Thursday, August 23, 2007
Road Trip, Day 6
Wyoming, Montana, to Yellowstone
Today started with us trying to work out the logistics of the next couple days, lodging-wise, weather-wise, travel-wise. Since we'd heard all these horror stories about Yellowstone being full up and no lodging to be had, Fernanda was calling the 800 reservations number. I was trying to use the pathetic, on-again, off-again, only-works-from-one-spot motel wifi to get some alternative information on other places to stay, on weather conditions, and plot out some travel routes. In the end Fernanda made a reservation for the last room available in Yellowstone at the Mammoth Hot Spring Hotel, which doesn't even have a bathroom en suite, and was fairly pricey compared to what we've paid so far. For the next night I made an argument for staying outside the park at one of the adjoining towns, West Yellowstone or Gardiner, Montana. I had web listings for a bunch of motels, and she called a few, and made a reservation for the next night at one of them. Between rain and near-freezing temperatures in the forecast, camping was out (yay!), at least for the next few days.
So, lodging secured, we had to decide now what route to take: the typical, picturesque smaller road straight through Wyoming route, or the Interstate, up through Montana, down to Yellowstone from the north, route. Both would take about the same amount of time according to Google, but one would take us through Montana, a state I've never been to; last time I did this trip in a summer of the early 80s, Montana had been closed due to snow. The weather finally decided it, since it looked like it would be raining all day in Wyoming. Montana, here we come!
Out on the road shortly after 9. Fernanda driving. Mileage around 34 mpg.
The border to Montana passes inconspicuously. It's the Crow Indian Reservation. The Montana visitors welcome center isn't for almost 60 miles, when the reservation ends. We pulled off at one of the exits within the reservation to fill up. Gas, contrary to what our host yesterday had claimed, is not cheaper in Montana. The town we pulled in at was run down and depressed, dead cars rotting in yards, boarded up buildings, neglect. Depressing.
We also stopped at the Little Bighorn Battleground National Monument. Our "America the Beautiful" park pass got us in. We walked the path down through the battlefield. For me it wasn't so much about the battle but being able to walk into the prairie hills and have them surround you, and see the huge horizon way off all around you.
After we drove through the rest of the battle fields, we stopped in for lunch at the Indian "Trading Post" tourist trap right outside the entrance. The weather was nice and we ate outside.
Onward now to Billings, a sizable city in Montana -- it has at least two "sky scrapers", using the definition that a sky scraper has more than 20 stories. We filled up, and bought groceries at the supermarket, signing up for their frequent shopper card to get some discounts. So now if we're ever shopping in Montana again, we have a discount card already.
Now we pushed on down the Interstate to route 89, which leads south into Yellowstone. I drove this leg. If I haven't mentioned it enough already, the scenery -- even along the Interstate -- was amazing, and subtly different from Wyoming to Montana, sometimes farm, sometimes grazing land, sometimes rolling hills, sometimes cliffs with pine trees, always beautiful. It only got more so as we turned down towards Yellowstone and through the mountain valley. As we turned south, we finally began to hit the weather we had so far avoided. But it wasn't really bad, and at one point we had the most spectacular full double rainbow. I had to pull over to admire it.
As we gained altitude and rain, it got colder, and windier. At the entrance to the park at Gardiner, we got out to take a picture by the Roosevelt arch and realized we couldn't continue dressed for high summer. So, on into Yellowstone!
We drove to the hotel and were immediately greeted by elk. We checked in, dumped our bags and grabbed sweaters and jackets and umbrellas, since it was raining. It was around 6, and we wanted to make the most of the remaining day and see some of the park. Our room, while big, had no bathroom. In fact, there seems to be only one shower for the whole floor. I wonder how that's going to work out...
We drove out, and amost immediately came to our first stop, the Mammoth Hot Springs, and we were out hiking up along them. Recent seismic activity, I've been lead to believe, has shifted the hot spots, so where the wooden path is built is no longer close to all the active springs. But there are still springs to see, and as we walked along the rain stopped. By the time we got back to the car it was almost 8. We drove on deeper into the park. At about sunset, we saw a bunch of people stopped by the side of the road, looking out across the field. Apparently there were some moose, but we couldn't really tell, it was just getting dark, and apparently we failed to pack a decent pair of binoculars; I think some heads will have to roll. I pulled into a pull-in a little down the road and got out and walked down a trail to a river to get a little closer, but as soon as I stepped down into the field I couldn't see anything past the tall grass. But is was peaceful in the twilight by the river in the field.
I turned around, we drove back to the lodge, and had some food, and I discovered there is no wifi service. So no posted entry tonight.
Tomorrow: more Yellowstone! (view pictures)
Our New Bathroom Saga
Road Trip South
Our Trip to Ireland
Google Map of our Trip
Road Trip: The End
Road Trip, Day 27
Road Trip, Day 26
Road Trip, Day 25
Road Trip, Day 24
Road Trip, Day 23
Road Trip, Day 22
Road Trip, Day 21
Road Trip, Day 20
Road Trip, Day 19
Road Trip, Day 18
Road Trip, Day 17
Road Trip, Day 16
Road Trip, Day 15
Road Trip, Day 14
Road Trip, Day 13
Road Trip, Day 12
Road Trip, Day 11
Road Trip, Day 10
Road Trip, Day 9
Road Trip, Day 8
Road Trip, Day 7