It was our last day in the Tetons so we tried to make the best of it. As usual, we got a late start and then had to return to the campground not once but twice for things we forgot. We finally headed out to the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center to catch the shuttle over the lake for the hikes.
We were planning to hike to Hidden Lake and then Inspiration Point, just a one-mile hike one way. Easy peasy. Right? Wrong! The hike to Hidden Lake was all uphill and though for the most part, the path was not difficult to walk the climbing was another story. We met a ranger who encouraged us to take it slow and take plenty of breaks because of the altitude. We were going to gain about 600 feet! The hike was nice. We had sun and shade and an occasional breeze which helped tremendously. We saw the turnoff for Inspiration Point but headed for the very lovely Hidden Falls. Situated near the mouth of Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls drops roughly two hundred feet in a series of steps, thus easily making this the best waterfall hike in the park. As a result of its popularity, the waterfall is one of the most visited destinations in Grand Teton National Park.
When we got to Hidden Falls, we just sat by the falls enjoying the beauty and the sound of the rushing water plus we got to rest a little bit and catch our breath. Little did we know how much we would need it! After all, it was only a half-mile up. Right?
We began climbing along a very rocky and rugged trail stopping often to catch our breath and have some water. Near the Point, we passed over a short section with a fairly steep, narrow ledge. Of course, there were people going both ways but most of the time people would take turns on the more treacherous parts. It was however so worth the effort as we had an outstanding panoramic view of Jenny Lake, the second largest lake in the Tetons.
The lake was named after a Shoshone Indian named Jenny Leigh who helped with the initial survey, the 1872 Hayden Survey. Another lake in the Tetons is named for her husband. As I researched Jenny Leigh, I learned that in 1876 Jenny and her six children all died of smallpox. What a sad ending for an outstanding woman.
The hike back to the shuttle was mercifully mostly downhill. We still had to stop for breaks but not as often. That was when I understood why the people we had met on our ascent had looked so ragged. I am sure we looked pretty ragged by then too. The shuttle ride back was blessedly cool.
After the return to shore, we headed for the car and hopefully a nice cool picnic area. I saw the sign for the Teton Village so told Jerry to turn there. I had not researched the village but I had read that it was a point of interest so off we went. We didn’t find any picnic areas so since it was after 2:00 Jerry just pulled off of the road and we did our usual, picnic lunch in the car. We rode right past the village and into Jackson Hole and did some light grocery shopping.
We returned to the campground for a little rest as we were both pretty exhausted from our hot, difficult but rewarding hike. A bit later we decided to ride out to Mormon Row. As we left the campground on Gros Ventre Road we saw a lot of cars pulled over and we all know what that means – an animal of some sort. It was a moose! I had been so disappointed that I had not seen a moose during our visit despite having been told that they were around. There he was, a huge bull moose. Of course, Jerry had left his good camera at the campground so we jumped in the car, rode back to the campground, returned to the sight of the moose and he was still there. He stayed until he was frightened by some guys entering the river to fish.
We continued on to Mormon Row. Mormon Row was a village started by members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints to sent out to establish new communities. They clustered their farms together to share labor and community which was in stark contrast with the isolation typical of most western homesteads. There are only a couple of houses there now and two barns which highlight Mormon Row. The T.A. Moulton Barn draws photographers from around the world to want to capture the barn with the majestic Tetons in the background.
Despite the fact that we only hiked a little over five miles total today we were pretty tired when we got back to the motor home. Jerry grilled pork chops and I prepared corn, peas and Mac and cheese knowing we’d have leftovers for dinner tomorrow night. Tomorrow morning will be an early start as we begin our trek back to North Carolina via Lawrenceville, Ga for some RV repair. It’s been a grand trip, more wonderful than I even anticipated but it is time to go home. The best part of every trip to me is returning home. It’s time to see our grands!!!!
Irrespective of hour or season, whether viewed on clear days or stormy, the Tetons are so surpassingly beautiful that one is likely to gaze silently upon them conscious of the futility of speech.
Our hike this morning was Taggart Lake Trail which was off the Jenny Lake highway. It was a little more than three miles round trip and had sun and shade, ascent and descent, flat and rocky climb. All in all, a perfect hike. We ran into a young couple from Virginia on their way to San Francisco for graduate school and chatted with them for the last half mile. It made the hike go much faster and then suddenly we were at Taggart Lake. It’s a small lake but pretty with beautiful reflections in the water. We did see some small fish swimming around. It took us about 30 minutes to walk back to the parking lot.
We returned to the campground for lunch and then went into to Jackson Hole for me to get a haircut and boy did I get one! I told her I was going to let it grow out and just needed a trim and shape up. Glad I didn’t tell her I wanted it short but I did get a good cut.
Afterward, we walked around Jackson Hole looking at t-shirts. If you can’t find one you want it’s not because there aren’t enough stores in town. They are everywhere! We ended up at Starbucks where we did some computer catch up. Both of us needed to sort pictures. I had already downloaded the pictures from Jerry’s camera to my computer but I wanted to put them in my Google photos in case something happened to my computer. Backup! We spent a good while in there.
Later we went to the Chapel of Transfiguration. It is a lovely log church which still holds Sunday services in the summer. I do wish we could have been there for a service. There is a large picture window at the back of the altar that frames the Tetons just behind the cross. Everyone is invited in to pray.
We then walked over to the Mentor buildings but everything was closed so we didn’t get to enter in the buildings.
We returned to the campground for leftovers for dinner. Jerry didn’t sleep well last night so an early night was in store.
Today was a travel day but we were still moving slowly after a marathon yesterday. We finally pulled out of the campground a little after 9:00 and then it took us almost 30 minutes to get into Yellowstone Park. As usual, we were in the “Gale” lane, the lane you never want to get in.
Traffic through the park was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated but we did have to slow down for two animal sightings. We don’t know what the first one was as we didn’t see anything, just a ranger urging traffic on. The second was just above the parking lot at Fairy Falls where we were earlier in the week. It was a grizzly! After we passed by Old Faithful traffic thinned out but the elevations didn’t. Kudos to Jerry for a terrific chauffeuring job and for our 40’ gasser who handled those “hills” wonderfully.
