Before we even boarded the plane in London we knew three things about Yellowstone National Park. Firstly, it was deemed to be one of the most incredible places in the world; Secondly, we only had one day in which to explore this wilderness and finally, the 50 mile drive from Cody to the park is supposedly one of the most spectacular on the planet. The approach road did not disappoint, demanding photo after photo until we eventually reached the park entrance. Here we were warned that there may be delays on the west side of the park due to migrating buffalo - perhaps the only circumstance where you wouldn't be irritated by being stuck in a traffic jam.
Arriving from the East entrance, the first major thing you reach in the park is Yellowstone Lake - a vast expanse of water so calm that it reflects the clouded sky like a mirror.
A truly magnificent sight that we would have been happy to stare at for the rest of the day - though the Texan on his mobile phone ("Guess where I am buddy, on the shore of Lake Yellowstone, yeah, man, it's sumthin' else man..." etc etc) may have dissuaded us somewhat. The loop road around the park is approximately 100 miles of views so good that I'll have to leave it to the photos to describe. The size and diversity of offerings is totally unprecedented, oscillating between frozen, snow covered lakes, vast plains of tundra, pine forests as far as the eye can see, canyons and rapids,
waterfalls, and hot geysers and springs.
Again, Buffalo were pretty much everywhere and, sadly, were becoming two a penny which really discredits the amazing beasts - we were being completely spoiled. In addition to Buffalo, elk and bears inhabit the park but in this respect we left a little empty handed as we only managed a glimpse of (the retreating backside of) a small bear from long distance. Given the many signs proclaiming that numerous visitors are attacked or even killed by bears (or gored to death by Bison) each year, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.
The geysers and springs in the park bubble away, spouting endless plumes of steam high into the air. However, this prehistoric spectacle comes at a price - a nauseating stench of sulphur so powerful that I had to turn back to avoid projectile vomiting in some kind of ironic replication of the eruptions in front of me. Having worked in a butchers shop in my youth, I've smelled some pretty bad things in my time, but this was simply awful. I'd equate it to a room full of boiled eggs that have been left to rot for weeks in the sun - so basically, your average pot noodle.
Greg seemed unperturbed, claiming that apparently when it came to noses, big wasn't necessarily always best, and managed to get some great photos, all the time sticking to the purpose-built wooden walkways after being warned on the information boards that people have been scalded to death from stepping off of them. Nice. Also, on the approach to the grand prismatic spring, I spotted a great Kim Jong-Il lookalike - the Korean axis of evil in the heartland of America and not a nuclear warhead test in sight.
Our route out of Yellowstone towards to Idaho Falls took us through Grand Teton National Park.
This was an incredible road which meandered through the valley basin of the Snake River, the jagged mountains in the background offering a sublime backdrop as the sun set for the evening. A quick stop to refuel at Jackson Hole nearly ended in disaster when I misplaced my wallet after filling the tank. Having just thrown away a heap of rubbish I was reduced to sticking my head into the large vertical bin entrance like a complete tramp to check I'd not inadvertently despatched of it. After a few minutes of rummaging around, I located the wallet - obviously in the safety of my jacket pocket, much to Greg's amusement (you really had to be there). The remainder of the drive to Idaho was unpleasant to say the least - pitch black, winding around mountains and lakes with sheer drops, road works resulting in no road markings for miles. We were extremely pleased to arrive at our hotel and even more fortunate to procure beer and food after inching into an Applebey's restaurant with minutes to spare before closing.
Day Eight Stats:
Mileage - 385 (2565 total)
State registration plates seen - 1 (47 total)
States visited - Wyoming, Idaho
Breakfast at the hotel in Cody was akin to Doc Brown sending us back to the future (not sure how he'd generate the 1.21 gigawatts to fire the Delorian to 88mph, possibly by shoehorning a few Buffalo into the flux capacitor) - the dining hall was an old saloon and in true western tradition the unmanned player piano was smashing out an ol' time tune as we ate. I'm not entirely sure I can picture the cowboys in the 1800s in here with their Cheerios and bagels.