Waking early on our quiet side street in Cody, we were sorry to miss the staged ‘gun fights’ that still take place in town at 6pm every Monday to Saturday. This is after all Buffalo Bill’s old stomping grounds and the town was named after him (real name William Frederick Cody). However Betty was in no mood to stick around for such tourist activities, barely getting started for the trip through the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Supposedly one of the most scenic entrances to the park, we weren’t the least bit disappointed as the road lead us up through the dazzling Wapiti Valley at sunrise, and upon reaching the park entry we avoided the $25 entry fee with our NPS pass .
Having chosen this time of year for a summer road trip through the States, we weren’t quite expecting to encounter snow, but upon entering the park and reaching 8,524 ft through the Sylvan Pass that’s exactly what we did. Coming up upon Sylvan Lake the view of steam drifting off the surface was surreal, and we got our first glimpse of this massive volcanic park. Yellowstone is in fact a huge simmering Supervolcano, measuring 55 by 72 km (34 by 45 miles). That makes it huge, and for those craving more volcano facts and figures, Wikipedia will fill your brain with molten lava fueled facts. For those looking for a more apocalyptic view or hunting for the next site of total world annihilation, the proof is right here… http://armageddononline.tripod.com/volcano.htm. Turns out Yellowstone may just be the spot that could well destroy America, and potentially the world.
As acid rain settled in and frogs began to rain from the sky, we made our way to the quiet east entrance Visitor Centre where we pulled into a carpark to make breakfast, but it looked like we’d been beaten to it by a bison mimicking a pedestrian on the walkway. Grabbing the camera and jacking down the window, our lack of bison sightings in Badlands was more than made up for when this huge hunk of a beast strolled straight past Matt’s driver side window to check out what was on our breakfast plate. Turns out he wasn’t too interested and after a quick sniff he plodded away whilst we sat in awe.
We spent the rest of the day enjoying cruising from geyser to geyser, taking in Old Faithful in time to see it go off (which is does with amazing accuracy, see the clock at the nearby Visitor Centre for predicted timings), Firehole Lake Drive (signed with no RV access, yet we spotted several ignorant RV’s…glad they can read…get used to people not paying any attention whatsoever and causing all sorts of traffic jams!), watching a lone female buffalo taking a stroll down the road (triggering a bison-jam), and the old 5* favourite, Grand Prismatic Spring. This is one of the most stunning pools in the park, with spreading shades of orange, yellow, green and bright blue. Unfortunately with the grey skies and cold weather, we got to view it in spreading shades of white, grey, orange and the occasional hint of dark blue through the rising steam. Still, the boardwalk around the site takes you incredibly close to some boiling hot pools that make you glad you’ve got a good sense of balance. Just don’t take one too many steps back if your selfie doesn’t quite look right.
Having had our fill of hot water we couldn’t soak in, tourists who couldn’t park without blocking other tourists in and steaming apocalyptic horizons, we headed south through Grand Teton National Park on our way to Jackson. Crossing into our fourth National Park of the trip so far, we soon began to realise that each and every National Park has its own unique character, particularly noticeable from their distinctive landscapes. Yellowstone’s volatility and stunted forests soon give way to towering conifers and placid lakes with a backdrop of dizzily high mountain peaks. Whilst you could detour around Grand Teton and save yourself the $25 entry fee, we just added it to the growing list of savings – park pass $80, entrance fees to date $75. Besides, this is a great drive that connects Yellowstone to Jackson, where we stopped to check out the local Snake River Brewery.
While the staff were a little slow to react to our arrival (there were a lot of them around but nobody paying any attention to our parched lips and empty hands), once they arrived the beers were cold and full of flavour. We opted for the signature Pako’s EYE-P-A and a Dark Helmet (an imperial stout aged in whiskey barrels – now retired), however the beer menu is ever evolving, and with their passionate brewers, stunning views of Jackson’s location nestled between the mountains and highly recommended food, we can see why this place was so bustling. We’ve now put the nearby Jackson Hole ski resort on our ‘must ride’ list.
Returning to the road, roadfever seemed to have set in when Matt declared we had only seven hundred and ‘eleventeen’ miles to Vancouver. Both we and the Snake River meandered through the valley following the #26 to the Wyoming/Idaho border and past the Palisades Reservoir, outrunning an approaching storm which we managed to keep in the rear view mirror. Coming up to magic hour Sarah had her eyes peeled for wildlife and fallen rocks while Captain Cheese steered a steady ship along our highway route to Vancouver.