We arrived at Gros Ventre just after noon and thankfully got an electric site. Leveling was interesting but we finally got it livable and decided that we really wouldn’t be spending much waking time in the coach so perfectly level wasn’t something we had to have.
After lunch, we rode to the Visitor’s Center at Jenny Lake. It is an astounding center with bronze statues of animals and people vital to the development of the park displayed. We watched a very good video about the history of the park and then when the video ended the curtains opened to a beautiful expansive view of the amazing Tetons. I have never been to a national park that ended a video in that matter. Very impressive.
We took the Jenny Lake scenic drive which led us through a forested area. We were wondering exactly what was so scenic and then bam, there was Jenny Lake in all its splendor plus the Tetons in the distance. It was stunning, to say the least. As we got out of the car I noticed that despite the number of people it was so very quiet. There was such a serene and calming feeling. In fact, we saw two people stretched out on benches napping. The beauty of the mountains and the lake left us speechless, meditative, reflective, peaceful. One thing that makes the Tetons stand out is that there are no foothills. The mountains just go straight up.
After leaving the park we got some gas and then headed back to the campground. Jerry was not feeling well so a quiet evening was in store for us. We ended up taking a couple of walks around the park after dinner and then Jerry made some strawberry ice cream. The front AC/Heating Unit was on the blink but fortunately, it was cool enough to open the windows until the campfire smoke started drifting in through the windows. Luckily, the back unit was working fine so we had air conditioning this evening and will have heat tomorrow morning.
What an exciting morning. As our boys would say, we got up at 0 dark thirty and headed to Lamar Valley via Mammoth. We saw a few elk as we traveled along but little else during our hour ride to Mammoth. Leaving there we continued on to Lamar Valley through Tower-Roosevelt. As soon as we turned toward Lamar Valley at the Tower, we immediately saw a lone bison strolling down the highway. Our cars didn’t seem to bother him a bit as he passed very closely by our car. A little further on we saw another bison taking his morning stroll and then we began to see herds and herds of bison. Now we know where they all are!
As we journeyed on, we saw a crowd of people stopped at a bridge. Several had high magnification scopes so we stopped to see what was so interesting. According to everyone, it was three grizzlies eating on a carcass. We looked through the binoculars and the camera plus someone’s scope. I never saw a thing!
A little further on we saw another group of people stopped so we pulled over. One of the guys said they had been tracking a wolf all morning and they were expecting him to come by. Suddenly someone cried out “there he is” and he was on the other side of the road. I actually saw him loping along. Not only did I see him with the binoculars but also with my naked eye. He was really big!
We continued on down the highway marveling at the number of bison we were seeing. At one point we watched some that appeared to be running from something but we never saw any kind of predator. We finally turned around and bam, we were in our first bison jam and we were the first car. We patiently waited as they sauntered along. The biggest guy just stood in front of our car like he dared us to try to come through. We didn’t move! There were several young calves. Eventually, they moved on by and we were able to proceed. There were bison all up and down the road, some by themselves and some in herds, large and small.
As we rode along, we saw another group of cars pulled off of the side of the road so of course we stopped and jumped out to see what everyone was looking at. It was a bear! He was on the other side of the little stream sitting on the rocks eating. It was a black bear, not a grizzly and he had been tagged.
Next, we hit Mammoth again. We walked into the hotel, used the bathrooms and then went into the gift shop to get the pink cap I had looked at earlier in the week. A quick walk down to the General Store where we got a blueberry muffin. After all, we had been up five hours and it was time for a snack.
I had been looking forward to seeing all of the elk in Mammoth as we saw several on our earlier visit but they must have been still sleeping. We saw none. I had been dreading the drive leaving Mammoth headed to Norris because of the construction we had run into earlier this week. Apparently, the road construction comes to a halt on Saturday because they were not working today. Yea. That was an extra 30-40 minutes subtracted from our road time today.
We finally got to visit Artist Paintpots after two earlier attempts. We were both kind of dragging but we soldiered on. The hike was 1.6 and part boardwalk. The first stop was a boiling mudpot and a boiling spring. It was amazing to stand and watch the seismic activity imagining what lies beneath. We continued up to the overlook and the scene below did indeed look like an artist’s palette. Further up we came to a large mudpot and boy was the mud shooting up. Beware flying mud! It looked like one big muddy hole which I guess it was, only a lot hotter. I could just imagine children enjoying playing in that were it not for the depth and the heat. Within the Artist’s Paintpot were colorful hot springs, mudpots and small geysers. It seems there are geysers all over Yellowstone but we only hear about Old Faithful since it’s predictable.
We continued our trek through the park and decided today was the day to have our picnic along a flowing stream. We found a picnic area on a stream and luckily a free picnic table but when we got out, we realized that it was a little chilly and windy for a picnic on the water. Obviously, we had a quick lunch. One of our earlier plans had been to stop by a stream and put our feet in the water. In fact, I had put a towel in the car for that purpose. Well, it was just too cold to do it. Instead, we used the towel as a tablecloth.
We wanted to get a short visit to West Thumb Geyser Basin so that was our next stop. West Thumb is on the Yellowstone Lake and is the largest geyser basins on the shores of the lake. West Thumb is still thermally active and we saw hot springs, mudpots and geysers steam and percolate along the shore. In fact, one geyser was called Percolate. One of the more interesting features was Fishing Cone, a hot spring. Old tales talk of fishermen catching a trout in the lake and then swinging it around to the spring with the end result a boiled fish!
After the hike around the lake we decided to head on back to the campground. We were planning on one stop at Black Sand Basin. Black obsidian or “sand” gives the basin its name. The oranges, greens and other colors in and around the hot springs come from the thermophiles. The colors were so vibrant especially a bright yellow that we hadn’t seen anywhere else. As soon as we walked up the Cliff geyser erupted. What a sight to see.
