Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Two Thousand Mile Sunday Drive--Day Two

The Yellowstone River at Gardner Montana
North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Taken 10/4/09

Well, there are worse things
Than staring at the water on a Sunday
There are worse things
Than staring at the water
As you're posing for a picture
Being painted by your lover
In the middle of the summer
On an island in the river on a Sunday
--Stephen Sondheim

To hear Jenna Russell sing "Sunday in the Park with George," click here.

Well, there are worse things than driving by the water on a Sunday when you're riding in a truck being driven by your lover in the surprising early winter on a highway by the river on a Sunday. We got a late start out of Bozeman because Kevin had to repair the camper's toilet. We'd bought the parts as we were leaving Missoula, but wanted to get on the road, so it was good we camped out at a rest area Saturday night. Sunday morning meant that we had to get the toilet fixed, and Kevin fixed it. But by the time we were ready to roll, it was ten a.m.

And we weren't really ready to roll, as I had forgotten to pack the battery charger for my camera. Modern cameras don't, as I'm sure you're aware, use any old Duracell battery you can pick up at WalMart or Costco. There was a Staples near us and there had to be a Best Buy nearby as well, didn't there? We headed first to Staples where they could not help us. What about Best Buy? There isn't one in Bozeman. Ah--but there is F 11, arguably the best camera store in the state of Montana. We'll head over there.

Oh, it's Sunday. OK, I'll try to hold out for Rapid City--the next "large" town we'll visit. In the meantime, let's shoot the Gallatin County Court House and get on the road for Livingston.

Livingston is not only the seat of Park County, but also Kevin's home town. Crossing Bozeman Pass, the snow began to fall. This is not unusual on Bozeman Pass--I've been caught in blizzards there in June. Our weather was not that bad, just an unseasonably early winter storm. Kevin pointed out the hills where his family ran cattle. He mentioned the names of all the folk who had owned property between the pass and Livingston back in the 60s. He showed me the farm where he grew up.

In Livingston we drove around in circles looking for the Court House. For some reason it's not downtown, but in an otherwise residential district. Eventually, with the help of a woman just getting out of church, we found the "City-County Complex." Like other places around the state, Livingston and Park County have combined their forces in a single building--unfortunately a rather modern, non-descript building at that. I won't share the pictures I took of it here.

Before getting back on the road, Kevin filled the truck's tank, topping us off after driving 48 miles from the last fill, and I headed over to Albertson's for some provisions to fill the camper. That done, we headed south on US 89, the Montana Centennial Highway which runs north/south between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone. We were headed for Gardner, Montana, the North Entrance to Yellowstone.

Devil's Slide on the Yellowstone River
Park County, Montana
Taken 10/4/09

Along the way we drove through the Paradise Valley, known as home to various celebrities including Peter Fonda. Jimmy Buffett spent a lot of time in this region, and has written and sung lots of songs celebrating, if that's the word, Livingston, including "Livingston Saturday Night."

This is also the region where I spent a lot of time as a child at Luccock Park, the Methodist Church Camp in the valley, and it's where we got our first Miniature Pinscher, Dinah--the dog I grew up with. I tried to point this out to the kids, but they seemed supremely uninterested, even when I told them that none of them would be in my life if it weren't for Dinah.

One final note on the Paradise Valley. This was the home to a large cult called The Church Universal and Triumphant, run by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. The link will take you to the Wikipedia entry on that group. It seemed to me appropriate that in the same general area is a large, red, rock slide called "The Devil's Slide." I made sure to photograph it.

Once past the town of Gardner, we drove through the Roosevelt Arch and entered Yellowstone National Park. One of my favorite locations in the Park is Mammoth Hot Springs. We stopped and took some pictures, while Kevin commented on the smell. Yes, there is a definite odor of sulphur in the air. It reminds me that when John Coulter, the first caucasian to visit the area returned to "civilization" and reported on what he'd seen, his friends referred to the region as "Coulter's Hell."

Bison grazing along the road
Taken 10/4/09 in Yellowstone National Park

Snow continued to fall as we drove south. Some roads in the park were closed because of construction, and some due to snow and ice, but we were able to drive from Mammoth to Norris, Norris to Canyon, Canyon to Fishing Bridge, and then out of the Park through the East Entrance into Wyoming. Along the way we did not see much in the way of wildlife, except for a couple of herds of bison and a few big horn sheep. We did see a surprising number of tourists considering that we were all braving the elements and road closures to drive through the Park. I reconfirmed my suspicion that Kevin had not grown up visiting the Park, the way I did, and he assured me that this was probably the third time he had ever been in Yellowstone, and the first time he'd actually stopped to see the sights. I just can't fathom that.

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River
Taken 10/4/09 at Artists' Point

Another of my favorite spots in the Park is the view point for the lower falls on the Yellowstone River. My father took some wonderful shots of this feature, and I keep trying to keep up with him. This trip we took the drive up the South Rim to Artist's Point where I got some good work done, if I do say so myself.

At Fishing Bridge, we turned east and headed toward Cody, Wyoming. We drove through miles of forest land burned a few years back and not doing particularly well at reforestation. Up and over Sylvan Pass, we drove down alongside one of the tributaries to the Shosone River. Most of the Park is within the limits of the state of Wyoming, with only small portions in Montana and Idaho. Of the five entrances to the Park, however, three are in Montana. We had entered at the North and were leaving by the East. Another fifty miles of beautiful scenery and we arrived in Cody, the nominal home of Buffalo Bill. After a fine dinner at a Mexican Restaurant named La Comida, we parked the beast at (Don't gasp now) Wal-Mart, and became one more of those RV'ing families who drive from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart.

One fork of the Shoshone River, Fall Colors
Taken 10/4/09 in Yellowstone National Park

The snow was coming down in earnest now, and a reader board we had seen at Walgreen's warned of a Winter Storm through the next morning. We hunkered down and rode it out.

More to come.