Hypothetically, this amounts to about four and a half hours of driving. In practice, it is not feasible to drive through Yellowstone Park at the speed limit in July. Herds of sleepy
bison Winnebagos amble along the road. More about bison and RVs later. First, we didn’t have to rush in the morning as far as the driving hours were concerned, but we were tipped off by the evening Front Desk guy that we should come early if we want a table in the small breakfast room. They open at 0600 and we were there fifteen minutes later. Cody is at about 5000 feet, so getting water hot enough to make good tea is a problem. Water from a lobby thermos is hopeless – we boiled some in the microwave.
We heard there was an attractive river walk of exactly the right length. As usual, we started at the wrong end, where the only way down from the canyon-like river bank was by two looong flights of metal stairs. At the other end, you can drive down to a picnic site. Maybe next time. Anyway, the walk was nice, with crushed rock paths on raised beds, like walking along the tops of small dikes. We only met a handful of other walkers, possibly because we started at 0700. This walk is not heavily landscaped, it features mainly natural vegetation and just one or two benches or trash cans, but the Shoshone River is beautiful, with little rapids. Cody is pretty, too; it could have been an awful tourist trap, but the western theme comes across as genuine.
We showered at the hotel and then made a trip to the grocery store before checking out. We were on the road by about 1000 and entered Yellowstone at the East Entrance at roughly 1100. Official map. There were lots of picnic sites to choose from, so we picked the one with the most wasps. You’d be surprised how much time you can save that way.
The park was pretty crowded, with a big traffic jam at Hayden Valley because a herd of bison had the tourists surrounded. Rangers were trying to keep the dumb beasts moving, but some of them just had to stop and take pictures. One thing that was cool – off in the distance, we could see a herd swimming across the river. That’s something I never saw before. Too far away to take a picture, and every available place to pull off the road was packed. Later on, we saw a bunch of people with telephoto lenses and binoculars examining a black spot that might have been a bear, and just as we were leaving by the North Entrance, we saw a similar crowd ogling a brown thing with antlers that we assume was an elk. I will admit that we do not have elk in our back yard at home, but we were getting tired and wanted to get some driving done, so we didn’t stop. In the end, we made it to Bozeman at around 1600.
With a bit more time and energy than last night, we’re going to see if we can get into Plonk for dinner. It’s a wine bar, in case you hadn’t guessed. More later.