Finding Enchantment…in Encampment, Wyoming!

August 2022 – When we rolled into Encampment, Wyoming, just north of the Colorado border, we’d been driving through miles and miles of wide open land. So, when we passed a sign that said, “Population 452,” we figured we’d stay for a quickie overnight and move on.

Finding Enchantment in Encampment Wyoming! Grand Encampment Museum

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After all, how much is there to do in such a little place?

Moments later, we passed an old fellow whiling away the hours and watching the world go by from a chair in front of a small log cabin with a sign that said, “Visitors Center.” He waved at us as we drove by.

Wow! When does that ever happen?

And then we passed a building with a huge, colorful mural on one end:

Greetings from Wyoming in the town of Encampment

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We were smiling at each other by now and commenting about receiving this surprisingly warm welcome when we spotted some tall, conical metal buildings, one of which was covered with decorations. The town’s High School logo was emblazoned in bright red on one side.

Teepee burner with high school logo at Encampment Wyoming

Home of the Tigers (in flames!)…but what is this building??

On the back of this odd metal building there were a whole bunch of numbers similar to the high school graduation years we’d found painted on rocky hillsides in Arco, Idaho, and Entiat, Washington.

We got out of the truck to take a closer look, and we discovered the numbers were for the years the local high school teams had won their championships. How fun!! Cross-country was blazing…but the football team was still in the hunt for a win.

Yet we still had no idea what the building had been used for.

Encampment Wyoming high school sports championship years on teepee burner

What a clever way to honor the high school sports teams!

As we got back in the truck, we noticed a deer crossing the street in front of us. Our smiles grew wide as we whipped around to catch him on camera.

Buck crosses the street in Encampment Wyoming

The buck stops here…well, over there!

The buck was joining some friends across the street, and we suddenly noticed there was a group of 5 or 6 deer hanging around and sampling the grass!

Young buck crosses the street in Encampment Wyoming

There were bunches of deer!

A young buck peeks out from behind some election signs in Encampment Wyoming

A political stunt?

Young buck in Encampment Wyoming

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Not long after that we saw a small group of pronghorn antelope milling about. This was unbelievable!

Pronghorn antelope in Encampment Wyoming

The pronghorn antelope thought they owned the place too…

Pronghorn antelope at Encampment Wyoming

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As we drove down the main drag, the only paved road in town, we noticed the liquor store was called White Dog Liquors. Now, ya gotta love that — and we realized we were beginning to love this town!

White Dog Liquors Encampment Wyoming

Good name…!

As we cruised down some of the dirt back streets, we discovered someone had a row of antique trailers lined up. Whether they were carefully selected collectibles or just a collection of old cast-offs, we weren’t sure, but there was a fun and funky spirit to this place that was quickly growing on us.

Old travel trailer RV collection in Encampment Wyoming

An interesting collection of travel trailers from long ago!

We decided to head back to the Visitors Center to meet the guy that had waved to us when we pulled into town. He was still sitting out in front of the Visitors Center, and he introduced himself as Cowboy Wadsworth.

A warm welcome from the Encampment Wyoming Visitors Center

We received a warm welcome from Cowboy Wadsworth who volunteers at the Visitors Center.

He regaled us with fascinating tales of the history of the town. Originally called Grand Encampment by fur trappers who settled here, it later became home to “tie-hacks” who logged the surrounding forests into carefully cut railroad ties for the burgeoning railroad industry.

Who knew that making railroad ties was an entire industry unto itself?! But if you consider how many ties were needed to create the vast network of railroads that spread across this country, it must have been a big business in many forests!

Then copper mining took over the area, and a 16 mile long tramway was built to move buckets of copper ore out from the mine. The town grew quickly and became something of a company town, although unlike conventional company towns, deeded lots were sold, giving residents a tangible stake in their community. In no time, 15,000 people called Grand Encampment home.

Around the edges of this bustling town, cattle ranchers and sheep herders soon filled the valley and hillsides with their herds.

Learning the history of Encampment Wyoming

Cowboy gives me the low down on Encampment’s history.

But what about those weird metal conical buildings we’d seen? Cowboy explained that those were “teepee burners” that were used to burn the bark that came off the logs during the railroad tie making process. In the olden days there was no use for the bark — fancy landscaping hadn’t taken off yet — so it was burned.

“Go to the Grand Encampment Museum,” Cowboy urged us. “You’ll learn even more about this town over there!”

Now, we’re not really big on museums, in part because they aren’t typically dog friendly. But we wandered over in the direction he was pointing to see what was we’d see.

This way to the Grand Encampment Museum in Wyoming

“Can I go to the museum too?”

First, we noticed a replica of a stagecoach.

My, oh my. It is startling to see just how small those things were inside. I can’t imagine traveling for any length of time over rutted and dusty dirt trails, wearing a long skirt and hat and squeezed into tight quarters alongside my hubby and nose to nose with people I’d probably just met.

The people who lived in the west in the late 1800s and the turn of the last century were not only outdoorsy and rugged but were very determined!

Grand Encampment Museum Stage Coach replica in Wyoming

Pretty as it is, this would be a rough ride!

Then we rounded the bend, and before us stood the buildings of Grand Encampment, Wyoming, just as they were back in those days.

Wow!

Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

Grand Encampment Museum – Gem of Wyoming!

This isn’t just a “go inside a building and see historic relics and read signs” kind of museum. This is a fully reconstructed town that has been lovingly preserved with family memorabilia from the locals. It is an outdoor museum with a few special indoor spots, and dogs are allowed in the outdoor parts.

What’s astonishing is that the population of the town that hosts this museum is just 452. The streets of modern day Encampment are still all dirt roads. The neighboring town of Riverside located a few hundred yards down the one paved road has a population of 66 people. And there is nothing else around for 18 miles except wide open land.

Talk about a strong community spirit — what an achievement to create this fabulous museum!

It turns out that back in the 1960s two women who loved the town decided the old buildings and relics of Encampment’s earliest inhabitants deserved to be preserved for generations to come.

They set about raising the funds and raising the interest among their friends and neighbors that was necessary to set aside a large parcel of land right in town and move the town’s oldest buildings from where they originally stood to where they now stand on the museum grounds.

Buildings from downtown Encampment at Grand Encampment Museum in Wyoming

These two stores were owned and operated by Encampment residents at the turn of the last century.

The main museum building was erected in 1969, but all the other homes, cabins and stores on site (except the very large Livery building) were moved from elsewhere in the area. There is even an old US Forest Service ranger station log cabin that is painted in the familiar US Forest Service brown. It sports a very cool door knocker.

US Forest Service Door Knocker

What a cool door knocker!

We were enchanted!

Not all the buildings were open, but we peeked in all the windows, and each room of each building had been set up as it would have been back in the day using artifacts that had been carefully stored and passed down through the generations by local families.

Inside a cabin at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

There are many buildings, and each one has been lovingly set up inside with antiques donated by locals.

Back in the early 1900s, an enterprising merchant opened a mercantile store along with some other businesses. The house he built in 1908 to persuade his wife to stay in Encampment rather than return to Denver is just charming. It is a simple house with small rooms by today’s standards, but it boasted all the modern conveniences of that time, including electricity, heat (via steam piped in from his store), running water and indoor plumbing!

It remained in the family from 1908 until it was donated to the museum in 1996.

Historic buildings at Grand Encampment Museum, Encampment Wyoming

The building on the right was built in 1908 to persuade the mercantile owner’s wife to stay in town!

One building at the museum used to be a stagecoach stop, and the front room is set up the way a boarding room for travelers would have been. Imagine riding in a stagecoach for hours and hours, seeing a lonely cabin in a vast prairie, and being told, “This is where you’ll spend the night!”

In a way, that little cabin must have been so cozy and inviting and such a relief. And yet it must have also seemed so isolated, remote and perhaps even a bit forlorn at the same time!

Out in a field we found a bunch of old farming equipment, and Mark was floored that the tractor had a crank start!

An old tractor at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

It’s got a crank!

Our greeter at the Visitors Center, Cowboy, told us winter temperatures in this area have hit 75 below zero. Chatting with the Chief of Police a few days later (no, we weren’t hauled in, and yes, it’s super easy to meet people in this town and talk to them for a few hours!), we discovered he’d seen temperatures around 40 below zero. The town clerk we chatted with who’d lived in town for just a few years said she’d seen temps in the negative 30s.

Wow, that is COLD!

The snow piles up in this area too. It’s not uncommon to see 10 or more feet of snow in the dead of winter.

So, back in the day, a ground level outhouse just didn’t do the trick in the wintertime. Grand Encampment Museum has a replica of a two story outhouse on display. Once the lower level got completely snowed in and couldn’t be used any more, the second level became “ground level” and they simply used that level of the outhouse instead!

However, no one explained to us how things worked out drainage-wise when the snow melted in the springtime…!

Double outhouse at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

A two story outhouse so you can still use the loo when the snow is 13′ deep!

Inside the immense Livery building we found all kinds of vehicles from days gone by. There was a covered wagon, a basque sheep herder’s wagon, and early motor cars.

There was also a one horse open sleigh adorned with Jingle Bells!!

One horse open sleigh at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

What we all sing about at Christmas!

A horse drawn hearse was on display, reminiscent of the funeral procession and the horse drawn hearse we’d seen in Utah earlier this year (blog post here).

Horse drawn hearse in Grand Encampment Museum Livery building

A horse drawn hearse.

One resident of Encampment kept all of his license plates through the years. It was fascinating to see that the year wasn’t imprinted on license plates prior to 1918, and the familiar Wyoming logo of the bucking bronco first appeared on the license plate in 1936.

Wyoming license plates through history at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

Wyoming license plates dating back to 1915.

There were all kinds of other intriguing things from beautiful and intricately hand sewn clothing to fascinating antique photos. The photo of a group of women lined up to ski was a hoot!

Skiing in a long dress…with a single ski pole!

Back outside on the Grand Encampment Museum grounds we found a replica of the copper ore tramway. The buckets and all the gear were original but the scaffoldings had been recreated. The original tram went for 16 miles and each scaffolding was a different height because the terrain was hilly!

We first saw an ore tramway like this in Pioche, Nevada, where the original tramway and buckets still stand, frozen in time (blog post here).

Copper ore bucket on tramway display at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

A copper ore bucket on what was once a 16 mile long tramway!

We went behind some buildings and were surprised to come across two large open boats. These were tie-drive boats that were used to float the newly cut railroad ties from Encampment downriver.

