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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Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana!

July 2018 – The Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming have given us many special moments recently. We traversed the beautiful Bighorn Scenic Byway this past spring and spent part of last summer nestled alongside the Bighorn Mountains in the charming town of Buffalo, Wyoming.

In Buffalo we not only enjoyed a festival for the Longmire TV show but also took part in an unusual celebration of the Basque sheep herders who settled the area over a century ago.

During our time in this area the word “Bighorns,” in our minds, had become synonymous with “Mountains in Wyoming.” So, it was a huge surprise when I opened a Montana travel magazine a few weeks ago and saw a stunning photo of sheer canyon walls plunging down to a winding river with the caption: Bighorn Canyon. This we had to see!

Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Bighorn Canyon Montana and Wyoming

Bighorn Canyon.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is managed by the National Park Service, and there are two districts, the South District which is accessed from Lovell, Wyoming, and the North District which is accessed near St. Xavier, Montana.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

The drive into Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area from Lovell, Wyoming, is very scenic.

The two districts are connected by the wonderfully twisting Bighorn River that snakes its way between the canyon walls for miles and miles in both Montana and Wyoming.

However, the Bighorn National Recreation Area is not contiguous for visitors unless you travel on the Bighorn River by boat. The dirt road connecting the South and North Districts crosses through the Crow Indian Reservation which is private property.

So, we decided we would check out the South District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area since it is not too far from Cody, Wyoming, and then loop around to the North District and see the canyon from that angle.

Bighorn Canyon National Rec Area Scenic Drive Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

Bighorn Canyon Scenic Drive.

The shock to our senses after spending several weeks in the high elevations of the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Highway just outside Yellowstone National Park was incredible. Not only did we descend from cool summertime mountain temps in the low 70s to the baking heat of the desert in the mid-90s, but we went from lush greenery with wildflowers to a dusty crusty land full of red rocks.

Bighorn Canyon scenic drive Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Scenic drive by RV-min

Red rocks!

The most famous view on the southwest end of Bighorn Canyon is Devil’s Canyon Overlook just over the border on the Montana side. As we turned onto the road that heads out to this overlook we noticed a female bighorn sheep standing by the side of the road.

Bighorn sheep ewe Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

A bighorn sheep stops grazing to look at us.

BIghorn sheep ewe Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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After taking a few pics we noticed that there were several more bighorn sheep munching the grass by the side of the road. A mama and her sweet little lamb caught our eye.

Bighorn sheep at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip Montana and Wyoming

Mama Bighorn (shedding her winter coat) and her baby.

We got out of the truck to have a closer look.

Bighorn sheep lamb Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Montana and Wyoming

So cute!

We noticed two other little lambs close by. They were adorable!

Bighorn sheep lambs Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Twice as cute!

Bighorn sheep lambs Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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What a treat it was to see all these bighorn lambs right by the road!

Bighorn sheep lamb Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Just a little ways further on the view suddenly opened up and we were looking at the fabulous sheer walls of the Devil’s Canyon Overlook. Wow!

Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

The view at Devil’s Canyon Overlook is very dramatic.

Devil's Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Horseshoe Bend RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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The towering canyon walls and the thin ribbon of water snaking between them reminded us a little of both Goosenecks State Park in Utah and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.

We had the place to ourselves and we ran around taking pics like mad.

Photographer Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

What a spot to take some pics!

Buddy trotted along the fence line, and he seemed to be enjoying the views too, although maybe he was just keeping an eye on the mice and other varmints that were scampering near the edge!

Puppy checks out view Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip-min

Puppy Chow checks out the view and the varmints!

The Devil’s Canyon Overlook is a big area and we walked along the edge peering into the canyon for a ways.

Horseshe Bend Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Backtracking a little into the Wyoming side of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, we found the Horseshoe Bend Marina and Campground. We loved seeing the boats tied up to the docks with the rich colors of the red rocks behind them.

Horseshoe Bend Marina Bighorn Canyon Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

Horseshoe Bend Marina.

At dawn we ran down to the beach to catch the sunrise.

Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Sunrise on the Bighorn River.

Wild yellow daisies swayed to and fro by the water’s edge.

Daisies at sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Daisies dancing at dawn.

The water in the Bighorn River reflected the sunrise beautifully.

Sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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Red rocks at sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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The red rocks on the far shore took on a rich shade of burnt orange.

