Our Yellowstone adventure began with us getting a random hello from a stranger while filling the Travato at a gas station in West Yellowstone before heading into the park. That hello was from Randy, asking ‘Are you with Orion Coolers? I’m the guy who bear tests them. Do you want to see our bears?’
Why yes, we are from Orion Coolers. And yes, we’d love to see your bears. And yes it’s a random, small world. Randy was from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. The facility is home to many bear, wolf, birds of prey and other rescued wildlife, and it’s also where we do in fact send Orion Coolers for bear-proof testing. They are partnered with the Forest Service, and products are physically tested by real bears at the Discovery Center to see how long they last against claws and teeth trying to get in. Once a required time has transpired, if the contents remain intact, you pass, and the testing is issued to the Forest Service, which grants a certification number. Then the product is considered safe for use as a bear-proof container in areas where food storage in such containers is required, like some national parks and wilderness areas.
We met Randy at the center just a few blocks from the gas station, and met wolves and bears (like Sam pictured here), and learned about how they maintain their animals in some very unique ways that keep them active and behaving like wild bears. They only expose them to the public for short periods throughout the day, resting them during others, and always searching for food, which is what active, wild bears do. They have examples of failed products, passed products, good and bad ways of setting up camp in bear country, and a bunch of other informative displays. It’s a great place to visit if you’re headed towards Yellowstone.
Unfortunately we did so without camping reservations. That was a mistake. Despite seeing ‘Full’ signs for every campground, I rolled the dice and pulled into the Madison Campground to see if we could get lucky with any cancellations. Turns out luck was on our side, and sure enough they found a spot for us. Madison Campground is right on the Madison River, at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers. There is good fly fishing right there within walking distance from the campground. You do need a special fishing license within the park, available from any campground registration desk or visitor center.
After registration and checking out the campground, we drove some of the scenic loop roads, seeing some of the classic volcanic sights Yellowstone is so famous for, like Old Faithful geyser. We got there just in time for an eruption within minutes of hitting the boardwalk.
By evening, we were setup in our lucky campsite, awning deployed and working on an early dinner so I could go fishing. Tripper rested on his outdoor bed, supervising while Ash cooked up some venison sausages, sautéed broccoli and rice on the Camp Chef stove. After dinner, I made my way to the river, fishing until dark, with elk walking up the river bottom, fish hitting the surface, and geese flying by the full moon rising. River life isn’t so bad after all.
Camp Chef Rainier Stove
In the back of the Travato, next to the Plano trunks under the bed is where we store the Camp Chef Rainier stove. It’s a multi-burner stove, with a stove, grill and griddle offering lots of cooking options in a compact package. You can fuel it with standard Coleman fuel cartridges, or there’s an RV quick-connect hose you can connect to the LP port on the back corner of the Travato. The interior kitchen is great, but one of the great things about RV life is life outside, so when it’s nice out, cooking outside is a wonderful option to enjoy.
Tripper is definitely a spoiled adventure dog, but one way of keeping excess dust and dirt out of the Travato is a nice dog’s beg outside for him too so he doesn’t get covered and bring it in. For that, we use the Ruff Wear Mount Bachelor Pad. It’s a roll up bed with an easy to clean cover. We shake it off, roll it up nice and compact, and store it in the compartment over the front seats in the Travato.