Enjoy our video updates as we explore Yellowstone National Park. For more videos, please visit our YouTube page.
Enjoy our videos of the thermal features of Yellowstone. For more videos, please visit our YouTube page.
Yellowstone is of course known for geothermal features such as geysers, mud pots, hot springs, and fumaroles. It is estimated that there are 10,000 thermal features in the park. The hot springs and other features may look inviting, but they are very dangerous. Many of the thermal features can reach temperatures of 204 °F and can kill. Make sure to pay attention and stay on the boardwalks. Twenty people have died from these features.
Enjoy our videos of the thermal features of Yellowstone. For more videos, please visit our YouTube page.
There are many waterfalls to view within Yellowstone NP and even more to view then we were able to see in our three day visit. Enjoy our videos of the waterfalls of Yellowstone.
To view additional videos, please visit our YouTube page here.
We left the Lamar Valley (near the northeast entrance/exit to Yellowstone NP) and continued on our way to Casper, Wyoming. We were going to stay the night in Casper before heading into Denver. At least that was the plan. On the way we passed through the small town of Cooke City, Montana. The town was small and cute and consists of about 10 buildings. Population 140. We continued on the Beartooth highway passing an interesting sign. The sign was for a campground but it specifically stated “No Tents.” We continued on the road making a right turn on Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (Wyoming Highway 296). Just right before approaching mile marker two, I turned to my fiancee and said:
“My accelerator is stuck”
I was traveling about 50 mph and going downhill and was able to apply the brakes but my Jeep would continue to accelerate. My future wife started to panic and I surprisingly did not. I applied the brakes, shifted to 2nd gear and then to low gear. I was able to get the vehicle down to about 10 mph but it still wanted to (luckily this is the least scary part of the highway) accelerate. I pulled into a turnout and applied the brakes hard, pulled the emergency brake, and put my Jeep into park. The engine was still revving as I shut off the engine. The brakes let out a large plume of smoke and I even wondered if the engine was smoking.
We were now safe.
We were stopped on the side of the road with no cars, darkness approaching, and a large number of hungry mosquitoes.
I put on my emergency lights, and opened the hood. Using my flashlight I inspected the engine but was unable to figure out the problem. I comforted my girl and let her know that it would be okay. We had just come from camping in Yellowstone so worse case scenario we have a tent, a pop up tent, plenty of snacks, and even a 72 hour survival/first aid kit.
We will be fine.
We looked on our GPS and discovered Cooke City, Montana was the closest city. The plan was to wait till the brakes cooled down and attempt to drive back to the town for assistance. We waited, but when I turned on my Jeep the engine revved up to 5000 rpms and I shut it off. It still wanted to accelerate.
We were stranded.
I saw an approaching vehicle and used my flashlight to flag it down. A nice woman driving a grey Subaru stopped and offered to give us a ride back into town. On the way back to Cooke City, I asked the driver about the campground that does not allow tents. She explained that this was because a bear dragged a man from his tent and killed him. I later found the news article:
We were even more thankful for the kindness of a stranger to give us a ride back to town. We can handle a few mosqito bites but we certainly do not want to deal with a bear.
She dropped us off back in town and we offered to pay her for her time but she just insisted that we help someone else out in the future.
We carried our overnight bags, camera, laptop, and other items. We went from hotel to motel through the small town but no rooms were available.
I was beginning to worry a little.
Nothing was available in the whole town because of the Sturgis Motorcycle run and because it is a small town.
I made a stop at the local gas station (there are two) to inquire about a mechanic. The mechanic only works on atvs and snowmobiles and we would have to be towed to Cody, Wy, which is 77 miles away. I was told a tow could be arranged at 7am.
AAA was not really an option in this small town but I would attempt to contact them once we found a place to stay.
After trying several hotels we approached the Soda Butte Lodge (http://www.cookecity.com/) for a second time and pleaded with the nice lady behind the desk if there was anything she could do. We would even sleep in the lobby if needed. She did not want to see us stranded and offered to help and let us sleep in the lobby. She provided us with pillows and blankets and we made two couches in the lobby our new home for the night.
We settled in the lobby and I spent some time at the hotel bar. They do have a full bar and slot machines, although I did not gamble.
(below is my view from the lobby couch)
The whole town had no cell service, the lodge had wifi, and a pay phone. I used the pay phone to contact AAA but I still had to put in 75 cents just to dial a 1800 number. In some ways I felt like we were in the twilight zone. AAA could possibly make arrangements in the morning but we figured the local tow person might be out best bet.
Eventually a tad after 11pm the bar closed and I settled back in the lobby. The lodge locked up the bar, front desk, front door, and access to the restrooms. This was not a problem at first but all of a sudden I really had to pee.
I stepped out side to see what my options were and encountered the night manager. He explained that he was unable to open the door to the restrooms but there was a bar down the street and I could go there but it would be polite to order a beer or some chips to use the restrooms. I walked the two blocks to the bar and entered. I hoped that my fiancee would not worry to much as I had no way to communicate with her. The bar was nice but as I entered there were only 3 people at the bar and a bartender. I sat down to order a beer but could not even see what beers were available as I did not have my contacts in. The bar patron next to me listed the beers available. I honestly did not even want a beer nor did I care which one as I only came to the bar to use the restroom. The patron kept listing all the beers.