Sunrise Red rocks Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming-min

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The beach and shoreline were deserted except for the three of us, and we had a wonderful time together playing by the edge of the water and watching the day wake up.

Photographer and puppy Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Happily busy on the beach at sunrise!

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is most popular during the spring and fall when the temperatures are cool. But for visitors who stop by mid-summer, there are electric hookups at the marina campground at Horseshoe Bend, and the air conditioners of a handful of campers were happily purring away 24/7!

Horseshoe Bend Campground Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

Camping at Horseshoe Bend Marina and campground.

We will be back again at a more comfortable time of year, and we plan to visit the North District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area when it’s cool too. Our visit this time was a brief but wonderful detour that took us out of the snow capped mountains and into red rock country, and it whetted our appetites for a return trip!

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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 pick!

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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Wyoming snow fence with wildflowers-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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Beartooth Highway Scenic Drive – Dazzling All American Road – WOW!!

June 2018 – The Beartooth Highway is a spectacular scenic drive in Montana and Wyoming that is so awe inspiring it has been given the well deserved designation of “All American Road.” Few roads in America have been singled out for this distinction, and the others we have driven knocked our socks off.

So, it was with great anticipation that we set out from Red Lodge, Montana, to drive the 69 miles of steep and arduous switchbacks into the heavens, passing endless sweeping vistas and stunning alpine lakes as we made our way towards the northeastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Entrance to the Beartooth Highway Montana RV trip-min

A glimpse of things to come on the Beartooth Highway scenic drive.

The first snow capped mountain peaks crept into view between towering rock walls on either side of the highway shortly after we left Red Lodge, and then we drove straight into the sky until we had a fabulous view of it all at the Rock Creek Vista overlook.

Views on the Beartooth Highway Montana RV trip-min

Magnificent views of the Beartooth Mountains from Rock Creek Vista overlook.

This first formal lookout has a big parking area and a low rock wall to keep people and puppies from falling over the edge.

Puppy at Rock Creek Vista on Beartooth Highway Montana RV trip-min

Buddy liked the view too!

After the long grind going up the mountainside, our sweet pup Buddy loved seeing the view from the top! But he was most interested in the chipmunks that were scampering around on the ground!

Puppy on Beartooth Highway Montana RV camping-min

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Rock Creek Vista overlook is just the first big viewing area on the incredible Beartooth scenic drive, and from that point on we were on top of the world with jaw-dropping views out our windows in every direction.

Beartooth Highway Wyoming scenic drive RV trip-min

With every bend in the road the views got better and better!

Snowcapped views on Beartooth Scenic Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

Light clouds teased the mountain tops.

Snowcapped mountains with clouds Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

A recent snowstorm showed the mountains off in their Sunday best!

RV trip on Beartooth Highway scenic drive Wyoming-min

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My camera shutter was clicking as fast as my fingers could go. When I turned to look at Buddy, his eyes were glued to the view too!

Puppy's eyes like saucers driving the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming-min

Buddy’s eyes were like saucers as we drove!

There are pullouts and overlooks all along the Beartooth Highway, and we had lots of chances to get out and stretch our legs and soak in the view.

Mountain views Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

A view even a puppy can love!

The Beartooth Highway is closed during the winter months, and it opens over Beartooth Pass only when the road is fully cleared and safe to drive. It had been open for a few weeks when we drove it in late June, but a cold snap had drenched us with rain for a few days down in the valleys, and that same rain had buried Beartooth Pass in snow once again and had even closed it for a day or two right before our drive.

This divine intervention meant that we were treated to lots of snowy vistas and the views were just magnificent.

Beartooth Highway Scenic Drive Wyoming RV trip to the mountains-min

Wow!!!

Signs of spring were everywhere, though, and as we climbed through elevations between 7,000 and nearly 11,000 feet we saw a wide variety of wildflowers in bloom at each altitude.

Wildflowers Beartooth Scenic Highway in Wyoming-min

There were wildflowers blooming everywhere.

Snow and wildflowers Beartooth Highway scenic drive Wyoming RV trip-min

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Some of these wildflowers are extremely tiny and delicate and not more than a pencil eraser in size!

Pink wildflowers Beartooth Highway scenic drive on a Wyoming RV trip-min

Pink jewels in the meadows.