We were on the way back but decided we could drive to Firehole Lake Drive. We thought we were going to take a nice simple drive. How surprised we were when we realized that there were many cars and people lined up around a geyser. We snagged a parking place and walked over to see what was going on. We knew it wasn’t an animal despite the attraction. It was actually a geyser, The Great Fountain and they were expecting it to erupt any minute. A couple we talked with had been waiting for three hours. While we were waiting for the Great Fountain, we saw a smaller, yet still significant geyser, the White Dome erupt and then the Great Fountain began erupting. What a sight to see. It was amazing to see the water fill the area around the geyser plus we got sprinkled as we watched through the tremendous steam. It lasted several minutes.
What a wonderful way to end our time at Yellowstone National Park! We drug our tired selves back to the RV after a twelve-hour day. Tomorrow, the Tetons!
Leaving really early is just not in our list of possibilities. Of course, I slept later today too so we ended up leaving a little after 8:00 and then had to stop for gas but really to clean the windshield so we could see the beautiful things ahead of us today.
As we traveled through the park on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs, we passed numerous fumaroles. A fumarole or steam vent is the hottest hydrothermal feature in the park. A small amount of water in fumaroles flashes into steam before it reaches the surface. They are easiest to see in cool weather and today with a temperature of 35 this morning we were blessed with being able to see quite a few. When we passed Terrace Spring steam was on both sides of the road and then just before we reached Beryl Spring the sky was covered with steam and it was rising. It looked like a huge sauna.
We continued on through Madison and headed toward Mammoth. Again, we encountered more steam. Just before we got to Clearwater Springs the entire side of the mountain had steam rising. We had earlier decided that we wouldn’t stop anywhere but would go directly to Mammoth but we had a change of heart when we saw the volumes of steam rising. What a sight to see.
And then we ran into construction! We were one of many in a long line of traffic that was not moving either way. Just a 30-40-minute delay while they worked on repairing the roads.
We had been advised to drive to Upper Terrace and hike down to Lower Terrace so that’s what we did. The parking lots were jammed but we luckily found a small place to pull the Jeep in. The Hot Springs are amazing, otherworldly, and beyond description. I mentioned that it looked like the land that was forgotten. With cascades of waters streaming down the mountainous rock, it looked surreal. The water is heated deep underground and then rises to the surface. As it rises it penetrates through limestone, dissolving calcium carbonate. Above ground, the travertine terraces are formed. Underground channels sometimes shift or clog causing the water to change course. When that happens springs may slow down or stop thus it is an everchanging landscape.
We walked along the boardwalk in amazement focusing on the various bright colors, some earth colors and some vivid greens and blues. There wasn’t much wind this morning but apparently, it had been windy sometime earlier. We saw several hats in restricted areas.
When we got to the bottom we walked into Mammoth and stopped in a couple of stores. Then we turned around and started the trek back up to the car. Near the beginning to the walk up was the Liberty Cap, a dormant hot spring cone. It stood as a sentinel all alone.
As we were walking someone mentioned that there were elk in a meadow below us so we walked down there and sure enough we saw about seven elk grazing and ignoring the people. All of the elk except one crossed the road while the other one seemed to almost disappear. We returned to the boardwalk to continue our climb and suddenly there she was, right beside the boardwalk.
The walk back up was exhausting whether from the altitude or the climb. We had to stop a couple of times to catch our breath. We chatted with a nice gentleman from France who offered to take our picture. He even offered me some water.
We finally made it to the car and drove into town hoping to find a nice place for our picnic. Parking was at a premium and when we finally found one it was pretty far from the picnic area so again, we ate in the car with air condition.
After lunch, we went to the Visitor’s Center. It was quite a busy place. Since it’s near the North Entrance I would guess some people were in there getting ideas.
Next, we walked to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Our main interest was in the Map Room which contains a large wooden map of the United States constructed out of 15 different blocks of wood from nine countries. We found North Carolina which was made from walnut. We walked in the gift shop but didn’t make a purchase. We went outside the hotel and sat down just to rest a bit and began talking to some other RVers. They are on a Fantasy Tour visiting some of the same stops we have visited.
We continued our stroll in the town returning to the gift shop and there right next to the sidewalk was an elk. We were really too close to her but our choice was an elk or moving cars. We hurried on by.
As we left Mammoth our intention was the Norris Basin but we remembered that yesterday as we passed by there on our way in, the parking lot was full and cars were parked down both sides of the highway in both directions. I really doubted we’d get in but we did and found a parking place in the parking area very near the trail.
The Norris area is described as “a world of heat and gases where microorganism live in such massive numbers they add color to the landscape”. The area is on the edge of a giant volcano, the Yellowstone Volcano, which is one of the largest on earth. And why were we there?
There were two loop trails, the Back Basin Trail and the Porcelain Basin Trail. We started out of the Back-Basin Trail which had a surprising number of steaming geysers and hot springs. There was a very prevalent odor of sulfur.
Our first stop was at Emerald Spring, a beautiful clear pool. “A hot spring’s color often indicates the presence of minerals. In a clear blue pool, the water is absorbing all colors of sunlight except one, blue, which is reflected back to our eyes. The 27-foot deep pool is lined with yellow sulfur deposits. The yellow color from the sulfur combines with the reflected blue light, making the hot spring appear a magnificent emerald green.” We are still amazed at the vibrant colors we see in all of the hot springs and the springs are very prevalent on the Back-Basin Trail.
The two most popular geysers in Back-Basin are Steamboat Geyser which is the tallest geyser in the world at 300-400 feet and Echinus Geyser. Both are acidic geysers which are very rare. We didn’t get to see either erupt although Steamboat was due.
We continued on the trail and were nearly done when Jerry saw the sign pointing to Porcelain Basin. As tired as we were we knew we wouldn’t get back to see these oddities again so we soldiered on. We followed the boardwalk around and through the basin which is totally devoid of trees. It again looked like a forgotten barren land.
As we continued on the boardwalk we saw some people along with a ranger stopping by a small geyser. The ranger told us that it was due to erupt in about 15 minutes so we waited – and waited! It did finally erupt and was amazing. We were so close to it! The ranger advised guarding our phone screens, sunglasses and camera lens as the acidic water and steam would etch them. We could actually feel the water from the steam.
