The Wilder West
19 Oct 2007
|Its wilder in so many ways here. The old days of the West were wilder, its wilder now, everyone hunts, the wildlife is bigger and wilder, the weather is wilder, etc.
Well the wind was howling all night, which is quite nice when you're in the warm, but now I have to go out into the cold, get some breakfast and a do an awful lot of driving, up to Cody in Wyoming tonight, about 50 miles East of Yellowstone. Cody was established by Buffalo Bill Cody and thinks of itself as as Western as they come. In summer there is a rodeo every night and mock gunfights. Luckily its the fall now.
Later: It took over 10 hours to drive here, the bit through the Rockies out to the Interstate was good, and off the Interstate again and through the Big Horn Mountains to get here was also good - both very scenic, etc. The rest was frankly dull, just hours of rolling prairie with a very strong cross wind and random tumbleweed.
Wyoming - another new state for me - is a bit more the Wilder West, and proud of it. Across the street from me is the hotel and restaurant that Buffalo Bill himself opened in 1908 and the bar tonight is full of cowboys with their hats on. It is very rural in general in the Northern Rockies, everyone I have seen today appeared to be going hunting, or maybe they look and act like that all the time, or at least when they're not playing the banjo or counting their toes. Everywhere I have been so far in the US is proud of the old west, the pioneer spirit, etc, even the Native American history and culture to some extent. But most places this is integrated with the modern world and 'cosmopolitan' values. Not so sure about round here, not least as there are no cities. This is what some of the locals call "Rebel Country".
I met these two Kiwis in he Mexican place I was eating tonight, who were driving from New York to Los Angeles. Respect.
It is raining this morning here in Cody, presumably meaning snow higher up in the Park. let's go see what Yogi's up to. Well, after driving 50 miles through slushy and increasingly deep snow I found the Eastern entrance to the Park closed, due to snow. £*!*. So I drove round to the North-east entrance, which took a few hours, but was worth it for the fantastic scenery. Part of it was on the "All American" (presumably meaning rugged and wild) Beartooth Highway, which had great views.
Today it was the wildlife that made the impression, and that wasn't even something I had come to see. There were herds of elk and buffalo everywhere. There are grizzlies too, potentially dangerous unlike the black bears that I am used too. You are not meant to hike on your own because of the grizzlies, and I don't know where the trails are yet anyway, but I did a short one to look at a waterfall. When I was driving off again, a few people were stopped with binoculars looking very excited at something over where I had been, which must have meant either wolves or more likely grizzly bears. I was keeping my eyes open and making lots of noise on my little walk, as advised.
Anyway, lots of great scenery and animals and I did manage to get to two sections of the park. First one involved a steep and deep canyon with a big waterfall, Tower Falls. The second was Mammoth Hot Springs, an area where water heated by the volcanic magma under Yellowstone is forced to the surface and makes interesting structures, etc. It is a bit smelly, Sulphur Dioxide, but nothing like as smelly as I remember similar places in Iceland.
And so basically I drove from the Mammoth Hot Springs Area to the town of West Yellowstone in Montana - yet another new state - where I am now, passing much more scenery and wildlife on the way I saw an elk with the biggest antlers I have ever seen, and the most exciting bit was coming round a corner to find this HUGE buffalo standing in the road facing me, like it wanted a fight. I should have taken a photo, but was too concerned about how flimsy my car probably was. However, I managed to inch past as far over as I could get without ending up in the snow-filled ditch, and I eventually made it here, just before it got too dark to see what animals were lurking on the roads.