.
Amazing to be in a position to have this sort of choice on where ultimately to live and raise your family, but the sheer range of choice makes it almost paralyzing.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to them for now as they head to Glacier, and we spend a day with another set of friends (Park City friends this time) who happened to be in town, spending time at their cabin on Hebgen Lake, just outside of West Yellowstone. Boat time!