Get ready for Part IX of our cross country road trip recap: Wyoming!
To recap, we drove 3,815 miles through 12 states, coast to coast. Our route took us through New York, Ontario in Canada, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, to Portland, Oregon. Check out the route:
After our extremely full day in South Dakota we arrived in Wyoming with an hour or so of daylight left.
In fact, we drove right into a lightning storm which is extra awesome when there’s nothing but sky around you.
After some last minute number crunching and finagling we decided to scrap our plans of driving north to Montana and instead drive across the entire state of Wyoming to get to Yellowstone National Park. Our original plan had us dipping into Yellowstone just briefly after an entire day in Montana. We looked at the itinerary and made the call that seeing all of Yellowstone was more important to us than the occasional cool thing in Bozeman or Billings, Montana. Road trips, however well planned in advance, do call for some flexibility. Off we went!
We set out super early the next morning. It was raining and the temperatures were really cold. Up until this point in our trip we’d been wearing short sleeves and had fabulous weather. Once we hit Wyoming the temperature dropped to about 40 degrees and it was overcast and rainy.
The drive from Sheridan, Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park was about 4 hours . About an hour into the drive we hit Bighorn National Forest. It was incredible.
We couldn’t believe we were seeing snow! At one point we pulled over and got out of the car just to breathe the freezing cold mountain air. That’s one way to feel alive at 8AM!
Every bit of this landscape was enormous and gorgeous.
When we emerged from Bighorn National Forest the clouds started to break and we drove into more incredible landscapes.
In Cody, Wyoming, about 3 hours into our drive, we came upon the Buffalo Bill Dam.
The Dam was built in 1910 and is an arch-gravity dam (like the Hoover Dam).
View from the dam of the Shoshone River reservoir:
From Cody it was another hour or so to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park. We arrived and familiarized ourselves with the map. From the East Entrance, here was our route through Yellowstone (doodle courtesy of my new iPad, blog on that coming soon!):
As we entered the East Entrance we started to see the first of many ever-changing landscapes within Yellowstone. The first half hour or so we drove through woods that has been ravaged with forest fires. It was sad, an enormous part of the park has been effected.
Shortly after coming out of the forest we arrived at Yellowstone Lake. The surroundings were pretty incredible and the coastline was dotted with hot springs.
Did I mention all of the awesomely graphic pamphlets we were given?
Finally we arrived at Old Faithful!
You’ve got to love those statisticians who have calculated a formula to tell visitors exactly when Old Faithful will erupt. It is nothing if not precise. The eruption times are posted clearly and are roughly every 15 minutes.
We had some time to kill before the next eruption so we walked around the area for a bit. There are actually a whole series of hot springs right next to Old Faithful. None erupt like it does though.
We walked back over to the viewing area and got a good spot to watch Old Faithful.
It “simmers” constantly, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to tell when it was erupting.
Well, I was wrong! Old Faithful shoots upward into the air about 100 feet. You can’t miss it!
It was a little hard to capture the drama of it because the sky and the steam were the same color. Pictures on a clear day with a blue sky (like this one) give you a really good idea about the spectacle of Old Faithful. Still, it was pretty amazing.
We got back in the car and headed 30 minutes north to the Grand Prismatic Spring. We came upon some mysterious traffic until we realized the back up was caused by a small herd of bison/buffalo crossing the road.
At the Grand Prismatic Spring you park and walk along a wooden pathway to visit all of the prismatic springs, the Grand Prismatic being the biggest and most colorful. There were about five of them.
Because of the weather the colors of the springs were a little hard to see. When the hot water meets the cold air more steam comes off the springs which is hard to see through unless a breeze blows the steam around. I’m imagining it’s easier to see in the summer.
Still, there was a lot to see in this small, concentrated area.
As we continued through the prismatic springs the colors became more pronounced.
The vivid colors in the spring are the result of pigmented bacteria that grow around the edges of the mineral rich water. The bacteria produce colors ranging from green to red and depend on the temperature of the water. The deep blue color of the water in the center is particularly intense because of the high purity and depth of the water in the middle of the spring.
After the prismatic springs, we drove one hour due north towards Mammoth Spring. Unsurprisingly, the route did not disappoint in terms of unbelievable landscapes.
And we got to see some more wildlife too!
A little bear (which caused a ridiculous traffic back up and people getting way too close to it which freaked me out):
Another bison herd:
By the time we got to Mammoth Spring we were wiped and only stopped briefly. We had just driven 4 hours within Yellowstone so who could blame us? This is the only picture I got of the Mammoth Spring area:
The route out of Yellowstone and on to Montana had even more amazing scenery:
I could drive all day surrounded by this stuff.
Stay tuned for Part X – Montana!