Blue wildflowers on Beartooth Highway scenic drive in Wyoming-min

Tiny tiny sapphire blue flowers.

The flowers were blooming in every possible shade, and some meadows were filled with mixtures of yellow and blue and pink.

Tiny yellow wildflowers Beartooth Highway Scenic Drive Wyoming-min

A spray of yellow.

Magenta wildflowers Beartooth Scenic Highway Wyoming RV travels-min

Magenta delights.

Familiar wild lavender colored lupine bloomed in thickets here and there as well.

Wild lupines Beartooth Scenic Highway Wyoming-min

Familiar wild lupines stand tall.

One of the most dazzling images we found were the bright blue alpine lakes that shimmered in the sun between snowy banks.

Alpine lake Beartooth Highway RV scenic drive in Wyoming-min

What a view!

And patterns appeared on the hillsides showing a special kind of asymmetry that only the finest artist could render.

Gorgeous patterns Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV scenic drive-min

The snow made patterns on the mountainsides.

The Beartooth Highway is beloved by motorcyclists because it is truly the Ideal Ride. Groups of motorcycles and individuals were riding in both directions and loving the scenery with fresh air and no windows.

Motorcycle on Beartooth Highway scenic drive Wyoming-min

What a place to ride!!

At last we reached the actual Bear’s Tooth Pass.

The Bear's Tooth on Beartooth Highway scenic drive on Wyoming RV trip-min

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Before we did this drive, back when we were down in Red Lodge, we had stopped into a cool metal works shop and starting chatting with a gal who worked there. She had moved to Red Lodge so she could ski as much as her heart desired, and she spoke warmly of the spring skiing around the Beartooth Highway that begins on Memorial Day and continues through June.

We saw skiiers hitting the slopes, and gingerly walked out onto the thick snow ourselves. Much of the rest of America was experiencing a massive heatwave at that very moment, but up here on the Beartooth Highway life was cool.

Snow and puppy on Beartooth Highway scenic drive Wyoming RV trip-min

Buddy loved playing in the snow.

Photographer and puppy in snow on Beartooth Highway scenic drive in Wyoming-min

Truly awe inspiring!!

Our cameras were going full speed ahead, and so were everyone else’s too. This is a place where digital photography is a true blessing. I can’t imagine how many dozens of rolls of film we would have both gone through if we’d been using film cameras!

Puppy portrait Beartooth Highway scenic drive Wyoming-min

We got portraits and selfies…like everyone was doing…who could resist?

Selfie Beartooth Highway scenic drive Wyoming RV trip-min

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In some places the snow banks along the highway were still 12′ high, and people were decorating the drifts with all kinds of graffiti. We had to add ourse too!

Love in the snow Beartooth Scenic Highway RV trip in Wyoming-min

We put our own graffiti on the snowbanks too.

And then, after cresting the top, we came upon the most incredible view that stretched for miles and miles out to the horizon. Just glorious!

Majestic views Beartooth Highway scenic drive Wyoming by RV-min

The view after cresting the summit took our breath away.

Majestic vista Beartooth Highway near summit on Wyoming RV trip-min

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The Beartooth Highway deserves more than one cursory drive-through, and we ended up driving all of it or part of it on three separate occasions. This gave us a day with fabulous storm clouds and a day with perfect blue skies and lots of time to savor the various overlooks until we reached saturation and returned home, satisfied in our hearts that even if we “left early” we’d be back in a day or two to take in a little more.

It is best to hit the Beartooth Highway early in the day, and on our first trip we discovered that starting from Red Lodge at 7:00 a.m. wasn’t quite early enough! Lots of people have the same bright idea of starting early, so there was a surprising amount of traffic on the mountain.

We started out another day shortly after 6:00 a.m. and when we arrived at Beartooth Lake, which is easily seen from the road about 53 miles into the drive, the water was as still as glass and held reflections of the mountains like a mirror.

Beartooth Lake reflections Beartooth Highway scenic drive by RV in Wyoming-min

Beartooth Lake was perfectly calm in the early morning hours.

Reflections at Beartooth Lake on Beartooth Highway scenic drive by RV in Wyoming-min

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We stopped at the overlook and then wandered down to the boat launch to see these wondrous reflections a little closer.

Mountain reflections Beartooth Lake on Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV scenic drive-min

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A short stretch of rapids broke up the reflecting images in the most beautiful way.

