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Cody Cupboard and Yellowstone

July 15, 2013

Wyoming – Monday, July 8

Tula and I took another walk around the campground when we got up, and then I packed things up. This campground actually offers free pancakes for breakfast, and then they have sausage, juice, yogurt and coffee for sale at very fair prices. It’s a good way to do business. Lots of people came in for pancakes, which were good, and then bought the other stuff. It was a good way to start the day! Then I drove into the town of Cody, and we did some more walking. This was a fun town to walk through – part western town, part touristy town, and kind of the last stop before the expanses of Yellowstone and the Tetons. The town was bustling. Cody had a food pantry called Cody Cupboard, and I called and talked to one of the volunteers to see if a food donation or a financial donation would be best. She said a financial one would be great, so that they can get the things they need when they’re out shopping. So I drove over to the food pantry, which was in an old log cabin behind the visitor center. There I met Donna and she showed me all around. The food pantry was very well organized, and like many of them, the amount of food the clients are given depends on family size. Typically the people they serve are referred to them through agencies like the Department of Social Services, but even if someone showed up without a referral, they would probably still give them food. They help around 300 families a month, although the numbers do fluctuate.

When I was done at Cody Cupboard, I had to take care of some things at the post office. Then I thought I better check into the possibility of reserving a campsite in Yellowstone. I already knew that campgrounds in the Grand Tetons were handled on a first-come, first serve basis – they do not take reservations. But Yellowstone did, and I called to see if their were any campsites open anywhere, and it didn’t matter which campground it was at. Because of the bears, tent camping isn’t allowed at all of the campgrounds – just certain ones. I was lucky enough to be able to reserve a campsite in Yellowstone – only about 14 miles from Old Faithful, and then I didn’t have to be rushing anywhere. I was relieved because all of the motel rooms in the towns near the park are ridiculously expensive, and out of my budget range. So I continued west toward Yellowstone, and on the way I saw a sign for another wayfarer’s chapel up on the side of the mountain, so I went to look at that one too, but I liked the one I saw yesterday better. And then I was in Yellowstone! The first thing that was apparent on this side of the park was the result of old forest fires – there were acres and acres of charred trees. I asked a ranger about the fires, and there haven’t been any major ones since 2006. Because of all the wildlife, dogs are only allowed on paved roads and sidewalks in both Yellowstone and Grand Tetons – they cannot go on any of the trails, and that makes perfectly good sense. And that was fine with me because I wasn’t going to be going deep into the woods on any trails by myself in bear country anyway! The first place we came to was called Storm Point, and I got out for a mile walk. It was open meadow by a lake, and as I was walking on the path toward toward the lake, I noticed a buffalo down getting a drink. He then walked right toward the trail and crossed it – I retreated and gave him plenty of space. I wasn’t sure if I was going to take that walk or not, but then he moved far enough away from the trail that I felt comfortable. It was a magnificent animal to watch. I then followed the trail down to a bigger lake, and when I came back there were at least 25 people looking at the buffalo – on my way down to the lake it had just been me. Then we stopped at Fishing Bridge, where there was a small visitor center and across the street was a rustic store, gift shop, gas pumps, and a small lodge sort of place. There were some sidewalks, and I was able to get Tula out for a mile and a half there, and we were also able to walk over the actual fishing bridge although fishing is no longer allowed in that particular area. I went into the gift store and the ice cream counter was doing a brisk business, and it did sound really good, so I had to try the buffalo chip ice cream (chocolate with caramel and nuts). We continued driving in the park passed a couple more buffalo and a couple elk, and saw some small steaming holes in the ground.

I drove on to the West Thumb area of the park, and there were some long boardwalks around some of the fragile ground, and there were more steaming holes and mud pots and bubbling mud, and so many weird things it seems like a different planet. It was evening time by now, and a beautiful time of day to be out walking around, and I had plenty of company even though it was getting later in the day. Everywhere I looked the ground was steaming. Elk can apparently walk on that terrain without breaking through the thin crust, and I got good close-up looks at mama elk and their calves. The babies had some spots on them like a baby deer.

Once I had walked all around those boardwalks, I headed for Old Faithful since I had to pass near it to get to my campground. People swarm to Old Faithful, so there are extra lanes in the roads, extra signs and huge parking lots. Old Faithful erupts about every 90 minutes, and I had no idea where in the cycle I arrived. The sun had just set and the sky was really pretty, and parking wasn’t bad since it was almost 9pm so I hurried over, and saw Old Faithful just as it was erupting. I had a good view even though I was still walking over there. The eruption of water was really pretty against the colors in the sky. I watched the geyser settle back down, and then figured I better finish the drive to my campground so I could get set up before it was totally dark. Yellowstone is a really big park, and even though I’d already been in the park for hours, I still had about 1/2 hour of driving to do. I got there just as they were closing up the office (they would have just left a map out for me and other stragglers) and they went over the bear precautions – primarily about keeping all food, and anything with a scent, locked up in a car or a bear box.

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