Cody, Wyoming and then the Grand Tetons


We went to Cody on the recommendation of Judy Goff (our friend in Bend, Oregon,  who was born in Wyoming) and I have to say it did not disappoint.

I had managed to get a site reserved at the Ponderosa Campground right in the middle of Cody and we had a back in site that was a bit tight but provided views over the canyon behind us (just don’t go too far back!!).

Our site in the Ponderosa Campground, Cody.
The view 6ft behind us, rather a large drop-off!!

Judy told us that, in her words “It will give you a fun and memorable bit of insight to this part of the American West! “, and it certainly did.

Centre piece of that experience was the Buffalo Bill Center of the West a massive museum that was actually 5 museums in one. A Firearms museum, a Western Arts museum, a Plains Indian Museum, The Buffalo Bill museum and a Natural History museum. Every one of them was an experience in their own right, but together they are incredible. If you ever go there make sure you have a day, as we did, because it will take you that long to go around it and do it justice.

William F Cody (Buffalo Bill) and a friend!!
Another statue to “Buffalo Bill”.
A painting of Custer’s Last Stand in the Western Art museum.
An immense bronze of an Elk.
Recognise this from my pictures of Yellowstone Park!! Beautiful painting.
Another piece of “Wild West” art.
A picture of an Indian brave killing a Bison.
One of the many exhibits in the “Buffalo Bill” museum.
Poster of Buffalo Bill meeting Queen Victoria.
The people who visited the Buffalo Bill Wild West show in London 1887.
Buffalo Bill also led many foreign visitors on hunts in Wyoming.
Plain’s Indian exhibit.
An actual buffalo hide tepee, very rare nowadays .
Wyoming Natural history exhibit.
One of the many huge exhibits in the Natural history museum.
A painting of a large Bison herd in Wyoming before they were nearly wiped out by hide hunters.
As opposed to how the Indians hunted them by driving them off a cliff. But in their case none of the animal was wasted as the buffalo were regarded as sacred by the plains Indians.
A collection of Indian artefacts.
A goat exhibit in the Natural History museum. More than we have seen in real life!!
Another large exhibit of the inhabitants of a Mountain Meadow.
Buffalo Bill’s (William F Cody’s as he was then) actual boyhood house has been moved into the grounds of the museum.
It is an Historic Place in its own right.
Crazy Horse statue.
Beautiful Bison bronze in the grounds of the Museum.

For some reason I do not seem to have taken any pictures of the Firearms Museum, but it incorporates many exhibits from the Winchester Museum. I think I must have been so fascinated I forgot to take pictures!!

On the following day we decided to visit the Buffalo Bill Dam, which when it was built was the highest dam in the USA. You certainly needed a head for heights when you stood on top of the dam wall and looked down!!

Buffalo Bill Dam, the people are walking across the dam wall.
The reservoir held back by the dam is huge.
And it is surrounded by very high mountains.
Looking down the river valley below the dam at the Shoshone River.
Looking down the dam wall.
Fish swimming close to the dam.

From here we headed West towards the East Entrance of Yellowstone Park along the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway. We were told we would have a good chance of seeing some bear and Longhorn Sheep on this road. We certainly saw signs but no actual animals.

Bear droppings, they eat lots of berries!!

The scenery was also very interesting with lots of spectacular rock formations.

Remains of volcanos.
Volcanic butte
Interesting shapes all along the valley.
Very phallic.
How on earth does that stay up there!!
More balancing rocks. Notice the windows through the rocks.
And even more.
Hazy view was caused by smoke from California fires.
Your can tell which way the wind blows, never seen a tree growing just on one side!!
And the river wound along the valley, and it’s a very good trout river.
River meandering down towards the dam.
East entrance of Yellowstone, where we turned around.
A pile of deer antlers.
And this was built by a local man out of hand hewn timber. Unfortunate part was he never finished it as he fell to his death off one of the pagoda roofs as he refused to wear a safety harness!!

And on our last night we decided to go to the rodeo, unfortunately the weather had turned cold and we left half way through as we were freezing!! We saw the bucking horse rides, some steer roping and met a brahma bull, but didn’t see any ridden as we were so cold.

Brahma bull on show outside the arena.
Cowgirls getting ready. You can tell how cold it was look at their coats. Unfortunately we didn’t have thick enough clothing!!
Cody’s boast.
Not all the stands were full!! And there were lots of blankets on show.
The opening display of horse riding.
Ooops he didn’t last long.
This one did much better.
Steer roping. Cowboy is just getting off to hog tie the steer, while the horse is trained to keep the rope tight. Pity about the pole!!

From here we moved on to Dubois (pronounced Duboys here as they don’t like the French version!!). We were using this site as our base to explore the Grand Tetons.

