After a productive stay in Buffalo, we woke up excited to begin our drive to Cody. Not only were we returning to a place we love, but we were meeting up with our awesome travel buds Bill & Kelly Murray! Even though the trip was under 200 miles, we knew it was going to be a long day. The route to Cody out of Buffalo is U.S. Highway 16, which crosses the Powder River Pass at the south end of the Big Horn Mountains at just under 10,000 ft. To add to the excitement, the weather forecast was calling for snow. Great.
It was a stunning drive and we saw two female moose just hanging out by the side of the road munching away. We came upon them so quickly we didn't have time to get a photo. Still, pretty exciting!
We had no issues with snow or ice and before long we had cleared the pass and eased into Worland. This, we thought, would be a great place for breakfast! We found a little diner just across from a trucking yard. Having found no "Do Not Park' signs, we parked and headed to the restaurant. During our absence a trucker apparently took issue with us taking up a space (of which there were plenty) so he parked at an angle intended to block us in, dropped his trailer and took off.
We were stunned! Toadie was at such an awkward angle that unhooking would be nearly impossible. In front of us there was a pole on the left and that stupid trailer on the right. We studied it for a long time, then Steven said, "We can do this."
I hope that trucker was off in the distance watching with his mouth hanging open, because even though we had a gnat's hair width of wiggle room on each side, while I drove, Steven expertly guided all 54' 4" of our bad selves out of that snare without a scratch! Onward to Cody!
The Wild West
By wild west, I'm referring to the Walmart on the west side of Cody. Since we had a few boondocking days ahead, it was time to stock up. Oh. My. God. This was the kind of Walmart that is packed with rigs, to the point that even if you get in, you might not get out. It reminded me of the Walmart in Whitehorse in the Yukon. That place got so crazy that just this year they decided to ban RV overnighting all together. It might not be too long before that happens in other popular places, like Cody.
The Dam Campground
We got our provisions and headed further out of town, past the Buffalo Bill Dam to the very end of the reservoir and into the North Fork campground at Buffalo Bill State Park. There are two parts to this state park and we had previously stayed at the North Shore. We were slightly disappointed that we couldn't return there because it was full, but once we laid eyes on our campsite, we fell completely in love. One of these days I'm going to have to look back and count how many campgrounds I have actually designated as a Top Ten, because I'm sure there are more than ten, this one being right at the top!. :)
We loved it so much, that not long after Bill & Kelly arrived, we had a group meeting and unanimously agreed to scuttle the reservations we had made months ago at a campground near the east entrance of Yellowstone and stay put in the boondocking section of the North Fork. It took us just a few minutes to pack up and changes spots, then we settled in for eight glorious days.
I think I've mentioned before that I lived in Cody as a child, maybe four or five years old. It may have been a long time ago, but Cody has always been at the top of my family’s list of "Favorite Places We've Lived". Of course, there is so much to see, such history in the area, what's not to love? Steven and I know it well, and since Kelly and Bill had never been to this area of the country, or Yellowstone, we hoped to show them the beautiful sights that keep us coming back time and again.
Although Bill & Kelly are not early risers, we promised them that if they would get out early, the payoff would be worth it. They did, and it was! We saw our first bison as we rounded the corner over Lake Yellowstone. We headed to Old Faithful, where we enjoyed a lovely picnic with wine before the big show. I've seen Old Faithful shoot off probably a couple of dozen times since I was a kid, and this time was the puniest I've ever seen. What's up with that? Still, you can't help but be awed by it.
We decided that instead of retracing our drive, we would continue on the park loop and go all the way around through Hayden Valley before once again going through the east entrance of the park and back to our campground. It took hours, but it was a lot of fun. Wildlife was kind of scarce, but we finally stopped at the south end of Hayden and watched a herd of bison across the Yellowstone River. Then a couple of huge bulls decided the grass was greener on our side, and they began to swim over. It was all fun and games until everyone realized these guys were fairly swift. Folks cleared out pretty quickly and gave them a wide berth.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
You know who I think had the best job in the whole world? Charles Kuralt. Remember when he did that series "On The Road" for CBS? I loved that show. Maybe the idea of traveling around in an RV was implanted into my brain all the way back then. He traveled around for a quarter of a century in six different RVs. One of his favorite places was Beartooth Pass, which he deemed to be the most scenic drive in America.I suppose this episode has stayed with me over the years because Beartooth is one of my favorites, too. No matter where we go in this beautiful country of ours, nothing has toppled it off my own Top Ten list.
When we lived in Cody, my parents would load us into the car and drive up and across the pass. We'd stop at the top and play in the pink snow, the color caused by algae. It was always there, and we always stopped to play. I remember driving Steven and the kids over the pass on a day when the sky will filled with dramatic clouds. Both he and Tara were affected by the nearly 11,000 ft. altitude, so we didn't stay for long, but I pointed out the pink snow!
We have a photo of my Mom taken somewhere on Beartooth. We've always said she looked like she was posing for Life Magazine, with her binoculars pointed in such a way as to take in the vast view below. I was very excited to take Bill & Kelly on this trip, through Red Lodge, over Beartooth and onto Chief Joseph Scenic Highway on the return trip back to Cody. We picked a spectacular day for it and the views were amazing.
While we were at a rest stop near the top of the pass, Kelly and I saw a path that led to an overlook. We figured we might as well go take a look and off we went. Bill and Steven soon joined us. Nearly simultaneously, Steven and I recognized this as the spot where the photo of my Mom was taken. We set about trying to duplicate it, with Bill's binoculars and Steven's sharp eye. We came pretty close! I wish I had her skinny arms. :)
Ride "Em, Cowboy!
Actually, that should read "Cowgirls", because it wasn't Bill and Steven who hoisted themselves up on a real, live bull. It was after Happy Hour that we began our night out at the World Famous Cody Rodeo and therefore had the courage to get on that bull. He was big but the sharp ends of his horns were cut off and with all the heavy-duty fencing, he wasn't going anywhere. Still, we felt very brave.
Cody is a western town loaded with cute shops, tons of eateries and all things Buffalo Bill. We visited the amazing Buffalo Bill Cody statue. It sure seemed a lot bigger when I was four years old crawling up there with my Dad.
We Selfie at “The Scout” depicting Buffalo Bill Cody.
More Good Things To Come
We had fabulous weather while we were boondocking at the state park. We enjoyed catching up around the campfire, having happy hours and dinners in our cozy spots at the end of the reservoir. Kelly and I got pedicures and made up some menus. We shopped, we cooked, we yakked, we laughed. We talked about our kids. You just can't beat spending time in beautiful surroundings with people you enjoy. And this was just the beginning. We have a few more weeks together, traveling in our favorite part of the country. Life is really good.
Next up: West Yellowstone!