Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Yellowstone, WY

The drive from the Devil's Tower in east Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park in west Wyoming is a long one.  It's about a 9-10 hour drive, which we split into two days.  By the time we stop to fill and empty our water tanks, get fuel a couple of times, get lunch, wait for road construction, and stop to view the beautiful scenery in the Big Horn Mountains which we cross, we make it only as far as the town of Emblem, population 10 (not kidding).  This is BLM land (Bureau of Land Management, aka federal land), and we pull off into the parking lot of an historic marker for the Bridger Trail - a wagon road from 1864 to the gold fields of western Montana to the north.  We are one hour from Cody (as in Buffalo Bill) where we will grocery shop in the morning and continue to the park.  It's gorgeous here.  We're at the top of a valley with mountains (think Rocky Mountains) all around us.  There are wild horses, managed by the BLM about 1 mile away, grazing in the field.  A plaque where we are camped tells us that native horses went extinct here in America about 8,000 years ago.  It was the Spaniards who brought horses back to America in the 1600s.  As the sun sets behind the west ridge, the sky glows red, as if a fire is burning, and there are fires burning out here - we saw the smoke billowing from the range as we headed into the Big Horn Mountains.

Looking west, from the Bridger Trail stop, our "campsite" for the night
We have a rude awakening at 5:30am.  (Ron, you'll like this Grady story!)  Grady is racing and pouncing all over our bed.  He usually does have a lot of energy in the morning, but I can tell he's playing with something.  "Brad, he's got something and I know all of his toys are put away," I say.  I turn on my bed light and there it is.  A little mouse hiding under Brad's pillow with only his tail hanging out.  Grady is very proud of himself - "I brought you a present.  Do you like it?  Can I keep him?"  Brad picks up the little guy by his tail and it seems totally unharmed.  This is Grady's second mouse ever.  The first, a couple of years ago in our dining room at home, he played with and didn't kill either.  Brad takes it outside to release it while Grady searches the bed for his prize.  Well, it could have been a lot worse.  The mouse could have run across my head or under the covers and down my leg!

En route into the park, we pass the Buffalo Bill Dam.  It's quite impressive.  There is also a state park here named after the famous hunter.  Bill Cody got his nickname because he hunted buffalo in the 1800s and supplied railway workers with buffalo meat.  There is a huge museum dedicated to Buffalo Bill in the town of Cody, but we need to get to Yellowstone and find a campsite so we don't stop in.  The drive is gorgeous, not as forested as I thought it would be, more dry and plains-looking.  But there are mountains and valleys and the pine trees become more plentiful as we climb in elevation - to around 7,200 feet.  We plan to stay several days, perhaps a week.  Yellowstone National Park is huge and has a lot to offer.

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