Tie-drive boat at Grand Encampment Museum in Encampment Wyoming

Tie-drive boats were used to push the specially cut railroad ties downstream.

The size, scale and scope of the railroad industry in the late 1800s has never hit us as hard as when we stood in Bovill, Idaho, two months ago and stared at the remains of a railroad crossing (blog post here).

Touching the immense, rusted railroad spikes and imagining what it took to nail millions of them into the thick wooden ties (with the rails precisely spaced so the train wheels would track properly) all across the country suddenly brought the whole creation of the railroad system to life for us. We sang “I’ve been working on the railroad” for a few days after that!

A photo in Grand Encampment Museum shows one of these tie-drive boats with two tie-hacks in action guiding the boat and the newly hewn ties down the river.

Historic photo of tie hacks using tie-drive boat to push railroad ties down river in Encampment Wyoming

In action…

Encampment (and neighboring Riverside) had lots of other things to offer besides the museum. We shopped at the thrift store that’s open two days a week and we had a fabulous lunch at the Bear Trap Cafe in neighboring Riverside.

While we were savoring our meal, we noticed Cowboy Wadsworth coming into the restaurant. He was all dressed up in a freshly pressed cowboy shirt, kerchief around his neck and a cowboy hat, big belt buckle and cowboy boots.

Lots of other people began to arrive, and they were all dressed up as well.

It turned out Cowboy had just turned 95 and all his friends in town were celebrating his birthday with him in style at the Bear Trap Cafe! How cool is that?!

If your RV travels take you to southern Wyoming some day, we hope you too will find enchantment in Encampment!

Deer and dog in Encampment Wyoming

Buddy stalks the deer…and they teased him until the last second when they bounded away effortlessly.

Deer in Encampment Wyoming

Encampment is a very special place!

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Brooks Lake, Split Rock, Adventure Travelers and Other Wyoming Highlights!

August 2022 – There are several routes in and out of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, and this year we exited on the eastern side of the Park on a road we’ve never taken before: US-287. This goes up and over a mountain pass and swings by beautiful Brooks Lake.

Brooks Lake Wyoming

Brooks Lake, Wyoming

Brooks Lake Wyoming 2

Mountains and cliffs surround pretty Brooks Lake

Brooks Lake is a very scenic spot, and it was a great place to wander around with a camera! Long ago, one of our readers had recommended that we visit Brooks Lake, and we are so glad we were finally able to take him up on his recommendation. It’s lovely!

Boat at Brooks Lake Wyoming

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Truck at Brooks Lake Campground Wyoming

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There are two USFS dry camping campgrounds in the area, Brooks Lake Campground and Pinnacles Campground. Each one is very nice and can fit small to medium sized rigs fairly easily. Unfortunately, there’s a five mile long dirt road to get there. But if you’re up for some back country driving, it’s a wonderful spot.

Truck Camper at Brooks Lake Campground in Wyoming

A truck camper in Brooks Lake Campground

Pinnacles at Brooks Lake Wyoming

The sun and clouds came in waves across the pinnacles.

Brooks Lake, like many lakes in the western states, has a tendency to get toxic blue-green algae blooms in late summer when the temperatures rise, and this algae is lethal to dogs. There were Forest Service signs everywhere warning people not to eat the fish they caught too. But it is a gorgeous spot nonetheless. In springtime the algae wouldn’t be a problem — and there would be snow on the peaks!

Fishing at Brooks Lake Wyoming

Fishing is popular here, but toxic algae blooms in late summer are something to watch out for.

Creek at Brooks Lake Wyoming

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30 miles south of Brooks Lake, a few miles south of the town of Dubois (more about that town in a later post), we came across a fabulous petroglyph. This one is really intricate. It has three fingers and three toes on each hand/foot, and it has a tail. There’s lots of detail on its skin or clothing. I’m not sure if this was a doodle gone wild, or if it has some hidden meaning or if, perhaps, the artist drank some toxic blue-green algae water and had a crazy vision… But whatever it is, it’s cool!

Petroglyph in Wyoming

An elaborate petroglyph pecked into the rocks a few miles south of the town of Dubois.

175 miles southeast of Brooks Lake, also on Wyoming’s US-287 highway, we found another wonderful spot for photography: Split Rock Overlook. It’s just a pullout on the highway with bathrooms and picnic tables, but we loved it. This place was super dog friendly and Buddy had all kinds of fun there.

Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

Buddy checks out the Split Rock Overlook.

The boulders were a blast to jump around on and were reminiscent of the Redstone Rest Area in Nevada. Kids would love playing on these rocks and they sure brought out the kid in all of us!

Dog playing at Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

“This is my kind of place!!”

Dog poses at Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

Buddy takes a breather from running and jumping all over the boulders.

Happy dog at Split Rock Wyoming

In the spotlight.

We had stopped just to get a bite to eat, but we ended up spending the better part of a day there!

Happy Camper at Split Rock Wyoming

The boulders at Split Rock Overlook are just plain fun!

Photographer at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Boulders at Split Rock Wyoming

Cool rocks.

Buddy loves all of our adventures, whether it’s hiking or taking photos. He takes his job as Trail Scout very seriously and always runs in front of us on the trail to scope out what’s ahead.

Fortunately, he waits for us or runs back to check on us if we’re lagging too far behind, and if there’s a fork in the trail, he waits for us to decide which way to go.

Sometimes he runs a little ways down one leg of the fork or the other and then stands there expectantly, letting us know his recommendation for our route. But he always leaves the final decision up to us.

Dog on the hiking trail

“Are you coming?”

He also knows the tell-tale sounds and signs when we get our camera gear out to go take photos. He gets super excited and leaps down off of wherever he’s perched to sit by the door until we’ve got all our gear loaded up and are ready to go out.

Once we’re out taking photos, he goes back and forth between us, checking on how we’re doing, checking how the photos are turning out, and generally keeping an eye on our whereabouts as we move around.

Sunrise photography with a dog

Buddy watches me for a moment before running back to check on Mark.

Several places where we camped in this part of Wyoming were near the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the longest off-pavement route in the world, and we watched a steady stream of die-hard long distance mountain bikers making their way down this trail.

The trail starts in Jasper, up in Alberta, Canada, it ends at the US/Mexico border in New Mexico, and it takes a full summer for most cyclists to complete. Most of the cyclists we met had started in Jasper or Banff in late May or early June and were headed all the way to the border. Many were European. We met them on the trail, at our campsites and at the various grocery stores and post offices in the small towns that were near their route.

We chatted with Jenny and Romain from Switzerland for a while one day and were impressed with their bikes, their gear and their nonchalant attitude towards the full day of high altitude climbing that lay ahead of them.

They’d taken a year off to do some traveling as Covid waned, and they’d already camped all around Portugal and Spain for several months before they hauled their bikes to the American West to do the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

They’re keeping a blog of their American adventures at this link.

Jenny’s native tongue is German and Romain’s is French, so they alternate the two languages with each other, speaking German together for three days and then switching to French for the next three! How cool is that?! Of course, their English was excellent too…

Continental Divide Mountain Bike Trail cycilsts

Long distance mountain bike adventurers Jenny and Romain.

We also met several hikers walking this same trail, and a few were doing the full distance as well. One hiker was on his fourth pair of hiking shoes so far and the other was on his third.

We are always amazed by long distance hikers and walkers and have now met quite a few people who have hiked the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail or simply walked across the entire United States from coast to coast (one gal we met had done it twice!).

One time we met a Lady Long Rider who was riding her horse (and towing a second horse to carry her gear) on a long distance adventure (more about her adventures at this link).

Bikers on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in Wyoming

So long!!

While grabbing lunch at Split Rock Overlook, we met a solo road cyclist who was riding his bike from New York to California. That is not the typical direction, since the prevailing wind goes from west to east, but he was having a ball and was very fit. He hailed from England, and his 3-month visa had run out mid-ride in late July. So he flew home, visited family and friends for a week, renewed his visa and returned to finish riding his bike across America. His favorite places so far had been Niagra Falls and Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is open to motorized vehicles as well as non-motorized, and our new Swiss friends said they had seen lots of side-by-sides like our Polaris RZR. At another campsite we met up with a pair of long distance dirt bike riders who were doing a cross-Wyoming dirt bike ride on a new Backcountry Discovery Route that had just opened up.

Dirt bike adventure travelers in Wyoming

Off to ride the new Backcountry Discovery Route in Wyoming

Sometimes it’s these little discoveries — the backwoods lakes and campgrounds and unique highway rest areas and unusual fellow travelers we meet — are the most memorable highlights of our travels. The big name places like Sun Valley and Grand Teton National Park are stunning but the lesser known places can be just as fulfilling to visit.

Dusk at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Sunset at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Wyoming sunset

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Moon at sunset at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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RV under Milky Way in Wyoming

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Grand Teton National Park – An American Treasure!

August 2022 – Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is one of our favorite National Parks because of its absolutely breathtaking mountain views. Since we’d been camping in Sun Valley, Idaho, we were more or less in the neighborhood, so we couldn’t resist stopping by the Tetons once again!

We’d gone to Sun Valley in an effort to escape the summer heat, but temps had been hitting the low 90s every afternoon and there wasn’t even a hint of rain. In contrast, the Tetons had been getting wonderful summer afternoon thunderstorms, so we hightailed it over there with hopes for spectacular vistas and cooler air. We got both!

Oxbow Bend Overlook Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Snake River

A full moon sets right before sunrise at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park and the greater Jackson Hole Valley area are located just below Yellowstone National Park, and they encompass a long skinny region that extends for about 50 miles from the north entrance of the Park to Teton Village in the south. Both the highway on the eastern edge of the Park (US-26) and the Teton Park Road, which runs parallel to the highway down the middle of the Park, have numerous named pullouts and overlooks where you can stop for a while to take in the extraordinary scenery.

The Snake River Overlook was made famous by Ansel Adams when he parked his station wagon in that spot in 1942, set up his tripod on the roof of his car, and took a photo of a bend in the Snake River backed by the mountains, an image that he called “The Tetons and the Snake River.” His photo sold for $988,000 in 2020! (Mark says he’d take half as much for any of his, and they’re in color!).

Unfortunately, the National Park Service has allowed lots of tall trees to grow to great heights at that overlook, totally obscuring the view that Ansel Adams captured. However, a similar view can be found nearby at the Oxbow Bend Overlook, and this pullout is a favorite among Park visitors today.

Oxbow Bend Overlook in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Day dawns at the Oxbow Bend overlook.

