I had called the Yellowstone National Park number to check if the park was open. Some of it was but “snow Tires” were mandatory. I thought I would drive up to the entrance and ask the Ranger in the hut.
“Well, you should be OK”, said the woman in the Rangers uniform with the Mountie-type hat.
“Mite icy so drive slow and you should be OK. It is slushy but will get better when the sun gets on it”
She gave me a lot of leaflets including one on not approaching wildlife. I remembered this from AA1 when I visited Yosemite. It seems each year people go and try and have their picture taken with the wildlife which either runs away, gets run over by their cars as it tries to flee, or just gets fed up with the whole process and eats them.
As I drove away I heard her say probably to herself.
“Though it could get worse…”
Nothing prepared me for the views. It was jaw dropping. Breathtaking. There was silence and no wildlife at all.
I drove on very slowly at times as the roads were treacherous.
Saw some steam over to my right and soon found some thermal activity.
I got out of the car and headed toward it. The specially constructed walkways were icy. It was also blowing a stiff and cold breeze. Took a few pics and headed on. Couple passed me as they headed back to their car. They smiled and nodded and uttered a single word: “Tough”
Made it down to Old Faithfull the geyser we have all seen on the TV. I think it had just erupted as a small crowd of people were heading away from it. Some of the smiled and nodded and said: “Tough”
At this time of the year the roads are closed beyond this point so you can’t get to see the lake. Bearing in mind the previous day I had rounded “Harry’s Lake” which was vast and still mainly frozen; I could see why the roads were still impassable. The park where I was boasted an elevation of about 7000 feet above sea level.
All this while neither a sight nor sound of any wildlife other than birds.
Retraced my steps back up to the fork at Madison and headed to Norris. Rounded a corner and found cars parked wildly all over the road making it nearly impassable.
Crowded on the verge were about a dozen people all with their cameras trained…..
On a BEAR!!!
It was foraging in an unconcerned manner about 50 yards away.
I reckoned that if it decided that the roots it was digging up were frankly too dull and it wanted some tasty flesh, I was at the back of the scrum and was definitely older and less tender than some of the meals on offer. Plus, I had left the door open and the engine running. So should he/she (Sorry I don’t know bear gender unless they are wearing clothes like in cartoons) decide to make a rush at the spectators, I could be in the car and away before you could say…
“Ow! I am being eaten by a bear.”
Then the road took me to Mammoth Hot Springs. More steam, more amazing views and a load of Japanese tourists. They smiled and nodded and said in Japanese (I am guessing here.) “Tough”.
Shortly after that I exited via the North East Entrance.
At this point the weather started to deteriorate. The skies grew dark and the snow started to fall.
I also began to get a bit nervous. I was still travelling in an upwards and occasionally downwards directions. The roads were icy and dicey. The views were still stunning of snowy peaks and pine forest. By this time I was seeing Bison, Buffalo and Elk at nearly every turn.
At one point just after Cooke City I lost my nerve and turned back.
By the side of the road, scooping up bucket loads of snow with his mechanical digger, was a man straight out of Central Casting. He had a fur-trimmed hat, a checked padded jacket and mittens. He slid the window back as I walked toward him and said…
“Excuse me, is the road closed up ahead?”
“Nope 12 miles take a left onto the 290”
He slid the window shut not before I thought I heard him say “tough”.
He was right. I braved the next couple of miles and then the road dried out it warmed up and I headed for Cody.
As I drove I thought about the day. The places I had been and the places I had seen and the things that the people I had met had said.
Of course. Everyone I had met was swathed in hats and scarves and boots and gloves.
I was wearing a jacket a T shirt. Jeans and sandals. No socks. (What do you take me for a vicar?) To them I was tough. To me, I was just underprepared but luckily never very far from the car.
It is May for goodness sake, where is the heat?
Took the road to the North East Exit and then headed to Cody
Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter @alexthedarklord to find out what I am upto, and also on Audioboo to hear my reports, also @alexthedarklord.