Day #12: Big Sky, MT to Cody, WY

Hover over the pictures to get the caption for each one.

The breakfast buffet at Buck's was top-notch. I took the kids to eat, but Will drank one of his shakes and finished up some work he needed to do. We checked out and left by 8am since we knew we would have a long day. The first several miles were breathtaking, but I was constantly dreading every turn, thinking that I was about to be dropped in onto one of those roads like we were on yesterday. We saw the wildlife guys sitting in pullouts, watching and taking notes on the fires that were burning. We saw a few small wisps but no raging fires; just lots of smoke. About 50 miles in, we saw cars on both sides of the road so we stopped and there was an elk on the edge of the river. At first, we were a bit snobbish at the "tourists" who were blocking the road and who had tunnel vision getting pics of animals. How dare they slow our progress. Then we remembered that we were one of those tourists so we may as well act like them; and we busted out of the car and ran over to the elk to see who could get the first and BEST picture. We got way closer than I knew we should be, and I took a minute to remind the kids that, "this is a wild animal, not a tame one at the zoo, so be respectful of it's space and don't get close to it." The people next to us scoffed and I thought, "yeah, people like you are the ones who star in youtube videos of tourists getting pummeled by animals." I didn't keep up with how many miles you can drive into Yellowstone National Park via Hwy 191, before you have to pay admission. I think we paid $35 for the whole carload. After a few miles we came to Firehole Falls Loop and I'm so glad we took that loop. The falls were amazing, we saw a mule deer walking through the creek, and the rocks were stunning. We had planned to just drive through Yellowstone, go to Jackson Hole, and come back up and out the other side, to Cody, Wyoming for the night. We did NOT think this through very well. This was well beyond a drive-through trip, and now we found ourselves stressed, trying to look at every single thing but knowing that we had a full day of driving to do.

The whole time we were in the park, we could tell that the fires were not really burning out. The smoke was not in plumes but it still filled the air and the valleys too. We were still able to see that we could have spent a week here. If we had that much time, we would have swam at Firehole Falls and at the Boiling Creek, and taken the trails. Living in Alaska, I always felt sorry for the tourists that would drive through and they probably felt like they "saw" Alaska, while I knew that they were just skimming the surface. Getting to see Alaska the way we did, I know that we were skimming the surface of Yellowstone and that made all of us want to see the "real" stuff. We drove past the geyser basins and all the way out the south gate. Just so you know, right before the south gate, the road opens up all of a sudden and BAM ...... straight drop off into the abyss, fast cars zipping through curves, people standing in the road taking pictures, and thank goodness it came up so fast that I had driven through most of it before it could make me panic. But what hung over my head?? That's right ... we were headed to Jackson Hole and then I knew we had to come right back past here and THAT time I would be on the edge. I started praying right then!!

We passed out of Yellowstone and the road became Roosevelt Parkway and then we entered Grand Teton National Forest but there was no entrance/fee area. The road to Jackson Hole is pretty flat until about 15 miles away, you are driving on top of a huge "mesa area" and when I looked down I could not see the bottom. Ahhh - these drop offs are killing my vacation mood. I was so stressed knowing that we had to backtrack this area, that I almost didn't enjoy going to the Haggen dasz Shop for ice cream (that may be an exaggeration). We also wanted coffee so we found this really cool (Will says hippy) shop where we fell sucker to their "alternative to coffee" that is called Turmeric Latte. If you think that sounds dreamy, think again. I like spices, turmeric, lattes, and I also eat flower petals but this combination was painful. We both gave it a shot but about 1/3 of the way through our cups, we regretted not having an ole fashioned cup of black coffee. The coffee was supposed to be my security blanket for the trip back but in God's fashion, He has brought me back to just relying on Him. How much practice does it take before that sinks in with me? I don't know but I'll tell you when I figure that out.

Headed back, we found that we had to pay to get into the park again. When we paid this morning, the guy said, "Show your receipt and get back into the park for seven days." But what we failed to ask is, "Does that apply to Grand Teton when you re-enter from the South Gate." That answer was "no". It stunk to pay $70 to drive through and realize that we really didn't see enough but it's done now, and we have some beautiful experiences from today. We had to go about halfway back into the park, and the go East on Hwy20 where there were some beautiful marshy areas, new construction, and a village of stores and tourist traps (to include an auto repair shop). Then we got into some more of the cliffs and just when I thought we were out, we hit a downhill slope through Sylvan Pass and it went on for miles and miles and miles, where we drove on the outer lane of this ridiculously steep hillside that felt like it was about to sluff off any minute. My hands are sweating now just thinking about it because we had to ask Garrett to stop saying, "WOW look how far down that is! Imagine if the car fell off THIS!" Then he told us about the high roller coaster he was making in Minecraft. Kids. Sylvan Pass is honored to be listed on "Dangerous" but the picture does not in anyway show the treachery of this pass. Also, it was built in 1914 so I advise you to find another way into Yellowstone.

When that junk was over, we finally got into some country that God made JUST for me. It is the Shoshone National Forest. I wanted to explore all those rocky tops (on foot mind you) and the valley is so beautiful. Just outside of here is where Cody, Wyoming begins, and where our Green Creek Inn and RV Park sat on some very welcomingly FLAT ground. I have heard my momma say so many times, "the land here is just so flat", talking about Slapout. I never really realized how much I love flat Slapout until now :). We got checked into the cabin and it has two bedrooms. Will and I have a queen bed and the kids have two SETS of bunkbeds in their room. Garrett wanted me to sleep with him tonight but after this second day of near-death driving fears I had to conquer, I told him we'd have to wait another night or two.

We washed clothes ($2 to wash and $1.75 to dry is adding up) and went to the Yellowstone Valley Inn for supper. I couldn't help but notice that out of seven families in there, only two of us spoke English. The other people were speaking French or German. So at first I thought we were emersing ourselves in the local Cody culture, but really we were "just another tourist" in a restaurant full of tourists. Hmmm.

In all today, we drove 337 miles, and were in the car for 11 hours.