credit: (American Buffalo or Bison)
While working for a summer in Estes Park, Colorado (gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park) I took a few days off, borrowed a friend’s car and set out to explore. I had over a number of previous visits to Colorado seen many of the glorious sights that the state has to offer but now I was turning my attention North to Wyoming.
After work one afternoon, I packed up the car for my road trip. Driving North from Colorado I headed out across the high plains of Southern Wyoming, through Cheyenne, Laramie and Rawlings, passed towns called Medicine Bow and Muddy Gap. They don’t call this the ‘Cowboy State’ for nothing and if the place names didn’t conjure up images of the wild west, the landscape surely did. It was like every Western movie I had ever seen, not to mention the car radio could tune in three different country music stations, I was truly in the heart of cowboy country. I continued on, driving through the evening and into the night, and was treated to the most amazing lightening storm I have ever witnessed. There was lightening everywhere I looked, fork and sheet lightening lit the darkening day and night as I drove onward.
The next day I made an early start and continued my drive North West, passing mile after mile of ranch land toward Grand Teton National Park. The Teton Range beside the Snake River is a spectacular cathedral like mountain range rising like jagged teeth to over 13,770ft (4,000m) seemingly straight out of the relatively flat land surrounding them. I spent the day hiking and exploring the area, visiting places like Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and Jackson Hole. I still would love to know if Moose Junction keeps a family of moose on retainer for the visitors because right there in town was a moose family posing for photos!
Yellowstone National Park, widely held as the first national park ever created, is a place of wonderful and varied natural beauty and it was my next port of call. Home to ‘Old Faithful’ geyser it’s most popular site, it is a ‘hotbed’ for all kinds of geothermal activity, as well as a large variety of wildlife. The eruption of ‘Old Faithful’ is a sight to behold as it shoots boiling water over 100ft into the air every 90 minutes or so. The landscape here and in the surrounding area is almost lunar like, alien even. Everywhere hot bubbling springs with fountains of water, simmering paint pots of mud, coloured by the minerals leeched from the soil and fumaroles belching sulphur smelling steam, like dragons with bad breath.
photo by: Jon Sullivan
After a day making my way from one amazing sight to the next I was heading to Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, where I planned to spend the night, when I decided to make one last detour off the main road along a narrow one way dirt road. It was dusk as I rounded a corner, about 2 miles into the narrow winding detour, when there standing in the middle of the road about 50m ahead was a rather large buffalo. From the warning flyer I had received at the park entrance earlier that day, I now knew buffalo come in sizes XXL and bigger, had a not so sunny disposition and could run a lot faster than their lumbering size would have you believe. I didn’t want to antagonise this beast any more than necessary so I switched off the engine and headlights and sat there in my car while the animal eyed me up from a distance. What made matters worse was, as the buffalo started walking toward the car, I could see it was injured and limped badly. I sat and I waited, slowly he came closer and closer until he passed within touching distance. I dared not move, I scarcely drew breath as he came alongside and paused for a moment, turned his head to have a good look at me through the open window. It was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time and I was so tempted to reach out and touch him but thought better of it. It was definitely a close encounter and one I will never forget.
After my buffalo experience the previous evening, the rest of my trip seemed rather sedate. I spent the last morning exploring more of the national park and then began the long journey home to Estes Park. This leg of my journey took me through through Buffalo Bill State Park and the town of Cody, called after the man himself. The drive from Cody to Casper took me through vast expanses of land, which gave new meaning to the word ‘rural’. Imagine living in a town, 100 miles from any major urban centre and having a population of anywhere between 10 and 200 people, now that is remote. In three and half days I covered 1,400 miles which is only a drop in the ocean of this vast and varied country.