I had the best weekend! The first trip to the park every spring is always special, but this year’s venture had the extra bonus of knowing that so many citizens of Cody banded together to help make the east entrance snow plowing happen on time.
I am so proud of my peeps and the way they refused to let politics, budget cuts and a little snow get in the way of their livelihoods.
Anyway, I headed due west to the park – we locals usually refer to Yellowstone as “the park” – early Saturday morning. With the sun at my back the light was perfect, and I stopped several times along the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway to shoot some photos of the rock formations. While there are plenty of “Castle Rocks” and “Chimney Rocks” wherever you go, we have formations called “Old Woman and Her Cabin,” “Snoopy the Dog” and “Chinese Wall.” My favorite is “Laughing Pig Rock.”
As I departed the Wapiti Valley I waved to Buffalo Bill’s original hunting lodge – Pahaska Tepee – and headed up Sylvan Pass. Since I was in no hurry, I stopped at a pull out and looked over the edge and down at the road cars used almost 100 years ago. The old road was so steep that it circled back on bridges over itself to create a corkscrew effect. Vehicles often traveled backwards at times because it was so steep that gasoline would not flow from the gas tank to the carburetor any other way.
After meeting a friend at Lake Hotel for a couple of days of hiking and exploring, I decided to drive home via Lamar Valley and the town of Silver Gate. In Lamar I saw plenty of bison and elk, one grizzly bear, four wolves and two bighorn sheep.
After leaving the park, I was in Montana and drove through the small towns of Silver Gate and Cooke City before quickly returning to Wyoming and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Sights along this route include the single-span Sunlight Creek Bridge, the highest bridge in Wyoming and Dead Indian Pass overlook area where the Nez Perce tribe outran the U.S. Cavalry for several months in 1877. After driving down from the pass, I continued to Cody in the shadow of Heart Mountain.
I have made this trip more times than I can remember, but it never gets old and I always see something new.
Here’s a tip for you to help get your bearings. Go to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and check out the Draper Natural History Museum before you make this drive. The newest of the five museums at BBCW, the Draper provides a fantastic overview of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Make sure you stand at the railing overlooking the floor below with a tile map of the whole region. Then head down the winding ramps to learn about each elevation’s wildlife, geology, plant life and more.
Until next time, here’s to living the dream in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country.