Reflections at Beartooth Lake on Wyoming RV scenic drive Beartooth Highway-min

The mirror reflections were disturbed by some silky rapids.

Reflections and rapids Beartooth Lake on Beartooth Highway Wyoming-min

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Reflections and rapids Beartooth Lake Beartooth Scenic Drive Wyoming-min

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Where the water was still, the air was even more still. It was a crystalline moment in a world apart. As we stared at the view we were alone in the universe save for a few chirping birds in the trees.

Morning calm Beartooth Lake on Beartooth Scenic Highway Wyoming-min

On our return trip past the lake the wind was whipping.
How fortunate we were to see the water like this earlier on!

Like much of Montana and Wyoming, this area was deluged with snow and rain this year and the lakes and rivers were overflowing. As I looked into the water from the shore I was amazed to see a beautiful clump of yellow wildflowers happily blooming under a few inches of water!

Submerged flowers Beartooth Lake on Beartooth Scenic Highway Wyoming-min

Overflowing water submerged a bouquet of yellow wildflowers!

A little further on we came across the Crazy Creek waterfall. Here we could see and feel the extraordinary power of the waters that had been elevated and swollen by unusual amounts of snow and rain.

Crazy Creek Falls Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

Wildly frothing Crazy Creek Falls.

The sound was deafening and the water was leaping and spraying across the path above the rapids.

Wild Crazy Creek Falls Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV trip-min

The water pranced and sprayed and exploded everywhere.

The Beartooth Highway ranks among the most stunning scenic drives we have ever done. How wonderful it is to find that even after eleven years on the road we are still making fabulous discoveries, and what a thrill it is to witness such an astonishing place.

Stunning vista Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV scenic drive-min

We’d never get tired of these views!

If you are taking an RV trip towards Montana or Wyoming, the Beartooth Highway is well worth a big detour to see.

Bigger RVs are not recommended on this road. There are signs suggesting that rigs longer than 40′ not drive it at all, and we saw less than a handful of Class C and smaller RVs. However, Mark felt fully confident that he could easily take our trailer on the drive if we wanted or needed to. We just wouldn’t have been able to stop so often or so easily, and it would have taken a lot of concentration on his part.

Beautiful scenic drive Beartooth Highway Wyoming RV trip

Beartooth Highway rates among the most spectacular drives we have done anywhere. Do it!!

POSTSCRIPT

A little while after we drove the Beartooth Highway, we met a trucker who has been in the road construction and trucking business for many decades. He told us that he had been hired to help film an Ice Road Truckers commercial on the Beartooth Highway a few winters back. Rather than fly the film crew to Alaska where the TV series takes place, it was much cheaper to film the ad here in Montana and Wyoming. So, they did it on the first switchbacks of the Beartooth Highway on the Montana side.

His stories were fantastic as he described the week-long creation of this video which was, in many ways, quite similar to the three days of filming we participated in as part of an ad campaign for Camping World last winter.

The film crew needed four inches of snow on the Beartooth Highway, so it was plowed to leave four inches of snow behind, and when that melted more snow was piled on to bring it up to four inches. A frightening sequence where the truck skids backwards down the mountain was actually filmed on level ground while he and his fellow workers pulled the truck backwards with chains attached to another truck.

The film director wanted to stage a horrific rollover accident, and he had some fancy and expensive equipment made to help simulate the rollover. However, the equipment was designed and built on the California coast, and the difference in altitude between there and the Montana Rockies wasn’t taken into account in the design and the equipment failed.

In classic down home fashion, the Montana boys on the film set said, “Hold my beer,” and huddled together to come up with a solution. Using a truck with chains again, they put chains under the semi and jerked back on them with to flip the truck on its side (with no one in it, of course). The film director was delighted with the perfect shot and said, “I didn’t need anything from California. All I needed were some good Montana boys!”

I’m not 100% sure that the following video is the actual ad or is perhaps just a bit of footage from it, but it is definitely an ice road trucker on the first switchbacks of the Beartooth Highway in Montana, and the various sequences appear just as described. Enjoy!

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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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Buffalo Wyoming – Cowboys, Cowgirls and Sheriff Walt Longmire!

Buffalo, Wyoming, and the nearby Bighorn Mountains stole our hearts during our RV travels this summer, and we ended up sticking around for a while.