Grand Teton National Park is beloved by photographers, and as we drove to different stunning overlooks before dawn each morning in hopes of catching a glorious sunrise, we saw lots of headlights zooming here and there on the roads. We also had plenty of company as we stood shivering near other crazy photography buffs that had climbed out of their warm beds in the dark so they could stand outside in the cold and wait for the sun to do its magic.

900 Grand Teton National Park Wyoming sunrise

Crazy photographers climb out of their warm beds and drive all over Grand Teton National Park to catch the mountains waking up!

Bobtail Ponds Grand Teton National Park Wyoming 2

The pink hue slowly creeps down from the mountain peaks at Bobtail Ponds overlook.

Teton Point sunrise Grand Teton National Park Wyoming pink mountain peaks

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Schwabacker Landing is a popular gathering place for photographers before dawn because it offers not only a majestic view of the mountains as their tips turn pink, but a glimpse of their reflections in the glassy water below.

Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Schwabacker Landing is twice as much (mirrored) fun as all the other overlooks!

After sunrise, the sun and clouds played shadow games along the face of the mountains, creating wonderful stripes.

Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Sun and Shadow

Sun and shadow games at Schwabacker Landing.

This is a great spot to take selfies, and we saw a young couple taking photos of themselves in romantic poses before the exquisite mountain backdrop.

Lovers at Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Romance in the Tetons!

We couldn’t resist getting some selfies ourselves during our stay either, and we found some fun spots to say “cheese” and memorialize our visit.

Happy Campers Schwabacker Landing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Trying to look our best at 6:30 in the morning!

Happy Campers at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Everyone gets Christmas card photos at these overlooks…what a perfect spot for it!

Grand Teton National Park is very spread out, and lots of people wander from one overlook to another all day long, enjoying a picnic lunch by the side of the road here and a late afternoon snack in a pullout over there. Most overlooks have parking spaces large enough for a few RVs to pull in along with the cars.

We met a German family enjoying a breakfast of meats and cheeses next to their rental RV. Suddenly, the son ran inside and hung out the RV window giving a thumbs up with a huge grin while the dad took a photo of him and the RV in front of the spectacular mountains.

On another morning, as we returned to our truck from where we’d been taking photos, we could swear we smelled a yummy egg breakfast cooking. Sure enough, a young couple had set up a camp stove kitchen on the trunk of their Honda, and they were making a tasty breakfast right there in the parking lot!

Breakfast cooking on the back of a car atGrand Teton National Park Wyoming

We smelled breakfast cooking on the trunk of this car long before we saw it!

Every pre-dawn outing was an adventure, but one adventure went slightly awry…

At the Cunningham Cabin historical site, Mark chose a spot with a great view of the very simple log cabin that had been owned by the homesteading rancher J. Pierce Cunningham in the 1880s while I looked for a spot that would incorporate the wonderful log fence with the mountains rising out of the morning mist.

Unsatisfied with my first composition near where Mark was standing, I decided to take the narrow dirt trail along the fence line a little further. Gawking at the mountains and carrying my tripod over my shoulder, camera attached, my foot suddenly sank into water up to my knees! I toppled over and crashed to the ground, camera first.

In shock, I realized my favorite “go to” lens, the Nikon 28-300, was now broken. It could no longer zoom in and out, and it was covered in mud.

Wiping myself off as best I could, tears stinging my eyes, I gathered my shattered wits together and noticed that the entire field alongside the trail I’d been following was full of irrigation ditches that were about a foot wide and knee deep, and they criss-crossed the trail every few yards.

Fortunately, Mark was happily shooting away, far from shouting distance, so his morning was still intact! After feeling very sorry for myself for a few minutes, I remembered that I’d brought another lens, the Nikon 18-35. Luckily, it was wrapped in a clean microfiber towel, so I was able to wipe down my muddy camera and replace the big broken lens with the smaller wide angle lens.

Throughout all this, the sky was silently turning pink in the distance. With a tear or two still staining my cheek, I reminded myself that even if I couldn’t get the variety of close-in and faraway images I’d wanted, I was still here in this incredible spot witnessing the magnificent awakening of the mountains. Muddy pants, broken lens and all, I was fortunate to be here, and this was a moment to remember for its beauty as much as for my mishap!

Sunrise at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

I thought the beautiful pink show would go on without me but a second lens in my bag let me participate!

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As a side note, a young newlywed couple in our extended family nearly lost their lives in a horrific house fire three weeks ago. I thought of them as I stood there. No amount of mud or broken gear could have taken away my gratitude for the blessing of witnessing this sunrise in this sensational setting.

The young woman has been fighting for her life in an induced coma since her husband courageously carried her unconscious body out of the house through the flames. She was just awoken the other day and she managed a smile. She will be in the ICU for another 6 or 7 weeks undergoing many skin graft surgeries. They lost everything in the fire, including their pets.

I know how much it meant to us when readers of this blog reached out to help us after Buddy’s extraordinary ordeal. This young couple has set up a GoFundMe to cover medical bills that aren’t covered by insurance and to try to piece their lives back together again.

* * * * *

Dirty Little Orphan Annie finally came up off the muddy trail to where Mark was standing by the cabin. He was still nice and clean and dry

“Oh my, what happened to you?!” He asked as he rubbed a muddy smudge off my cheek and stared at my sodden shoes.

What could I say? My bedraggled looks were worth more than a thousand words. And so it goes in the wild world of outdoor photography!

Before dawn in the mountains

This was the pre-sunrise composition I didn’t like… But it probably would have been the better choice once the sky lit up and definitely would have saved me a bunch of dirty clothes and a beloved lens!

A while later, our friend and phenomenal wildlife photographer Steve Perry consoled me with stories of dunking his Sony A1 camera in the ocean while photographing baby turtles and dropping his Nikon 300 f/2.8 lens on the pavement at the airport. If you haven’t seen Steve’s channel or read his books or read his web page, they are all truly outstanding and inspiring. He has all the secrets! His latest video enumerates the skills, talents and techniques that the best photographers share.

It’s funny that I don’t recall him mentioning anything about accidents!!

Cunningham Cabin Grand Teton National Park Wyoming3

This tiny “double” cabin is the first building Mr. Cunningham erected on his 160 acres of Homestead land and is what Mark was busy photographing while I stumbled around in the irrigation ditches.

A while later we got another pic of a historic building when we stopped by the old barns and cabins that make up Mormon Row, yet another treasured spot for visitors to Grand Teton National Park.

Mormon Row Barn at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The barns and cabins on Mormon Row make classic pics!

One of the most astonishing things about Grand Teton National Park is the dramatic juxtaposition of the towering mountains and the many ponds, lakes and streams that dot the landscape. In a way, this National Park is as much a place of waterways as it is a place of mountains. Boating is a surprisingly popular activity and there are mooring fields and a marina available for people to keep their boats on Jackson Lake!

Jackscon Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming boats

Ponds, lakes and rivers are a huge part of Grand Teton National Park, and boating is a popular activity!

Powerboat on Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Not a bad spot for an outing on the water!

Boats on Jackson Lake at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

There were lots of boats waiting to be taken out.

There are a few places where you can swim, or at least enjoy a pebbly beach setting, and we found one of these on Jackson Lake one morning. The lake was perfectly still and puffy clouds made a pretty pattern in the sky.

Jackson Lake mirror reflections Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a beautiful little rocky beach!

When I got to the water’s edge, I noticed that the rounded beach stones were submerged just below the surface of the water, and the glassy water was bringing out their vibrant colors.

Submerged rocks Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The vivid colors of the beach stones came to life under the placid water.

Mark threw a large stone in the water, and we watched the ripples fan out across the lake.

Ripples at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Making waves.

A group of people came down to the water with a slew of kayaks, and it appeared they were getting a lesson on how to paddle around. In no time they were all on the water in their kayaks and then, after paddling off across the lake, they landed on a distant shore. What a thrilling way to immerse yourself in the Tetons!

Kayak at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

A group of people got a lesson in kayaking while we were there!

A power boat suddenly appeared, zooming across the lake at top speed, and we noticed there was someone water skiing behind it. What a blast!

Waterskier at Jackson Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a place to waterski!!

Glancing at the map one evening, we noticed there was a mountain summit you could reach by car, so the next day up we went. It is called Signal Mountain, although it’s not named for the huge cell tower that blasts a powerful signal at the top!

Wifi tower at Signal Mountain Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Cell tower at Signal Mountain

Signal Mountain was actually the site where a special smoke signal was sent out long ago by a search-and-rescue person to notify his team that he’d found the body of a man who’d fallen into the Snake River.

The view at the summit goes out across a valley, but the view just before the top looks back at the mountains across various inlets of Jackson Lake.

View from Signal Mountain Summit Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

View from just below the summit at Signal Mountain.

There are a million things to do in the Tetons, and one the best is cycling.

The paved bike path which had been only partially completed when we last visited now runs for miles and miles all through the Park, down to the town of Jackson and over the mountains from there to the town of Victor. Some of it is a rails-to-trails route and some has been purpose-built as a walking/biking trail. All of it is an outstanding way to see the Tetons.

Lots of people ride their bikes on the roads too.

RV and bicycle at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The Tetons are beloved by cyclists and hikers as well as photographers and boaters!

One theme in our summer travels this year has been the discovery of free outdoor summer concerts, and when we arrived in Grand Teton National Park we saw a notice for an upcoming free chamber music concert at the Murie Ranch in the Park. Score!

Back in the day, Olauf and Maddy Murie hosted many a long summer afternoon “conversation” with various illustrious visitors on the front porch of their cabin, and it had been the site of several concerts this summer already. All of the concerts were part of the Grand Teton Music Festival which presents performances by small groups and a big orchestra all around the town of Jackson and the Jackson Hole Resort and Grand Teton National Park all summer long!

Like Sun Valley, Jackson is a land of the ultra-wealthy, and like the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, the Grand Teton Music Festival is extremely well funded. After all, rumor has it that the billionaires pushed the millionaires out of Jackson a few decades ago! As something of a playground-while-working for the 0.2 percenters, the Federal Reserve holds an annual summer meeting in Jackson Hole, and it was about to get underway during our stay!

When we arrived at the surprisingly packed lawn in front of the Murie Cabin, it was no surprise to discover that the free concert included free wine and snacks! And this wasn’t just “Everything tastes better on a Ritz” types of snacks. This was stuffed grape leaves, a tray of exotic cheeses, and grapes served inside a pineapple!! The French couple sitting next to me was impressed by the Chardonnay too.

Free snacks at Grand Teton Music Festival in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

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The quartet played Dvorak’s “American Quartet” beautifully, but the highlight of the afternoon was the Q&A afterward.