Another long day and an even longer ride back to the campground as we ran into an elk jam. We just waited patiently and ate potato chips!
We started our morning headed for the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and scenic it is. As we wound our way up to the peak we stopped often to take pictures that are beyond description and our pictures just can’t do the panorama views justice. As we stopped at one overlook we began chatting with some bikers, two from Australia and the rest from Nebraska. As we continued up the mountain we met them again and again.
The highest point was Dead Indian Hill, 8,000 feet above sea level. The views are incredible. We moved on down about 200 feet and again amazing scenery. Among the snow-capped mountains, we saw a flat plateau that looked like it had been carved and set down in the lower valley after cutting the top off. The temperature was 59 with high winds. It was cold! I would love to know what the wind chill was but we had no cell service so no way to find out. We saw a sign for “cattle crossing” and indeed we saw numerous cows along the roadside as we traveled. There were all tagged. It was a 7% downhill grade. Glad I was not in the RV although we met several trucks with tagalongs.
Jerry saw a graveled road leading off of the main highway so he took it. It actually led to a trail down to the canyon. It looked like it might have been a great trail to hike but since we didn’t have bear spray we opted not to do it. I think we’ll put the spray in the car and leave it. We had taken it out because we had been cautioned that it would explode if it got too hot.
Further down we stopped at another overlook where we could actually see the Clarks Fork River. There are three classes of rivers: recreational, scenic and wild. This was classified as a wild river and I can certainly see why. We tried to get some pictures but it was 300 feet down and fenced off so we couldn’t get too close. We did wander down a bit and as Jerry walked ahead of me I thought I heard the tell-tell sound of a rattlesnake. I tried to caution him but he couldn’t hear me and he didn’t appear to be in any danger. I stopped and took another route and the sound faded away. We have seen numerous warnings about bears but nothing about snakes.
As we continued down we saw signs indicating “open range” and “cattle on the road” and we soon found out why as we met cows several times. The road straightened out some and the curves were gentle, no drastic u-turns or switchbacks. We were still at 7000 plus feet though and only slowly descending. We passed by several ranches, some advertising “open”, possibly dude ranches. There was a rolling stream escorting us part of the way, a perfect place for our picnic lunch but inaccessible.
When the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway ended we turned to the Beartooth All-American Highway. Of the 838 things to see in Montana according to TripAdvisor, Beartooth Highway is number one and I can certainly see why.
Our first stop was at 8900 feet and we continued up in elevation and down in temperature! It was 58 degrees. Beartooth Highway reminded me of the Going to the Sun Road with its narrow roads and twists and turns. At one stop we saw a lovely waterfall cascading through the trees and suddenly we were at Beartooth Lake. We followed the signs to the camping and picnic area and there we had our picnic lunch. I wish I could say we sat on the side of the lake and had lunch but alas, it was cold and windy so again we ate in the car. We didn’t even have a good view as cars were parked in front of us. We did walk down to the lake but again it was so cold and windy we didn’t tarry long.
Up and up we continued to climb above the snow line and the tree line to over 11,000 feet and 49 degrees. The views were incredible and we stopped at nearly every overpass. Put on the coat, take off the coat, put on the coat. I hope I don’t ever take another trip no matter what season that I don’t bring my warm Patagonia jacket. What on earth was I thinking? I know – trying to conserve space and surely I wouldn’t want it in August. Wrong again! Jerry said that he could feel a difference in his breathing but I didn’t notice anything. I can’t imagine trying to hike at this altitude though. Suddenly we crossed a state line and were in Montana.
We continued on the highway and realized that we were 76 miles from Cody. We had a long way to go to get back to Cody but what a wonderful last day in the area. As we rode along we saw what looked like an abandoned mine. We later discovered that it was the Smith Mine which exploded in 1943. The Smith Mine Disaster was the worst coal mining disaster in Montana. Since it occurred on a Saturday there was a small crew, only 77 men working but only three survived. A rescue worker later died.
As we traveled back to Cody we could see the Beartooth Mountains in the distance, a memory of a grand and unexpected adventure.
When we got back to Cody we parked the car – we have had no trouble finding parking anywhere in the city – and walked up and down and in and out of the various stores. We tried to find some “Cody” t-shirts but after going to three stores, two of them twice, we decided that we couldn’t really find what we wanted. It was time for the “shootout” at the Irma hotel so we walk over to that. Since it was 30 minutes long Jerry paid the $4 for us to have seats. We were seated right next to a couple from Asheville. We chatted for a while exchanging ideas on where we had been and where we were going. She assured me that we could easily go from Cody to East Yellowstone and then through the park to West Yellowstone. While there Jerry talked with someone who had just left Yellowstone and he said it was very crowded and to expect long delays. That’s pretty much what we expected to hear.
After the shootout, we headed to Walmart to restock our freezer, fridge, and pantry before we go to Yellowstone and the Tetons. We decided today to change our route a little bit. I had scheduled two days in Arco, Idaho to visit the Crater of the Moon but since we need to return via Lawrenceville, Ga to NIRV for some motor home work we decided to cut the trip two days short. Not much but it may make the difference in our being able to get the work done while we are there and not leaving the coach.
After a very exciting and exhilarating day, two very tired people returned to our little home away from home.
We started our day with a tour of Old Trail Town which shows the old West as it really was. It was a sunny but cool day, perfect for wandering in and out of the authentic cabins moved to Cody. This was where the original town of Cody was located. There were over twenty buildings, some we could enter and some roped off. All had authentic items in them and nearly all had either a bison head, a pronghorn head, a deer head, antlers from various animals or animal skulls. Each cabin is unique in its own way.
