Monday, August 23, 2010

Washington to Washington, part 3

(...continued from Part 2)


Day 6.  Cody, WY to Yellowstone National Park.

First things first:  we had breakfast at the Mayor's Inn.
Eggs Benedict at the Mayor's Inn, Cody, WY
Yum.  Then we set out for the Sierra Trading Post Outlet in Cody and gave ourselves a half hour limit.  The co-pilot (we has since told me she wishes to be referred to as the Transporter), being from Mississippi and about 15 weeks pregnant, needed some warm clothes for Yellowstone.  So we emerged with fleece, hats, and gloves.  Within half an hour.  And that included a foray to the skis section (there were only 2 pairs of skis there).

On our way to the park, we stopped at Buffalo Bill Dam and picked up a random stamp.  The dam is touted as the tallest at the time it was built.  Not to be a total PITA, but doesn't it seem like every dam was the widest, largest in volume, tallest or whatever superlative at the time it was constructed?  Just sayin'.

We entered Yellowstone NP through the east entrance and almost immediately encountered bottlenecking due to some bison that were hanging out in a field.  We had decided earlier that driving the entire Figure 8 would be ambitious, so we settled for the lower loop and skipping, among others, Mammoth Hot Springs.  Both the Transporter and I had been to Yellowstone previously.  In fact, it was the impetus for my 6th grade science fair project on geysers.  I [heart] gesyers!  

Anyway, our first stop in the park was Lake Village, on the north end of Yellowstone Lake, for a park stamp.  We made a stop at a geothermal spot, said hello to a bison that was just lying around (I am convinced they all drew straws that morning to see who would have to go out for the tourists), and I ditched the Transporter for a quick jaunt up a hill to see some geysers, passing more bison along the way.  
From there we went north to Canyon Village, for another stamp, and more importantly, lunch.

We continued counterclockwise to Norris, got a little disoriented – which is a little embarrassing because, the drive is, after all, a CIRCLE – and then headed towards Old Faithful, where we had a basic cabin reserved for the night.  The key to exploring Yellowstone by car, by the way, is to just duck into the side roads that may or may not be marked on the map.  They're less crowded than the main loop road, and often you'll be sharing geysers and thermal pools with less than 10 other people.
Hot spot on a side road
We made a quick stop at Madison Lake for a stamp (and begged the ranger to open the store for us to actually stamp our passports).  We also took in the view and chatted ever so briefly with a guy wearing an LSU hat and that the Transporter thought would be perfect for me.  Seriously, this guy looked like he was 21.  And we'd never see him again.

It was time for dinner at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and then a night in our cabin.  Half the guide books we read said that the cabins were little more than a tent.  I don't know what kind of tent those writers have been staying in, but the cabin was sturdy and reminded me of the private cabins that my friends Elizabeth and Eric stayed in in Patagonia.  I mean, this cabin put to shame the sheet metal with exposed fiberglass hunting-shed-turned-"cabin" that I stayed in at a yoga retreat in West Virginia a year ago.  It's all relative.
Old Faithful Budget Cabin

 Day 7.  Yellowstone NP to Jackson, WY

At breakfast at the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room, we had noted the time of Old Faithful's next eruption and headed behind the geyser to Observation Point.  Let me just say, I don't hang out with many pregnant women.  And when I do, it's not to do physical activities.  Most of my pregnant friends, uh, go home after work.  Observation Point is a well-pitched incline up above Old Faithful and the geyser basin.  It's a more interesting view of Old Faithful than down where the bleachers are on the boardwalk.  The Transporter humored me.  Actually, she was humored because a family came up to the observation area, and she was convinced it was LSU boy's family.  Well, she was half right.  It wasn't his family, but LSU boy did show up.  And looked about 18 years old (he shaved this morning), and this time, the Transporter agreed.
Old Faithful Geyser from Observation Point
Old Faithful was on time, although the steam the geyser emitted sort of blocked our view. Which is just as well because all of my closeup photos from this were rather blurry, so you'll just have to settle for this photo. The trail to Observation Point heads out to Solitary Geyser, which was a treat, and then returns to the boardwalk where the masses gather. The boardwalk is an unfortunate necessity to viewing this particular geyser basin. Because we were doing merely a drive-by, rather than spending a significant amount of time in the park, it made sense for us to wander around with the masses. By the time we circled back, about an hour had passed, and Old Faithful was set to go at any minute. And we got a better view the second time around. Yay!

From Old Faithful, we set out to finish the loop. We had lunch near the Continental Divide and then picked up our last Yellowstone stamp at Grant Village before exiting through the South Exit toward Grand Teton National Park.  We drove down the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Highway that everyone exiting via the South Exit does. We caught our first glimpse of the Tetons as we made our way around Jackson Lake. We stayed west and headed to Jenny Lake, stopping at a viewpoint to walk down to the lake. Amazing, amazing views! We picked up stamps at Colter Bay Visitor Center, Jenny Lake Visitor Center and the fancy schmancy new Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose Junction (there was also a girl in a prom dress there, but we'll ignore that because my brain can't process that).
Jenny Lake.
Lodging for the night:  the Lexington at Jackson Hole (we definitely paid for location), although its breakfast was pretty good; yummy dinner at Lotus Café.  We'd been traveling for a week!

(to be continued....)

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