Day 15 – Travel as I Have Envisioned It Could Be
Today’s trip officially starts us on the long return leg home. But there are still many sights and adventures ahead. It was a beautiful morning, and we finally had a spectacular view of the Grand Tetons from the campground.
We left Fireside Campground, and again entered the main gate to the Grand Tetons, turning north toward Yellowstone. The most direct route to Cody is to take US 191 to US 20 at West Thumb in Yellowstone. US 20 joins US 14 at Fishing Bridge, and heads east through Sylvan Pass out of the park.
Shortly after turning north toward the park, we were caught up in slow, stop-and-go traffic entering Yellowstone. However, we had allowed enough time to not be hurried. Once through the entrance, traffic began to move at a normal pace.
Driving around West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake we could see more fumaroles along the shore. Further along, the road turns back southward, providing us with one last look of the Grand Tetons.
It was also along this north shore of Yellowstone Lake that we finally saw bears. What we learned is that if you want to see animals of any kind, look for people. If you see several cars (or more) pulled off to the side of the road, they are stopped for a reason and some kind of wildlife is probably involved. As we came down a steady grade, just before the road turns away from the lake, we saw a dozen or more cars parked along the shoulder of the road. I could see one bear out near the edge of the lake, taking his time looking for things to eat.
Further down the road there was a turnout and there were no cars there. We pulled in and I pulled out my tripod and 300mm zoom lens. I was several hundred yards from what turned out to be two bears, a mama grizzly bear and her half-grown cub. I worked my way back toward the bears, stopping to get shots. I was about 50 yards from the bears when a park ranger alerted me not to go any closer.
From there, I retreated at about the same pace as the bears advanced. This was my first time ever to see a bear in the wild, and I took many photos. As we were leaving, the ranger waved at me and then a thumbs-up. I returned the thumbs up, grinning.
A little farther up the road we saw a bison grazing along a river that flowed into the lake. After a few more photos, we continued across Sylvan Pass and then a long descent down the eastern slope of the Absaroka Range into the Shoshone National Forest.
About two miles outside of the park we came upon Pahaska Tepee. Pahaska Tepee is William “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s old hunting lodge and hotel. We stopped and had lunch in the lodge and shopped the gift shop. Cody, our planned stopping place for the night was only 50 miles further down the road, so we could take our time. We stopped in the Shoshone National Forest office and had our passports stamped.
US 20 winds through a scenic valley that runs along a river. Soon the river ran into a lake—Buffalo Bill Reservoir with Buffalo Bill State park on its shores. Oddly enough, that lake is created by the Buffalo Bill Dam on
the…Shoshone River. The dam is a Federal project and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We stopped to take a look, and a kind gentleman rolled up to our truck in a golf cart, and offered us ride to the dam and visitor center. Yes, you can get your passport stamped at the visitor center located on the top of the dam.
Looking down the valley where the water flows from the dam, you can see a narrow, paved road carved into the side of the valley wall. It appears to be barely wider than a vehicle. This was the original road to Yellowstone from the east. That must have been an eye-opening journey.
After an hour of touring the dam, watching videos of its construction, taking photos from the top of the dam, and shopping, we were again on our way to Cody, which was only a few miles farther.
We spent the night in the Ponderosa Campground. It is a nice in-town campground with many trees. Spaces are tightly packed, typical for an in-town facility. We treated ourselves to a nice dinner in town and planned the next day’s route.
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