Saturday, May 10, 2008 (East Entrance)
   The crescent moon is hazy tonight. The clouds cleared away this afternoon, but left the night starless. We stroll around the cabins in the dark; the temperature dropping rapidly. I wrap my coat closer around me. We pass the stream and peer in the windows of the lodge. A chess game stands unplayed and there is no fire in the fireplace, yet the great room with its shining wood floors and rustic furniture is still inviting.
   Billings was clear and warm when we left the airport. We have traveled this way before rolling past farms bordered by sand hills. Old barns, slowly falling down with age, stand in fields next to horses and cows. The road sinks and winds through almost familiar territory of dry, hilly ranchland dusted with snow, the Smith Mine and then the huge Two Dot Ranch.
   In Cody, we stop at the rodeo arena where women on horses lope in circles to warm up their horses for barrel racing. The parking area is overrun with livestock trailers and pickups and border collies and heelers. The women and girls are dressed in jeans and boots, insulated vests and jackets - no fancy rodeo attire here. A little girl shoots through the middle of the arena and around the barrels, knocking one over. The horse lifts his head and flies to the end of the ring, the little girl's hair streaming behind her. The smallest girls are tiny, snapping the reins and kicking, while holding on to the saddle horn. Several knock over a barrel; others circle wide around the red painted drums and lose time, the fastest being less than 18 seconds.
   We decided to enter the Park from the east entrance this time because we wanted to spend more time near the Lake and Hayden and Pelican Valleys and the drive from the Northeast Entrance to Canyon and Hayden is a long one when Dunraven Pass is closed. Passing through Wapiti, the Shoshone National Forest greets us, bordered by the Beartooth Mountains, the Shoshone River curling and bubbling beside us. Big horn sheep graze on the hills along the road as well elk and deer. I put my hands together forming a circle with my fingers and I think the circumference of their thick horns is still wider.
   The lodge and cabins are nestled in between tall pines at the foot of the mountains. Pine needles blanket the ground, muddy from melting snow. Horses feed on hay in the corral and fuss at each other. Birds chatter, even this late in the evening.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2008