“I will take a Becks”, I said to the bartender
You don't want that one it has no alcohol, How about a Rainier?
That is fine.
I asked “Do you take cards? Do you have Wifi?”
No and No
I was out of cash.
The bar patron paid for the beer (only $3) and I took a few sips and then used the bathroom.
I sat at the bar with the locals and talked with them. We talked about the local town, made jokes, and talked about the bears that frequent the area.
Apparently the bears, even walk down the main street in the middle of town.
It felt as if I was making friends but the the bartender abruptly told us that we were done.
I used the restroom one last time (probably my only option til morning), I finished my beer, and then thanked the bar patron for paying for my beer.
“I bought you a beer?”
Maybe this was the twilight zone.
I left the bar and made my way back to the lodge. I was on the lookout for bears because after hearing all these stories, as I assumed they were everywhere. I did not see any.
I made my way back into the lobby. I kissed my girl goodnight and settled in on my couch. Overall we were comfortable but a few mosquitoes managed to make their way inside and we woke up with mosquito bites.
Around 7am I woke up, grabbed some coffee and made arrangements to be towed. The tow driver showed up (a Ford F250 and a trailer) shortly later and we were towed into Cody, Wyoming. We traveled along The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, which was beautiful, but quite steep with multiple hair pin curves. This was definitely not the part of the road you would want to drive on with a stuck accelerator.
M77 miles later and we arrived in Cody, WY. In most of Wyoming you will be lucky to find any cell service, especially if you have T Mobile like me. In all major cities including Cody I was on roaming. My fiancee was able to access the internet on her phone and make calls and for some reason, but I was only allowed to make calls. We dropped the Jeep off at the local Jeep dealer (I figured it should get fixed at a dealership because it was a safety issue) and paid the tow truck driver ($563).
The dealership explained that it may take several hours to determine what was wrong with it and it make take several days to fix. The dealership drove us into town and we visited the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum http://centerofthewest.org/ and ate lunch at a nice Chinese buffet (http://www.chinesefoodcody.com/).
We explored the museum, saw a baby deer, ate lunch, explored the museum, waited, saw a raptor show, and made our way back to the museum.
It turns out the air intake resonator had a tear in in and the small piece of rubber was stuck in the throttle blade causing it to remain open. The repair would cost a little over $350 and because the part is rare it would take a few days to be shipped and then fixed. We got a rental car, stopped in Casper, WY and ate dinner at an awesome steak place (http://poorboyssteakhouse.com/). It took about a little over 7 1/2 hours to make it back to Denver. By the time we made it home, unpacked and showered it was 5am.
The last I heard is that my Jeep is fixed, it is of course still in Cody, WY and we will drive back on Sunday and return on Monday to pick it up.
I learned a few things from this experience:
Always carry cash. Don't panic or worry because most things can get better no matter how bad they may seem. I will be fine because I have my awesome fiancee Randi by my side. Life could always be worse, we are blessed to have each other and small town hospitality. Other than this, the road trip was incredible. We saw amazing scenery and Deer, Elk, Pronghorn, Bison, and even a Bear and of course a bunch of geysers in Yellowstone.
We made it back to Cody after staying in Casper, returned the rental car, and finally made the return trip to Denver. My Jeep is completely fixed and everything is back to normal. I am working extra hours to pay for everything but despite this setback it was a very amazing vacation.
We left Park City, Utah, and Salt Lake City, Utah, and then made our way into Yellowstone National Park. We camped for two nights at the Grant Village Campground and tried our best to see as much of the park as we could.
The park is huge! (2,219,789 acres) Believe it or not the roads only cover about 5% of the park. We managed to explore most of the lower loop and the northeast section including the Lamar Valley. The Lamar Valley is beautiful and a great location to view wildlife. We did not have enough time to see everything and we will definitely plan for a return trip.
Yellowstone is of course known for many geothermal features such as geysers, mud pots, hot springs, and fumaroles. It is estimated that there are 10,000 thermal features in the park. The hot springs and other features may look inviting, but they are very dangerous. Many of the thermal features can reach temperatures of 204 °F and can kill. Make sure to pay attention and stay on the boardwalks. Twenty people have died from these features.
You can also view an abundance of wildlife including Bison, Pronghorn, Marmots, Deer, Elk, and Bear to name a few. We managed to see all of the above.
In addition to thermal features you will also see many extravagant waterfalls.
There is so much to do in Yellowstone National Park, you may want to spend an entire week there.
A trip to Yellowstone would also not be complete without a tour on one of the historic yellow buses. Built in the 1930s they can carry 14 people and they even have wooden doors. They have been recently restored at a cost of $250,000 per bus. This is a tour that you should not miss. We took the Yellowstone Lake Butte Sunset Tour and it was awesome.
Enjoy our many videos of Yellowstone NP. I know we enjoyed the park and did not want to leave.
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Text and photography copyright 2011 by Brian S White, all rights reserved.