The Music Festival hostess took questions from the audience that ranged from, “How did you learn to play so fast?” (by practicing syncopated rhythms) to “Where was your instrument made, and when?” (several were French and some dated to the 1800s) to “How many hours a day do you practice?” (8 to 10 when they were studying but less now that they are professionals and perform so much) to “How do you take your instrument on an airplane?” (the cello gets its own seat!) and more.

The musicians were delightful, and it gave the whole experience a very intimate feeling as the audience, hostess and musicians bantered back and forth.

Definitely check out the Grand Teton Music Festival schedule for a performance that suits your fancy when you visit the Park!

Grand Teton Music Festival Quartet Q&A Muries Cabin Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The musicians in the quartet fielded all kinds of questions from the audience after their performance.

As with our previous visits to Grand Teton National Park, we absolutely loved our stay.

Happy campers at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming boats

We have a blast here every time we visit.

And we know we’ll be back again because, in truth, we’ve barely scratched the surface!!

Teton Road Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Teton Park Road at dawn.

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Summer Fun in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains

August 2018 – We have been loving the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming this summer as we’ve roamed around the snow capped mountains and glassy lakes with our RV. Rising with the chickens in the early mornings, we’ve seen some fabulous sunrises.

Sunrise in northeern Wyoming on an RV trip-min

Sunrise in Wyoming

Sunrise Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

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Buddy loves to play in the early morning light and take long walks before the world wakes up.

Puppy on rocks in northeastern Wyoming at sunrise-min

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Puppy trotting down dirt road in northeastern Wyoming at sunrise-min

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Puppy on a dirt road at sunrise northeastern Wyoming RV trip-min

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Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains have given us some incredible skies.

Dramatic skies Northeastern Wyoming RV trip-min

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And while we haven’t done any signature hikes, we’ve enjoyed simply wandering through the woods and across the open meadows, watching the play of light and shadow through the trees and climbing on rock outcroppings here and there.

Morning in the woods in teh Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming-min

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Family portrait Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

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Loving life Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

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Sometimes there’s true beauty hiding in a rock crevice.

Spider's Web

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Sometimes we just find a place to sit in the woods and commune with the trees.

Puppy in the woods Wyoming Big Horn Mountains-min

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The Big Horn Mountains offer many expansive views.

Puppy looks at the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming-min

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In the last few weeks the views have been obscured by the smoke from wildfires burning as far away as California. This has made the air quite hazy, but the effects in our photos has been intriguing.

Big Horn Mountains Wyoming smoke from California wildfires-min

The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina come to the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming

Smoky Mountains in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming-min

Mark cast an image in black and white with a cool result.

Wyoming’s roots are in cattle ranching and cowboy life, and on quite a few of our walks we’ve bumped into folks on horseback.

One day while Buddy and I were trudging up a long and winding dirt road with the meadows spreading wide on either side of us, a cowboy on horseback appeared on the crest of the hill coming towards us. Behind him the snow capped Big Horn Mountains reached across the horizon in all their glory. As he descended the rocky road we noticed he was leading a second horse behind him. It was a classic and memorable image.

But where was my camera? Arghh! I’d left it at home since I was “just going for a walk.”

On another day I came across a trio of women out enjoying a ride. This time I had my camera with me, and when a fourth woman appeared she proudly showed me her chaps which had been hand made for her years ago!

Horseback riders Big Horn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

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Cowgirl horseback rider Big Horn Mountains Wyoming-min

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In Sheridan, Wyoming, we visited a big store full of cowboy gear called King’s Saddlery (locally known as “King Ropes”). This unusual store sells custom made saddles, a huge variety of ropes for roping cattle, and is home to a museum of western memorabilia as well.

Our friends Bill and Jonette who live in the area urged us to visit because it is such a unique place. What a great travel tip that was!

King's Saddlery Sheridan Wyoming RV trip-min

King’s Saddlery in Sheridan Wyoming

When we walked in, after passing by row after row of horse saddles, we came across two cowboys trying out some of the ropes. There were two dummy cows for testing the ropes. One featured a pair of horns to simulate a cow’s head. The other featured a pair of legs, for checking out how well the rope would do for snaring a cow by the legs.

I was amazed watching these two cowboys lassoing the dummies over and over as they tried different ropes.

Cowboy tests ropes at King's Saddlery Sheridan Wyoming-min-min

A pair of cowboys were testing different ropes to see which felt best.

These two men tested rope after rope throughout our entire visit — for at least an hour — and as we left the store they were headed out too, new ropes in hand.

Cowboy Ropes for sale at King's Saddlery Sheridan Wyoming RV trip-min-min

There are dozens and dozens of different kinds of ropes for cowboys here!

As we made our way to the museum area, we passed the area where the custom leather work is done. A huge chest filled with lots of little drawers contained all the small metal fittings that go into a saddle, bridal and all the other gear necessary to ride a horse.

Making custom horse saddles at King's Saddlery Sheridan Wyoming-min-min

All the saddles are custom made.

Then we came across a woman getting her cowboy hat custom sized to fit her head. The hat was steamed to make it pliable.

Custom sizing cowboy hat with steam Sheridan Wyoming King's Saddlery-min

A cowboy hat gets steamed to the right size and shape for a customer.

In the museum there were rooms of antique saddles that had been used and loved for many years. Each saddle was different, many of them very ornate, and each one was accompanied by detailed information about who owned it, who made it, where it was used and when.

There were also lots of antique posters announcing various rodeo events. I liked the one for the Sheridan Rodeo of 1932!

Poster for Sheridan Wyoming Rodeo from 1932-min

A poster for the Sheridan Rodeo in 1932!

But the museum piece that was most evocative was a pair of envelopes sent from the Great Falls, Montana, artist, CM Russell, to the man who owned the first dude ranch in Wyoming, Howard Eaton.

Each envelope was hand painted and dated by CM Russell, and the address was simply given as Howard Eaton’s name, the town of Wolf where he lived, and the state of Wyoming. No street or zip code necessary.

Envelope from artist CM Russell to Howard Eaton dude ranch owner in Wolf Wyoming-min

This hand painted envelope from 1907 held a letter from artist CM Russell to ranch owner Howard Eaton.

Those envelopes spoke volumes about the pace of life in the early 1900s, the importance and value people placed on sending and receiving a letter in the mail, and the size of the town of Wolf in Wyoming.

Envelope from artist CM Russell to Howard Eaton dude ranch owner in Wolf Wyoming-min

What a different time it was when an envelope could be so carefully filled out.

Our friends took us to another special event at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Buffalo, Wyoming, where kids and their sheep celebrated an important aspect of the history, culture and economy of the area: sheep farming and wool production.

A week prior, Mountain Meadow Wool, a local Buffalo Wyoming wool mill, had sent a special American flag made of wool to the Made In America Product Showcase in Washington, DC, to represent Wyoming’s homegrown products. The flag had returned from D.C. and was hanging proudly at one end of the field.

Wool flag from Wyoming that was seen behind President Trump in Washington-min

Buffalo residents were excited that this American flag made from skeins of local wool was clearly visible behind President Trump during the televised broadcast of the Made in America Product Showcase event in July 2018.

Last year we had been treated to a unique celebration of the Basque sheep herders who had settled this part of Wyoming in the early 1900s and had brought their shepherding skills with them from the Basque region of Spain.

The event we watched at the fairgrounds this summer was a presentation of lovingly raised sheep and their young caretakers who modeled all kinds of woolen clothing and dressed up their sheep to coordinate with their own outfits!

From a toddler in an elaborate wool vest to masked Zorro with his sword to a sheep wearing sunglasses, the costumes were adorable, and so were the kids and their sheep!

Sheep and kids in costume Johnson County Fairground Wyoming-min

A very charismatic toddler wore an elaborate wool vest and waved to the crowd while dad led the sheep.

Zorro sheep dress-up Johnson County Fair 4H-min

Zorro in his mask and cape accompanied his sheep who was also wearing a mask and cape!

Johnson County Fair Wyoming sheep and kids festival-min

The little kids were very cute and all but the very youngest led their own sheep.

Johnson County Fair Wyoming sheep and kids festival-min

This young boy sported a cool woolen vest while his sheep wore cool sunglasses.

One little girl wore a lovely wedding dress made entirely of wool. Her sheep was her groom and he wore tails.

Wool wedding dress at Johnson County Wyoming fair 4h Sheep show-min

This girl’s entire wedding dress was made of wool.

The older kids had made all their own clothes. Each outfit was really impressive and many were quite complex. One girl made a wonderful matching ensemble for her sheep and herself!

Johnson County Fair Wyoming sheep and kids festival-min

The older kids made their own clothes from scratch. So impressive!

Northern Wyoming and the Big Horn Mountain region have been full of very fun surprises this summer.

Boat on a lake in northeastern Wyoming-min

Summer days are here again!

This part of Wyoming is a long ways from the more famous western region that is home to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. But the history and traditions are rich and heartwarming.

Stormy sunset RV camping in Wyoming-min

The Big Horns in Wyoming were full of surprises, including this wild storm that rolled in at sunset!

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Chief Joseph Scenic Byway – Mountain Majesty Near Yellowstone NP

July 2018 — The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is a gorgeous scenic drive that forks off of the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming. It’s not as well known as the Beartooth Highway, but the views are jaw-dropping.

Mountain scenery Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming RV Trip

Views on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway near Yellowstone in Wyoming

We had driven the Beartooth Highway several times as an out-and-back trip from Red Lodge, Montana, our mouths forming a permanent “Wow!” every time we drove it.

And each time we passed the turn-off from the Beartooth Highway onto the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway we craned our necks, wondering what that other scenic drive was like.

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway wanders through the mountains.

After spending a very special 4th of July in Cody, Wyoming, we used that town as a home base to drive the gorgeous Chief Joseph Scenic Byway out to where it interesects with the Beartooth Highway and back again.

We loved it so much we drove it a few more times, catching it in a different light on each drive.

Not far from the start of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (which is about 17 miles northwest of Cody), we rounded a bend and were shocked to see some huge outcroppings of red rocks. It was a little touch of Utah right there in Wyoming!

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming Red rocks and green grass-min

Turning a big sweeping corner we came across some red rocks peeking out of the greenery.

We think of Wyoming as being home to tall craggy mountains and woods and open grasslands. What a beautiful surprise to see red rocks glowing orange in the late afternoon sun.

Red rocks on Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

At the golden hour just before sunset the red rocks lit up in vivid shades of orange.

