After leaving Big Sky, we headed into Yellowstone park for a few days of sightseeing and wildlife watching. We entered through the west side of the park and immediately came upon a female elk grazing by the river. We headed north and west, stopping at Norris Geyser Basin and then by Mount Washburn, where a ranger and a horde of tourists had spotted a grizzly by the road. Unfortunately the bear had left by the time we got there. This was my first time to the park and I was really impressed by the geothermal features. The different colors and textures of the geysers and different pools were amazing. We then headed into the far northwest corner of the park to the Lamar Valley, where the wildlife spotting was supposed to be great. We saw pronghorns, bison, and deer all along the valley floor. It was truly a stunning drive. We exited the park that afternoon and headed for Cody, WY to camp and check out the town.
Cody is a true western town, complete with real live cowboys on every corner. There happened to be a classic car street festival in town the night we rolled in, so we parked the Westy and strolled around for a bit. We camped at the Ponderosa campground, right next to another couple “van camping”. They were in their late 50s or early 60s and from Seattle and were taking about 10 days in the Yellowstone and Teton area. They gave us some great tips on what to see in Yellowstone the next day and also some great info on which route to take up to the Northwest. They were traveling in a Sportsmobile van, which is a converted Dodge cargo van. It was a really similar setup to the Vanagon, but with a different kind of pop-up top and a little more modern.
The next day in Cody, Tom worked for a little bit in the morning and I cruised around downtown on my bike. I went to the Dug-up Gun Museum, which is one gentleman’s collection of antique “found” guns and weapons dating all the way back to the 1800s through WWII. He has about 800 guns on display, it was pretty interesting. That afternoon we ate lunch at the Proud Cut Saloon. A proud cut is apparently a horse or bull that has been castrated, but the procedure is botched and he still thinks he’s a stud. The specials sign out front is even decorated with bull testicles. We did indulge in some Rocky Mountain Oysters which weren’t too bad, but mostly tasted like breading and cocktail sauce. After lunch we biked over to Old Trail Town, where they have transplanted and preserved buildings from the old west, including the Hole in the Wall gang’s hideout and several homestead cabins.
After our western adventure, we headed back to Yellowstone via the southwest entrance, this time headed for Hayden Valley to hopefully spot wolves, to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and to see Old Faithful. We didn’t spot any wolves, but TWICE our car was surrounded by bison. Those suckers are HUGE.
Two days of driving around the park was enough for us at that point, so we headed south to Teton National Park for some backpacking and camping.