Sunday, July 20, 2008

Travelblog episode 9: West into Wyoming

The new tents worked fine. Kept out the bugs (no rain that night) and didn't collapse under the moderate wind gusts. They didn't keep the sun out either, though, which meant it was another early morning. Which was fine, 'cause we wanted to get on the road early and head west to Cody, Wyoming. Along the way, if there was time, we hoped to detour off I-90 and check out Devil's Tower. The farther west we went, the hazier the sky. I don't know if there were wildfires somewhere nearby, if it was some freak global warming smog thing, or what, but the visibility sucked. And since we had a long way to drive we decided to skip the 90 mile detour to Devil's Tower. Which, I suppose, gives us a reason to go back to eastern Wyoming.

The drive through eastern Wyoming is nothing special. I mean, it's not hideously ugly or anything, and definitely has that "open range" feeling that you get in that part of the country, but that was about it. And I figured "well, the rest of the day will be pretty much like this..." Boy, was I wrong.As we passed Gilette, Wyoming we started seeing signs for "US 16, The most scenic route to Yellowstone". Hmm...when we first started planning the trip we were going to head that way, spending a night in Thermopolis and checking out their hot springs before driving down the Wind River Canyon in to Cody. Today we were planning on the more direct route of I-90 to Sheridan then US 14 west to Cody. So, I guess we were going to miss the scenic scenery. Oh well.

The closer we got to Buffalo, where I-90 starts heading north toward Montana, the more the scenery started to change. There were now mountains in the the near distance. "Huh," I thought. "I didn't realize the Rockies came this far east..." This is when a Wyoming map might have come in handy...all we had was the AAA "Western States" uber-map, not the specific Wyoming map. So we didn't realize we'd have to drive through the Bighorn Mountains. Not that that would have changed our planned route, but we would have had something to look forward to.

We stopped in Sheridan for a coffee break and to fill up on gas, then headed west on US 14 in to the Bighorns. The path up the east side of the range was a long series of s-curve switchbacks that put a serious strain on the ol' Sebring. Fortunately there was a car in front of us so I wasn't tempted to drive too fast...Paige would never have been able to keep up in the more top-heavy Jeep. The middle portion of the range was like any high mountain area, but the descent on the west was gorgeous, winding down a deep canyon with a sheer drop-off off the right side of the road.

Once we were out of the Bighorns it was back to the standard high desert / plains environment for the next 50 miles or so in to Cody. And, more importantly, it was flatter and straighter so we could make up some time and get to the camp ground in time to have some dinner and play some games!

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