I woke up at 9 am, drank a little water, and then headed for the entrance to Yellowstone. The previous day had been kind of crappy but I took it as just a learning experience, a story I would laughingly tell people, and a sacrifice worth the extra hours in Yellowstone it would provide me. I talked to both my roommate Shannon and my cousin Paisley. Paisley lovingly (and definitely without complaint) checked my email for me while we were on the phone. It felt good to be talking to humans again.
I left Cody and headed toward the Yellowstone entrance. Immediately the spectacular mountains and water around me confirmed my hopes for the day. I drove slowly with the windows rolled down and my sunroof back, taking it all in. I stopped briefly at the hydroelectric plant, but was excited to move on. And then I saw them. Three buffalo walking on the edge of the road in single file, two feet from my car. I screeched to a halt, screaming at my friends windmill, pet rock, plastic easter egg penguin, and blankie to look, put my emergency lights on, and parked in the middle of the road. I jumped out of the car with my camera leaving the door wide open and started following them, super excited to finally see one, let alone three this close! They were, well, kind of ugly – but obviously in a brilliantly majestic and American way. I followed them for a while, but they kept giving me dirty sideways glances and I realized I had never learned the safety protocol for such large animals. Do they get aggravated and charge? Could my car get a buffalo dent? Was this one of those things where I stand and assert my authority, looking them straight in the eye, or do I run away like the girl I am? But the three buffalo walked on, uncaring. I got back in the car, awestruck, and headed to the East gate of Yellowstone.
In addition to the whole not being used to snow thing, I am also not used to roads being closed off. Each of the six lanes at this gate held mockingly bright orange barriers prohibiting my entry. I parked and walked into the tiny booth where two park rangers mumble something about an avalanche and worryingly look toward the computer screen and their feet. I ask about other entrances, but the next closest one is closed due to a rock slide and the next one after that is six hours away on the other side of the park. One park ranger shrugged and told me to try again tomorrow. I kept myself calm while driving the hour back to town and I called my Dad to see if there were any other road closures. Apparently the snow the previous night had affected everything so, besides one small road north, I was stuck in my tiny valley town. I walked into WalMart, laid back in one of the lawn chairs, and suddenly every stressor flooded over me. I was running out of time, I was over the budget I had been aiming for, I had no tent, I had no way out of here, I couldn’t remember the last time I ate anything, I didn’t know what to do next, I didn’t have access to the internet to find a new route, and I was incredibly tired. I wasn’t visibly upset, I just couldn’t make a decision, I couldn’t get out of the lawn chair. I finally bought myself macaroni and cheese and three bananas and brought them back to my car. Nine hours later I woke up, fork still in hand and macaroni splayed down the front of my shirt. Ugh. I was going to get a hotel that night, have a warm comfortable bed and a shower! Isn’t it illegal or something to sleep in your car? Shouldn’t some cop have tapped on my window and woken me up? But now it was 2a.m. and once again I drove around town only to find nothing open. So for the third time in two days, I slept in my car.