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Yellowstone and Finding and Place to Live in Bozeman

We got a late start on Saturday and decided postpone the Yellowstone trip for another day because, A, the weather was going to be better, and B, we had some odds and ends to take care of in Bozeman. The first order of business was to try and find a place to live other than the Walmart parking lot. I had already posted wanted ads on Craigslist and the Bozeman Reddit and had a few responses, but I decided it was time to come up with some more creative solutions. The first was creating a poster that we could put on bulletin boards around town. The second was a similar, but separate, flier that I’ll talk about later. When both were done, we went over to Staples and had copies of each one printed out.

From there, we drove downtown, and spent 30 minutes walking around to different businesses trying to find bulletin boards. I guess bulletin boards are becoming a thing of the past, because we were only able to find to find five of them downtown (diner, local supermarket, co-op, coffee shop, and library). With that adventure done, we headed one town over to Belgrade to take a look at our first potential living situation.

The spot was about 15-20 minutes from downtown Bozeman in a nice subdivision where each lot was at a minimum of four acres. The property had a house, equipment shop, and small barn with four baby cows, chickens, and a couple of dogs. There was access to a 30-amp electrical service (big bonus, no chance of tripping the breaker) and water about 50 feet away. Shenee loved the animals. One of the baby cows thoroughly enjoyed sucking on her hand for a minute or two and I had a good chuckle when the cow then wiped all the slobber on her pants. The owners were extremely friendly, and we spent a while chatting with them. They gave us a great dinner recommendation (Korner Klub, Four Corners, MT) and we were on our way.

Over dinner we talked about the spot in Belgrade, and although we both liked the property and the owners, we really wanted to find something closer to Bozeman. We decided to wait a few more days to see if anything else would materialize. After dinner, we headed back to Bozeman to start the next phase of our tiny house parking spot search.

So you might be wondering what the plan was for that second set of fliers? Driving around and leaving them in random mailboxes of course! Well, not completely random. The plan was to drive around town, and when we saw a piece of land we liked, we would just leave a flier in the mailbox. Most of the downtown area is very densely populated and typically there is barely room for a driveway, never mind a tiny house, so we headed a bit outside of town. Our search focused on the farms and subdivisions on the southern end of town. We spent two hours slowly rolling through neighborhoods and down the back roads of Bozeman scoping out properties. It typically went like this. We’d see a piece of land with a large backyard with easy access for the tiny house. Do a u-turn. Drive by again slower. Decide if we want to leave a flier. Do another u-turn. Drop of flier in mailbox and continue with the search. It was almost sunset by the time we dropped the 20th flier off. Back at the Walmart parking lot, we packed the car for the Yellowstone trip and went to bed early.

The next morning, we took off for Yellowstone. We drove back over Bozeman Pass to Livingston and took a short detour to look at another potential tiny house parking spot. The spot was about 5 minutes south of Livingston, so about 30 minutes from Bozeman. It was in a beautiful location with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and hills, but didn’t have any utilities. We decided it wasn’t really an option, mainly because driving over Bozeman Pass every day for work would suck, especially in the winter. With that crossed off the list, we were back on our way.

We drove back to Red Lodge so we would take the Beartooth Parkway up over the mountains to the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. The pass had already been closed this fall due to snow, but had been opened again due to the recent stretch of good weather. The pass took us up over 10,000 feet before descending down into the valley on the other side. We entered Yellowstone, and within the first few miles came across a large herd of buffalo that were hanging out right along the road. We then went south to Canyon Village, and saw the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and then continued to Old Faithful. We only had to wait about 20 minutes for Old Faithful to do its thing, and then went and wandered around the historic Old Faithful Inn. To say the building is impressive is an understatement, and I would have loved to have stayed there, but $600 a night was a bit outside our budget, so it was another night of camping in the car.

Trying to camp in Yellowstone without reservations is almost impossible. 1400 or so of the sites in the park are advance reservations only and typically fill up months in advance. Another 400 or so sites are first come, first served, and are usually filled well before lunchtime. That leaves the spontaneous traveler with no lodging options in the park. Typically I would just pull off the side of the road at a trailhead and sleep in the back of the car, but NOOOOOO, the park service hates that. I’ve tried that on two separate occasions in Yellowstone, and both times a park ranger has come along and told me that I need to find somewhere else (not in the park) to sleep. Easier said than done, as it takes almost 5 hours to drive through Yellowstone. Grrrrr. National Park Service rant over. We drove south through the Yellowstone, into Grand Teton National Park toward Jackson, WY, and eventually made it to some National Forest Land, where we spent the night in the back of the Subaru.

I woke up just as the sun rose, and starting driving to the famous Mormon barns outside of Jackson to get some sunrise pictures. From there, we did a loop of Grand Teton National Park, walked around Jackson, and then headed home via Teton Pass and Idaho.

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