This past Sunday we loaded up the cooler with food and drinks, filled up the gas tank, grabbed some jackets and finally made the trip into Yellowstone National Park through the East Gate.
When we first moved to Cody I foolishly and naively imagined that seasons were the same here as what I was used to in Tennessee.
What that meant to me was that temperatures gradually increased through the Spring and that by May (or June 1 at the latest) this state would be firmly entrenched in Summer.
That the grass would be growing, the flowers would be blooming, the birds would be singing and that certainly the snow would all be a long-distant memory.
So it has been an interesting learning curve for me to realize that all the rules of engagement re: the seasons that I was used to in Tennessee do not actually apply to a state where cities are located many thousands of feet above sea level and are surrounded by endless mountain ranges.
We had snow here in Cody into April and May. We had freezing temperatures. And then we had very warm temperatures. And then cold again. Not cool, but actual cold.
It was a learning curve that I have gradually figured out over the past few months but even that gradual realization did not prepare me for what we encountered in the Beartooths only a few weeks ago when we came across twenty feet or more of snow piled stories high along the highway.
And then were greeted with endless fields of snow being enjoyed by snow mobilers and para-skiers and tobogganers in the middle of Summer.
The East Gate of Yellowstone Park opened later than normal this season due to the unusually large amount of snow that fell this past winter.
In some places more than 200% above average.
After the gate opened it soon closed again due to avalanches and rock slides predominantly in Sylvan Pass, and then for a few more weeks was open only for a few short hours each morning - again due to the threat of avalanches.
Everyone was eager for the gate to open.
Those who wanted to simply travel through the park to reach other places in all directions beyond the park (instead of having to travel all the way around the park as they must during the winter).
Gateway cities who depend of tourist dollars for their very survival.
Lodges and guest ranches and campgrounds and surrounding national forests.
And finally it did.
Open that is.
After only a short drive through the gate we climbed up and through Sylvan Pass.
As we traveled through this dreaded section it quickly became obvious why road crews have so many problems keeping this pass clear.
Sheer rock and dirt bluffs ready and very able to drop its contents both down onto the highway and the very deep gorge down below it.
And surprisingly (although I should not be surprised at this point) still a good amount of snow.
Sylvan Lake melting quickly but still mostly covered in snow and ice............
LC and I had heard about Yellowstone Lake, and had even seen it on the map, but were still not prepared for either how beautiful nor how large it was.
There was one buffalo standing on one side of the highway grazing and unperturbed by all the traffic and associated gawkers................
And two of three other buffalo standing on the opposite side of the highway.
I have seen these animals many times now since arriving in Wyoming and am still in awe of them..........
We spent a very very long day traveling and exploring the southern portion of the park and then wandering for a while down into the Teton National Park.
What amazed me about Yellowstone was that the terrain seemed to change around every bend in the road.
One minute we were in snow in the mountains.
The next we were in the middle of dense pine trees on both sides of the road.
The next bend found a raging and fast flowing river.
Around this bend in a hugely adventurous journey we found hot springs............
To get to Yellowstone we had left the pale green ridges and sage brush of Cody, traveled 50 miles through the grasslands of Wapiti and the beautiful rock formations and pine trees and rivers of Shoshone National Forest.
And only a short way into the park we found this.
I stood looking out over the lake, the snow covered mountains, the pine trees and small islands, and then turned to look at my Mountain Boy and said "this could be Alaska".............
My new camera is partially FUBAR'd.
Ever since I fell off my bike and into a mud puddle on BLM land not long ago there are certain pictures I take where I see a small grey mark at the top of the picture, and pictures that I take (such as this one) where there is a grey spot smack in the middle of the picture.
Maybe if I hadn't mentioned it nobody would have noticed it but I guess I know what I want for Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or National Cheesecake Day or sometime else that is supposed to be designated as an occasion for gifts.
One more camera and this time I'll always keep it in a Zip Loc.
Just in case I find another mud puddle..........
Again and again and again throughout the day I stood beside a lake or a stream and felt like I was back in Juneau.
Only without the emotional price tag attached with living in Juneau.
Yellowstone North East Entrance just beyond Cooke City opened up to vast amounts of beautiful buffalo and elk covered hills and wonderful grasslands and streams.
But as I stood looking out over these mountains I fell in love with this place on Sunday.............
More hot springs.............
For all the beauty there is to see in this place (and we saw only one small section of it) there are places that display much devastation from both unintentional forest fires and beetle damage.
It is sad and difficult to see.
Some areas damaged by fire have not yet begun to regrow.
Other areas are now completely filled with small pine trees that will eventually rejuvenate sections of lost forest land................
Yellowstone River, as with all waterways in Wyoming right now, is full and very fast flowing.
I never ever imagined before living here that mountain snow runoff would still be melting at the end of June, but am beginning to learn that snow will be continually melting until it begins to snow all over again.
A continual cycle and interesting rhythm to life in Wyoming..........
The story of forest fires and canyon winds...........
It all took my breath away.
Everything I had gone to Juneau for was unexpectedly standing right in front of me.
When I drove into Cody in early March and was greeted by the beige moonscape of the terrain I had no idea how diverse of a state Wyoming really was.
You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.......James Whittaker