Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Leaving Yellowstone

Our last day in Yellowstone was sad because there would be no more adventures in the park. We had to repeat a grueling 2000+ mile cross-country drive that we had done back in May. It was celebrated because we weren't going to see another Old Faithful Inn plate, and we were heading back to Orleans, VT to visit my parents and plan our Southeast Asia itinerary.

We left the park early in the morning, wondering what animals would give us our sendoff. As discussed in previous posts, we were hoping the employee-last-day-bear-sighting would hold true. We traveled from Old Faithful to the east entrance of the park with the usual suspects, bison road jams, coyotes crossings, Lake Yellowstone sunrise, and tourist buses. Along Lake Yellowstone, we encountered a bald eagle.

We thought the regal send off was fantastic, and we were content leaving the park. Then, the unthinkable happened. Less than five miles from the east entrance, we spotted a grizzly bear sow with three yearlings!

The bears foraged in an open field for more than fifteen minutes. We were fortunate enough to be watching this with a member of the Cody, Wyoming bear management team. He had been monitoring the sow and cubs all summer. Since July, the bears had been frequenting the valley. It was amazing that the sow had kept all three cubs in good health. The yearlings would hibernate one more winter with their mother before being kicked out of the den. As the mother led the three yearlings into the timber, one straggled behind to forage for that last bug and tend to a back itch.

The employee-last-day-bear-sighting held true and couldn't have been more spectacular. We followed highway 14 through Wyoming attempting to get to Rapid City, SD. Highway 14 provided excellent Wyoming entertainment. At one point, the two-lane road weaves through a tight canyon. In the canyon, we encountered the largest cattle crossing I have ever witnessed (and remember, I'm from Vermont, the dairy capital). Cowboys/girls were leading more than 1,000 cows from a field on the ridges of the canyon to a field within the canyon. Our VW golf weaved around hundreds of cattle for thirty minutes. When we arrived to the last cowboys (10 of them), Laura asked, “Do you do this everyday?”. “Everyday!” was the reply. What a task! Here's a photo of the first group of cattle.

As we climbed out of the canyon, a heli-logging operation became our next stop. A helicopter transported timber from one side of the canyon to the other.

Chainsaws ripped through lodgepole pines on one side of the canyon, the helicopter picked them up, and the trunks were piled on the other side of the canyon.

How is heli-logging cost effective?

We arrived in Rapid City, SD our first night and planned to visit Mount Rushmore the following day. Unfortunately, weather did not cooperate. The following day was heavily overcast and rained. Mount Rushmore was not viewable; tourists were being turned back. With the bad news, we decided to continue east. A long, boring ride across South Dakota was highlighted by a number of Wall Drug billboards.

Five-cent coffee, free ice water, free donut and coffee for veterans, free bumper sticker, homemade donuts, western ware, native american relics, jackalopes, etc. How can you NOT stop?

Laura and I were overtaken by the Wall, SD store (Bye, bye Walmart, Hello Wall Drug!). The leather bags, western hats, western library, western history on the walls, etc. were overwhelming.

After the spanish woman was complemented by locals for her western look, we stopped at the Wall drug diner. Laura got 5-cent coffee; I got free ice water. It was all complemented by a fantastic batch of homemade donuts!

For an unique, interesting success story, read Wall Drug's history.

We stayed in Chamberlain, SD that night. We had an uneventful interstate drive to Cleveland, OH on day three. On day four, we drove from Cleveland, OH to Orleans, VT. We happily arrived in Orleans at half past midnight just in time for my birthday the following day.

The trip statistics for this cross-country trip:

Total miles: 2,609
Total gas cost: $215.24
Total gas gallons: 78.594
Average miles per gallon: 33.2
Average price per gallon: $2.74
Most expensive gas: $2.899 (Oneonta, NY)
Total tolls cost: $18.15 ($10.95 to Ohio, $6.70 to Illinois, $0.50 to Indiana)

We are now planning our itinerary for Southeast Asia. Monsoon season is over and it's time to explore! New posts will describe our future plans.


Greg said...

We go off for a couple of days and you inundate us with numerous greatest blog emtries. Connection is too slow tonight to enjoy. Will critique in a day or two. But small photos are terrific.

You'll have to wait with baited breath for the final verdict. Just kidding.
1140 10-24-07

Anonymous said...

the CATS and the parents welcomed the travelers back to good old VT.have had a great time listening to the many stories of their time in Yellowstone; and mother Rosie has given J.P. some good hand cream to heal his chapped dishpan hands. haven't seen any mention of those dishwashing nightmares in this blog yet--but all entries have been exciting and informative.

Jeff Coburn said...

One thing came to mind reading this post: