Bill Sniffin's Report From Yellowstone: Heavy Rain Dampened Idiot Activity

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes, "We were on full-time Idiot Patrol Wednesday as we passed through Yellowstone National Park on our way to a family event in Washington state."

Bill Sniffin

June 08, 20235 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

We were on full-time Idiot Patrol Wednesday as we passed through Yellowstone National Park on our way to a family event in Washington state.

In recent years, Cowboy State Daily has been publishing stories and photos of nuts chasing grizzly bears, rescuing bison calves, petting the Fluffy Cows, and even walking across geyser hotspot areas.

My wife Nancy and I had a keen eye out for similar silliness but the consistent afternoon rain pretty much stifled seeing the good stuff.

We did see some dumb behavior. It was during a heavy downpour at Artist’s Point on the south ledge of Yellowstone Canyon as tourists kept marching down the path to see the amazing sight of the Lower Falls in the distance. I put on my rain gear and marched down there with the crowd.

What was funny were all the folks who were wearing tee shirts and shorts and flip-flops in the 59-degree downpour weather that featured blustery winds, lightning, and thunder. Lots of folks were wearing garbage bags as rain gear. It was so wet I did not get any photos because it wasn’t worth it to get my iPhone soaked.

We Love Yellowstone

This visit to the world’s first national park may have been my 100th in the 53 years we have lived in Wyoming. It is my favorite place on earth and we visited some of my favorite haunts on this trip.

After entering the park (when the rain quit falling), I loved rolling down the window and smelling that intoxicating odor of Sulphur. To those of us who love this big old park, that smell is the most welcoming sensory event in the world.

The sun room at the Lake Hotel is one of my favorite places and on this day it did not disappoint. It was close to empty when we pulled up chairs overlooking the lake. We just enjoyed the view and the ambience. For years there used to be a grand piano in that room played by a virtuoso, which gave it the perfect atmosphere. The only thing that could have improved it on this day would have been cigar and a glass of single malt scotch. Neither would have been available in that place in today’s world – which is just fine.

The sun room was quiet until a large group of old folks (about my age) came in and sat down and opened their sack lunches. They were part of tour called Road Scholars. Looked like they were having a very good time, despite the weather.

Another favorite place is the Norris Geyser Basin. This may be the hottest “hot spot” on earth. The word geyser comes from the Icelandic word “geysir,” which means to gush. Even rain did not deter tourists from visiting – nobody left the walkway that we could see. Parking was limited and many folks had to park all the way out on the highway so they could visit the amazing sights.

We earlier talked about Artist’s Point where the canyon at Yellowstone is like no place on earth. This reminds me of one of my favorite stories.

Back in 1990, I was giving a tour of the park to some political leaders from Israel. After I had shown them the beautiful canyon and the horrific Norris Geyser Basin, one of the men exclaimed: “Beel, we think we live in the land of the bible. But you just took us to heaven and then you took us to hell!”

Long Day Of Travel

Because of weather concerns we got an early start Wednesday on our trip to Yellowstone and beyond.

Highway 287 from Lander to Dubois is one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Sights like Crowheart Butte and the Dubois badlands are just two of the wonderful things to see.

Over Togwotee Pass, we took a long look at Mount Moran at the famous Oxbow Bend but just could not discern an image of a woman on the snow-covered face of that glorious mountain. There had been recent reports of such a visage.

In Dubois, we stopped at Nana’s Bakery and Bowling Alley. This is a project built by Cynthia Starks and wow, what a wonderful addition to this small town. We bought a couple of Croissant sausage and cheese breakfast sandwiches. They were the best I have had in Wyoming. If you are going through there try it. Lots of other wonderful baked goods at that bakery, too.

We traveled the lower loop in Yellowstone and then departed through West Yellowstone. On this day we drove by the site of the Hebgen Lake earthquake in 1959 which killed 28 people. A huge slab of a mountain was jolted loose by the quake and fell into a lake causing a tsunami that swamped campers on either side.

During our trip in the park, we paid $4.49 per gallon for gasoline which was fine to me. We were watching for electric cars and saw just one lonely Tesla parked by itself between Canyon Village and Norris Junction. Wondered if it had run out of juice?

This year marks the 151st anniversary of Yellowstone. What a great place and what a great idea.

If you go there be on the outlook for the idiots who have been descending on the place. I hope you have better luck than we did this week.

Bill Sniffin can be reached at

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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.