It all comes down to this, our final hour in Yellowstone. Nine hours after leaving Cody 180 miles ago, I was so done with driving. The entire day had confirmed our hypothesis that, yes, Yellowstone is big. Like, really really really really really big. I tried my best to care deeply about the remaining flora, fauna, geological peculiarities, and man-made obtrusions that stood between us and the park’s north entrance, which in turn would lead to respite at the next hotel and check a new state off our lifetime to-do list.
The Grand Loop Road around Yellowstone kept going and going and going, and so did we…
After we finally parted ways with the Grand Prismatic Spring, our next few hours in Yellowstone were a blur of frequent stops and pervasive wonders. Each point of interest had its highlights, but few of them have enough photos to merit their own individual, full-length galleries. Honestly, after so many hours on the road in those surroundings, I was in danger of scenic overload.
Sure, Old Faithful was spiffy, but every ounce of its spewed hot water was the same ordinary color. Elsewhere in Yellowstone, organic and inorganic additives commingle in the waters to produce scintillating effects in multiple colors of the rainbow. Maybe not all of them, but quite a few. I wouldn’t have minded some purple, but the land wasn’t taking requests.
It all leads up to this: our opportunity to witness the world’s most famous geyser do its thing. Old Faithful is the main event for any newcomer to Yellowstone National Park, the one feature everyone’s heard of since youth. It’s the center of the public’s average mental image of Yellowstone as just a giant, grassy plain with the one big natural water fountain in the middle. Its popularity and its predictably sporadic yet potentially time-killing nature (depending on how soon we’d arrive before the next show) made it the highest priority to check off our to-do list above all else.
Day Five. 8:45 a.m. MDT. Primary objective reached. FINALLY.
Yes, I realize we took a lot of chapters to reach our feature presentation. If you thought waiting on the photos was taxing, try driving there. Stopping for fun along the way is how we roll.
Fair warning, though: still no Yellowstone in this chapter. Soon, though. We’re so close! That’s next, in fact! But first, a quick warm-up.
Our planned route deep into the heart of Wyoming required us to divert in the wrong direction away from Yellowstone and had nearly zero good options for pit stops along the way, save one (1) lone gas station outside Hyattsville with a tiny parking lot and too many cars already muscled into it. We swung off the highway and pressed northeast toward promises of archaeological revelations, embellished outcroppings, and closeness to nature. By the time we arrived at our next stop, we were happy just to have bathrooms again.
From the ancient buffalo graveyard it was a four-hour haul to our next attraction deep in the heart of the Cowboy State. It wasn’t long before we zoomed past the exit to Devil’s Tower, passed the longitudinal coordinates for Woodland Park, CO, and would officially drive The Farthest West We’ve Ever Gone in Our Lives.
(Anyone who’s ever seen the Pacific Ocean or had use for a frequent-flyer program is free to be unimpressed. We humble bumpkins claim our little personal victories wherever we can.)