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  • Francs Peak Hike

Yellowstone Rescue

As I was driving home from work on Friday September 25th at about 2:30PM I noticed alot of haze or smoke in the sky.  It has been a hot week so I knew by the look that there was a fire somewhere around in the region.  I figured it was around Billings, MT because I knew they had been having fires around there from lightning strikes.

Earlier in the week I was thinking how wonderful it was to get all the way through August with no smoke filled skies from forest fires burning around in the western region.  It has been so nice to have clear skies and fresh air.

As I was driving home, my cell phone rings and so I let it go to voice mail.  When I got close to my home on the dirt road leading towards my house I listened to the phone message.  It was from my husband informing me that Ryan’s car broke down in Yellowstone Park. That about the time I parked in the driveway.  So I walked into the house into my husband Steve’s office to learn more of the situation.

He looked at me and said he’s been on the phone for about an hour trying to figure out the best way to get Ryan help.  Steve said that Ryan’s car broke down about 5 miles east of Old Faithful.  So he was checking into the cost of having it towed, etc.  He found out to have it towed in Yellowstone you have to use the parks approved towing company.  He found out that it would cost over five hundred dollars to have it towed from where he was to just the East Entrance of Yellowstone.  Then it’d have to be towed from there into Cody which is about another seventy five miles away.

Steve then called UHaul and found we could rent a trailer that hauls cars for under fifty dollars.  Being that our main breadwinner is unemployed we couldn’t afford the towing for over five hundred dollars so we decided on this option.

So we hurried and did chores because we knew we’d be getting home around midnight.  Grabbed some water, some snacks, and of course my camera’s and took off for town to pick up the Uhaul trailer.

We had just got our 1993 Chevy Suburban fixed after it sat for a good part of the summer because it wouldn’t start.  This suburban has taken us to many places around the USA, Canada, and Alaska so needless to say it has 315,000 original miles on it.  So considering all that, we are reluctant to take it very far or trust it to long hauls.

Yet the other newer Suburban needs a new transmission that costs around two thousand dollars.  So we aren’t using it for many long drives now, certainly not for pulling a trailer on steep grades.  You can read about that story here. It was cheaper to fix the older suburban and use it.

After picking up the uhaul trailer we begin our Yellowstone Rescue, with little clue to what awaited us.

As we were traveling we all wondered whether Ryan had popped the question to Bri.  See his plan was to ask her to marry him.  He had stewed for some time how to make it a memorable event.  She had spent the week with us and he was on his way to take her home.  He planned some tricky things to trick her but the break down was not part of that plan.

I guess they had someone give them a ride to the Old Faithful Lodge.  It was a really good thing because they didn’t have cell reception and little did any of us know how long the wait would be.  Ryan did make good on the time and did ask her to marry him inspite of the upset in the plan.  His plan was to ask her at Old Faithful and so that part worked out.  They do have their own story about that part.

Little did any of us know the extent of how memorable this event will be for them.  Yep, introducing her to Murphy’s law at Old Faithful.  A sign that they should always remain faithful to each other no matter what comes into their lives (even Murphy’s law).

Anyhow as we are waiting in line at the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park we noticed that most of the cars would leave the pay booth, turn around and leave the park.  I thought that was odd but we didn’t think much more than that.  Well when it was our turn we found out the reason.  They closed the road (Fishing Bridge to West Thumb) that would take us to Old Faithful.  The other route was closed because of road construction (Norris to Madison).

So our only real option was to drive up to the North Entrance, into Montana, up to Livingston across to Bozeman and then head down into Idaho and to the West Entrance.  That just made our midnight tip into an all night long trip.  Here we thought we’d be home by midnight.  Now we were looking at about 8:00AM or 9:00AM.  Sad thing is that I had work at 8:00AM.

Well, we needed to rescue Ryan and Bri so we continued to travel onward through the park.  We did stop at two places where they had road blocks to see if things had changed and we could go the shorter route.  One ranger told us the road had a fire burning across it and that it would most likely remain closed till Saturday night late.

Here I’ve been wanting to go to Yellowstone to take pictures.  Every fall I do it about the first week of October.  It’s a perfect time to capture some great pictures.  I ruled it out this year because of costs and car problems.  Now here we were and yet we were fighting time.  So I really couldn’t stop for things and compose wonderful pictures.  There certainly was the opportunity.  We stopped maybe twice for me to do a little.

