Sunday, June 24 – Geographical Diversity

Sunday we took a 2 hour drive into Cody, Wyoming. Cody is the nearest town to us, situated some 50 miles outside the east gate. The town has Walmart, Walgreens, McDonalds, Dairy Queen, Buffalo Bill cultural and historical center, and myriad other facilities that you’d expect in a medium sized town. We went fully loaded with a hefty list of supplies needed from Walmart, a prescription to pick up at Walgreens, and a craving to experience the culinary fineries of Mickey D and DQ.

But the point of this entry is not that we managed to spend nearly $400 on the day (Walmart got most of it) or that we indulged in fast food for the first time in two weeks. This is about the drive.

To get to the east gate, some 20 miles from the RV park, we traverse some of the most unique and picturesque terrain I have ever seen. And the remainder of the journey, from the east gate to Cody, is no less breathtaking.

We begin at Fishing Bridge (which is an actual bridge and also a Yellowstone destination, with a visitor center, RV park, general store, and more), which intersects the Grand Loop less than a mile north of here. Fishing is prohibited on the actual bridge. I’ll let that irony stand on its own. The Fishing Bridge visitor RV park is the only full hook up visitor RV park in Yellowstone, making it very popular.

Just east of Fishing Bridge the road and Lake Yellowstone converge. On windy days grey waves reach oceanic proportions and throw spray up onto the road and passing cars. We’ve seen cars sitting on the shoulder taking advantage of nature’s bug wash. On calm days the lake is an inviting blue like a scene from a post card. A mix of black sand, rocks, and endless snags of bone white driftwood make up the shoreline.

For a few miles along this route you can see across the vast expanse of the lake, looking southward from the northern tip. Rising above the lake are mountains, many still capped with snow. In the wide valley between two of them Grand Teton mountain, tall, majestic and rugged, is visible. As we begin to ascend above the lake and snake around a tall hill, Steamboat Point juts into the lake and greets us with plumes of steam and the odor of sulfur.

Climbing further the lake departs from view and we’re greeted by a stark mountainous landscape littered with burned out trees, many fallen, others awaiting their turn. I don’t know when the fire took out this area but it was recently enough for the forest to yet appear decimated, though I’m sure at some organic level the rejuvenation process has begun.

Eventually we peak and begin descending toward the east gate. From what I understand this is a new road but I get nervous every time we drive it. It is carved out of the side of the mountain such that when you look out the passenger window you see the tops of 60 foot tall trees. In some places an insignificant-looking guard rail offers some assurance but many areas don’t even have that. I am amazed to see pullouts thrusting even further from the mountain lacking any protection at all.

Finally we pass through the east gate and make our way across more level terrain. We are still surrounded by mountains lacking foliage, with bare brown rock exposed. Occasionally an area covered with a brown grass-like substance can be seen on some of the less steep rocks, with homes perched in the middle. I’m not sure how far these homes are from the road, but I’m certain they do not walk to their mailboxes. The road follows a valley carved by the Shoshone River so it is low-lying and fairly flat. Mile after mile the terrain is similar, but each mountain has its own unique characteristics.

Eventually the mountains are only in the rear view mirror and the Shoshone River becomes a lake. A dam not far outside Cody creates an inviting reservoir. One of these days we plan to tour the dam. I think there is a power generating plant near the dam.

Next the outskirts of Cody are visible and so begins our shopping spree.

We trade off driving, so on the way back I have to watch the road and let Mary Ann keep an eye on the scenery.

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