Bill Sniffin: Yellowstone’s Favorite Haunts Just As Special Today As Over Past 150 Years

Publisher Bill Sniffin writes: Like No Place on Earth was the official slogan for Wyomings tourism division a few years ago.  I liked the slogan but thought it referred more to Yellowstone National Park than anywhere else in the state.

Bill Sniffin

September 28, 20215 min read

Yellowstone tourists
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Bill Sniffin, publisher

(part 2 of 2)

“Like No Place on Earth” was the official slogan for Wyoming’s tourism division a few years ago.  I liked the slogan but thought it referred more to Yellowstone National Park than anywhere else in the state.

That was reaffirmed to us recently when we made our annual trek to the world’s first national park.

Our initial part of our trip out of Lander was interesting. For example, Wind River Canyon between Shoshoni and Thermopolis was slow going because of workers cleaning up a rock fall.

In Cody, we broke one of our windshield wipers while fueling up. We made it to NAPA as they were closing and Tall Joe was wonderful in fixing us up. It was funny as I chased him down the street trying to give him some money. 

One of the best deals in Wyoming is the prime rib dinner buffet at the Irma Hotel and the Dan Miller Revue show afterward.  Just $40. Amazing. Miller has done more than 2,000 shows playing with Wendy Corr and his daughter Hannah.  The show was top notch and very professional.  If you get to Cody, please go. You will not regret it.

We spent a lot of quality time at the most heavily-visited part of the park – the lower loop.  We skipped Old Faithful because of time constraints but were looking forward to some hot water elsewhere.

Norris Geyser Basin is the greatest hot spot in earth. It covers a huge area and can be incredibly dangerous.  Once a season you will hear about someone getting burned in Yellowstone and most often, it happens here.

During our 11-hour trip we were anxious to get to Norris. We have made many trips to Yellowstone in September and October over the past 51 years and for most of that time, the tourists were “local” – from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. On this trip, I finally spotted cars with Montana and an Idaho license plates parked together. Finally, some locals.  Then we noticed they were penned in between cars from Hawaii, California, and Florida. Oh well.

Norris did not disappoint.  It was a windy day, which meant big blasts of sulfur every so often. If you like geysers like I do, the smell of rotten eggs warms your heart.

Traffic was light from Norris to Canyon as we headed for Artist’s Point. It was crowded but we found a parking space.  

At the Point, two guys talking in a foreign language were beside us, so I asked them where they were from.  They said Venezuela originally, but they had lived in Miami for many years now. They bemoaned what had happened to their country but were loving their first visit to YNP.

The road south through Hayden Valley was blocked by a big herd of buffalo. The big bulls were right in front of us and snorting at us. I took a photo through my windshield showing the big bull and the park gal in the distance with her bullhorn. I want to point that out because if you saw the photo, you might think I was being one of those idiots who walk right up to bison. Nope. Not now. Not ever.

Our favorite place is the Lake Hotel and specifically, the big sun room. On this day, it was packed with folks all enjoying drinks and watching whitecaps on the inland sea called Yellowstone Lake. Everybody was required to wear a mask to get in but they all had them off as they sat, drank their drinks, and enjoyed both the view and the company.  The line to the bar was more than 12 people.  We chose to move on.

The morning we left Lander, banker Bill Von Holtum had just come from Yellowstone and said his family had seen three grizzly bears, all in the Fishing Bridge area on the East Entrance road.

We looked but did not see any on this day.  As we left the park headed back to Cody, we entered a surreal world called Wapiti Valley.  This is such a strange place with huge mountains, deep valleys, and a beautiful river.  The HooDoos were amazing, as was a giant rock formation, which I call the Bear’s Ears looming over the whole area.

Sleeping Giant Ski Area has expanded and looked impressive.  The Buffalo Bill Reservoir was drawn down somewhat as we approached the famous Buffalo Bill Dam. When it was built in 1912, it was the tallest in the world.

The Smith Mansion is a six-story relic that looms over part of the valley as you head toward Cody.

When we passed the Cody Rodeo Grounds, we had been gone for 11 hours and had travelled over 300 miles. 

Wow, what a day!  Certainly, one of the best days ever.

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.