The rain had fallen so consistently for so many weeks during the spring that everything in Wyoming was green and lush. The red rock hillsides were partially covered in a thick layer of tall grasses and green trees. From a distance it almost looked like moss.

Green grass and red rocks Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming RV trip

Intense rains had made the grass surrounding and growing on the red rocks very lush.

Green grass and red rocks Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

From a distance the greenery may have resembled moss, but these red cliffs are immense and you can see evergreen trees growing on the hillsides.

We got out of the truck and wandered around on the hillsides for a while. An old, bleached tree trunk looked like it had it’s arms outstretched to the heavens!

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music in Wyoming-min

It’s Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”

Dead tree and red rocks Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

Another bare tree trunk finds new life among the red rocks.

A little further on we came to a fabulous overlook at the Dead Indian Summit. There is a big viewing platform and the view is out of this world.

Afternoon storm clouds Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming Dead Indian Summit-min

At Dead Indian Summit the views went on forever.

We could see the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway snaking through switchbacks into the valley below.

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming Dead Indian Summit RV trip-min

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway wanders down into the valley with lots of switchbacks.

We had arrived in late afternoon, and the view was backlit by the sun. We thought this overlook might look best in the morning with the early morning light filling all the nooks and crannies, so we got out of bed before dawn one morning to catch the sunrise at the summit overlook.

We needed cloud cover in the west that would pick up the beautiful colors of sunrise slightly after the sun rose in the east. But we wondered if we’d done the right thing as an incredible sunrise developed behind our backs, mostly blocked by a large berm. Arghh!!

However, just as we were giving up and figuring we’d blown it and the sunrise was going to be a one-part-of-the-sky-only event, suddenly the clouds to the west in front of us began to turn a soft pink.

Sunrise Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip Dead Indian Summit-min

Same Dead Indian Summit view at sunrise!

It turned out to be well worth the pre-coffee driving adventure to get there in time for this celestial show, and we were so glad we hadn’t given up and had stuck around long enough to let the sunrise creep across the sky from east to west.

Sunrise Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip Dead Indian Summit-min

It was soooo worth getting out of a warm bed to come witness this sunrise!

Photographer at sunrise Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip Dead Indiand Summit-min

Mark hung out on a cliff getting great pics.

As the sun rose higher, the mountaintops lit up and wild daisies began to slow dance in the soft breeze.

Wildflowers Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

Once the sun crested the horizon the distance peaks lit up in delightful contrast to the big yellow daisies at my feet.

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is a dramatic drive through the mountains, and we savored every view. Fortunately there are lots of pullouts where you can stop to take pics!

Mountain views Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway offers many glorious vistas.

But some of the best experiences were down the dirt roads and hiking trails that wander away from the main drag.

Trotting puppy on a hike in Wyoming-min

We enjoyed hiking a few of the trails and dirt roads.

While we preferred hiking on our own two feet (or four paws), others were out on horseback. We bumped into a group of cowboys who had just done a cattle roundup on the other side of the mountain.

Horseback riders Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

These cattle ranchers had just finished rounding up a herd of cows!

Everywhere we went along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway the wildflowers were out sunning themselves, giving the landscape a colorful and cheery air.

Wildflowers Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming-min

Colorful bouquets created by a divine hand.

We took a gazillion photos, and couldn’t fit them all into one blog post. So here are a few more!

Photographing wildflowers in Wyoming-min

Buddy and I wandered into the flowers to get a closer look (and take pics!).

Puppy playing in the wildflowers-min

Buddy gives Mark a sly look as he takes his pic!

Wildflowers in the Wyoming woods-min

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Wild yellow daisy-min

There were yellow daisies with yellow centers and with brown centers — all kinds of yellow daisies!

Indian paintbrush wildflowers in Wyoming-min

Such cool patterns.

Wildflowers Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

I couldn’t have planted such a beautiful garden if I tried!

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway eventually connects to the Beartooth Highway, and we couldn’t resist driving a little of that majestic scenic drive once again. Such gorgeous vistas!

Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

An incredible view on the Beartooth Highway!

The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River was running fast and free.

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

Right out of a brochure.

Waterfall Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

A waterfall cascade caught our eye as we drove over a bridge.

Backlit Waterfall Chief Joseph Scenic Highway Wyoming RV Trip-min

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Wildflowers Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyoming RV Trip-min

Wildflowers were in bloom everywhere on the Beartooth Highway. What luck!

At the tiny village of Cooke City we stopped to stroll around. There are a few boutique shops and cute eateries. Buddy saw his first grizzly bear up close outside one store. Luckily it was stuffed!

Puppy meets stuffed grizzly Cooke City Wyoming-min

“My, what big teeth you have!”

If you are traveling to Yellowstone National Park, save a few days to drive the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway out of Cody, Wyoming, and/or the Beartooth Highway out of Red Lodge, Montana.

Or, if you want to do it all in one day, do a circle loop that includes both scenic drives (map link below) using Red Lodge, Cody or Cooke-City as a starting and ending point.

Sunrays on Chief Joseph Scenic Byway Wyomng-min

Sunset on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

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Wildflowers in Wyoming – Spring Showers Bring Spectacular July Flowers!!

July 2018 – Our spring travels through Utah, Wymoing, Montana and South Dakota have been awash in deluges of rain for the past few months. But while we camped in Cody, Wyoming, recently we witnessed the most astonishing blossoming of wild flowers that we have ever seen anywhere.

For us, this year, March through June showers have brought gorgeous July flowers!

Wildflowers in meadow on Chief Joseph Highway Wyoming-min

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After driving the eye-popping Beartooth Highway we decided to check out other scenic drives near Cody, Wyoming. But our quest for beautiful mountain scenery was quickly set aside when we drove into the National Forest and found ourselves surrounded by meadows of fabulous wildflowers!

Meadow with wildflowers and mountains Wyoming-min

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We quickly set up shop and started taking pics with our cameras and tripods. What a display this was!

Photographer in meadow of wildflowers in Wyoming-min

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Bouquet of wildflowers in Wyoming meadow-min

We have never seen fields of wildflowers like this!

Buddy took off on his own, chasing the grasshoppers and butterflies all over the place.

Puppy in wildflowers in Wyoming-min

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There were pinks and yellows and purples and white flowers too. And they were thick across the meadows!

Pink wildflowers blooming in Wyoming-min

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Wild yellow daisies in Wyoming-min

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Wildflowers were blooming everywhere, so we decided to forego the scenic drive for the moment and try some hiking instead. Beautiful flowers lined the roads and trails!

Wildflowers in woods in Wyoming-min

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Buddy posed for a shot with some flowers. Thank you, Bud!

Puppy with wild lupines Cody Wyoming-min

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Most of the colors so far had been yellows, purples, pale blues and pinks, but we rounded a bend to find our view filled with all of those colors plus bright red Indian Paintbrush flowers too.

Indian paintbrush and lupine wildflowers in Wyoming-min

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Woods and wildflowers with puppy in Wyoming-min

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Indian paintbrush wildflowers in Wyoming forest-min

Indian Paintbrush.

Neither of us had ever seen wildflowers like this before.

I joked with Mark that when I bought my first house years ago I’d purchased a packet of wildflower seeds that had a photo on it that looked like these meadows. But that packet of wildflower seeds sure didn’t give me a garden like this!

Wildflowers in woods in Wyoming-min

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Indian paintbrush and lupine wildflowers in Wyoming-min

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Wildflowers in the woods in Wyoming-min

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We entertained ourselves with our cameras for a few hours as Buddy continued to chase butterflies. We were in heaven!

Wild lupine in the Wyoming forest-min

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Colorful wildflowers in Wyoming woods-min

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As we tromped around in the woods, we loved the logs and rocks that were peeking up through the tall grasses. They made for the most beautiful flower arrangements!

Yellow wildflowers with tree stump in Wyoming forest-min

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Wild lupine with old log in Wyoming woods-min

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Pink wild flowers with tree stump in Wyoming woods-min

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Wyoming wildflowers in the woods-min

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In some places the flowers arranged themselves together better than any floral arranger could do. Mother Nature’s work was infused with a divine and artistic flair!

Yellow daisies and lavender lupine in Wyoming forest-min

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Yellow daisies and lavender lupine in Wyoming-min

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Wildflowers with logs and rocks in Wyoming woods-min

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Tucked away from the huge splashes of color we found some less common flowers blooming on their own.

Looking down on wildflower in Wyoming forest-min

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Exotic wildflower in Wyoming-min

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If you happen to be in this area when it warms up after a very rainy spring, head down some of the winding dirt roads and trails that lead off the main highway. The flowers are spectacular!

Puppy looks down hiking trail in Wyoming-min

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The flip side of being surrounded by gorgeous and abundant wildflowers is being surrounded by the flying bugs that feed on them — and on you!! I’m not a fan of bug spray, but the eruption of bugs everywhere we’ve been in Montana and Wyoming lately has been really bad.

I hunted around a little online and discovered that some essential oils can be effective bug repellents. I’ve never been an essential oils person, but I picked up some lavender and eucalyptus, and when we returned to those meadows of wildflowers for more flower pics, I gave them a try.

Mark opted not to try the essential oils at first, and lo and behold, about 10 minutes into photographing the flowers he was ready to quit and run home while I hadn’t been bothered much at all!

The official recipe I found called for 15 drops of lavender and 5 drops of eucalyptus mixed together with 2 tablespoons of jojoba oil in a small bottle. But all I did was put a few drops of the lavender and eucalyptus on my arms, legs and face and spread it around, and it was like magic.

I have found I need to reapply it about every hour or so, and of course it’s not as effective as 40% Deet. But it has been good enough for us and Buddy to romp around in the flowers and be comfortable.

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4th of July in Cody, Wyoming – The Cody Stampede Parade!

July 2018 – Every year we are somewhere different for the 4th of July, and this year we were lucky enough to find ourselves near Cody, Wyoming, a vibrant town just east of Yellowstone National Park that celebrates the 4th of July in style.

This morning we found a spot to watch the 4th of July parade opposite the historic Irma Hotel. Buffalo Bill built the Irma Hotel in 1902 to encourage tourism to the town of Cody which he and several other investors had founded in 1896.

Crowd 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

The crowd gathers in front of Buffalo Bill’s historic Irma Hotel for the 4th of July Cody Stampede Parade.

The parade announcers were set up on an upper deck and they entertained us while we waited for the parade to begin.

Announcers 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

The announcers got the crowd going.

The American flag was on proud display all over town.

Flags and crowds 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

We saw lots of American pride.

Polaris General 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

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And lots of folks were dressed in stars and stripes or at least in red, white and blue.