Fifth wheel trailer RV camping at sunset

A Wyoming sunset.

On our first day in Buffalo, we were astonished to find the streets were lined with throngs of really excited people. As we made our way through the mob, we noticed the cops were directing traffic at every intersection.

Something really big was happening. But what?

Soon we realized a parade was about to come through town. What perfect timing!

Longmire Days Parade Buffalo Wyoming Home of Longmire

We arrived in Buffalo, Wyoming, just in time to see a parade!

We watched the parade go by and gave each other quizzical looks as we tried to figure out why there would be a parade in this small town in the middle of July. The 4th of July was over, so this must be something else!

Longmire Days Parade Occidental Hotel Buffalo Wyoming

A band plays on a flat bed trailer as it passes the Occidental Hotel. What on earth was this parade for???

Suddenly a turquoise truck came by with a guy standing in the bed of the truck. A huge roar went up from the crowd, and the man waved at everyone. It was as if he were some kind of beloved celebrity.

The woman standing next to me saw I wanted to take a photo and eagerly stepped aside. “Go on!” she said urgently. “Push on out there and get his photo!”

Walt Longmire in Longmire Days Parade Buffalo Wyoming

A roar goes up from the crowd as this cowboy goes by in the back of a Bronco!

I got my shot and then asked — still confused — “Is that the mayor?”

She threw her head back and laughed. “No! Of course not!” She said. “That’s Walt Longmire!”

Sheriff Walt Longmire in parade at Buffalo Wyoming

Of course this isn’t the mayor.
This is the famous Sheriff Walt Longmire!

I stared at her blankly.

“You don’t know who Walt Longmire is?” She was clearly shocked at my ignorance. “Longmire is a huge TV show that’s really popular around here. That guy is the lead actor! The show takes place in this town, although it’s called Durant on TV rather than Buffalo.”

It turned out that we had arrived just in time for a special weekend celebration called Longmire Days when Buffalo, Wyoming, welcomes the cast from the Longmire TV series and also welcomes thousands of out-of-town guests who come from as far as California to see their beloved stars in person.

There is a store in town devoted to memorabilia from the show, and the store owners later told us it is really fun — and a bit funny — to watch these starstruck fans come from near and far to see the heroes of their series in person.

Longmire Headquarters Buffalo Wyoming

The Longmire TV show, developed from a local author’s book, depicts life in Buffalo WY but calls the town “Durant” and is filmed in New Mexico!

I’ve been starstruck by celebrities before too, so I totally understood. But I have to say that it is really hilarious when you have never heard of a TV show to run headlong into fan hysteria and the celebrities who are at the heart of it.

To me, this famous and adored actor (that women were truly going nuts for) just looked like a regular old cowboy standing in the back of a truck!

Then again, after a decade on the road, largely in the western states, I have become a huge John Wayne fan. We watch his old movies all the time. If I were to see John Wayne in person who knows what crazy hysterics I would fall prey to!

Ironically, it turned out I wasn’t the only John Wayne fan in Buffalo, Wyoming.

John Wayne T-shirt Buffalo Wyoming

I wasn’t the only avid John Wayne fan in town!

Buffalo, Wyoming, is home to about 4,600 people, and the heart of the town is a small grassy park called “Crazy Woman Park.”

The term Crazy Woman is popular in this area. There are both a creek and a canyon named “Crazy Woman” along with various business and shops. There are several legends behind the name, and they vary a bit, but each one references a woman (either white or Indian) who witnessed or was involved in a terrible tragedy that made her crazy. She lived out her days in a canyon not far from Buffalo.

Crazy Woman Park in Buffalo is decorated with several big, colorful murals that were commissioned in 2012 to show that Buffalo isn’t just a One Horse Town.

Horse mural and cowboy Buffalo Wyoming

Buffalo isn’t a One Horse (or One Cowboy) Town.

The murals were painted by Aaron and Jenny Wuerker. The first panel on the left depicts old black and white photos of cowboys around the turn of the century.

Old cowboys in "More than a One Horse Town' mural Buffalo Wyoming by Aaron Wuerker

Original cowboys in Buffalo way back when.

The next panel shows two cowboys chasing some horses across the prairie and bringing them into the town of Buffalo. This is definitely not a One Horse Town!