Bob Edgar, a Wyoming native with an interest in archeology realized that old historical buildings were rapidly disappearing so in 1967 he began the work of gathering the buildings and relics that are now located at Old Trail Town as this was where Cody had chosen for the first townsite of Cody in 1895. Many of the buildings were taken completely apart, moved and then reassembled. Among the relics at Old Trail Town are horse-drawn vehicles, memorabilia from the Wyoming frontier and Indian artifacts. While much of the memorabilia is in the various cabins the majority is housed in a very extensive museum viewed at the end of the trail.
The first cabin we entered was “Curley’s Cabin”. Curley was an Indian scout for Custer and luckily was able to escape the carnage at Little Bighorn as he was on the outside circle of the Sioux and Cheyenne. Many believe he was the first to bring the news of Custer’s defeat. The cabin was originally built near Crow Agency, Montana.
In 1882 some of the first sheep arrived in Central Wyoming brought by Luther Morrison. Morrison originally came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and built this cabin in 1884 located at the foot of Copper Mountain east of Shoshone, Wyoming. As in the other cabins, the walls were encircled by mounted animal heads but in addition, there was a two-headed calf! There was also a lovely old organ. Talking about juxtaposition.
Hole in the Wall cabin is a two-room cabin which was built on Buffalo Creek in the Wall Country, west of Kaycee, Wyoming by Alexander Ghent. It was known as the rendezvous place for Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and other outlaws of the famous “Hole in the Wall Gang”.
Our next stop was the graveyard where five of the more infamous folks were buried. The first grave we visited was that of Jeremiah Johnson or better known as “Liver-Eating’ Johnson. Johnson was a trapper, hunter, wood hawk, army scout, marshal and Civil War veteran. He got his nickname because reportedly after he killed someone, he would take a bite of their liver. Yuk! Johnson’s body was moved to this location and one of the pallbearers was Robert Redford who played Jeremiah Johnson in the movie.
Other graves were those of Jim White also known as Buffalo Hunter, Jack Stilwell known as Frontiersman, Phillip Vetter, a trapper killed by a grizzly, W.A. Gallagher and Blind Bill, cowboys who were murdered and then the famous or more likely infamous Belle Drewry, the Woman in Blue. Supposedly she was involved in the murder of Gallagher and Blind Bill. She was buried in a blue dress.
Next, we visited a tribute to the famous Mountain Men including James “Old Gabe” Bridger, a hunter and trapper and Jim Bridger. Possibly the first man known as a Mountain Man was John Colter, a trapper who worked for Lewis and Clark. During his journey, he found “Colter’s Hell” which is where a tribute to him is now located. Although it cannot be accessed from Old Trail Town his monument can be seen in the distance. Legend has it that when captured by the Blackfeet he was forced to run for his life. He outdistanced the entire tribe for seven miles and survived, naked and weaponless but alive.
One of the last places we visited was the Rivers Saloon. It was frequented by Butch Cassidy, W.A. Gallager, Blind Bill and many other colorful cowboys of the old west. It is the oldest remaining saloon in northwest Wyoming. I saw bullet holes in the door!
Last but certainly not least is a museum filled with artifacts of the Old West including a horse-drawn hearse from the late 1800s. Initially, I didn’t realize what it was and then – wow!
We had decided to picnic again today so we went to the park at the Cody Visitor’s Center and had a nice lunch on the grounds. We still had two more museums to visit at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West so we returned there. We immediately went to the Plains Indians museum because we knew we would spend more time in there.
Jerry had remarked earlier that most of the photographs that we see of the Native Americans are either of children or men. Why not women? We asked at Old Trail Town but they were mystified as well. When we entered the Plains museum the very first and very large photograph we saw was of a woman. The first part of the museum emphasized the important role that the women played in their everyday lives.
“We women had our children to care for, meat to cook, and to dry, robes to dress, skins to tan, clothes, lodges and moccasins to make. We not only pitched the lodges, but took them down and packed the horses and the travois, when we move camp. We were busy, especially when we were going to move. I love to move, even after I was a married woman with children to take care of. Moving made me happy.” Pretty Shield, Absaroke (Crow)
Continuing on through the museum we saw life-sized women and men mounted on horses. Interestingly, before horses arrived on the Plains, dogs were essential to maintaining the season rounds. Dogs were not only family pets, but they were also used to carry the lodge poles and covers when families moved. After horses arrived the poles became longer and bigger so dogs were no longer used for that purpose.
One of the most interesting exhibits consisted of a life-size buffalo hide tipi. As buffalo disappeared from the Plains, women began making tipis from canvas so very few buffalo hides tipis exist today. This tipi showed evidence of many patches and repairs as well as hands and circles painted in red pigment. The audio that accompanied the exhibit explained the life of the Indians throughout each season.
The last museum we visited was the Cody Firearms Museum. It houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world with over 7,000 firearms and 30,000 firearms-related artifacts.
By this time, we were getting a little weary so we returned to the campground for a little rest as we knew we had an exciting night ahead.
After a little respite, we went to the Cody Cattle Company for dinner and a show before the rodeo. We were assigned seats for dinner and unfortunately, we were at a table with four people from Denmark. I chatted with the lady sitting next to me briefly but other than that neither of the others spoke to us keeping to themselves. I’m not sure they could speak English as I never heard them say anything in English. Dinner was beef brisket and/or chicken served with a choice of salad, slaw, vegetables and cowboy beans. It was good but the best part was the outstanding show. The band, The Three C, played a varied selection of old and new western songs. The guitarist was absolutely outstanding and has won several national titles. Watching him strum each of his guitars was mesmerizing.
Immediately after the show, we walked over to the rodeo. A PBR rodeo, it features all of the usual contests: bull riding, bare bronc riding, barrel racing, roping, and others. The rodeo started with a salute to the flag and prayed to our Lord and Savior. What a nice way to begin an evening. Someone had told us to take a jacket as it might be cold and when the wind started blowing it did indeed get a little chilly. Jerry and I have watched rodeos on television in the past but the real thing is a little different. The cowboys and cowgirls are a brave bunch and from the junior contests we saw, it looks like the future of the rodeo is on solid ground.
Today was day one for the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a museum that can’t possibly be covered in a day, at least not by my feet! We visited three sections today plus went through the Raptor Experience.
