The ever changing scenery of Northwest of Wyoming was the highlight of our journey to Grand Teton. We entered north of Wyoming via I-90. Then we turned to US 16 west at Buffalo, driving in the Big Horn Mountains. Signs along the road tell the names and ages of the rock formations. Those dark rocks are billions of years old. The reading of elevation on the GPS went higher and higher. After a lengthy climbing, we finally reached the Powder River Pass at elevation of 9,666 feet. Big Horn Mountains is a watershed that provides water resources for the community on both sides. With the view of the peak, for the first time, we had a simple lunch at such a high elevation.
The mountain road descends in a 6% steep grade. Several sharp curves were exciting. A small town Ten Sleep lies in the canyon. Houses and campgrounds dotted along the rivers. Temperature increased by 15 degrees to 75 ºF when we dropped to 4,900 feet. Coming out of the canyon, desert landscape takes over. Oil pumps were nodding their heads on the barren rolling hills. Oil fields cover this area. When we were getting close to Worland, extensive green farmlands appeared. “Landscape changed from desert to Garden of Eden!” As Stephen put it. The road took us crossing the Big Horn River. Cows grazing on ranches are common scene along the road. Roadside signs state that Wyoming is a “Cattle Country, Eat Beef.” Badlands with red sandstones take over again after Worland. Farmlands reappeared at Thermopolis. The giant terraces of hot spring in the Hot Spring State Park was impressive. Water from the hot spring filled the pools on the terraces and trickled down to the Big Horn River below. Minerals stained the terraces with yellow, white, green, and brown colors. And the smell of sulfur from the hot spring filled the air. There are several hot spring pools recreation areas in the park. Leaving Thermopolis, we saw a small herd of pronghorn grazing on the green farmland at the foot of the red colored hill.
Soon we entered the Wind River Canyon. The river cuts through the canyon. US 20 is on the east side of the canyon, and a railway skirts the canyon on the other side. Then we caught up a south bound train crossing the canyon in the same direction as us. Its long cars curved along the railway at the foot of the cliffs. We passed the train before it entered the tunnel. Then we went through three short tunnels in a row. We camped overnight in the Upper Wind River Campground in the canyon without cell phone services and Internet. Big fish probably catfish appeared at the bottom of the river. In the evening, I went down to the river and saw a young couple stood in the river fishing. Good luck!
Early in the morning, we left the canyon and started our last leg of journey to Grand Teton. We took US 26 at Riverton, headed northwest towards Dubois. Wind River followed us along the way. Near Dubois, rock formations looked like colorful layered cakes with wavy rainbow color bands. Although the elevation is high at near 7,000 feet, its stark beauty attracted people to settle down at this arid land. Nice big houses sit on the farmlands and on the hills. Rustic shops and cabins made up an attractive downtown.
The beautiful Centennial Scenic Byway starts at Dubois. The arid badlands gave way to dense forest. In the distance, the Wind River Range peaked out behind the arid hills. The scenic byway weaves through the forest. The spectacular Breccia Cliffs and Pinnacle Buttes soar above the pristine forest. We crossed the Togwotee Pass (elevation 9,544 feet), and the Continental Divide. As we descended on the mountain road, the Teton Range appeared like a mirage on the horizon. The magnificent Teton Range became clearer and bigger as we drove into Grand Teton National Park. After a long journey, we made it to Grand Teton. How excited we were!!! The destination is a dream land, and the journey is also filled with kaleidoscope scenery.