Flag jacket 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

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Waiting for the 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

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Young and old alike waited patiently while more and more people showed up along the parade route, camping chairs and flags in hand.

Waiting at the 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

“I hope it starts soon!”

Cody, Wyoming, is accustomed to extending a warm welcome to throngs of summer tourists who drop in for a visit on their way to or from Yellowstone National Park.

The town hosts a professional rodeo — the Cody Stampede Rodeo — every night all summer long. It is held in their huge rodeo arena on the edge of town. The Cody Stampede Rodeo also hosted this 4th of July parade, and some of the rodeo folks rode their horses up and down the parade route, waving to friends and keeping an eye on things.

Rodeo stampede guard 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Riders from the Cody Stampede Rodeo rode up and down the parade route.

This 4th of July Parade in Cody was actually the third parade this week. A kiddies parade was held on July 2nd and a preliminary 4th of July parade was held on the 3rd!

Finally the big parade began, and it began with a flourish.

Beginning 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

At last the parade began with a grand military display.

Then a whole slew of Rodeo Royalty went by, each of the girls and women more beautiful than the last. There were Rodeo Queens from various cities and states, and there was even the Rodeo Queen USA, if I caught her title right.

Rodeo queen 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Miss Rodeo Mississippi.

A few days earlier we had bumped into some younger rodeo royalty at a parking lot in town. Blair, the Junior Cody Stampede Princess, and her older sister Bridger, also a member of the Cody Stampede Royalty, had just finished doing the first of the three parades, and they posed for me next to their horse trailer.

Blair explained to me that becoming the Junior Cody Stampede Princess involved not only equestrian skills like barrel racing, but a modeling contest, a written essay exam and an oral exam as well. Congratulationss to her and all the other rodeo princesses and queens!

Cody Rodeo Stampede Junior Princess and Royalty Blair and Bridger-min

We caught up with Rodeo Princess Blair and her older sister Bridger a few days prior.

There was royalty of another kind too. A woman who has appeared in the Cody 4th of July Parade for 35 years walzed by with her famous pink poodle. She hammed it up delightfully and showed us all what it’s like to be 82 years young.

Pink poodle lady 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

82 years young — in high heels — with a pink poodle to boot!

There were floats of all kinds.

Riding hogs and chasing chicks 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

“Riding hogs and chasing chicks!”

And a lineup of wonderful antique cars.

Antique cars 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Antique cars that might have driven through Yellowstone National Park back in the day!

One local family was celebrating 100 years in Wyoming since their ancestors arrived as homesteaders in 1918.

Fales family 100 years 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

The Fales family homesteaded in Wyoming 100 years ago.

The theme of this year’s 4th of July Cody Stampede Parade was “Wyoming – Buckin’ through time,” and with that in mind a few of Wyoming’s early mountain men went by.

Mountain men 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Before the homesteaders there were the mountain men…

One of the really fun local tourist attractions is a shooting range, the Cody Firearms Experience, where you can shoot all kinds of intriguing guns, including a gatling gun from the Civil War era. They showed it off during the parade!

Gatling gun 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

This guy shooting the gatling gun was having too much fun!

4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

You can shoot the gatling gun too over at the Cody Firearms Experience!

There were also marching bands of all kinds. The Cody High School Band strutted past and quite a few other bands from other Wyoming towns went by as well.

Cody High School Band 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

No parade is complete with out the local high school marching band!

Tuba and marching band 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

There were lots of marching bands from all over the place.

Marching band 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

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The city of Cheyenne sent quite a bit of talent to the Cody Stampede Parade. This was very impressive since Cody and Cheyenne are in opposite corners of Wyoming, over 400 miles apart!

Drummers 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

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There was a bagpipe band too!

Bagpipe band 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Bagpipes!

You can’t have a 4th of July parade without some noisy fire engines, and sure enough, If the gatling gun and marching bands weren’t loud enough, the sirens on the fire engines certainly were!

Old fashioned fire engine 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

The fire engines made the most noise, of course!

Wyoming, like all the western states, is beset by wildfires every summer, and just as there is a “snow season” and a “fall foliage season” there is a “wildfire season” too. A big round of applause went up for the wildfire hot shot firefighters as they went by.

Wildfire firefighter hot shot 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

The wildfire hot shot fire fighters are much appreciated every year come wildfire season!

We were also treated to a sighting of the Wells Fargo Stage Coach. This is a really ornate and beautiful stage coach, and the folks riding inside and on it were all members of the Wells Fargo family.

Wells Fargo Stage Coach 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

The folks in and on the Wells Fargo Stage Coach were from the Wells Fargo family!

Perhaps my favorite part of any parade is all the kids running around. I just love the excitement, and they are so darn cute. Lots of the parade folks threw out candy for the kids, and they ran after it with glee.

Kids run for candy 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

The cute kids chasing the candy were my favorite part of the parade!

Chasing candy 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

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It was a wonderfully warm and sunny day, and whether they had barefeet or boots on, the happy kids were running wild and free.

Running for candy 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Nevermind the candy. Just running around barefoot is fun!

Dressed for the 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Shorts and boots and stars and stripes!

Sometimes the littler ones weren’t quite quick enough to get a handful.

Kids chase candy 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Oh, I didn’t see that one!

Score! Kids gets candy 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

“Score!”

But there was plenty of sharing going on too.

Sharing candy 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

“Here, have some.”

The Cody Stampede Parade was just terrific. If you didn’t catch it this year, perhaps you will next year!

Running with the American flag 4th of July parade Cody Wyoming-min

Happy Independence Day!!

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RVing Wyoming – Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls

May 2018 – Wyoming is best known for the eye-popping beauty of its National Parks on the western side of the state. Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton blew us away with easy to see herds of big animals, and seeing Jenny Lake glittering in the middle of the towering snow-capped Tetons is an image we will always cherish.

But when we took our RV across the northern part of Wyoming recently, we found some wonderful lakes, mountains and waterfalls that are less well known just a bit off the beaten path.

Cliffs on the shore of Keyhole State Park on RV camping trip to Wyoming-min

Keyhole Reservoir, Wyoming

Keyhole Reservoir is a horseshoe shaped body of water that is lined with rocky cliffs, and we had a ball strolling on the hiking trails along the shore and taking pics as we walked.

Rock cliffs at Keyhole State Park Wyoming RV trip-min

The steep rock cliffs on the water’s edge were an unexpected surprise.

Even though it was early Spring, there were lots of boats out on the water. There were pleasure boats zipping around and there were fishermen slowly trolling and reeling in the catch of the day.

Boating at Keyhole State Park Wyoming RV camping trip-min

Lots of boaters were out on the lake.

We were within earshot of the fishermen drifting past in their boats, and we called out to the guys in one boat. We had seen fish jumping clear out of the water in a small cove nearby, and sure enough, these fishermen had a big fish to show off for us before they threw it back in the water.

Fishing at Keyhole State Park on Wyoming RV trip-min

Buddy looks down at the fishermen below.

Fishing at Keyhole Reservoir Wyoming-min

Nice catch!

Around the lake signs of Spring appeared in patches here and there on the ground in beautiful sprays of purple flowers.

Wildflowers in rural Wyoming RV trip-min

Spring is here!

But having flowers on the ground didn’t guarantee sun in the sky, and the sky was overcast for most of the day! Finally, in the late afternoon, the sun made an appearance just above the horizon and cast a yellow glow across the cliffs.

Steep rock cliffs Keyhole State Park Wyoming RV trip-min

The landscape took on a glorious golden glow in the late afternoon.

Golden hour Keyhole State Park rock cliffs RV camping trip in Wyoming-min

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Keyhole State Park Wyoming RV trip shee rock cliffs-min

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The next morning we awoke to a wonderfully mystical layer of fog.

Keyhole State Park RV trip - stone cliffs with fog-min

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Foggy morning Keyhole State Park RV trip-min

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About 120 miles west of Keyhole State Park we found Lake De Smet. The water was mirror-calm and the eerie light of an impending rain storm made for some beautiful reflections.

Cloudy sky reflections De Smet Lake Wyoming RV trip-min

A wonderful moodiness sets in at Lake De Smet, Wyoming.

De Smet Lake State Park RV camping in Wyoming-min

No rock cliffs here, but lots of wonderful reflections.

There were a few fishing boats on the lake and quite a few birds were out fishing too.

De Smet Lake Wyoming RV camping trip-min

A cormorant takes off.

And the fishing went on until dark!

Lake De Smet fishing at sunset-min

A fisherman keeps fishing even as the sun sets around him!

Around the lake and in nearby gardens, we found some lovely flowers blooming.

Bleeding heart flowers in Spring in Wyoming-min

Bleeding hearts.

Lupine with rain water droplets on each petal-min

Lupine glisten with droplets of rain.

Silvery spring flowers in Wyoming-min

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Spring blossoms in Wyoming-min

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We had taken I-90 to get between Keyhole State Park and Lake De Smet, but on the next leg of our journey we traveled on the fabulous Bighorn Scenic Byway that crosses the Bighorn mountains between Sheridan and Ten Sleep on US-14.

Scenic drive on RV trip in rural Wyoming-min

We headed out on the Bighorn Scenic Byway.

What a great drive! We had been a little concerned about tackling all the hairpin turns and steep climbs at the beginning of the Bighorn Scenic Byway, but they are big sweeping gentle turns that are easy with a big rig, and the gradients are not difficult if you have a strong tow vehicle or motorhome engine.

Wyoming Bighorn Mountains scenic drive Route 14 RV trip-min

Parts of the Bighorn Scenic Byway passed between towering rock walls.

We loved the rolling hills and views as we climbed, but it was the waterfalls that really got our attention. We noticed one as we rounded a bend and quickly pulled over to hike down a berm to get a few pics.

Waterfall in Bighorn Mountains RV trip-min

When we spotted a waterfall we quickly pulled over.

This first waterfall was like a warmup for the magnificent waterfalls we found at around the midpoint of the Bighorn Scenic Byway at Shell Falls. These falls have been beautifully developed to allow visitors to view the falls and surrounding canyon from many viewpoints.

Shell Falls Bighorn Mountains RV trip Wyoming-min

Shell Falls, Bighorn Scenic Byway, Wyoming

Shell Falls Bighorn Mountains RV trip Wyoming-min

There are several levels of walkways at beautiful Shell Falls

The sound of the falls was a thunderous and never ending roar.

Waterfall at Shell Falls Bighorn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

What a rush!

Shell Falls waterfall RV trip in Wyoming Bighorn Mountains-min

Hear me roar!