Horses on a mural Buffalo Wyoming by Aaron Wuerker and Jenny Wuerker

Cowboys chase horses across the prairie…

Horse mural Aaron Wuerker and Jenny Wuerker Buffalo Wyoming

…and into town.

The love of horses and the cowboy way of life and cattle ranching runs deep in Buffalo, and every week in the summertime there is a rodeo at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.

We stopped by one afternoon and had a great time watching both kids and adults dash all over the place with their horses.

Rodeo queen Johnson County Fairgrounds Buffalo Wyoming

A Rodeo Queen flies past on her horse.

The little girls were just too cute for words. They were fearless as they galloped past, and nothing would stop them from going full speed ahead, even if their hats flew off!

Rodeo princess loses her hat Johnson Country Fairgrounds Buffalo Wyoming

Hats off to this rodeo princess!

Rodeo Princess Hats Off Johnson County Fairgrounds Buffalo Wyoming

Woops!

From the pretty Rodeo Queen to the most adorable and tiniest Rodeo Princess, we loved them all!

Little Rodeo princess Johnson Country Fairgrounds Buffalo Wyoming

There’s no such thing as being too young to ride a horse.
Eventually both the helmet and horse will fit!

But there were plenty of adult cowboys putting their horses through their paces too.

Johnson County Fairgrounds Rodeo Buffalo Wyoming

There was full grown adult rodeo action too.

But this cowboy stuff isn’t just for show.

While in town one day, I had the really good fortune to meet an old cowboy named Dick and spend some time talking to him and listening to his life story. He described growing up in the area, and he painted a vivid picture of what it was like to be a rancher in the 1950s and 60s.

“It is the best life for a young man,” he said wistfully. The outdoors, the wide open spaces and fresh air — he had loved it all.

He passed his love of the ranching life to his two sons, and with great pride he told the story of putting his boys in charge of moving a hundred head of cattle from one pasture to another when they were very young. He told them he would meet them at an appointed hour and place, and he expected them to be there — with the cows — when he arrived.

I had to smile imagining two boys on horseback urging the beasts across the fields with their promise to Dad and his expectations weighing on their shoulders.

Sure enough, he told me, when he pulled up in his truck at the spot where the kids were supposed to be, they were there along with all the cows. Not one single cow was missing.

Chatting with an old cowboy Buffalo Wyoming

Longtime Buffalo area resident, Dick, shared his life story with me and painted an enchanting image of life on the ranch in Buffalo fifty years back.

There was an oil boom in Wyoming right about that time, however, and the lure of a better income in the oil fields took him away from ranching. As the years went by, he rose in the company and eventually ended up as the General Manager with a desk job in town.

But once a cowboy always a cowboy.

Dick had come to town on this sunny summer day wearing his cowboy hat and carrying his leather ranching gloves in his back pocket.

As we talked about the vibrant nature of the town, its festivals, its artwork and the bronze sculptures we’d seen around town, his eyes misted over when he told me that a locally noted bronze sculptor had created a beautiful sculpture of him with his grandson holding a calf.

There’s a romance to the ranching life, but there’s reality too. During our stay in Buffalo, we were touched by a bit of both as we paid quite a few visits to the small shops and tourist boutiques in town.

Cowboy boots Buffalo Wyoming

Cowbgirl boots are available in every style!

Several shops had fantastic arrays of cowboy boots. The pink and bling cowboy boots we’d seen on the cowgirls at the rodeo were all available in town. Just pick your favorite!

There were also lots of cowboy hats for sale, and we had fun at the hat rack trying different ones on. There were also lots of rifles for sale, many of them vintage guns from a bygone era.

Cowboy hat and rifles Buffalo Wyoming

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In one particular shop called The Office, I was idly scoping out the pens and pads when I saw a notebook on the display rack titled “Beef Calving Record Book.”

Beef Calving book for sale in stationery store at The Office Buffalo Wyoming

How often do you find a Beef Calving Record Book in your local stationery store?!

I opened it up, and inside were columns marked Calf ID, Cow ID, Sire ID, Birth Date, Sex and various measurements and weights.

Was this for real?

I asked the store clerk, and she said that oh, yes, those little notebooks were very much for real and the store often ran out of them in the spring when the calves were being born!

How totally cool is that?!

In this crazy era of history when we can’t let our cell phones out of arm’s reach and laws are being passed in Hawaii to remind pedestrians to look up from their phones as they cross the street, ranchers in the small towns of Wyoming are still recording the vital stats of their newborn calves with pen and paper in specialty “rain proof” notebooks!