Our first stop was the Buffalo Bill Museum, the flagship of the entire museum. Its focuses on the life and times of Buffalo Bill from birth to his death. Upon entering this section, we were greeted by a large diorama featuring two large standing bison, a calf and a wallowing bison, very impressive. We were also able to watch a riveting video about bison and I learned still more about the fascinating creatures. Bison give birth in the spring and wean their calves within the first year. Although the calves rest and play among themselves they stay close to their mothers. Bison have few predators but wolves and grizzlies will attack the young, the old, the injured or the sick. Part of the video showed a wolf trying to attack a bison. He must have been a brave wolf because the bison kept kicking him away and he continued going back for more. Then it showed a pack of wolves chasing one bison. It was all shown on camera but there was enough that I surely knew what was happening to the bison. In another clip, it showed a calf running along with his mom and then a bear began to chase the calf. Try as she might the cow could not protect her calf.
Bison survive the harsh winters by growing thick winter coats which they shed in the warmer months by wallowing on the ground. They also wallow because of biting insects and itching. During the winter they burrow their heads in the thick snow to find food. It was amazing to watch them doing that. They are truly magnificent creatures.
The Buffalo Bill Museum is filled with originals and replicas of items representative of his life. He was unhappily married to Louisa with whom he had four children. In fact, in later years he tried to divorce her saying she was trying to poison him. This was very detrimental to his reputation as everyone sided with Louisa. They reconciled some years later and were together until his death. Sadly, she outlived all of her children, two of them having died in childhood. Their only son died of scarlet fever which he contracted when his father took him back east. Louisa blamed Cody for his death and that created even more fractures in their relationship.
Cody had many professions: guide, scout, frontiersman, showman, actor, entrepreneur, town founder, and American icon. During the 1860s and 1870s, he served as a civilian scout for the US Army. There he faced hostile situations, difficult terrain, and scarce resources. His sharp eyesight and ability to read the landscapes plus his riding ability made him a very valuable resource for the army. In fact, these very attributes led him to be a rider for the Pony Express. He wrote his mother telling her how much he liked the exciting life and her response was to ask him to stop as it would surely kill him. He agreed saying fifteen miles an hour on horseback would surely shake any man to pieces. He lasted two months!
Cody was also a professional buffalo hunter but did so to provide meat for the Kansas Pacific railroad workers. He also sold fresh meat to army forts in central Kansas. He never participated in the trade of killing buffalos for their hides and strongly disapproved of their slaughter. He said “People have the idea that I was a crack shot, and used that talent to kill for the buffalo hide. I never killed except for food and I never had any patience with the vandals of the plains”.
Another interesting fact: As a scout, Cody kept his hair long because the scouts who were out in the open, rain or shine, found that the greatest protection to the eyes and ears was long hair. Those who were prejudiced against long hair had “sore eyes, pains in the head, and loud ringing in the ears. We who wear our hair long let nature have her way in the matter, and profit from it”.
Cody’s sentiments toward the American Indians mellowed as he got older. Initially, as a boy, he played with them. As an adult, he feared them and considered them enemies but as his show developed and he incorporated them into it he began to soften and to treat them with respect. He also demanded that everyone else treat them with due respect.
One of the displays showed a map of the United States and had red pins on each of the cities that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show visited. How surprised I was to learn that he went to Kinston!
In the mid-1890s Cody began to realize the value of water in the Bighorn Basin so he led the effort to seek funding and support for irrigation projects in the Bighorn Basin. This led to the Shoshone Irrigation Company which led to the Shoshone Dam, later renamed the Buffalo Bill Dam which is still in service today.
We continued our tour of the museum by going downstairs and reading about the history of the Cody Rodeo. This exhibit chronicled the growth of the rodeo from its beginning. There were many pictures, memorabilia and bronze sculptures depicting the various participants. One such sculpture was of Fannie Sperry Steele, a World Champion bronc rider and trick rider on her horse Sultan. She was the first woman inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame and was also inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She was a Montana native.
We continued our tour with the Draper Natural History Museum. We were constantly amazed at the variety of exhibits and videos. The very first exhibit was of the gray wolf, a much larger animal than I realized. The wolf was a top predator in Greater Yellowstone for many years before they were nearly eliminated in the 1930s. In 1995 the US Government reintroduced them to Yellowstone National Park where the pack has enlarged dramatically. Now the reintroduction becomes a hot topic as there are many who are opposed to it. While the wolves certainly serve as a tourist attraction and bring money to the area, they also cause problems for ranchers killing livestock and game animals, in particular, the elk.
Wolves are raised in dens and stay close to home. The adults mate in February and then by April the females start looking for den sites. There are usually four to five in an average litter and they are usually born in early April. The pups will leave the den at 10-14 days but stay close by for up to 10 weeks.
We visited the display of bighorn sheep and mountain goats where I learned that the major predators for both of those were the golden eagle, cougars, and humans. The bighorn sheep often butt heads to establish dominance to get to mate with the ewes. They launch themselves at each other, each weighing up to 300 pounds, and repeat until a winner is determined. They butt heads with enough force to kill any other animal but because of their flat, broad heads, they can absorb the hits from each other.
As we traveled through Custer State Park and Glacier National Park, we saw many fallen trees due to lightning strikes, insects (more specifically the pine beetle), disease or fire. We wondered why the forest was not cleaned up but learned today that a dead or dying tree is called a snag. Snags often serve as habitats, providing shelter and food long after the tree is gone. Cavities in the tree may be excavated by birds or other animals so that nothing in nature is wasted.
By this time, we were both getting hungry. We discussed going back to the campground for lunch but instead decided to eat at the museum. We both had salads in their cafeteria-style restaurant and they were very good. As we were eating, I noticed that Cody’s boyhood home was located right outside the door so as soon as we finished our meal we walked over. It is a partially recreated home of just two rooms although there were more in the original house.
We continued on and stumbled upon the Raptor Experience. A staffer had just finished a talk on the short-haired owl she was carrying. There are eleven birds in the area and all are there because they are unable to live in the wild. The owl has only one wing and the bald eagle also has a damaged wing.