We got to Old Faithful about midnight.  Then we had troubles locating Ryan and Bri from the instructions they gave us.  We finally connected and took off to the broken down car. On the way they reported hearing that the road opened about 7:00PM that night.  That means that they opened it like ten minutes to a half hour after we asked.  Needless to say we weren’t happy about that.  That would have saved us many hours, many miles, money, and worry about our own suburban breaking down from a longer trip than planned.

Thankfully we had some flashlights.  Our next problem was getting the car up onto the trailer.  There was no hoist to pull the dead car up the ramp onto the trailer.  So we tried several different things.

One is that we pushed the car back up the slight incline to see if it would get enough momentum to go up onto the trailer.  Well it almost went off the ramp.  Not a good idea.  So we put our 14 year old in the car giving him instructions of driving carefully up the ramp and yet not going off the front so using the brakes, etc.

Then Ryan, Bri, Steve, Neal, and I pushed the car up the ramp and onto the trailer.  We tried keeping everyone on the sides so if it went back it didn’t run over someone.  Thankfully we got it up on the trailer with no problems except the effort of pushing.  Got it all hooked up and ready for the trip home.

We decided to risk going home the shorter route and see if it was indeed open.  It was! Yippie!!  Our trip will be a bit shorter.  We really didn’t know what to expect.  Of course it was dark but we couldn’t see any evidence that the fire burned across the road like we were told.  We figured we’d see red hot glowing spots.  None.  However we did see and smell lots of gagging smoke.  There were areas that was so thick you couldn’t see very far ahead.  Maybe a two car lengths ahead.

It was a spooky feeling.  What if we broke down in the dead of night?  It wasn’t a pleasant thought for sure.  It also made us feel grateful that Ryan and Bri’s car didn’t break down in that area.  They may have been forced to be towed out.  We also felt lucky that we didn’t use the tow because they would have been stuck by the road closer and ticking up the time.  They charged by miles and time.

We made it home safely at about 4:00AM on Saturday September 26th.  I slept about about 2 1/2 hours and then got up to go work.  Boy was I tired.

Below is the few pictures I did get while on the drive.  Some of them aren’t very good because I didn’t get to compose the pictures…some were snapped as we drove.  Not the best way to take a picture.


This is one of the first views that greeted us as we came off Sylvan pass and got to see Lake Yellowstone in one of the scenic pullouts.  We did stop so I could compose this picture.  It’s looking across Yellowstone Lake to the Lake Village area where the fire is burning.  The fire is called, “Arnica Fire”

I3_2748_09252009_SS_4x8_500Here is another shot that I composed from the same scenic pullout as above.  If you want to learn more about this fire then visit the Yellowstone park web site here.

I3_2757_09252009_SS_4x8_500This was taken from a scenic pullout along the route (I think it was in the Bear Lake Area) between Norris and Mammoth.  It’s looking southwards towards where the fire is burning.  Taken just before dark.

I3_2756_09252009_SS_4x8_500This is taken from the same rest stop as above except looking westward towards the setting sun.

I2_0115_09252009_SS_4x8_500This picture is taken from the suburban as it’s moving slowly enough for me to grab a quick picture.  This is taken as you come down into the Hayden valley area.

I2_0129_09252009_SS_4x8_500This was taken just before the Obsidian Cliff Area after leaving the Beaver Lake area scenic pullout.  There was a traffic jam with tons of pro photographers with all their fancy equipment set up to capture this herd of elk.  I had to be satisfied with taking this out of the suburban window as we moved in and around the traffic jam.

I3_2774_09252009_SS_4x8_500Mammoth is always full of elk in the fall.  It’s incredible how they take over the little town.  People have to really be careful walking around so as not to get charged by a bull elk.  This one was causing a stir.  A park police was following it around the best he could to make sure people stayed safe.  This was shot out of the suburban window as we waited at a stop sign.  It’s not a good picture because I had to use the flash, etc.  Yet it does show how incredible this bull elk is.

2 Responses

  1. Those are some cool pictures! I especially liked the first one of the heaven rays shining through the gloomy smoke clouds, well captured…

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