I imagine that later in the summer season the falls are a little more tame, but with the snow melt in the mountains filling the streams leading here, the volume of water was enormous.

Shell Falls waterfall Bighorn Mountains RV trip in Wyoming-min

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Shell Falls Canyon Wyoming RV camping trip-min

Looking deep down into the canyon.

We had driven the southern scenic drive across the Bighorn mountains along US-16 last year after spending time in the charming town of Buffalo, and it was lovely, but this northern route via US-14 has quite a few jaw-dropping moments that make it particularly stunning.

After we left Shell Falls, the mountains closed in around us in sheer rock cliffs and then slowly subsided as we descended into the town of Ten Sleep.

Bighorn Mountains scenic drive Route 14 Wyoming RV trip-min

Views on the Bighorn Scenic Byway in Wyoming.

If you are traveling through northern Wyoming with your RV, a stop at Lake De Smet or Keyhole Reservoir makes for a delightful waterfront excursion, and the Bighorn Scenic Byway is an exhilarating drive that is very doable with an RV. Just keep your eyes on the road because the views will knock your socks off!

RV camping trip to Wyoming Bighorn Mountains-min

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Wyoming Back Roads by RV – Rugged, Remote and Wild!

May 2018 – We recently took a beautiful drive with our RV on the scenic back roads of Wyoming, going across the lower part of the state on an eastbound route from Bear Lake, Utah, to Newcastle, Wyoming.

Wyoming Back Roads RV Trip - Rugged, Remote Wild and Free

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Years ago we drove a similar westbound route on I-80 across Wyoming, and that drive has stood out in our minds ever since as one of the most boring drives of our lives. So we stuck to the back roads a bit north of the interstate this time, and what a rewarding decision that was!

At the start of our drive, as we pulled into the town of Kemmerer, Wyoming, we did a double take when we passed a small J.C. Penney store on a street corner because a sign on the storefront said it was the first of its kind. James Cash Penney opened this store in 1902. On his first day of business in his new little store, could he have possibly imagined that one day there would be 850 JC Penney stores across the country?!

First JC Penney store in Kemmerer Wyomng-min

The J.C. Penney “Mother Store” opened in 1902.

This part of the country is a rich area for fossils, and embedded in the sidewalk on each street corner we found a little plaque that said “Wyoming’s Aquarium in Stone” decorated with the image of a fossil. There were fish, trees and crustaceans of all kinds.

Sidewalk plaque for Fossil country in Kemmerer Wyoming-min

Kemmerer, Wyoming, is in the heart of fossil country.

We decided not to hunt fossils and continued our journey east. Pronghorn antelope watched us as we passed.

Pronhorn antelope by the highway n a Wyoming RV trip

Pronghorn lined the hillsides along the road.

We had known the weather was going to take a nasty turn because Mark had just finished washing and waxing the truck and trailer when we were at Bear Lake and our rig was finally sparkling clean. As everyone knows, the sure fire way to do a successful rain dance in the modern era is to wash and wax your vehicle!

Rain drops on our RV window in Wyoming-min

We stopped for lunch and noticed rain drops streaking down our windows!
So much for our clean truck and trailer!

We took a small detour to Fontenelle Reservoir where we were very surprised to discover that the tiny white dots on the sandbars out in the water were pelicans.

Pelicans at Fontenelle Recreation area Wyoming-min

Pelicans in Wyoming?!

The reservoir was very low, so the coming rain storms would be welcomed.

Bottom of Fontenelle Reservoir Wyoming-min

Fontenelle Reservoir was so low people had been driving their trucks out on the lake bed.

We were treated to some extraordinary skies. Big black clouds loomed overhead and we could see them spilling rain onto the landscape in the distance.

Stormy skies Fontenelle Recreation Area Wyoming-min

Storm clouds at Fontenelle Reservoir.

The sky was constantly shifting, and the growing storm seemed to be boiling on the horizon for a while as it approached.

Storm clouds Fontenelle Reservoir Wyoming-min

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We ran around taking photos and soaking up the intoxicating crisp air that preceeds a huge rain storm. It was bitterly cold out, but it was too beautiful to stay inside and miss the spectacle.

Puppy running in storm at Fontenelle Wyoming-min

We romped around and took pics even though it was extremely cold.

Fifth wheel RV in storm at Fontenelle Recreation Area Wyoming-min

It might be warm in the rig, but the views and air outside were wonderful.

Eventually the storm cleared and peace reigned as sun shone through late in the afternoon. The distant shore turned a rich shade of burnt orange.

Red rocks at sunset Fontenelle Reservoir Wyoming-min

At the tail end of the day the far shore lit up beautifully.

At sunrise the colors changed again.

Sunset at Fontenelle Reservoir on a Wyoming RV trip-min

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Fontenelle Reservoir is busy in the summertime, but we were getting delightful paybacks for our runny noses and layers of clothes because we had the place to ourselves in the pre-season cold. We took a lot of long walks and played many games of fetch with our puppy Buddy.

Puppy with a log at Fontenelle Reservoir Wyoming-min

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A large resident group of noisy marmots who live by the lake taunted Buddy mercilessly. They had dug extensive burrows with lots of big entrance holes, and Buddy was forever diving headfirst into the holes trying to get them.

Puppy head down a marmot hole-min

Marmots had dug a vast network of burrows all over the place, and Buddy kept poking his head down their holes looking for the little furry guys.

But then we’d hear a cackling cry in the distance, and Buddy would pull his head out to see a little fellow standing on his hind legs outside a different entrance hole, his mouth wide open as he chattered and teased from a safe distance.

Marmot at Fontenelle Campground Wyoming RV trip-min

“Ha ha ha! I’m over here, silly puppy!”

The next leg of our trip took us east across wide open land that stretched lazily to the horizon in every direction.

Open road RV trip in rural Wyoming-min

Rush hour in rural Wyoming.

There were no cars ahead of us and no cars behind us for miles as we drove, and we were entertained by various road signs that warned us about the other folks that might be sharing the road.

Road sign rural Wyoming RV trip Slow traffic-min

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Road sign Sage Grouse Crossing rural Wyoming RV trip Slow traffic-min

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Road sign Antelope Crossing rural Wyoming RV trip Slow traffic-min

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We had been on a remote stretch of road similar to this in Nevada a few years back, but luckily this time it went a short fifty miles or so rather than several hundred miles!

And then, just as we were beginning to get that white line fever of boredom, the road took a turn and headed into the mountains. The torrential rains we’d experienced a few days prior had blanketed the mountains in a layer of white snow, and the storm clouds loomed once again.

Snowy mountains in rural Wyoming RV trip-min

We climbed from the open prairies into wonderfully snowcapped mountains.

Lake and snowy mountains in rural Wyoming RV trip-min

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We were amused to watch the temps drop from the low sixties to the low thirties as we climbed into the mountains, and my shutter finger was on overdrive as one spellbinding vista after another came into view.

Clouds and snowy mountains in rural Wyoming RV trip-min

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Ponds, clouds and snowy mountains in rural Wyoming RV trip-min

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Suddenly the road descended off the mountain pass and the snow vanished, but the dark clouds still hung heavy above us.

Curvy road in rural Wyoming RV trip-min

By the time the scenery settled down on the far side of the mountain pass we were breathless!

When I had studied the Wyoming atlas and looked for interesting things along the route we would be taking, I had noticed the words, “Red Canyon.” Even knowing it was coming, my jaw still dropped when a ribbon of rich red cliffs angled off into the distance in front of us.

Red Canyon Wyoming RV trip-min

Red rock cliffs in Wyoming.

A red dirt road wandered to and fro at the base of the cliffs and we wanted to explore it. But the rains had made everything very gloppy and muddy, and we were concerned the dirt road would be a gooey mess. Next time!

Red dirt road in Red Canyon Wyoming-min

A tempting dirt road leads into the hinterlands below the red cliffs, but it was too muddy to try it.

Red rocks in rural Wyoming-min

Oh well, we saw lots of red rocks on the main road too.

We arrived in Riverton, Wyoming, still grinning from ear to ear after our sensational drive. The next morning we fueled up for another great day of scenic driving at a little Wyoming Espresso coffee shack. I love these little coffee outposts scattered throughout the west

Wyoming Espresso coffee shack in Wyoming-min

Back to civilization in Riverton, we made a beeline to a coffee shack for a hazlenut latte for yours truly!

But Mother Nature decided to keep the curtains closed on her beautiful stage that day. As we embarked on our scenic drive thick fog rolled in. We passed a scenic viewpoint and could only guess at what lay behind the mist!

Scenic Area road sign in fog Wyoming RV trip-min

What a view!!! (Sigh…)

This part of the route follows the Oregon Trail and passes two sites that commemorate the Mormons’ arduous cross-country walking trek pushing hand carts every step of the way. But the rain began to pour in pitchforks and we decided to hold off on those explorations until another time.

We love taking small back roads roads like these rather than the interstate, and once the fog cleared and rain stopped and sunshine filled our views, we were charmed by the rural scenes around us. But navigating small roads requires paying close attention, and we were quite shocked at one point when the road in front of us suddenly turned to dirt.

Mark slammed on the brakes and looked at me. “Ummm… does this turn back to pavement?” He asked. I had no idea. I was as surprised as he was that it had turned to dirt without any warning!!

We decided to go a little ways and see what lay ahead, but we knew we had gone too far on the roads less traveled when we crested a small hill and saw a cow in the road staring at us.

Cow on the road on rural Wyoming RV trip-min

A cow welcomes us to the Roads Less Traveled.

Oops! Mark skillfully got our rig turned around and we chose another route.

Of course, just because we were now on pavement didn’t stop the farm animals from crossing the road in front of us!

Sheep on the road in rural Wyoming RV trip-min

A flock of sheep wanders across our path.

At long last we made it to Newcastle, Wyoming. It had been a wonderful trip of about 600 miles on lovely back roads, and this little RV trip will stand out in our memory for its wild weather, beautiful scenery and quiet charm!

Fifth wheel RV boondocking in rural Wyoming-min

Tranquility in rural Wyoming.

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Buffalo Wyoming – RVing Basque Style in the Bighorns!

July 2017 – During our stay in Buffalo, Wyoming, we were treated to a most unusual celebration: an annual Basque Festival which featured a parade of Basque sheep herders’ wagons rolling right down the main drag as well as a weekend-long fair and Basque Wagon Show at a nearby park.

Basque Festival in Buffalo Wyoming

A Basque wagon parade!
(What a cool RV!)