Our next stop was the Whitney Western Art Museum which neither of us thought we would enjoy. How wrong we were. As we walked along, we were amazed at the display of art. Huge sculptures and large paintings that invited you right into the paintings were abundant. Our short time in the gallery turned into a remarkable visit.
At this point, we decided to cut out visit today short and finish up tomorrow since we were planning to go to the rodeo tonight. We walked into the gift shop and as we did we suddenly heard a loud clap of thunder. Thinking we could beat the storm Jerry went to the car to drive over to pick me up. Unexpectedly it began to pour down rain with some hail. Needless to say, Jerry sat out the storm in the car while I waited in the museum. I chatted with another RV couple on their way to West Yellowstone too. He told me it was only 100 miles away. Wrong! 300 miles. East Yellowstone is less than 100 miles away but we too are headed to the west side.
Jerry navigated the flooded streets quite well and we returned to the campground safely. Either Cody got a lot of rain during that storm or the downtown area has a drainage problem. We discussed going to the rodeo but decided that we might wait until tomorrow night as the weather for the evening was still unpredictable. We later learned that the rainfall was very unusual for this area thus the over-run streets.
We kept discussing what to do for the evening. The choices were Cassie’s for dinner or the rodeo. Since the weather had been so bad this afternoon we decided to wait until Sunday to go to the rodeo so off to Cassie’s we went. Cassie’s was established in 1922, a historic house of ill repute and is now a restaurant with a western flair for sure. Since we didn’t have reservations, we had to wait about 30 minutes so we sat at the bar and watched couples dance the two-step. At least I think that’s what they were doing. I really want to learn how to do that. There were a couple of interesting signs on the wall. “Not responsible for ladies left overnight” and “Act respectable. This is a high-class joint.” Of course, the requisite antlers were displayed in various places. I had an eight-ounce filet and oh my goodness. It puts NC filets to shame. By the time we had eaten fresh homemade bread slathered with honey butter plus a salad with a dressing made in-house, I couldn’t begin to finish my steak. Jerry got a ribeye and he too had some left over. Oh boy, dinner later this week!
After dinner, we ran by Walmart to see if they had a band for my FitBit. Mine had broken when I took my spill in Glacier. My FitBit is an older model and I really didn’t expect them to have one and they didn’t so I’ll continue to carry it in my pocket while we wander around.
The temperature had dropped significantly after the rain so it was a cool evening. Bet it’ll be some good sleeping tonight!
We were up and on the road by 8:30 this morning headed to Cody, Wyoming. We had to backtrack to Billings but then headed west toward Cody. I got a call from home and chatted with my cousin for a while and suddenly Jerry indicated he needed some navigational help. I hung the phone up and quickly realized that both GPSs were lost. Both indicated that the RV was in a field! I brought up the good old standby Waze and recognized that we were going in the right direction. At one point, Waze and the Clarion sent us one way while the Garmin was sending us another. When that happens, I always like to defer to the Garmin as it is set for an RV. I pulled up my route from RVTrip Wizard and saw that it agreed with the Garmin so that is the way we went. It was a very easy drive and I can’t imagine where the other GPS’s wanted to send us.
We arrived at Abrasoka RV around noon, quickly checked in and got settled. As Jerry was setting up the outside I quickly went to work on the inside concluding the cleaning that I had started yesterday. It doesn’t take long to vacuum a 300 square foot motor home! The next order of business was a loaf of bread! We had passed a grocery store as we came in so we went back there to pick up enough for lunch and burgers for dinner. We’ll worry about the other meals later.
After lunch, we rode into Cody to get a feel for the town. It really is not a very large city with a population of just under 10,000 but they have 500,000 visitors each year! It is definitely geared to tourists but not kitzsy at all. In fact, it’s laid out in such a way that very quickly we could find our way around.
We parked right on the Main Street, got out and started walking. We had heard of the Irma Hotel and there it was so we walked over. We had already talked about the possibility of taking a trolley ride to familiarize ourselves with the town and the “station” was at the Irma Hotel. I so wish I had taken a picture of Ray, the gentleman manning the ticket booth. He had a handlebar mustache that wouldn’t quit plus he called me Jerry’s daughter and a hottie trottie! A man after my heart – and a man ready to sell some tickets!
We ended up buying tickets for the trolley ride and tickets for the Buffalo Cody Museum which we’ll visit tomorrow. We had about 30 minutes before the trolley ride so we continued our walk. Jerry ran back to the car to change his hat and on the way met two graduates from NC State. Go Pack! What to do with a few extra minutes? Why get ice cream of course! We went into Annie’s located right across from the hotel and had some yummy ice cream.
The trolley ride lasted an hour and took us all around Cody plus out to the Buffalo Bill Dam. We got lots of ideas about what we wanted to do for the next few days. In fact, after we got off of the trolley we headed for the dam. Wow, what an impressive sight. We had to go through three tunnels to get to the reservoir, one so long it had its own ventilation system. Just past the Visitor’s Center to the dam, we saw a fence that had been put up for protection from falling rocks or boulders. Unfortunately, before the fence could be completed the boulder fell and the fence was crushed.
The view of the reservoir is quite lovely with its red and yellow banks. The yellow is where the hot springs are located and of course, the red is caused by the rust. It makes for a beautiful background.
We arrived at the Visitor’s Center, rather the pickup point for the center. Cars are not permitted at the center but staff with golf carts are there to take you to the center. The Visitor’s Center is quite enlightening with information posted all around. In addition, they show a video that chronicles the construction of the dam. Three companies were used throughout the construction, two were dismissed and the third suffered severe financial difficulty because the dam came in double the initial proposed budget. The dam could not be worked on from April through the summer because of the floodwater from the snowmelt so the work had to be done during the bitter cold winter with temperatures sometimes down to -15. Yes, that is minus fifteen! Can you imagine? It was finally completed in 1910.
