Visiting Yellowstone National Park – Day 1 (Ponderosa RV Park, Cody WY)

We tried to get an early start Monday for our drive into Yellowstone National Park.  But first we stopped by the Ponderosa RV Park office to pay ($46.44) for another night so we didn’t have to stress about finding another spot so soon.  So now we’re good here until Wednesday.  We’ll check on other spots between now and then that are more reasonably-priced (for us) and hopefully not too far away.  We anticipate doing at least a couple more trips into the park to see the sights.  I hope we can find something; while in the office, I overheard the clerk turn away at least three callers that were looking for an RV spot.

The forecast called for wind and possible showers today.  We left our little dog “Coach” in the Coach with both A/C’s set at 70°  We were told we’d have problems taking him on any of the trails or attractions in the park.  This bit of information turned out to be not-entirely true – we saw several people throughout the day carrying their dogs around at pull-offs, and even one inside the Old Faithful Inn … oh well, next time we’ll know.  At least we knew he was ok for the day.

We finally got on the road by 8:15 or so and headed for the east entrance about 50 miles away…


I was able to use my disabled veteran Golden Access Pass to avoid the $30 entrance fee.


Our plan for the day was to enter through the east gate and turn south at Fishing Bridge to drive around the lower “loop” in a clockwise fashion and then return back to Cody.  (See map below)  We only made it as far as Old Faithful when the rain forced us to turn around and backtrack.  But it was still a great day 🙂  (map)


Follow along now for a summary of our days activity:

(Remember that if you see “green highlighted” text anywhere in my posts; these are embedded links to click-on for more info if you’d like) 🙂

Sylvan Pass was very scenic and the grades were manageable.  We could easily take the Urban Escape Vehicle on this route if we need to – or if we so desire, in the future.

BTW – I set up our Road Mate DVR on the dash of the Silverado to record our trip.   I wrote about purchasing this while we were in Gillette WY at the FCRV Campvention Rally.  I used it once before on our drive with my Dad & Stepmom in their Jeep when we drove through the Black Hills in South Dakota, but haven’t been able to download the video clips until recently.  I had to buy a card reader (at the BX in Ellsworth AFB) for the SD card because the device didn’t download thru its USB cable to my MacBook Pro Laptop.  Anyway – I hope to be able to share some of the 2-minute clips that it records sometime soon if my blog hosting service allows.  First, I have to edit the hundreds of files to see if there’s anything good to share.  So far, the video quality looks pretty good and we even got some amusing clips of us standing around in front of the truck when we got out at a couple scenic pull-offs to take pictures when I forgot to turn it off.  More on this RoadMate DVR and its video clips in a later post maybe.

We saw lots of evidence of fire damage along our route into the park from the eastern side.  Read more about the 1988 “Summer of Fire”  HERE.



We passed Sylvan Lake and then reached Yellowstone Lake, which were both beautiful.

We stopped at the Fishing Bridge RV Park to double-check availability. This is the first campground located inside the park from the east entrance. You may recall from my previous post that I called the reservations number and was told they didn’t have anything for a week. This was still the case – but the nice lady behind the desk was very helpful and shared a list of campgrounds outside the park. She recommended trying a couple of the small state parks that have hook-ups outside the east entrance. We promised ourselves that we’d check them out on the way back if it wasn’t too late, and that’s exactly what we did – we saw several open sites. Hopefully, we can score one of them on Wednesday.


We stopped at several pull-offs along our route for pictures and when we got to West Thumb, we parked, put on jackets and walked the boardwalk:














It was around 59° and getting windy by this time.  We could see clouds rolling in.


Our grandson Kaan posed with a ranger hat at the small ranger station/visitor center.


These really cool old buses are still running tourists around the park.  According to the National Park Service website; “A total of twenty-seven 1936 Model 706 buses were used in Yellowstone, and by 1939, a total of ninety-eight Model 706s of various years were in use (the largest number of National Park Buses operating anywhere).”


When we reached Old Faithful, a light rain had started.  We had driven about 115 miles to get here from our site in Cody.  We waited in the visitor center for the next eruption and caught a nice documentary in the theater.


‘Old Faithful’ in Yellowstone NP.

After about an hour wait, we got to see ‘Old Faithful’ erupt.  Stilla and Kaan watched from the visitor center while I braved the light rain and heavy crowd to walk a little closer for some pictures.





I took lots of pictures of the eruption and even some video, but if you want to see some really good pictures or video taken by professionals, just click HERE or HERE.

We were getting hungry by now and wanted to check out Old Faithful Inn.  We remembered it from our first trip here back in 1993.


According to this website; “Old Faithful Inn is the most requested lodging facility in the park. Built in 1903-1904 with local logs and stone, the Inn is considered the largest log structure in the world. The towering lobby features a massive stone fireplace and a hand-crafted clock made of copper, wood and wrought iron serving as focal points.”



We found some sandwiches at the Inn and I tried their Old Faithful Ale while we checked out the cool balconies at the Inn – hey, we’re only here once, right?



View from the upper (outside) balcony.



View from one of the inner balconies looking down on the lobby.



View of the inner balconies.


View of the dining room from balcony above.


By now, it was raining a little heavier and it was a bone-chilling 38° – believe it or not!

We took a few more pics on our way out of the massive ‘Old Faithful’ parking lot that was packed with visitors and started heading back to Cody.  It was now 3:30 PM and we had 115 miles to back-track.  It was too late in the day and too rainy now to stick with our original plan to do the whole loop.  It was shorter to just go back the way we came.



We stopped once more along Yellowstone Lake to check out the steam coming up from the geysers along the edge.

Kaan and Stilla alongside Yellowstone Lake. Geyser steam in background.


We’ll be back… we only scratched the surface of this beautiful national park today.

It got warmer as we got closer to Cody – around 50° if I remember right.  As I mentioned earlier, we stopped at a couple of the small state park campgrounds on the way back once we were outside the park, and the outlook for getting a spot looks good.  There were quite a few open sites and some even had full hook-ups.  We’ll try to score a new site on Wednesday at one of these campgrounds.

We also stopped at Pahaska Tepee on the way back to stretch our legs after the long drive.  This is supposed to be “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s old hunting lodge and hotel back in the day.



Kaan trying on another hat… we have a theme (for pictures) going on here I think.

When we got back to the Urban Escape Vehicle, we noticed it had rained and some really bad wind gusts must have come through… our larger pull-down window awning on the living room slide out was rolled up; the small american flag was ripped that we had hanging on one of our mirrors; and the chairs we left out were knocked over and wet.  But the important thing was that little “Coach” was OK, and boy! – was he ever happy to see us after being cooped up for almost 10 hours.

The weather-guessers are calling for more wind but sunshine today (Tuesday) as I write this post.  We’ll stay here today and check out the attractions in Cody.  We’ve heard that the Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum is a “must-see”.