On our way from Medora to Cody, Wyoming, we passed thru the very small town of Miles City, Montana, the location where the movie, “Lonesome Dove,” was filmed. We saw the Olive Hotel where Gus was shot during the filming – not sure where he was actually shot.
Cody, a small town of about 9,000, which is not such a small town in the state of Wyoming, may be the most beautiful place we have visited. Cody embodies the Bad Lands, has more wild animals than any of the State/Federal Parks, has a lot to offer on its own, and the Shoshone River runs through it. The town has a deer population of about 300. These deer wander and graze unfettered all around the town.
Cody is home of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a fabulous museum, which is actually a collection of five museums and is affiliated with the Smithsonian. They have the largest collection of guns in the country and their animal exhibits are awesome. The Gun Museum was funded by Robert Woodruff, of Coca Cola fame and fortune. He came to Cody too hunt and fell in love with the place.
We went back a couple of times to see the raptors, where they had a live great horned owl and a red tailed hawk on display. Both birds had been injured so could not live in the wild. We went back again to see the wild sheep exhibit. Take a look at the big horned sheep in the pix below, paying special attention to the left horn.
The Yellowstone National Park East Entrance is 50 miles from Cody. The trip is one of the most beautiful we have seen. The park however, was not so beautiful. Most of the area on the East side had been burned, the regrowth has begun, but there are no animals and the scenery is not pretty. We were very disappointed with the park even after driving about 70 miles into it to see Old Faithful. Old Faithful is an amazing natural phenomenon to witness – see the video below.
We learned that fire is an important element in maintaining a healthy forest. It sanitizes the soil from disease; recycles nutrients; the fire’s wake leaves open glades for new plants and wildlife and the Lodgepole Pines require intense temperatures in order to reseed.
We did not go to the South and West sections of the park which we are told are much prettier than the East side. Those sections are very far away and some of the roads were being closed due to snow and ice. The North and West entrances are in Montana and the South entrance is in the Tetons.
Going into Cody, there were three animals on our “to see” list, moose, bear, and elk. Since the park was a bust, we started looking around the town of Cody. We were told about an irrigated field where the elk come at dusk to graze. The first night we went there were only deer in the field so we went back the following evening. OMG, the minute we drove up, we could see elks everywhere. I stopped counting at 61! There was one very large bull with a huge rack (Don says it was 10 points), all the others were female except for another baby bull who was acting out a bit with his little antlers, annoying the big bull. Then right in the middle of this comes a little mule deer out of nowhere. It danced around in the herd of elks for a while then dashed off into the night. I could not get pictures because they were too far away and it was getting dark but we could see them well with our binoculars. Very exciting. Check off the elks.
By the way, everything is far off here. We are in “big sky” country and having trouble with perception. You can actually stand in one place, turn 360 degrees and see the horizon the entire turn! Amazing phenomenon for East Coast folks. But, the sunsets out here don’t come close to the Atlanta sunsets.
We found a wonderful drive of about 20 miles through an area of ranches and farms, very little traffic and few people. We saw so much wildlife on this drive we did it several times. We saw hundreds of pronghorns grazing in fields, many deer, both white tail and mule deer, magpies, turkey and a BEAR! Check off the bear.
Before leaving Cody, reluctantly, but we were now seeing snow on the mountains, we visited the Buffalo Bill Cody Dam. Cody gets about 5 inches of rain a year and most of their water comes from melting snow which was flooding everything then gone. The dam created a huge reservoir which is a beautiful body of water in the town and provides for irrigation of land for miles around the city. There are canals running all along the highways providing water for the ranches and farms, making the land much more productive. These irrigated, planted fields attract the wildlife. Many of the creek and small river beds are dry.
Cody is one of our favorite places, can’t say enough good things about the town and suggest that anyone who has the opportunity to visit, should certainly do so. The landscape is the best. We have not been to Utah yet or to Nevada but this far, Cody rules.
Our travel stats to date: we have been on the road for about 14 months, we have traveled 35,000 miles, 13,000 miles in the coach and an additional 22,000 miles in the car, and stayed at 102 RV Parks. The car miles are unduplicated as the “towed miles” do not register on the odometer.
The snow capped mountains we can now see around Cody are our signal to head south, so off we go in search of a moose. There must be one out there somewhere wanting to see me…