Last week I left you all in a hotel room in Helena, Montana. It was a lovely room. There was a hot tub and a pool. Boy, did I sleep well there! Looking at the pictures today, I realize that the previously mentioned Montana Grizzly Encounter was the next day, on Bozeman Pass, not too far north of Yellowstone. We reached the northern gate of Yellowstone National Park late in the afternoon. The weather had been just beautiful for two weeks, and now it was cold, windy and starting to rain. We checked into the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, had dinner and it started raining in earnest. There was a great show in the hotel, with historic photos and narrative of the park in the early years. We were warm and cozy there. Our room was in the old part, way down the end of a long hallway. The pipes banged and popped all night, but after traveling as much as we had, we were pretty good at sleeping through it!
The next morning we learned that snow had closed the road we wanted to take south through the park, so we decided to take a side trip on Chief Joseph Scenic Byway to Cody, Wyoming. The scenic byway was totally socked in with fog, snow, hoarfrost and more fog. It took a long time to get over the mountains and below the clouds, then we found ourselves at a beautiful canyon, outside of Cody. We got there in time for a late lunch in the historic Irma Hotel, took a trolly tour, sat outside the hotel for a shootout and spent the evening listening to music at the cowboy review in the old theater. The art museum I had hoped to visit was closed, so we spent hours the next morning visiting the Buffalo Bill Museum. It was great! The collections were extensive and the exhibits so well done. The garden there was lovely and peaceful. After lunch at the museum, we drove back to Yellowstone through the East Entrance. It had been sprinkly and overcast most of the day and as we approached Yellowstone Lake, the clouds started breaking up and lifting.
First we drove north a bit to the upper and lower Yellowstone Falls and Artist Point. The falls are spectacular and very impressive! The walls of the "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" are "painted" in oranges, reds, greens & even blues, depending on the minerals that leached down through the layers of the canyon walls. When the sun peeped through, they glowed with richness. After getting our fill of the falls, we headed back south and traveled the length of Yellowstone Lake. The sky was getting more and more gorgeous with every mile we went. I kept seeing glimmers out of my left eye, and thinking I was getting a migraine, I stopped and got out of the car. The faintest corner of a rainbow was peeking out of the clouds and reflecting in the lake! No migraine, rainbows! After that we saw rainbows everywhere we turned. They came down in front of trees, over geysers, in meadows with buffalo beneath them, in the water at the geyser basin. I have never seen so many rainbows in one day! That's why it rained on us!
Leaving Yellowstone behind this final time was sad, but we still had 4 or 5 days left and I had a couple of places I wanted to revisit. In 1993 I had taken my friend Doris in my VW Pop-top camper and driven to Yellowstone (from Denver, where I lived at the time). The van broke down, we parked it in the lot of the Conoco station in the park and waited for a part. It didn't work, so we got towed to West Yellowstone, Montana, rented a car and drove from there into that corner of Idaho that is adjacent to the back of the Tetons. The map showed a dirt road over the Tetons, so as the sun was setting I took it. Of course, as it got darker and darker, the road got narrower and narrower and higher and higher! It finally came down to Flagg Ranch in the northern part of the Tetons. I have dreamed of that road ever since, and wanted to see it in daylight. An internet search named it for me: Grassy Lake Road.
We pulled into Flagg Ranch about 6:30 or 7 PM. It is a facility of the Grand Teton National Park. There is a big lodge with restaurant, several cabins and a campground. We opted for a cabin. After a nice hot meal at the Lodge, we settled into the cabin for the night. An evening walk showed an open area with a river running through, scrubby willows and sagebrush with mountains all around. I couldn't wait till morning to see what animals would congregate there! About 7:00 AM, I snuck out and looked around-no animals. I got in the car and started up that dirt road. I couldn't wait for this ride! The air smelled so good-sage and pine. There were scattered wild flowers. Swallows flew over the river. Then, there it was: Road Closed! I rode back and found Trisha sketching on the porch with a big smile.
We had a few more days to explore Jackson Hole and a drive over the mountains to DuBois, which is a charming town tucked into red rock formations up against the hills. There we visited a store that provided skulls and antlers and the art that they made from them. Fascinating, mildly yucky, but so Western! We flew home after 3 weeks. It's always good to be home...
Of course, I have to go back. I have to hit those closed roads or I'll never be satisfied! I hate to leave a road unexplored, especially when they show so much promise! We'll have to explore closer to home for a few years and save our pennies. Maybe I'll have that cute teardrop trailer that I dream of, and we can go off and explore the west again. Anyway, that's my plan and I'm stickin to it!