yellowstone 2008: day 3

to go to the pics from day 3, click here

Having rested up after an amazing amount of driving the previous few days, it was back on the road again, destination Cody, WY. While there are plenty of attractions right around Custer, like Sylvan Lake, Wind Cave, and Jewel Cave, time was going to be a factor as we definitely wanted to stop at Devils Tower along the way. Most of the routes we took were two lane rural routes which were practically deserted, but full of spectacular scenery. On the way we stopped at Jewel Cave National Park, but guided tours (a necessity) were not scheduled to start for a few hours from when we arrived. We looked around the bookstore and marveled at the interactive map of the cave system below us. I think this would be a worthwhile stop some day, along with Wind Cave. Back on the road, we were to Devils Tower in about two hours.

Northern Wyoming has some incredible terrain, and while driving through some sizable foothills, Devils Tower makes a statement. Like Mt Rushmore and the Badlands, I had seen photos but we never terribly impressed. What a difference seeing this things in person makes. From a distance, it really is not much too look at, but certainly recognizable. Getting closer, you can see the amazing patterns in the rock that photos just cannot seem to do justice. We checked out the visitors center and decided to go for a walk closer to the mountain. They have a very nice path a little over a mile that circles the mountain, giving some amazing views of both the mountain and the valley below. We observed a group of climbers making an ascent (that would have to be incredible to see the top, about the size of a football field) and a small group of deer grazing. When we got back to the parking lot, we pulled the car around so we could sit and eat some lunch with a view. Near the base of the mountain is a small field called prairie dog town. I recommend stopping for a bit to observer and hear the high pitched squeaks from the hundreds and hundreds of prairie dogs that call this home. All in all, Devils Tower was a very fun stop along the way to Yellowstone.

Jen took over driving at this point, and I think the fresh air and lunch tired me out. I woke up somewhere between Gillette and Buffalo as we were rounding a bend to see the Big Horn Mountains looming in the distance. Our itinerary had us taking US-16 (the Cloud Peak Skyway) which cuts through the Big Horn Mountains and offers beautiful scenery. One interesting thing did happen, around 9,000ft, the Kia threw a Check Engine light. Not panicking, I checked the owners manual which indicated an emissions sensor and to get it checked eventually. I figured either an oxygen sensor or fuel pressure sensor. We stopped at a pullout, threw a couple of snowballs at each other, checked for venting from the engine and proceeded on despite the sensor light. Once out of the mountains, there is beautiful canyon the road winds through on the way to Worland. We stopped and took lots of pictures and enjoyed the solitude it offered with no buildings or power lines or other cars for that matter. We eventually arrived at Worland were we stopped for fuel and some cold beverages. Amazingly, the emissions sensor light decided we were at a low enough elevation and went out (but it would return the next day). One more interesting vehicle note, around the time the emissions light came on, the Kia started to get amazing fuel efficiency, more then I've ever had with that car. I normally get around 30 MPG, but was mysteriously getting more along the lines of 38 MPG....I'll take it.

The rest of the drive to Cody was through some of the most deserted land I have ever seen. It is amazing as there is nothing as far as the eye can see. It was very weird, yet oddly comforting. Cody is an interesting town, obviously built around tourism and not much more. Small mountain towns kinda creep m out in a way...probably seen one too many horror films. We had dinner at the historic Irma Hotel, serving a fine piece of steak, as any Wyoming restaurant should! The last highlight of the evening came as I was going to brush my teeth that evening. I went to remove the cap from my tooth brush and discovered a bee lodged in between the plastic and the bristles (the cap is clear, so I could see him in there). After much debate we managed to get the cap off the brush which was then discarded into the parking lot with bee in tow. We did find the cap the next morning sans bee. We guessed he must have hitched a ride a Devils Tower...