Exploring Wyoming

posted in: Road Trip, Van Life, Wyoming | 2

When you think of Wyoming, your mind will likely conjure up an array of mental images such as ruggedly handsome cowboys riding capable horses, substantial tumbleweeds blowing aimlessly in the unmerciful winds, the majestic beauty of the Grand Tetons, or perhaps Old Faithful as steam bellows from her foul smelling jowl. I would put money on the fact that Bighorn National Forest did not enter into those thoughts but I’m here to show you why they should. I will of course also share some photos from our visit to Yellowstone and our sad attempt at the Tetons. I hope you enjoy this blog and everything about exploring Wyoming!

Bighorn National Forest

The Beginning.

While exploring Wyoming, this was our favorite section by far. In fact, if I had it to do all over again, I would skip both Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons and come straight here. The area was stunningly beautiful, lacked crowds, and was a haven off route exploration via mountain bike. Of course, we blew right by it because we had our invisible time frame! Urg.

Side note: It’s so easy to get caught up in getting from point A to B even when you try not to think that way. What can I say? Lessons are always learned the hard way. Well, at least in my world they are.

As we entered the area, there was a dense fog that situated itself heavily upon the treetops. I remember thinking to myself as Eric drove on, “this is going to be a great drive”. Boy was I right. If only my sixth sense would have said, “you know, this place is awesome, you should stay longer”. I’ll have to work on my internal dialogue!

At the top of the pass, we stopped to enjoy the views.

Can you believe that a tornado ripped through this area in 1959. At 10,000 feet above sea level, that is quite impressive.

Eventually, the sun did its job and the fog lifted. The clouds remained and the unrelenting winds knocked us in every direction as we pressed onward towards the summit.

Despite the heavy winds, it was a rather enjoyable drive with minimal traffic and excellent views. The peacefulness of it all lured us in for a few hours as we did stop at a quiet, scenic spot for lunch and a shower. Truth: We have eaten, showered, and pooped in some of the most amazing places. Van life rules!

Lunch/Shower Spot

After our extended pit stop, we were graced with continued awe inspiring views through the mountains followed by dramatically lit canyons. Here are the rest of the photos of the Bighorn area.

Sky. Road. View. Love.
My all time favorite pic of Eric (so far)
The area was gorgeous
Garden of the Gods stole my heart.
I hiked down a steep trail to get a closer look. So worth it!
My happy face the ENTIRE time we were here!
Transitioning from forest to canyon
Perfect timing with the late afternoon light at Pyramid Peak.
Blue skies mixed with clouds and bright sunlight make for dramatic views.
It was often difficult to capture vastness and raw beauty of this area!
Red rock peeking through the trees

The decent from the top of the canyon happened so quickly and before we knew it, we were driving along the North Tongue River along the canyon floor. Then, just like that, we were spat out from the Garden of the Gods. The entire experience left us questioning whether or not we should just turn around and do it all over again! It was that spectacular!

The end.

Yellowstone National Park

Coffee stop at Buffalo Bill Reservoir just past the Shoshone Canyon west of Cody, WY

After spending the night at the Cody Walmart, Eric and I woke up at 6AM and made our way towards Yellowstone. At day break, we stopped at the Buffalo Bill Reservoir to re-fuel. We consumed our raspberry filled donuts and with coffee-in-hand (fuel) we made our way to the geological wonderland that is Yellowstone. For years I have thought, “I’ve got to see what all the hype is about!”. While I wasn’t blown away (haha pun intended considering this park is a super volcano!), it was neat. I’d be singing a different tune if it wasn’t so packed. I did score a few photos that didn’t have hoards of people in them, so we did go at possibly the least crowded time which is hard to imagine. Have any of you experienced Yellowstone during the summer? Any good stories to share?

