Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway

We left the Black Hills on Saturday, May 3rd, and drove across Wyoming, avoiding the Big Horn Mountains.  This added a little more mileage to our trip, but we had heard about the difficulties of driving through that mountain pass and decided to just go around it.

So instead we drove through a lot of the remote areas of Wyoming.  And by remote, I mean REMOTE!  The entire state of Wyoming, even though it is so large a land area, has a total population of only about a half-million people, and most of them live in the cities.  You know you are driving through some rather non-populated land when you come across a "town" with a population of only four people - and it shows on the map! (Lost Springs, Wyoming - look it up!)

We overnighted in the city of Casper, then continued on our way the next morning.  Along the way to Yellowstone, we drove through a portion of the Wind River Reservation, which is home of Arapaho and Shoshone Native Americans, and is also where the Lewis & Clark Shoshone guide Sacagawea is buried.  We didn't see her grave site, but we knew it was there as we passed by the reservation.

We also drove through the Wind River Canyon, which stunned us with its beauty.  Who couldn't resist the opportunity to stop along the way to grab a picture?

We arrived in Cody, Wyoming, around lunchtime on Sunday, May 4th.  We grabbed some lunch, then decided to drive along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway to arrive at the northeast entrance to Yellowstone.  It was quite scenic, no doubt!  At one point, the winding mountain switchbacks started to make me a little bit motion-sick, but it was worth it for the scenery.

Chief Joseph was a Nez Perce leader who resisted relocation by the Americans.  He led his people on a 1170-mile "fighting resistance" in an attempt to reach Canada for political asylum (like Sioux Chief Sitting Bull had done), but ultimately he surrendered in 1877 only 40 miles from the Canadian border.  Following arrest, he plead his case to many American dignitaries, but ultimately his request to return his people to their homeland in the Pacific Northwest was ignored.  Chief Joseph died in 1904 never realizing his dream.

Our drive along the Chief Joseph scenic highway was not completely successful.  We never reached the northeast entrance to Yellowstone!  We drove 70 miles along that route before we came to a road closure.  We were only about ten miles from the entrance to Yellowstone, but we could not pass.  We considered pressing on, but we could see that the road ahead of us had patches of snow and ice.  We felt it was better to be safe.  So we turned around and drove the 70 miles back to Cody to our campground.  Better luck next time!

(And who knew there were literate deer in Wyoming?)