Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hanging Out in Cowboy Country: Cody, WY

Wanting to postpone our arrival into Yellowstone until after Labor Day, we decided to spend a few nights in Cody, WY. Our first afternoon in town we walked downtown and stopped in at Pat O'Hara Brewing for an early dinner based on a blog readers recommendation (thanks Rick!). Though the brewery only has two of their own beers, they do have a good selection of local craft beers and really tasty pub food.

We really enjoyed Snake River's Pako's IPA and a terrific burger and a brat.

Cody is the current home of some former San Diego neighbors from when I was a kid. David and Nancy moved to Cody in the mid 90's and their daughter, Gretchen and her family, moved to Cody in the late 90's. We had fun catching up with these folks whom I hadn't seen in 10 years, and Gretchen whom I hadn't seen since we were teenagers!

Gretchen happens to work at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a must-see museum when in Cody. Her parents are longtime supporters and they generously hosted our visit to the Center. Now this is not your average museum, in fact it's considered a Smithsonian quality museum. You get five museums for the price of one and two whole days to explore the place.

Quality exhibits are displayed depicting the life of Buffalo Bill Cody, a massive collection of Firearms, Plains Indians, Natural History and Western Art. We even saw an informative raptor show during our visit, each bird having been rescued and unable to return to life in the wild. This museum is well worth your time if you visit Cody.

Buffalo Bill Cody was instrumental in the founding of Cody and is commemorated all over town.

By the time we're done we'll have been in this part of the country for two and a half  months!

The Plains Indian Museum has thousands of beautiful artifacts.

We even caught a raptor show at The Buffalo Bill Center.
It happened to be National Vulture Day so we got up close and personal with this beauty.

With perfect weather for our stay in Cody you know we got out on the trail. The local visitor center wasn't very helpful with hiking tips but, as always, the Internet came through. This article led us to a fantastic network of trails near Newton Lakes. The Outlaw Trails took us through wonderful sandstone rock formations with views up a colorful valley and into the Beartooth Mountains.

Colorful views and rocky cliffs from the Outlaw Trails!

We walked through some wonderful sandstone formations, but this one topped them all!

Heart Mountain, in the distance, is a sentinel for miles around.
Well hike to the top of it the next day!

We spent an evening with Nancy and David which included a stop at the Buffalo Bill Dam. This dam was the realization of Buffalo Bill Cody's dream of irrigating the area East of Cody with Shoshone River water. Completed in 1910, the dam was 328 feet high, then the highest dam in the world.

The dam is very narrow, 70 feet at the base, 200 feet at the crest.

View downstream from the dam.

The dam is so narrow that it is impossible to photograph the entire dam, top to bottom. 

Near the dam and overlooking Buffalo Bill Reservoir we took a drive past the beautiful log home Nancy and David built when they first moved to Wyoming. The home actually overlooks the land where Nancy's family once lived, now underneath the reservoir. The details on this home are exquisite and the setting even more so.

Mountains in the back, reservoir in the front, I would love to have this view every day!

After our driving tour David and Nancy took us to a delicious dinner at Proud Cut, a local steakhouse, where Gretchen joined us and we got caught up on the happenings in our lives over the past decades. We followed up with drinks at the lovely Chamberlin Inn, a beautifully restored 1911 hotel. My only regret is my photo of our group did not turn out well, but we did have a wonderful visit and Hans and I look forward to seeing David and Nancy again in San Diego next year.

Our next adventure was ambitious: hike to the summit of Heart Mountain. At 8,123 feet high, it is not tallest mountain around, but it is visually appealing because it stands alone and has the unusual distinction of having older rock (500 to 350 million years old) on top of younger rock (55 million years old).

The hike to the summit is a strenuous 7.5 mile out and back trek through bear habitat with amazing 360 degree views. In fact, this trail was closed briefly last spring due to grizzly activity and a local told us a couple of grizzlies were removed from the mountain in the last month! Fortunately we did not encounter any bears, and on Labor Day we encountered quite a few people on the trail.

View of Heart Mountain from the East.

Approaching the trailhead.
We'll cross the sage and grass foothills, then climb switchbacks through the trees,
ending up on the bare left side of the summit.

About two thirds of the way up we got a close up of the massive head formation,
this is some of the oldest rock on the mountain.

Now we're only about a quarter mile from the top...but a beautiful view is a good reason to stop and catch our breath!
There is a sheer drop of a thousand or so feet behind Hans.

There's 360 degree views from the top, this one towards the north end of Yellowstone.

Cody was a perfect place to allow the Labor Day crowds to enjoy Yellowstone and for us to stock up before heading into the Park, while getting in a little culture and history, visiting and hiking.

We stayed at Ponderosa Campground, a decent RV park on the West end of town. The park is bound on two sides by highway 14/16/20, the East entrance to Yellowstone; unfortunately our site backed up to the highway and was very noisy (except at night, thank goodness!). This is a typical RV park in a tourist town, where the sites are pretty close together. The park has a playground but we saw very few children. Verizon signal was good.

Today we head into Yellowstone. The last time I visited the park I was 11 and Hans has never been so we're excited to experience this American icon together!


  1. I love the Buffalo Bill museum in Cody! Yes, I agree it's Smithsonian quality for sure. Can't wait to hear all about your Yellowstone visit. Very smart to wait until after Labor Day to go there.

    1. Fingers crossed the crowds have diminished...though I am sure this is still a popular time to visit. Fall colors, elk rut, and all the wildlife in general should be fantastic!

  2. Great shots in this collection…no smoke!!!
    Box Canyon Mark

    1. Clear skies have been a welcome relief...though we've never had it as bad as others further west this summer.

  3. We loved the Buffalo Bill fact it took us two days to see the whole thing! Beautiful pictures of your hikes. I especially like the sandstone formations too.

    Your friends have a beautiful home!

    Looking forward to your visit to Yellowstone. We briefly rode thru there the east side in the snow on the Harley.

  4. Glad you enjoyed Cody and how great to have local tour guides! That is an amazing photo of you and the arch with the red mountain in the distance:) Great job climbing!! That was a lot of gain but the views made it worth it!

  5. Really looking forward to your Yellowstone blogs!

    Cody is an awesome little town and the Buffalo Bill Museum is right up there in the top with some other great museum we've seen.

  6. Dont'cha love making it through Labor Day?

  7. I just love a burger & pub beer. We're happy to see all the little kiddies go back to school too. Love your pics. Enjoy

  8. I am enjoying and taking notes for our visit there next year. We love to follow your trails. Your friend has a beautiful house and grandiose views, I can live there too:)
    I can relate to meeting friends whom we have not seen in ages, lots to catch up and share stories.
    I like that picture of Hans on the map, Cool.

  9. What a wonderful map Hans is standing on. Really gives a picture of where you are. Gorgeous picture of the beautiful sandstone arch and the of view from your friends’ home. I hope they still live there. I don’t know how you could move away from such beauty. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a mountain with the older rock on top of the newer. I’ll have to look up how that happens. Very interesting. And the views behind you both, just breath taking. You’ve sure convinced me I need to spend time in this area. What great closing pictures!

  10. looks like you had a good stay in Cody and found a few good hike as well...

  11. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the museum even more now that you've shared those great pics. That is quite the massive rock formation at the top of the mountain, and the views are beautiful. I imagine the winters get brutal, but it must be lovely when the house is surrounded by snow.

  12. Great photo of Hans on the map! We would love to spend a couple of months exploring the same area. Cody was on our list a couple of years ago after we spent a fabulous 10 days in Yellowstone, but snow forced us to take a southerly route instead. Looks like a very fun time!