Tag Archives: Wyoming

Driving Through Wyoming

Ed and I made a conscious decision not to bring our laptop on our road trip. It wasn’t that we were intending to go “off the grid.” Instead, we knew wifi access would be limited. We both had our phones, after all.  And since we were moving from hotel to hotel, we wanted to travel as light as we could. Our goal was to move from car to hotel room with only one trip, and most of the time, with the girls carrying their own backpacks and rolling their suitcases, we were able to do just that.

Wyoming
Emmy and Lily standing on the border of South Dakota and Wyoming

I checked my email a couple of times, but when I really wanted to send someone a reply about some volunteer work I’m doing at my church, I was in the middle of Wyoming, I didn’t have cell or data service, and couldn’t get a signal for a long time. I was so frustrated, and I decided that yes, I was going to go off the grid. When I finally did get a signal, I replied that I was on vacation. And then I really did disconnect. And you know what? I didn’t miss the internet at all! (I was surprised!)

I even decided to write a journal the old fashioned way. I brought one of my favorite notebooks, and started writing in it the first night. My journal writing skills were a little rusty. Typing blog posts is so much easier and faster for me. My first entry was just bullet points of what we did that first day, which was mostly driving. My journal entries became longer as the days went by, however, and, as cheesy as it sounds, I remembered the joy of putting pen to paper.

Cody Cowboy Village in Cody, Wyoming
Cody Cowboy Village in Cody, Wyoming

Even though I get car sick easily, I have also become pretty good at looking at maps and navigating. I helped navigate us through Death Valley a couple of years ago and on this trip I navigated us through the Badlands. Now we were going through Wyoming to Yellowstone, with a pit stop in Cody. Even though a major highway doesn’t go to Cody, it was still easier than driving my girls by myself through rural Michigan in the middle of the night!

Just outside of Cody is the Buffalo Bill dam. We stopped to take a look and visit the Visitor’s Center. It is a little bit of a walk from the Visitor’s Center to the parking lot, but there were a couple of guys taking tourists back and forth in golf carts. We didn’t really need a ride, but we took one just for fun!

Ed at dam

reservoir

In about an hour, driving through gorgeous scenery, we finally made it to the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park!

Yellowstone sign

There’s just something special about entering those gates to a national park. We couldn’t wait to see everything, so we stopped at every view point. Time seems to slow down, and driving to your destination doesn’t seem as important as just looking at what’s around you. And you don’t even want to go inside for a second! We ate our first picnic in Yellowstone at Gull Point, overlooking Yellowstone Lake.

Lake Butte overlook
Lake Butte overlook

We walked our first trail, the Natural Bridge Trail, and saw bear scat on our way. Grizzlies freak me out, so Ed and I were keeping a watchful eye the entire time, and making lots of noise! I had made the girls bear bells when we went to Alaska, and Emmy was especially faithful about wearing hers during our hikes. Those bears (and other hikers!) knew we were coming!

Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge

We also stopped at the West Thumb Geyser Basin, and the girls soon had their first taste of what soon became their favorite part of Yellowstone; thermal features! Steamy, smelly, and a little scary, (Just this spring, a tourist walked off the boardwalk, fell into a hot spring, and died a horrible death–I don’t even want to think about it!) thermal features are scattered all over Yellowstone. They are easy to spot since the heat kills the trees and plants, but the thermal features and hot springs are also always changing places and moving around. Yellowstone has hundreds of small earthquakes happening every month. We saw spots in parking lots that were blocked off because a hole had collapsed and now steam was coming out of the ground. Geysers that were once active will lay dormant, while a hot spring will suddenly become a geyser. All sorts of interesting things happen in Yellowstone! We were never tempted to step off those boardwalks.

Lakeshore Geyser

West Thumb Geyser Basin

That night, we slept in a little yellow cabin by the historic Lake Hotel. We had a whole week to explore!

Lake Hotel cabin

Keep up with our road trip:

The Great American Road Trip: Badlands National Park
Leaving the Badlands and Entering Wind Cave National Park
Not National Parks: Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower

signature

Not National Parks

Who knew? Mount Rushmore is actually Mount Rushmore National Memorial. And we arrived in the late afternoon, just when the sun was in the wrong spot.

Mount Rushmore

There is a really neat hiking trail that goes down and around in front of Mount Rushmore, and it’s neat to see the different perspectives of these four huge presidents. Do you remember who they are?

Mount Rushmore 2

 

We walked the trail after we had dinner at the cafeteria, with a view of the Presidents. So far, finding places to eat had been a little tricky, but we were expecting that. We weren’t counting on our hotels providing breakfast, so we had cereal, milk, and Pop Tarts. We also had lunch staples of sliced turkey, cheese, bread and apples. But it was nice to have someone else serve us dinner!

The day had been a long one; we had been hiking and exploring the Badlands just that morning, toured Wind Cave in the afternoon, and walked by Mount Rushmore that evening. We skipped the evening festivities at Mount Rushmore and headed into Keystone to find our hotel for the night.

The next morning, we left South Dakota and drove into Wyoming. Our plan was to swing by Devil’s Tower National Monument (also not a park!) before we continued on our way to Yellowstone.

Devil's Tower 1

Ed and I drove to Yellowstone before we had kids, and Ed fell in love with Devil’s Tower the first time we stopped there. Now that he was able to climb around the rocks with Lily and Emmy, he loved it even more! And there is a bonus at Devil’s Tower: another prairie dog town!

Devil's Tower 2
Climbing around with Lily and Emmy
Devil's Tower selfie
Selfie time!
prairie dog
Little prairie dogs

We decided to eat lunch at a little cafe at the base of the tower, and then we had a long drive across Wyoming to Cody, which is a town just outside of the west entrance to Yellowstone. We were getting closer to our final destination!

signature P.S. The four presidents are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

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