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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

America the Beautiful: Park 5

We are now back in California, having arrived safely home on Monday night. We got the news that Doug's sister Jan passed away on Sunday night. Click here to find her obit. She was truly one remarkable woman and she will be missed by all who knew and loved her. 
On Saturday morning we woke up pretty early and had a very ambitious day planned. We wanted to get to Yellowstone via Billings, MT and drive all the way west across the park, hoping to return to some sights on Sunday. It proved to be far too ambitious and we had to change our plans on the fly. Fortunately it worked out well.
Montana continued to dazzle with its strong, amazing beauty. I'm not sure I've ever travelled this road before and even if I did, I was 11 years old and in the back of the car, likely wondering if we were there yet. As it was, the road just stretched out in front of us for miles and miles. The vast landscape fanning out in all directions. This sign cracked me up a bit...wondering why one would take the "Bad Route". I actually have no idea where the name for the Badlands came from. I should google that. 
Ridges and rivers and lush farmland enveloped us and we continued to marvel at how beautifully diverse the United States are. 

We had a planned stop in Billings where our dear friends from the International Church network now live in their retirement. Their house is located near the rimrocks of Billings and the setting was spectacular. Sharing a lunch of Swedish pancakes on their deck was an absolutely wonderful way to take a refreshing stop. Paul and Kay are among the most lovely people we've ever met. Kay actually taught nursing at North Park for a season while Paul pastored in Chicago so our shared history goes pretty deep. We have also had cause to meet up with them in Palm Springs as they are there to visit friends somewhat regularly. We are blessed by their friendship in our lives.
They know Yellowstone well so they had some good tips for us and also gave us a sense that our plan to get all the way to west entrance by night fall was likely biting off a bit more than we could chew. But off we went to figure out the rest of the day. Big beautiful mountains came into view fairly quickly. As we approached Cody, WY, we realized that there was no way to get to the place where we thought we'd stay. We were lucky to be able to cancel our reservation and just hoped we could find something that would suit our needs better for that day. It was already evening as we neared the east entrance of the park so we were very thankful that we were able to shift our plans. 
Cody is a cute little town, quintessentially the wild west! But it was still a good hour from the park entrance so we sallied forth. 
Just 2 miles before the east entrance of the park we saw the Pahaska Tepee resort and took a chance that they'd have space and allow Tanner to accompany us. SCORE! The rooms were small, barebones cabins, clean and in a gorgeous setting. The restaurant was also open so we had all we needed for the night. The lodge bar was a classic place with these three characters on the wall.
I couldn't help but think that this lodge was the exact inspiration for Disneyland's Country Bear Jamboree where Buff, Max and Melvin welcomed you to the show!
Stock photo Disney's Country Bear Jamboree
Turns out that Pahaska has a cool history as being centered around Buffalo Bill's spectacular historic lodge. It is nestled amongst the pines just East of Yellowstone at the foot of majestic Cody Peak.
It's good we stopped. We were quite tired and soon after we got settled, the rain started. We were happily warm and dry in our little cabin. There was no tv, no internet and barely enough light to read. Sleep came easy and early. It was good to slow down, get off the grid and relax into the wonder of Yellowstone that now awaited us early the next morning.