Day 9: Big Horn Canyon
9 June 2015
So, the scenery...
Heading West from Ranchester, Bighorn National Forest wound us up the mountains and back down, with wonderful spring views all around. Nick's got a time lapse of the drive here. Good thing we'd reached a destination, because his yawns get more frequent as the second half otf the video goes on… The road finally delivered us to the other side of the Bighorn Mountains, with expansive western views of the drylands. I had spotted Bighorn Canyon National recreation Area, just over the Montana border in the Crow reservation, so we decided to make a pit stop.
On our way out, we caught some glimpses of an offroad playground.
We drove on West, through Cody, and then hit some traffic from road work. While the Montanan view was wonderful from inside the car, we decided to turn off to feel the air better and check out the giant pile of antlers by the road. This also gave us a better look at the strange in-progress building on the hill. The pile turned out to be the billboard for the Mystic Lady, a shop for all your Wyoming gift needs, mostly made out of antlers.
The proprietor gave us a piece of cut antler for Aurora, perhaps because we'd shown interest in his tale, and thus his life, maybe even his whole being, as dense with sadness and forlornness as it was. We got on our way, heading over the Sylvan Pass, and into Yellowstone.
The lake greeted us with spectacle.
We stayed on the East side of the park for the day.
We made a quick stop at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, beating back the hordes of tourists to get a view. We didn't stay long.
We stopped at one of the campgrounds for an early dinner, enjoying the surroundings as the sun began to roll downhill.
We then began a journey that would take us deep into the night.
Heading Northeast, along the winding (and sometimes fast) roads along the tall hills, we caught glimpses of meadows so vast I wondered if they could even be called meadows. Bison lounged dreamily in small herds, never worried about anything, it seemed. We had heard that the wolf pack would be headed South into the park from Montana that evening, so people were set up everywhere watching. Teams were tracking them, and I thought we might be able to see some.
We parked way up near the Northeastern edge of the park, got our stuff together, and headed out along the road to another turn-out about a half mile or so away. I think it was the Lamar Valley, and we were headed to an inlet to a trail to set up camp maybe a mile or two in. Where we'd parked should have had a smaller trail that fed into that one, but the fields were flooded and impassible. Once we got to the trailhead, camping supplies and dog crate in tow (in National Parks, dogs must stay on pavement), we met a bunch of folks sitting in fold-out chairs, talking about the bears they'd just seen. Now, Teysia had been a bit worried about this from the start, and this little kid was joking about the size and whatnot, but she took it seriously and the "big brown bear" meant a griz to her, though they were talking about cinnamon bears and the like, which are actually black bears of various colors, depending on region. We had bear spray, a dog with us, and no food or food scent on us.
We got to the bridge over the creek (the same one that overflowed by where we'd parked), but Teysia couldn't commit to the night in the woods. It was a solid blow to the trip in terms of expectation and desire, because it made it pretty apparent that there were people of two different minds on the trip, with different willingness and eagerness to do "adventurous" (risky) things.
So we set back on the shoulder of the road with all our stuff, and some one actually pulled over and started to yell at us and flick his cigarette at us for walking on the shoulder (there are many signs forbidding walking along the road). I tried to reason with him that we'd parked down there to hike up the trail, etc., but he didn't care. I guess he just wanted to enforce the sign, behind which he had no authority or reason to enforce it. Nick got on his ass pretty quickly and the guy eventually blew off. It wasn't a great interaction, especially with the change in plans.
We hopped back into the car and set back South, aiming for Old Faithful. We had originally planned to get up at like 4am to hike out and drive there for sunrise, but instead we were driving there late to get up early. The night drive was pretty nice once we got out of a bison jam. The park's pretty big, so it took at least an hour and a half to get to the Old Faithful Lodge.
Never saw any wolves.
We found a parking space and hunkered down for the night.
This was by far the most uncomfortable night of the trip for me. I was in the back seat, which didn't lay back any, and the windows had to be cracked keep the condensation at bay, but it was damn cold. The sleep was restless and crooked, and dawn seemed so far away.