We arrived at Windhaven RV Resort after a particularly windy drive ( I guess we should have expected that given the name of the RV site!!) and got set up with a site facing the river.

The Site.
View out of the front window, down river.
And the view up river.
Moon reflecting on the river.

We used Dubois as our base to drive to see the Grand Tetons National Park. Decided to do it over two days as you drove into the National Park roughly in the middle and then you went North towards Yellowstone Park or South to Jackson Hole. Good job we did, as you will see from the pictures, because the first trip in we thought we had missed them! You only saw them once you were right on top of them because of all the smoke from the fires in California.

Memorial erected to remember all lumberjacks who made their living cutting railroad ties (we call them sleepers) by hand. This area produced the majority of the railroad ties used in the entire USA. You can see the smoke in the background.
Smoke, smoke wherever you looked.
Edge of the Grand Tetons, just!!
On the way in we crossed the Continental Divide again at the highest we have been. Getting used to the rarefied air, although the Spark and I puff a bit going up hills!!
Scene from a well known lookout point. You are supposed to see mountains up to 13,776ft high from here, but just smoke!!
Finally got closer but you have to look very closely to see the snow on the mountains opposite.
We chose North first as it was supposed to have bears, but no such luck. Saw some white freshwater Pelicans.
It seemed to clear a bit later in the day.

After this we decided to wait a day (we had some chores to do anyway) and then try the South Loop in the hope that some of the smoke would clear. But it did make some fantastic sunsets.

Sunset at the RV Park looking back towards the National Park. My, my, America is a lovely place.

So, fingers crossed we set off on the Southern Loop around the park. It was obvious as we got closer that things had improved, but it still took a while before we actually saw the mountains.

A Sand Crane we saw on the way in.
And the mountains started to appear, just!!
Need to get closer!!
Loads of Bison grazing alongside the road.
Trying to recreate a famous photo by William H Jackson showing the Snake River with the Tetons behind. He didn’t have the smoke.
It’s improving gradually, but still need to get closer!!
The highest peak at 13,776ft.
One of the Antler Arches at the four corners of the George Washington Memorial Park, Jackson Hole
Getting closer and it is improving!!
Panoramic view of the entire range.
These are the highest peaks and you can see what remains of the glaciers in the valleys. They are retreating year on year.
Close up of one of the glaciers, with the moraine field in the foreground. The black colouration is caused by the smoke.
This is known as the Cathedral group.
Jenny Lake with Tetons in the background
Photo opportunity.
More glaciers.
This is the view from Signal Mountain that is not part of the main group, but still 7,720ft high, with a road right to the very top!!
This is the road we went South on to Jackson Hole, taken from Signal Mountain. You can see the Bison grazing beyond the road.
Not very clear as it is at extreme range for my camera but this was a Pronghorn Antelope herd grazing in the valley below. Focus on the white butts (bums).
Then on the way down the mountain this female Mule deer appeared.
And took a rest!! Very relaxed.
And THEN we saw this magnificent Mule deer stag. What a set of antlers!!
This is the spillway of the Jackson Dam that forms Jackson Lake in the background.
And then on the way back we saw more Pronghorn Antelope.

We were late getting back that evening and decided to eat out at a local restaurant in Dubois called The Cowboy Café. It was a really informal dining place with great food. As we were sat there we were joined by a group of people who had taken their horses in trailers up to the National Park. They had been riding the park trails with their horses all weekend. They were all friends from Lander, Wyoming and we got talking with them and they were really interested in our trip. One of then turned out to be a High School teacher at Wyoming Indian High School near Lander and he asked us if we would be willing to talk to his pupils. So I foolishly agreed, and he gave me a number to contact him on.

Our final day in Dubois was spent in the National Bighorn Sheep Centre, where we learnt that they had the biggest wintering herd, kept on a State park just outside of the town. We still haven’t seen any Bighorn Sheep but at least we learnt the the main reason we had not seen them. At this time of the year they are high in the mountains keeping out of the way of Mountain Lions!!

Bighorn Sheep with a Mountain Lion (Cougar) close on his tail!!

Our next stop after leaving Dubois was going to be Lander, so I contacted the High School teacher (Cleeve Bell) thinking he would have changed his mind about speaking to his pupils, but he was even more insistent it was a good idea! We would be going right past his High School on the way to our next camp site so we should call in. In exchange for me doing the talk he and his wife would cook us a meal that evening. And he had elk on the menu.

So, hoping I had not bitten off more than I could chew, we drove the RV into the car park at Wyoming Indian High School.

Parking lot at the High School.
We were at the right place!!

