Dakotas part 3 – Spearfish, SD to Yellowstone, WY

Dakotas part 3 – Spearfish, SD to Yellowstone, WY

The night in Spearfish was cold and damp. Thank goodness for good tents and sleeping bags. By the next morning, however, the weather had improved and the sun was starting to show itself. We took off VFR out of Spearfish and headed west across Wyoming. Regrettably, most of the photos from this section have also gone missing, although one does remain; it records the radio navigation beacon that we found on the IFR charts with an interesting name.

Wyoming VOR

Our destination was Cody, Wyoming. Named after “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the town has a little under 10,000 inhabitants and is home to all kinds of wild west history and memorabilia. The FBO itself had a strong western theme going on, with stuffed bears in the lobby and all kinds of other wild west decoration. We had a rental car reserved for a couple of nights, with our first destination being Yellowstone National Park.

Crossing Wyoming

It was late afternoon when we arrived in Cody, so after a short stop at an outdoor pursuits store to get a few supplies, we headed up the valley towards Yellowstone. Well before we even reached the park we were making regular stops to gape at the stunning scenery. The drive was up the Wapiti Valley, from Cody to Yellowstone’s east entrance. Distances out here in the west are huge, and the drive to Yellowstone lake was more than 70 miles, taking nearly two hours.

The sun was gradually starting to sink in the west as we arrived in Yellowstone, making for some beautiful views over the lake. It takes forever to drive anywhere in Yellowstone, which is very large and has very winding roads. We stopped first at one of the open lodges to have some dinner, and planned our evening.

We set out to find an open camp site; most of them were already closed for the season. The remaining sites were very full, but we finally found a spot. The camp site spaces were all sized for large, American sized RVs, so fitting three tents into one was not a problem! In the event, we only ended up erecting two tents however; Juvy had decided that instead of sleeping, she was going to take the car and drive around the park all night taking photographs. Fine by me, but I was going to be curled up warmly in my sleeping bag!


It was a cold, cold night in Yellowstone with temperatures falling below freezing. Mike and I had been warm and cosy in our respective tents, but Juvy had suffered the elements and been out all night taking photographs. The results did seem to be worth the effort, however!


Juvy rolled back in to camp a little after sunrise. Mike and I were none too keen to leave our tents, as it was seriously cold, but we eventually managed to pry ourselves out of the warmth and pack up the site. It was time for a day of touring Yellowstone!

Given our short time in the park, we concentrated on some of the major attractions; the Grand Prismatic Spring, and Mammoth Hot Springs among others. We worked our way steadily north through the park and were lucky enough to encounter plenty of buffalo (actually bison) along the way.

At Mammoth Hot Springs we took a walk over the boardwalks above the mineral deposits, climbing up high for great views down over the stepped terraces and valley beyond. As we were descending, a young moose wandered across the path in front of us. This was cause for some concern as where there’s a young moose, there’s probably a large moose not far away! Luckily, they passed on by peacefully and I didn’t have to throw Mike in front of them as a sacrificial offering.

We left the park out the northern gate. The plan was to follow a seasonal, scenic road through the mountains back around and down to Cody. First, though, we stopped at the Boiling River hot springs. A large hot spring enters the Gardner River, mixing into the cold flow and creating pleasantly warm water ideal for swimming. I didn’t have the right clothing to join in, but Mike and Juvy took full advantage. Juvy described herself rather whimsically as a “salmon flopping up the stream”.

Once again we were chasing the sun as we headed through the mountains on the border of Montana and Wyoming. We followed the Beartooth highway, taking the long way around back towards Cody, and stopping regularly at scenic overlooks to enjoy the views as the sun dropped in the west.

We camped that night back down in Cody, in the Koa campsite there. Mike and I set up our tents, while Juvy decided to sleep in the car. The next day it would be time to move on once again.

Click here to read the next part of the story.

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