Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and Yellowstone National Park

August 14, 2010 -- we were up fairly early and had breakfast at the Park's restaurant -- all-u-can-eat breakfast for $5.50 -- so that's how we started our day.  

Since there was construction at the East gate, we decided we would drive around Cody and enter Yellowstone from the North gate.  We had no idea the scenery we would see or how long it would take us because we kept stopping to snap pictures.  

We drove the Chief Joseph's Scenic Highway.  Who is Chief Joseph you ask??  Well, I'd be delighted to tell you.  Chief Joseph was responsible for leading the Nez Perce Indians out of Yellowstone National Park and into Montana in 1877 during their attempt to flee the U.S. Calvary and escape into Canada.  The 47 mile scenic highway extends northwest from Cody, Wyoming, to the Beartooth Highway and winds through Shoshone National Forest.  
 Chief Joseph

Take a look at some of the scenery we saw on this byway.  We are continually amazed at the beauty, history and diversity of the terrain of the West.  It's definitely some of God's most incredible artistry for all of us to enjoy.  I pray if you have never seen this area firsthand, that someday you will have the opportunity to do so.  I keep saying this, but we are thankful for the many blessings we are experiencing. 

This is the scene from the top of the pass and was the last significant barrier for more than 600 Nez Perce Indians and their 2000 horses as they fled the pursuing U.S. Calvary.  
They knew the Army did not intend to leave any survivors, thus this became a fight for their lives.  Now on the run for more than 60 days, they had hoped that by crossing this pass and reaching the plains, they would join their allies, the Crows, and journey on to join Sitting Bull in Canada.  They began climbing to this point from the valley below.  By the time they reached this point, they were all exhausted  from the treacherous ride and tending to their sick and wounded.   And they also knew the Calvary was closing in.  If they could make it over this mountain fast enough, they might escape the Army and regain their freedom.  The story goes that the Nez Perce left a wounded warrior on this mountain, where he was discovered and killed by Army scouts.  Thus, this site became known as "Dead Indian Pass." 

What happened...did the Nez Perce Indians dodge the U.S. Calvary and save their lives?  On September 9, 1877, the Nez Perce knew General Howard and the Calvary were at least one day behind them and Colonel Sturgis had moved his forces to the "Stinking River" (aka Shoshone River).  The Nez Perce sensed an opportunity to escape.  In an opening about two miles southeast of the pass, they milled their horses around in every direction to leave a confusion of tracks.  They then backtracked north along a steep ridge and down a rough canyon.  The ploy worked.  When General Howard arrived, his scouts were confused about which direction the Nez Perce Indians had traveled.  The Nez Perce had accomplished the unbelievable and escaped. 

We continued on our adventure of the day, continuing to enjoy the beauty.

We finally crossed the Wyoming-Montana line.

Alan caught a glimpse of something in the grass...can you see it too?

A few miles down the road, we arrived in Cooke City.

By the time we reached Cooke City, it was lunchtime.  We had spent way too much time traveling the scenic byway, but it was worth it.  We stopped at the Prospector Restaurant for a bite -- I had a cup of chili and Alan had a bowl.

Cooke City was a mining town and its original name was "Shoo-fly," but was changed by miners in 1880 to honor Jay Cooke, Jr.  Cooke, the son of an investor in the Northern Pacific Railroad promised to promote the area's development and to help bring the railroad to the town.  By the 1870s, the town was booming.  A few years later, Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce stormed through town and burnt most of the gold mining facilities.  Although they rebuilt, the boom did not last very long because of the difficulty in reaching the area. 

The north entrance to Yellowstone was not far from Cooke City.

I have to admit that by this time we felt rushed -- so much to see and so little time before dark.  And we definitely did not plan this trip -- we sort of just flew by the seat of our pants.  We have left something unseen everywhere we have traveled -- so we would have an excuse to return.  So as we travel through Yellowstone this day, there was a lot left that we will need to return to see.  We knew if we didn't see anything else, we definitely wanted to see Old Faithful.  It was 30 miles from the entrance to Old Faithful, so we drove.

Yellowstone has a large herd of bison.

Bear Jam -- we were told it was a Grizzly, but we never saw it.

However, bison were plentiful and wanted everyone to know this was "their" home.

The following is Beryl Spring.  Under proper lighting, this spring shows a blueish-green color.  It's activity, along with adjacent springs, was greatly altered by an earthquake in 1959.  The agitation of the water is due to volcanic gases, mostly steam.  The temperature of the water is usually a few degrees below boiling.

Unfortunately, we were delayed by construction for 30-45 minutes.

They were building a rock wall.

We finally made our way to Geyser Country, home of Old Faithful.  As we approached, we could see various geysers that surround Old Faithful.


We learned that Old Faithful was expected to erupt in approximately 15 minutes, so we took a seat and waited.

Old Faithful didn't let us down...she teased us, making us think she was ready to erupt...

And then...there she blows!

WOW...we even felt the mist!

After leaving Old Faithful, we stopped by Yellowstone General Store where we adopted our new pet -- one that doesn't have to be fed, that doesn't have to be walked, that doesn't make any noise, that doesn't need a bath or shots, etc.  Meet our new house pet -- Smokey.  He loves his spot on the dash of the MH.

As we drove towards the East gate, we passed one area of the Continental Divide.

The Continental Divide in the Americas is the line that divides the flow of water between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.  Rain or snow that drains on the east side of the Continental Divide flows toward the Atlantic Ocean, while on the west side, it drains and flows toward the Pacific Ocean.  Every continent except  Antarctica has a continental divide.

More beautiful snapshots

As we approached the East gate, eagle-eye Alan saw this elk through the trees.

You can see as we exited Yellowstone through the East gate that it was almost dark.
By the time we got back to the motorhome, we had spent twelve (12) hours in the car and felt like we had not even began to see all that Yellowstone had to offer.  We asked the office if we could extend our stay, but they said they were booked for Sunday night.  So we packed up and prepared to move on .  But, before we totally left the area, we stopped in Cody.  We will share what we saw in Cody and beyond as we leave Wyoming for South Dakota in our next posting.

As always, we are thankful and blessed for the opportunity to travel and see all the beauty this country offers.  We pray daily for God's blessings of our voyage, as well as for our family and friends everywhere.

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