Yellowstone National Park. East Entrance to the Canyon Area and the Hayden Valley


Mileage Today:70    Total Mileage 3170

An amazing day today! Our 30th Anniversary and our first day in Yellowstone National Park. We were awake early as ever, had our breakfast and were on the road by 815. We weren’t too sorry to be leaving Cody. Not our favourite place by any means. A bit honky tonk in lots of ways.
Our first stop was at the Buffalo Bill Dam just a few miles west of Cody. It was built in the early 1900s and at one time was the tallest dam in the world. It is certainly unusually narrow and high. Quite dizzymaking looking down. It was blue skies but windy first thing and pretty blustery out on the dam wall. I should say it is damming the Shoshone River for irrigation and now power generation purposes. Before the dam, much of this part of Wyoming was a desert. We went into the visitor’s centre and watched an excellent short film about the making of the dam. It was a nightmare project. The first two contractors went bust over it and failed. The third finished it but with considerable financial loss. What made it so difficult was that it could only be built in the winter months because the flow and flood of the Shoshone in the summer as the snow melted made it impossible to build then. The trouble with the winter months was that the cold was so bitter, it slowed everything and made the concrete very difficult to lay. If they didn’t get enough done over the winter, then the summer floods just washed everything away, which is what kept happening with the first two contractors. Anyway, an incredible feat of engineering and quite a sight to see even now.
We moved on west. Stopped at another Buffalo Bill location, his hunting lodge, just before the park entrance. It wasn’t worth the stop. The drive itself was through some incredible red rock scenery. Fingers of rock. All very western.
Got to the park about 10 am. There was some heavy rain in the last hour but it began to clear up. We came in around the north of Lake Yellowstone which is truly enormous, more like a sea. It had white horses on it. Came north then on the loop road towards Canyon Village where we were staying the night.
We stopped to see some of the minor volcanic pools that are in this area: Mud Volcano and Sulphur Cauldron. The smell wasn’t too bad. They were bubbling away like mad. Drove up alongside the Yellowstone River flowing away from the lake, through woods. When we came to the large valley called Hayden Valley, we came upon a large herd of buffalo right beside the road. Got some good closeups. We are almost blasé about buffalo now!!! “Oh its only buffalo…..”
Came upon a small opening in the woods where there was a lone buffalo (yawn.. LOL) and a large male elk. He had superb antlers and was pretty close, just lying down enjoying the sun. He wouldn’t turn round though. I could only get his back!
We drove along the south ledge of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, stopping at the viewpoints such as Artist’s Point and the waterfall view. Absolutely unbelievable! Just stunningly beautiful The colours of the ravine are a mix of yellow and ochre and red and cream….. down, down in the bottom is the blue Yellowstone churning over rapids and the massive thunder of the waterfall of course.
After stopping at all the viewpoints on the south side, we drove across and did the same thing along the north rim. Grand View and Inspiration Point were outstanding. So stunning.
Checked in at our hotel and they were nice and sorted us out a room at 3pm when check in wasn’t till 430. We had dinner reservations at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Restaurant at 515 and it was about a 45 minute drive, so we wanted to be able to get in and shower and change. The room is pretty small but it’s functional and has a shower room. No fridge, tv or wifi of course, or phone signal come to that. There is wifi in the lobby – only one device per 24 hours and I have some doubts but will try and post this later.
Back to the Lake hotel for our anniversary dinner and what a lovely time that was! Firstly, the hotel is a charming classic American resort on the edge of the lake. Quite Victorian. The sort of hotel Disney tries to emulate with the Grand Floridian. The dining room was lovely and looked out to the woods and to the lake. There were elk outside the window. Our servers were very nice. One was a Turkish student and we gave him our few words of Turkish which pleased him. They made a big fuss of us because of our anniversary. The food was superb. Very unusual in our experience for a national park. Truly fine dining. I had a bison ribeye steak with a garlic and blue cheese topping, creamed cauliflower and heritage carrots. Bob had elk chops in a blackberry red wine reduction, garlic mash and carrots. Both of them were amazing but Bob’s elk was truly exceptional, due to the sauce. I felt guilty with the elk right outside……
They gifted us dessert and we had Basque cake with sour cherries. It was a warm, yellow, flourless cake, very moist. YUM! A really lovely anniversary dinner and one we shall not forget in this special place.
On the way back we stopped several times in the Hayden Valley to observe animals out in the dusk. There was a lot of elk and buffalo. One buffalo was literally right outside the car and I got some good shots of his head.
This is an amazing park. I’m sure we will have very full days here with a lot to see.  The wifi is absolutely woeful as expected.