Friday, September 17, 2010

Great American Road Trip Part VIII: Big Horn Mountains

After Devil's Tower, we spent the night in Buffalo, WY, and on the 6th of August we traveled to Cody, WY, on Highway 16, which was so very amazing.
I had never been to "real" mountains before. I have been to the Smokies, and I have been to the Green Mountains and the White Mountains, including the peak of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, but I had never seen snow-capped, craggy mountains in person. One of the things that excited me most about our driving trip out west was that I was going to be able to experience the changing terrain. I really wanted to travel along flat prairie land, and see the mountains appear on the horizon, and drive towards them and through them.

On August 6th, I finally saw real mountains for the first time, the Big Horn Mountains.

It was awesome from the car, but when we stopped the car and stepped out, I was reverent. I had tears in my eyes. What is it about natural beauty that makes humans (well, this human, anyway) feel so full of awe, inspiration, peace, and hope? What an amazing, incredible place this earth is. What a privilege to see and experience it.

This particular drive is called the Cloud Peak Skyway. Such a lovely name.

Crazy Woman Creek runs through the Big Horn Mountains. There was a campground here.

We stopped to use the bathroom (and also because my family thought it was appropriate for me to be next to Crazy Woman Creek). It wasn't a very crowded campground. Just a few sites were being used, and hardly anyone was in the campground while we were there. I did give more than a passing thought to bears.

I mean, shouldn't we be seeing a grizzly here? Like we do in nature photographs and documentaries?

Not that I wanted to see one that close and personal. I have too much respect (ahem, fear) for wildlife, especially wildlife that can kill me.

The scenery got better and better. I believe these next photos were taken near Leigh Creek.

The road twisted and turned as it dipped into the canyon, which is very evident in this next photo:

At one point while we were driving I turned around to look at my children, and was gratified to see their faces plastered to their respective windows, mouths agape.

We were in high desert now.

Occasionally we would see irrigation equipment and lush fields of green that looked jarringly out of place among the vastness of brown.

Seeing it all again in these photos is making me feel like I need to go find a wide open space with a big blue sky overhead!

We arrived in Cody late afternoon. It was a bigger town than we expected, and very western. It's hard for me to know how "authentic" the western motif is. Do they do it up that way for the tourists, or is that really how it is? In any case, it's charming. Love the mountains hovering on the outskirts.

August 6 is my late mother-in-law's birthday. We always have ice cream on her birthday as a tribute. That evening we decided to get ice cream before dinner, which is really unheard of for us. We figured we'd get ice cream, eat it while watching the evening show of the Cody Gunslingers Shootout in front of the Irma Hotel, and then find dinner. Well, best laid plans and all that jazz. Somebody (not me, my husband, or my daughter) got sick from eating ice cream before dinner and had to be returned to our hotel room. I felt an eensy bit annoyed by this turn of events, so being the selfish mom that I am, I suggested that instead of ALL of us having to miss the shootout, my daughter and I could stay and watch it while the boys went back to the hotel.

Well, the shootout dragged on a bit longer than I expected it would, and it was really hard to hear the dialogue anyway, so instead of straining to hear and see the show, my daughter and I wandered into the Irma Hotel giftshop. As we tried on (really expensive!) cowboy hats and looked at (very cheap) trinkets, the shootout began in earnest. Bang! Bang! Bang! I think it was louder inside than it would have been had we stayed outside! I glanced over at the clerk, and she sighed and rubbed her head and said "Every night..." in a long-suffering way, which made me chuckle.

There was a rodeo in Cody that night. I haven't been to a rodeo since I was three years old. I actually have mixed feelings about rodeos, but I was having a "when in Rome" moment, and I really wanted to go to the rodeo. Unfortunately, the family voted me down. My son said he didn't feel well enough. My husband said he wasn't interested (translation: "I am not going to spend the money.") My daughter flat out said no (and many days later told me that she said no because she didn't know what a rodeo was, and that if I had explained to her what a rodeo was when I asked her if she wanted to go to one, she would have said yes, and it was all my fault that she didn't get to see one). So, no rodeo. Instead, we got take-out from Bubba's Bar-B-Que next door to our hotel and called it a night.

The lobby of our hotel in Cody was quite a zoo. I counted the "trophies" and stopped when I got to 30.


We said good-bye to Cody and continued Yellowstone! The drive there was fascinating to me.

Lone houses on a mountainside:

This cluster of houses left me feeling slightly unsettled.

They looked so vulnerable sitting there in the wide open, more like a child's toy village than actual homes. I think maybe it's the scale that gave me that impression. Just as I was thinking "I could never live out here in the wide open on the side of a mountain" my husband said "Wouldn't it be neat to leave out here in the wide open on the side of a mountain?" Um, no. Give up that retirement dream, honey.

Next stop: the granddaddy of 'em all, Yellowstone!

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