As we made our way across Idaho and towards Yellowstone, we started to climb and ended up spending the night on a high mountain pass with snow all over.
Yellowstone was inching closer and closer. The next morning we got up early and drove to the West Entrance of the first national park, which is open (as they say on their website) all year round. We had the park pass ready in our hot little hands and discovered the gate to be shut. In fact, that part of the park was closed. How surprising! We then detoured about 120 miles north to get to Bozeman, then another 100 miles south to get to the north entrance, where we were met with smiles and a bit of a pat on the butt to tell us to go back the way we came, after driving in the 5 miles to see Mammoth Hot Springs. Basically, that is the only part of the park that is open after early November. The town of Mammoth is filled with elk and sulfurous fumes, but is kind of quaint. We questioned the locals and found that there is in fact a route that goes through the park (which we had really wanted to do) but it involved a high risk, that the road, after going 50 miles through the park and exiting, then passing through a tiny town, dead ended in a "closed" road over a snowy pass. The closure of this road was disputable, however, and we elected to try it out. The Cheetah was up to the task and we made fine progress over icy roads to the dry stretches of Wyoming's high country, with the final result of Cody, Wy. Buffalo Bill Cody is the mascot (and perhaps the founder) of this town, which is a pretty little thing hiding behind the mighty Rocky mountains.
I remember this hot springs from coming here on a trip as a kid, in the Silver Bullet, a dodge caravan. It was in the summer of 1990 or 1989 or something like that, and very hot, with lots of obnoxious brothers and sisters. I was well behaved, of course.
We also went to a hot springs (Boiling River) at sunset to sit in the water. It was springs pouring out into the river water, so swirls of cold and warm waters mixing together. Wonderfully pleasant and it gave us a chance to talk with some of the wolf researchers who are working in the park over the winter. We spent the night just outside the park on a hill overlooking the town.
From there we spent the night in Thermopolis, a hot springs town, and then continued over South Pass (if you remember "the Oregon Trail") and had blasting winds and snow in our face, but found a way into Utah.
Before finally attaining sunshine and the southwest, we had to cross some passes, and we ended up spending the night at one, at 8,200 ft! Then a 9114 ft pass and down towards Arches.
Here we are ascending the last pass, and in the next post I'll discuss Arches and Canyonlands National Park. Let me say that they are great.