Sunday, July 2, 2017

Vacation Day 6: Last Day at Yellowstone & Cody, Wy

The view as we left our condo for the last time.

Finally a good weather day! Of course, it was also the day we left Big Sky and made our way to Cody, Wyoming. We had a pretty fun day planned and as usual, nothing went according to plan. Our original plan looked something like this: wake up in good time, check out of condo, go for a soak in Boiling River, drive through Lamar Valley to see wildlife, take scenic highways to Cody, eat dinner in Cody, go to a rodeo. So now for how the day actually went....

We woke up late after a busy day in the Tetons the day before. The weather was absolutely gorgeous! We had clear skies and for the first time since our arrival with all activities on Lone Mountain were up and running (they had been closed due to the weather). I was really hoping to take up trip up to the summit of Lone Mountain, but we simply didn't have the time (plus, all tickets for the ride up in the tram were booked for the day). Instead we wandered around town for a bit, stopping in for an amazing latte at the Hungry Moose, and checking out a few store in the town center. 

We made our final drive from Big Sky into Yellowstone. Still my favorite drive of our entire trip.

Our first planned stop was Boiling River. Supposedly the perfect area where a hot spring and river run together for a hot tub like soak. Sitting in a hot spring is oddly on my bucket list, but of course, they're much too hot for it. So this was my chance.....and due to flooding this spot was closed. I was really disappointed (let's just say, I *might* know where my children got their tantrum throwing abilities from). 

At least we had our own adventure along the way to Boiling River. We were stopped in a road construction mess and ate (leftover) pizza in the car. We saw and learned about the Golden Gate of Yellowstone. We stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs and Fort Yellowstone. Oh, and it took double the amount of time I expected it to for us to reach Boiling River (and then turn around once we found out it was closed).

This was an interesting story that I didn't catch when we drove through this area on previous days. I have to say, you must drive all of Yellowstone's roads each way because you'll see something new and different each time.

While Mammoth Hot Springs was interesting to see, it was not my favorite. Although by this time, I was kind of just ready to leave Yellowstone.

We had a fun time touring Fort Yellowstone and learning all about it. Despite reading a lot about Yellowstone, I never bothered to learn the history of Fort Yellowstone. When Yellowstone became the first national park in the U.S., poachers came and began to kill a lot of the wildlife. There were people intent on harming the park. The Park needed help from the U.S. Army, who set up base at Fort Yellowstone. 35 of the buildings are still standing and serve as the Park's headquarters. We hadn't planned on making this stop in the park, but I'm really happy we did.

* Side note: the above is exactly how I worded the explanation to my minis, who understood it perfectly (unlike some of the other tourists).

The minis REALLY wanted to hike up a mountain. Luckily, we were able to park at Fort Yellowstone and climb up a nearby mountain (let's keep in mind, we were already near the top of the mountain to begin with). This was perfect for them and there were enough people around that we didn't have to worry about bears.

Our next stop/drive was through Lamar Valley for (so we were told) prime wildlife viewing. We saw big horned sheep, plenty of elk and bison, and even a grizzly bear poking in and out of the forest on the mountain. 

Half way through Lamar Valley, everyone was just done with Yellowstone. The other tourists bothered all of us at this point because of their lack of respect for the park and wildlife. While Yellowstone was wondering to see, I happily said "peace out!" 

The minis entertained themselves in the car through all of the driving. The youngest mini applied make up. All over herself. I'm still finding lipstick on random things.

So we didn't have to mess with the Park traffic anymore, we took the Northeast entrance out of Yellowstone and small mountain highways into Cody, Wy. This added an extra 45 minutes or so to our drive time, but we took the gorgeous Dead Indian Pass. This was a curvy, typical mountain road that is often closed whenever the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Amazing views!

We enjoyed the views while the minis slept.

That long winding road??? That's what we drove on!

We got into Cody later than planned and decided to skip the rodeo. We needed some non-touristy activities. We checked into our cabin, went for dinner, and then played freely at a local play ground. Totally not what I had in mind, but totally what the minis needed.

The minis chose a diner in Cody called Granny's because "it's like Granny's on Once Upon A Time!" Maybe it was because we were all starving at this point, but the dinner was fabulous. Great (and cheap!) diner.

It was also evident during dinner that they had spent a lot of time cooped up in the car....

The awesome sheets and blankets in our cabin.

The next morning, we woke up and began our trek back to the Black Hills, where we had one last adventure. I really loved Cody, Wy, mostly because it's a larger town (and I'm used to my daily amenities such as shopping, coffee shops, late night food deliveries, etc.), which is something Big Sky was not. There's a list of things I would have loved to do in Cody, Wy that make for a perfect family vacation:
  • Cody Night Rodeo
  • Nightly shoot out downtown Cody
  • Buffalo Bill Museum
  • Cabins and Camping (that is in close proximity to Yellowstone National Park)
Cody was a great place to take the kids and I honestly wish we had more time to explore. However, after four days in (and around) Yellowstone, I was ready for a change of scenery.