Prior to the completion of the dam, the Bureau of Reclamation was formed in 1902 to provide water for the development of the West. Heavy snowfalls and spring rains resulted in flooding that was followed by hot, dry summers with too little moisture for farming. There needed to be a way to store the surplus water not only to prevent flooding but also for use during the dry months. President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation in 1902 to create the Bureau for this purpose. Thus, the beginning of the Shoshone Dam later renamed the Buffalo Bill Cody Dam in honor of all that Cody had done for the town.
After touring the Visitor’s Center, we were able to go out on the walkway to view the spillage. I had read that it would be windy and oh my, it was. In fact, at one point the wind pushed me a bit. I was certainly glad there were rails all around.
We caught a golf cart ride back to the car and headed back into Cody. On the way out we had seen a Walmart and what day is complete without a stop at the local Walmart? I couldn’t believe the number of RV’s in the parking lot. Apparently, they do allow overnight parking. There must have been 20-25 of all kinds, Class A’s, Class B’s and pull behinds. Glad I had a site for the night!
After grilling hamburgers for dinner, we sat outside for a while and enjoyed the beautiful, cool evening. Tomorrow will be a busy day with a trip to the museum plus dinner, a show and then the rodeo tomorrow night! YeeHaw!
If I had known what I know now I would have planned our stay here for only one night. Little Bighorn National Monument though nice does not take a long time to visit. We could have easily done part of it yesterday, checked out of the campground, gone by RV to the monument this morning – they have RV parking – and then gone on to our next stop. Little did I know.
The address of the campground is Garryowen and as we were driving over today, I mentioned that I had not seen Garryowen so Jerry drove over there. It is a privately-owned town and consists of a couple of gas pumps and one building that is a gift shop/museum combined. We went in and browsed the shop for a few minutes but didn’t see anything that was interesting to us. The most striking part was the monument outside that honored the unknown soldier. It was definitely the smallest town I’ve ever been to.
Before we left the campground this morning, we had stopped by the office and to ask where we could get a loaf of bread – Hardin, 20 miles away, too far for a loaf of bread – and if there was a restaurant nearby. There was a restaurant plus a gift shop, recognizable by the teepees in the front located very near the monument. Thinking of going there for dinner tonight Jerry pulled in to check it out. While browsing I saw some bundles and asked what they were – sage, cedar, and sweetgrass. They are used for smudging.
Native people use herbs in a sacred manner to be helped into the sacred realm. The smudging ceremony occurs when they burn certain herbs, take the smoke in their hands and then rub it all over their body. The sage is burned to drive out ill feelings or influences, protecting the place of the ceremony. Cedar is burned for cleansing and while praying. The prayers rise on the smoke of the cedar to their creator. Sweetgrass is the most sacred of the plants and is frequently burned after either the sage or the cedar to bring positive influences and energies.
After deciding that we’d have leftovers for dinner tonight and save going out to eat for our next stop, we headed on to the monument. Since we had already been in the Visitor’s Center, we headed to the Deep Ravine Trail, a self-guided ¾ mile hike to the site that leads to the ravine where the remains of soldiers from Company F were found. The trail is a dirt path dotted with white monuments indicating where a soldier died. There are also a few red monuments which indicate that an Indian died there. The trail was liberally sprinkled with plentiful grasshoppers plus some type of no-seeums, or at least that’s what we call them in NC. My white Tee was dotted with black specks and they bite!
After that very hot walk – who takes a walk in 90-degree weather with no shade, I told Jerry I surely would like to see a few of the cottonwoods that we had seen elsewhere. We walked back to the cool museum for a few minutes and then to the car to take a tour of the battlefield.
Riding the five-mile road through the battlefield emphasized the difference in the two cultures. The Native people were fighting for their right to continue living as they had. Sitting Bull did not want to live on a reservation. Rather he wanted to be free to go as he pleased. The Calvary was on a mission but were so outmanned. What made them think with such a small number they could defeat a force of almost two thousand? Very definitively the Lakota and Sioux won the battle but as the old saying goes they won the battle but lost the war.
Of course, the center focused on Lt. Col. George A. Custer who was the 7th Calvary commander but equally vital in the battle were Maj. Marcus A. Reno and then Capt. Frederick W. Benteen who was credited with outstanding leadership. Custer had divided his regiment into three battalions, five under his immediate command and then three each to Reno and Benteen. Benteen was ordered to scout the bluffs while Custer and Reno headed toward the Indian camp in the valley of the Little Bighorn. When they neared the river, Custer turned toward the north and Reno was ordered to cross the river and attack. Reno had no idea what he would be facing as he was sorely outnumbered so was forced to retreat to the bluffs. He was joined by Benteen who was bringing orders from Custer to “Come on; Big Village, be quick, bring packs”. No one knew exactly where Custer was as his precise movements after he left Reno have never been determined. Indian accounts tell of his command being surrounded and destroyed. Custer did lose his life there.
Word of the crushing loss got back to the president and with anger, he increased the effort and thus the Northern Plains Indians lost their way of life, their culture. What a travesty.
Periodically along the road were numbered signs indicating what had happened at that particular place. We were able to call a specific phone number and listen to recordings that more fully explained what occurred at each stop.
Though it was a very nice national monument and we learned a lot it is certainly off the beaten path. In fact, we will have to backtrack tomorrow back to Billings to get to Cody. In hindsight, I’m not sure that we should have taken two days out of our trip for this visit. Garryowen is located between Billings and Sheridan and I can’t help but wonder if it is on the road to something more special. It appears that the campground has been full every night and other than Little Bighorn there really is nothing else around.
We used the afternoon to clean the motor home both inside and out. Jerry washed it and the lady at the office was right. You only need half the soap. Soap scum is obvious everywhere. A good rain would help!
This was our last night in Montana for a while until we get to West Yellowstone next week. It is truly a beautiful state with wide-open skies, open land and the ever-visible mountains in the distance. The roads are some of the best we’ve traveled on. In fact, roads in the west do seem to be better than the roads in the east. Wonder why?
Leftovers for dinner and reading as our attempts at surfing the Internet failed due to poor connectivity. I think the connectivity is good around 5:30 in the morning!