Beef Calving book in Buffalo Wyoming at The Office stationery store

These little “weather proof” notebooks are hot sellers during calving season!

It is this very simplicity — not that calving is in the least bit simple — but it is this very straight-forwardness and closeness to nature and life itself that makes the cowboy lifestyle so romantic and appealling.

Lots of folks come to Wyoming to spend some time on a dude ranch, riding windswept trails past picturesque snowcapped mountains so they can savor a whiff of a the cowboy life.

We were photographing the mountains one afternoon when a group of horseback riders appeared out of nowhere.

As we got chatting with them, we discovered the ranch owner was a native of the area, but his wife was German. Decades ago she had made a career in the tourism industry in Austria selling western American vacations to Austrians who wanted to get a taste of our Wild West.

She ended up getting a taste of the Wild West herself one year when she took a short term job on a ranch, and she fell in love not only with Wyoming but with a Wyoming rancher too. In no time she was married, had started a family, and was hosting German and Austrian visitors herself!

Horseback riders in Bighorn National Forest Bighorn Mountains

German speaking tourists from Austria and Germany enjoy a tour with local guide Claudia.

We heard a lively exchange of English mixed with German as she talked with her guests on their horses, and the huge grins on their faces said it all. They were loving their week in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains!

Back in 1879, just five years after the Custer Expedition into the nearby Black Hills, a fellow named Charles Buell pitched a tent alongside Clear Creek where the town of Buffalo stands today. Some miners coming out of the Black Hills who were loaded down with gold asked if they could bunk in his tent for a few nights and store their gold with him too.

Buell instantly realized that opportunity was knocking, and he decided that these miners would be his first customers at his brand new hotel, restaurant and bank! Within the year he had built a wooden hotel building.

Ten years later he was charging $2.50 a night to regular visitors from all over, and in the ensuing decades he hosted celebrities like Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevent, General Crook and Calamity Jane.

Occidental Hotel Interior Buffalo Wyoming

When you dream, dream big!
The Occidental Hotel started as a tent by the creek!

By the early 1900’s the current brick building filled a full city block, and now, over a century later, people still stay in the rooms upstairs and enjoy live bluegrass music jams every week in the classic old western bar downstairs.

The hotel still stands right next to Clear Creek where Charles Buell pitched his tent nearly 140 years ago, and there’s a little dispenser on the bridge where you can get a handful of fish food to throw over to the fish swimming below.

Occidental Hotel Buffalo Wyoming home of Longmire

Kids throw fish food down to the fish below the bridge by the elegant Occidental Hotel.

Folks of all ages love to cast a fishing line off the bridge in downtown Buffalo, and one day as we walked by a young boy reeled in a really big fish. Wow!!

Proud kid with trophy fish Buffalo Wyoming

Nice catch!!!

Part of the Longmire Days celebration was an antique car show, and after the parade ended everyone wandered over to a nearby park where the cars were lined up on the grass and glistening in the sun.

1948 Chevrolet truck Buffalo Wyoming

A late 1940s era Chevrolet pickup truck — Sweet!

Since this is ranching country, a large number of the old vehicles were vintage pickup trucks.

We chatted with the owners, and in more cases than not we discovered that the truck we were admiring had been owned by Dad or Grandpa and had had a productive life on the family ranch before being lovingly restored and brought out to show off.

Antique truck at a car show in Buffalo Wyoming

An antique Ford pickup. Many of the trucks at the show had done decades of duty on nearby ranches.

Of course every ranch has dogs as well as trucks, and we spotted a particularly pretty dog in attendance.

Beautiful dog portrait

Sunset in the Bighorns.

We had loved our RV trip through eastern Wyoming where we visited the towns of Chugwater, Douglas, Newcastle and Sundance, but the town of Buffalo and the nearby Bighorn Mountains enchanted us.

Crepuscular rays of sunset Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

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Little did we know that first weekend that Longmire Days and the antique car show would be just the first of several delightful celebrations we’d enjoy on our RV trip to Buffalo, Wyoming!!

Sunset over an RV Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

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Buffalo Wyoming River Runs Through It mural seen on an RV trip to town

Allow a few days when you take your RV to Buffalo, Wyoming!

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