The only thing we knew about the Basques prior to this event was from watching the Euskaltel–Euskadi cycling team in the Tour de France. Whenever they rode through Basque country, an area that spans the borders of France and Spain, the locals would all be dressed in orange and green, lining the sides of the and road waving flags, and they would go absolutely crazy!

It turns out that the Basques have lived in their corner of Spain and France since long before the Roman Empire reached across Europe. Their language is the only living and spoken European language that doesn’t have Indo-European roots (actually, linguists have not definitively found its roots in any language, dead or alive!), and scientists say their DNA is unique as well.

In the 1800s and early 1900s many Basques immigrated from France and Spain to America and became sheep ranchers in the western states.

Quite a few Basques settled in and around Buffalo, Wyoming, in Johnson County, and there is a bronze sculpture in town that commemorates them and their line of work.

Sheep sculpture and Basque history Buffalo Wyoming

The Basques immigrated to Wyoming from France and Spain and became sheep ranchers.

When the shepherds were out on the prairie tending their flocks, they would set up camp in a covered wagon.

Many of the original wagons are still around and are still owned by Basque-descended families. As we stood watching the parade go by, we were amazed by the number and variety of these wagons.

Basque wagon Basque Festival Buffalo Wyoming

What a cool trailer — with the Basque flag on the truck bumper!

Some were pulled by a truck, some by horses, and some by antique vehicles. Some had rubber wheels and others had wooden wheels. All of them were very cool.

Basque wagon towed by antique car Basque Festival Buffalo Wyoming

Oops! A nifty antique car towing a Basque wagon needs a little TLC mid-parade!

Basque Festival Buffalo Wyoming Basque wagon

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The people in the parade were all descendants of the Basque families, and their excitement was palpable.

The Basques have a wild side (as we had noticed in those Tour de France bike races), and a few of them carried a leather pouch filled with wine that they squirted into their mouths as they paraded along!

One family float had big coolers of beer, and when they stopped in front of us a family member grabbed a beer and took it up to the driver of the truck pulling the float. Drinking and driving was okay for a day in this fun commemorative procession!

The families are very big now, and many family groups had lots of folks in the parade. Some carried cute signs.

Arno Flock Basque Festival Parade in Buffalo Wyoming

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The Arno family’s wagon had a funny sign on the back too:

Arno family wagon Basque Festival parade in Buffalo Wyoming

Party animals all!!

Some even brought the family dogs along in the parade.

Basque Festival Buffalo Wyoming

Rover got a ride on the back!

The Basque wagons are very cute travel trailers, and as RVers we were especially curious about what they were like to camp in.

After the parade there were a dozen or more of them at the city park, and each one was opened up so you could take a peek inside.

Basque trailers and Basque wagons Buffalo Wyoming

After the parade, we had a chance to see these intriguing trailers up close.

Basque wagon display Buffalo Wyoming Basque Festival

The design is generally the same with the front door at the hitching end of the trailer.
A big bowl for water, cooking and cleaning hangs on the door.

These trailers looked to be about 15 to 25 feet long and they were set up very simply.

Basque wagon display Buffalo Wyoming

Home, Home on the Range!

Basque trailer on rubber tires Buffalo Wyoming Basque Festival

A broom outside and wood stove inside
and a split door.

Inside, there is usually a wood stove on the driver’s side, a bed in the back, a bench/bed on the curbside and storage drawers all around.

Basque wagon interior Buffalo Wyoming Basque Festival

Most had a wood stove for heating and cooking inside plus a bed in the back and lots of storage.

One had been upgraded with an RV stove instead of a wood stove.

Inside a Basque wagon for camping and sheep herding Buffalo Wyoming

A few modern upgrades!

Each one was unique, and they all looked like a lot of fun to camp in.

Inside a Basque wagon for camping Buffalo Wyoming

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Of course, for Basque sheep ranchers on the wide open lands of Wyoming, watching the grass grow and the sheep eat it back wasn’t necessarily a life of thrill and adventure, so the Basques often passed their time making music. During the parade we had a chance to see several Basque dance troops showing off some of their traditional dance steps.

As we wandered among the Basque wagons, we were intrigued to see two Amish men walking around as well. America is home to so many unique lifestyles and traditions, it was really fun to see the Amish among the Basques!

I started to talk to one of the Amish men and discovered his name was David and he was from Lancaster, Pennsylvania (of all places!). He had a non-Amish neighbor back home who had a summer house near Buffalo, so he and another Amish friend had hopped on a train to come visit for a week.

He had never been out west and was really enjoying seeing the beauty of our country. He gave me his card and suggested I look him up next time we’re in Lancaster. Definitely! We both had a good laugh when we found out that he has a cell phone but we don’t!

Amish man and Basque wagon Buffalo Wyoming Basque festival

In the middle of this immersion in all things Basque we saw two Amish men checking out the trailers!

The festivities in the park included all kinds of things, from crafts to Basque flags and wine pouches to music performed by a Basque steel drum band.

Steel drum orchestra Basque Film Festival Buffalo Wyoming

I wouldn’t have associated steel drums with the Basque, but there they were!

In one corner of the park lots of kids romped around in a big playground. A group of kids was having a blast swinging on a huge self-propelled merry-go-round. Cowboys, of course, were everywhere, and we spotted a very young cowboy — in hat, western shirt, Wranglers, boots and all — nimbly scampering up a rock climbing wall!

Young cowboy climbs the rock climbing wall Buffalo Wyoming Basque Festival

Among the younger set, who can resist a rock climbing wall?

Buffalo, Wyoming, sits on the edge of the Bighorn National Forest, and we enjoyed several excursions into this beautiful wooded and mountain scenery.

The woods were filled with pine trees, and much like the Black Hills where big rocks and boulders predominate, there were lots of wonderfully craggy rocks between the trees in the woods.

Ponderosa pines and rocks in Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

Bighorn National Forest has lots of widely spaced pines and big jagged gray boulders.

We were surprised that in late July the Bighorn mountains were still snowcapped. The views of the Bighorns were beautiful.

Bighorn Mountains in Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

Wow!

Even though the peaks of the mountains still had snow on them, the wildflowers were in full display in the valleys.

Lupine wildflowers Bighorn National Forest Bighorn Mountains Wyoming

Wildflowers and mountains — love it!

Wildflowers Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

Pink ones.

Backlit wildflower Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

And a vivid orange/yellow one.

The lovely wild lupine were in full bloom, happily showing off their lavender glory.

Lupine wildflowers top view Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

The lupines were at their peak.

Carpets of these gorgeous purple flowers covered the ground between the trees.

Lupine wildflowers surrounding tree trunks Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

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Ponderosa pine forest filled with lupine wildflowers Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

Lupines blanket the ground in the woods — Beautiful!

We found wonderful streams and noisy babbling brooks.

Cascade and brook Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

A river runs through it.

And the skies were very dramatic.

Stormy skies Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

We saw some fabulously stormy skies.

Suddenly, we saw a huge flash of lightning and heard a loud crack of thunder just before a deluge of rain pelted us.

Lightning in Bighonr National Forest Wyoming

A summer thunderstorm!

Then, as quickly as the summer storm descended, it suddenly dispersed, leaving a beautiful sunset in its wake.

Fifth wheel trailer RV camping Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

Wyoming sunset.

One of the greatest joys in our traveling lifestyle is the many people we meet. While in Buffalo we started chatting with the owners of a side-by-side UTV, Jonette and Bill, and we peppered them with questions about it since we’re very curious about these things.

As we talked we were blown away to discover that they followed our blog! We became friends and they laid out the royal carpet for us during our stay, showing us many of the hidden jewels in the area.

One evening they took us out to the Bud Love wilderness area where we saw an incredible number of pronghorn antelope and deer. It occurred to us that for the Basques living in their wagons out on the prairie, “Home, home on the range” was definitely a place “where the deer and the antelope play!”

Pronghorn Antelope Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

A pronghorn antelope.

Doe and fawn Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

Mom and baby white tail deer.

The fawns still had their spots and they stuck close to their parents. If mom wandered off, baby had to run to catch up.

There were two types of deer roaming around: white tail deer, a slightly taller deer that raises its tail like a white flag whenever it runs, and mule deer, a smaller deer that has enormous ears and holds its brown tail down when it runs.

White tail fawn running Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

A white tail fawn waves his white tail as he runs!

Doe and fawn Bud Love wildlife area Buffalo Wyoming

A mule deer doe and fawn.

One group of mule deer was particularly unafraid of us and let us get quite close.

Buck and fawn Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

A buck and fawn.

Buck and fawn Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

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There were several bucks hanging around along with a fawn and doe, and when they stopped right in front of me in a perfect family Christmas card pose, I was just thrilled to get the shot!

Deer family Bud Love Wildlife Area Buffalo Wyoming

Family Portrait! Perfect for next year’s Christmas card!

Then they wandered off and the fawn began running and jumping to keep up.

Running fawn Bud Love wildlife area Buffalo Wyoming

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Jumping fawn Bud Love wildlife area Buffalo Wyoming

It always amazes me how deer literally bounce across the ground!

On another day we were driving down a dirt road when we noticed a fawn climbing out of an irrigation ditch right by the side of the road. He stopped and stared at us with a rather stressed look on his face. We pulled the truck over to get his portrait and noticed he was all wet.

Wet fawn Bud Love wildlife area Buffalo Wyoming

A little fawn fell into an irrigation ditch. He was soaked!

He disappeared into some tall grasses and then came running out again. Then he began running in very tight circles round and round.

Scared fawn Bud Love wildlife area Buffalo Wyoming

The poor little guy started running around and around in circles.

Frightened fawn running in circles Bud Love wildlife area Buffalo Wyoming

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We were really puzzled, but had learned from friends last year in Montana that herds of elk run in tight circles when they’re scared. We had seen a whole herd of elk doing just that on the side of the highway in the Bitterroot Valley (blog post here).

Scared fawn running in circles Bud Love wildlife area Buffalo Wyoming

Around again!

As we watched him, we suddenly noticed his mom was standing waiting for him on the other side of our truck. We had inadvertently parked our truck right between him and his mother, and besides falling into a ditch and getting drenched, he was now terrified he couldn’t get back to her. What a day!

We pulled the truck back out into the center of the road and drove off so the little tyke could get back to the safety of his mom’s side.

We were lucky to see the North American Basque Organization’s annual festival in Buffalo this year, but it will be held in other towns for the next few years. So, if you can chase it down to its next location, definitely do so. In the meantime Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest is a true delight for an RV trip. We will definitely return for more!

RV boondocking and camping in Wyoming

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