Bison

Upon entering the park, we were completely disregarded by a large bison who was perfectly content in munching his morning meal in the middle of the road. Now, after making fun of every idiotic soul I encountered in Custer State Park who dangerously blocked traffic to snap a photo of one of these slow moving beasts, here I was—taking my turn.

In all fairness, he was meandering along rather slowly, taunting me to join the masses in this photo buffoonery I so despised. Ah, hypocrisy at it’s finest! Not my proudest moment, but at least I did check my mirrors to ensure no other motorists were in the vicinity. It was rather early in the morning and there was no traffic (yet). The crazy part is, I’m not sure the next guy was as lucky (or smart). About a mile down the road we heard sirens racing towards us, one…two…three…no FIVE speeding park rangers later we were thinking a serious accident may have occurred. A quick google search later would reveal that motor vehicle accidents are quite common in the name of the next best Instagram post (#why).

Geysers

Old Faithful

I’m going to be completely honest here—Old Faithful was a totally lame experience. I have no idea why millions of people flock to that one location, fight over their front row seat with cameras in hand, and wait for hours to watch her blow. It was unremarkable and I felt like a total lemming for showing up. On a positive note, we accidentally timed it just right and only stood in the cold drizzle for about 14 minutes before it happened.

While we may have found the main attraction dull, the rest of the area was magnificent!

Upper Geyser Basin

Eric and I strolled along countless pathways along the Upper and Lower Geyser Basin and I took about 1000 photos.

The photograph below is my absolute favorite from this area. It’s likely because it looks like a scene from another world. The basin has an eerie feel, especially on a dreary day like this. Vapor rising from gaping holes in the Earth’s crust, Yellowstone waiting patiently to blow at any moment!

Here are some more photos of the area.

Lots of interesting colors and smells
Random holes in the earth
Smells like someone had eggs and beer for dinner!
A little too hot for my taste!
LOVED the trees in this area. Eerie, twisted, and super cool!

Natural Land Bridge

Hello big orange sign that I missed!

Eric spotted a natural land bridge sign and an nearly empty parking area so we decided to stop and check it out. It was a cold day with constant drizzle so we geared up, got the bikes ready, and set off on our adventure.

We were greeted by a warning sign indicating this was an area frequently visited by our furry bear friends. The funny thing is that I didn’t see it until we returned. It was a short, relatively flat 2 mile ride to the bridge.

I was skeptical at first, but the entire area turned out to be a lot more interesting than I would have thought. Here are some photos.

Our ride out to the bridge
Have you spotted natural land bridges before? If so, where?
Yeah, this looks like bear territory to me.

A few noteworthy mentions

The rare time we went 36 seconds without seeing another human except for the 2 groups of 3 behind us.
Mud Pots
Our epic selfie!
BEAR????
A hidden pull off where Eric and I explored

Grand Tetons National Park

This was a fly by. I don’t really have anything to say about this area except it was beautiful and it was packed. We thought Yellowstone was busy, but the Tetons was PACKED. Every parking area was so full that people were overflowing out onto the highway. It was INSANE. So we made a B-line for Idaho—The West’s best kept secret (kind of).

Here are a few photos I snapped from the passenger seat.

Technically we stopped for this pic.
And a quick stop here across from the Jackson Airport just outside of the park.

That’s a Wrap

All-in-all, Wyoming was amazing! We will definitely be back to explore more, but Idaho is calling. While we don’t really have a schedule per see, winter is around the corner and we would like to spend some time in Stanley and Boise before heading south to observe the snowbirds.

Thanks for reading! Drop me a line if you have something to share, questions, or want to chat!

Until next time friends…..

2 Responses

  1. Becca

    Awesome shots Jenni! I love to read your blog! You always manage to awaken my wandering soul with your pics and words. So happy that the two of you are able to explore and enjoy life. Adventure on my friend and enjoy this journey –

    • Jenni

      Thank you Becca! I’m glad you enjoy the blog. I feel the same about your photos and adventures. We should seriously think about an adventure together or a girl’s trip someday!?!

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