And it all seemed to go quite well. The pupils all introduced themselves to us, including telling us what Indian tribes they were descended from. I used my laptop to show them where we were from, and then gave them a potted history of the British Isles. I showed them pictures of the Queen, Houses of Parliament and how we lived in England (not all in stately homes!!). We passed around our passports, UK notes and coins, and luckily Anne had a Hello magazine featuring the wedding of Prince Harry to Megan Markle which they were very interested in. We also got asked about the Spice Girls and One Direction!!

The High School class.

We then went on to the campground, got set up and drove back into Lander for a lovely meal with Cleeve and his wife. Their website is Here.

After dinner we got back to the campground to see a magnificent sunset over a lake in the grounds.

Double Wow!!

The next day we moved on to Green River to visit the Flaming Gorge, the subject of my next post.






Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

Ever since I read an Eagle comic recreation of the Battle of Little Bighorn when I was a young boy, I have always wanted to visit the site of the only battle in which the Indians actually won!

So we moved on from Livingston to Billings, which was slightly off route but got us close enough to the battlefield to make my wish come true.

Rest area in I90
Another rattlesnake warning. Didn’t see any. I suppose I should be careful what I wish for!!
Parked up in Billings.

We drove to the battlefield the next day. I hadn’t realised until we got there that it was quite a long battlefield. I always envisaged it was just the hill on which the Last Stand took place but it was in actual fact spread out over 5 miles, after a crucial decision by Custer to split his command in two. One group of men under Major Reno was sent to attack the Indian encampment and the other group under General Custer continued West to try and flank the village and capture them in a pincer movement.

7th Cavalry are the blue routes, Indian braves the red routes.

You can see here where the main 7th Cavalry force split on the right. Unfortunately for General Custer, Major Reno’s force was beaten back and forced to retreat back over the river and take up a defensive position in the hills above.

General Custer not knowing that continued west, splitting his group again to attack the village while he continued west. That force under Lt. James Calhoun was harried by Indian forces, losing many men, until they too turned back to the hills and rejoined General Custer’s main group.

General Custer then turned to attack the village, only to be met by superior Indian forces and was forced to retreat (dotted blue lines) back to where they were surrounded and lost their lives in the Last Stand.

Major Reno’s group knew nothing about this, as they were over 4 miles from that area, so they consolidated their position and beat off Indian attacks until they were saved by the advancing columns of Generals Terry and Gibbon.

The Indian village was camped amongst the trees in the Valley below. It was here that the force was split and Major Reno sent down into the valley to attack the village.
This shows you Major Reno’s force attacking the village (blue arrow) but the Indians counter attacked and …..
Forced them to retreat back across the river, losing many men on the way. They retreated back up to the top of the hill where they set up a defence.
A map of the defensive position that Major Reno’s troopers set up, and defended successfully until the arrival of the relief troops.

While moving west General Custer was harried all the way by Indian braves. Wherever a white marker is positioned it is approximately where a 7th Cavalry soldier fell. Most of them have no names on them, as all they knew at the time was a soldier was killed here.

White markers show where 7th Cavalry soldiers were killed. Inscriptions read “US Soldier 7th Cavalry fell here June 25 1876”.
This is the area where Lt. Calhoun and his men fought his way back to General Custer. As you can see a lot of soldiers lost their lives here.

They re-joined General Custer who began his attack on the village but were met by a large Indian force, so they too had to retreat back up into the hills.

This was the route of the retreat back to the hills. There is a valley at the far end with more markers in it that you cannot see, but it is painfully obvious that the 7th Cavalry lost a lot of men in this retreat.

And then General Custer tried to defend the hill top that became known as the “Last Stand” hill.

Overall view of the Last Stand site and monument.
View of the Last Stand from the monument.
Where General Custer was killed, in the previous picture it is in the middle.

The memorial lists the 268 men made up of 7th Cavalry soldiers, Indian scouts and civilian workers who died at Little Bighorn.

The memorial to the dead.
This side shows the Indian Scouts and Civilians who lost their lives.

It should not be forgotten that many Indians also died here and to this end they have started to place markers for the Indian dead as well.

Indian markers are made of sandstone.

There is also an Indian Memorial.

The memorial traces the history of the tribes that fought at the battle.
And tells some of their stories from the day.
And commemorates a way of life that was lost after this day.

And there was one other group that lost their lives at the battle, the horses, and they are remembered too.

The Horse memorial. Many were shot by their own riders so they could use their bodies as protection.

All in all a very sobering place to visit. From my point of view I always thought of General Custer, after reading that Eagle comic story, as someone to be looked up to. This battlefield memorial makes you think of all the people and animals involved and makes you stop and think whether he deserves that image, and could all this have been avoided.

From here we turned South again and headed to Cody, home of William F Cody sometimes called “Buffalo Bill”.