I drive west from Cody towards Yellowstone National Park, passing by Buffalo Bill State Park and Buffalo Bill Reservoir. It’s easy to see why William F. Cody thought the area should be protected and why people from the US and the rest of the world would want to come here.
The landscape is rugged, grand, American, with big drifted hills and ancient cliffs, colored layers of rock from across the ages and strange tower formations.
I reach Shoshone National Forest and enter Yellowstone, following a line of RVs on a slow winding road into the park. Often claimed as the world’s first National Park, Yellowstone was established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant after mountain men, hunters, trappers and later a government expedition reported stories of geysers, steaming pools and unique thermal features, as well as canyons, wildlife and untouched natural beauty. The park covers a vast area, with the majority (96 per cent) in Wyoming, and a fraction in Montana and Idaho. It is the ninth largest National Park in the US, 80 per cent of it forest, and sits inside the caldera of a massive supervolcano. There are more than 300 active geysers, along with sulfurous pits and pools the color of tomato soup. The land across the park hisses, steam, spits, bubbles and simmers.
Old Faithful is the most famous of all the thermal features, watched every time it erupts (every 90 minutes) by thousands of visitors. I persuade Kate Dube, bellhop at the Old Faithful Lodge, to show me up to the roof for a view of Old Faithful and the surrounding landscape. The lodge opened in 1904 when the park would have looked very different.
“Only the rich came to Yellowstone in those days,” Dube says. “They’d get off in Gardner, Montana, from trains that brought them in from cities on the east coast. Maybe it was the first time they saw the mountains. They came here via stagecoach, pretty much the same roads system we use now, but dirt roads. It was definitely a wild experience. They were entering the Wild West. It was crazy and weird. Bears would be out and being fed, and there were all these crazy thermal features, which are what made this place a national park. Just a unique place that no one had really seen before.”
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