Last summer we arrived at Yellowstone National Park from the Grand Tetons via the picturesque South Gate. The approach from the south is an easy and enjoyable ride. This well-maintained road winds through a thick forest of slender Lodge Pole Pines, occasionally offering a view of lively streams and crystalline lakes.
After spending the better part of a week touring the splendors of Yellowstone, we headed east toward Cody, WY and points beyond. I thought we had thoroughly researched our route, so what came next was a complete surprise.
We saddled up early in the morning and headed out of Yellowstone via the East Gate. This route took us through – aieeee! – the Sylvan Pass, which is a mountainous – watch out! – winding road with the slimmest of guard rails – Laura Mercy! – and hairpin turns and switchbacks – whoa! – and a canyon far, far – don’t look down! – below.
On this wild, black diamond slope, a dag-blamed, son-of-a-buck Class C towing a trailer passed us on a blind curve. My fingerprints are still in the dash.
In all our research, I can’t recall anyone mentioning how terrifying Yellowstone’s East Gate can be. It was bad enough going downhill through the Sylvan Pass, but it was quite the spectacle to watch incoming RV’s struggle to climb up this treacherous road. If you choose to enter the park via this road, unhook your toad before the attempt. And if you exit Yellowstone out the East Gate, pump your brakes and pray!
After the excitement of sliding down the Sylvan Pass, we passed into the rolling hills of Shoshone National Forest and came out panting at Cody, Wyoming
Cody is a thoroughly western community where everything in the town is named after Buffalo Bill Cody; the reservoir, the dam, and the high school football team. But best of all is the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. A sprawling center with five separate wings: Buffalo Bill Museum, Plains Indians, Yellowstone, Firearms, and Western Art. Each wing boasts an extensive collection, unequaled to anything I’ve seen yet.
Continuing east past Cody, the landscape changes from lush valley to high desert, and then into a region where nothing at all grows. We rested for the night in Ten Sleep (population 260) before tackling the Big Horn Mountains the next day. We chose the southern route, Highway 16, because the billboards promised it was the “Fast, Easy, and Safe” way to cross.
I sure wish there had been a similar alternative to Yellowstone’s East Gate!
Website:Buffalo Bill Historical Center
May 18, 2013