Day Trips Around Cody WY

After Neil’s laser lithotripsy on Tuesday…he felt pretty lousy that night and Wednesday morning but by mid afternoon on Wednesday was feeling pretty good. Nonetheless…we just lazed around through Thursday. 

Our original plan was to take a day trip on Friday early in the morning…but it was foggy so we delayed until Saturday. So…Friday’s entertainment consisted of heading out to the Elks Lodge for dinner…which was Pitchfork Steak.

I realize you’ve probably never heard of Pitchfork Steak…but it’s apparently a big thing out here in the West and is a hangover from the olden days. Back then…they didn’t really have grates to cook their steak on so folks would stick them on the tines of a pitchfork and then plunge them into a vat of boiling oil and deep fry them. No coating or batter…just bare meat. Turns out…that’s a pretty darned good way to cook ‘em…with nothing on the outside they are not greasy at all but just have a bit of a crunch at the surface similar to what you get off of a very hot grill when you sear a steak. These were marinated beforehand in some spice combination…the only flavor we could readily identify was teriyaki sauce but there was more in it than that. They were cooked pretty nicely to medium and served up with corn on the cob and baked taters on the side along with some spice cake for afters. Steaks were about 12 or 14 ounces each and the meal was $15 a plate…pretty darned good grub at a decent price we all said. The only thing that one would have missed from the grilled version is they tend to be a little tougher after being deep fat fried…not tough but tougher than a grilled one would be. The flavor of them though…more than made up for that slight deficiency.

We brought Neil’s tater, half of Connie’s tater, and most of her steak home…he will whip up something out of those leftovers for dinner.

With a nice non-foggy day forecast for Saturday…we were off just after 0700 for our 175 mile or so round trip loop day trip through the Bighorn Mountains via the Bighorn Scenic Drive. Essentially…heading east from Cody about 60 miles or so, then north through the mountains and west/southwest back to Cody afterwards. We stopped by a few additional places that weren’t specifically part of the scenic drive…I’ll point those out when we get to the relevant photos for ya…so let’s get to it.

Neil was kinda wondering the first hour or so when we would get to the scenic parts as that portion was pretty flat and dull…but it turned out to just be the trip across the southern end of the Bighorn Basin which lies west of the mountains and east of Yellowstone and which contains Cody. Once we got to the mountains though…the sights picked up considerably. There was a very curvy section of the canyon with narrow width and tall walls…and also no place to stop for a photo…so we started with photos right after we got past that section.

Looking backwards towards the narrow section.

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And the opposite direction where we would be heading next.

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Connie found a very nice waterfall…Shell Falls…about 70 feet I guess but a lot of character in this one.

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Close up of the upper portion of Shell Falls.

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Looking almost vertically down into the canyon below Shell Falls.

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We stopped by Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark to try and see the wheel…but it turned out to require a 3 mile round trip hike from the parking lot and at over 9,000 feet elevation we “chose wisely” as the ancient knight would say and skipped it. It’s an 80 foot diameter Indian prayer site…here’s a shot from the web I found to show you what it would have looked like if we took the hike. Credit for this photo is travelingtousa.net. The circle was constructed sometime between 1,200 and 1,700 AD (or CE for Current Era if you prefer that designator over the Christian Anno Domini)

NewImage

Continuing on…we crossed the remainder of the Bighorn Mountains…which at that point was more of a high plateau. Topping out at almost 10,000 feet elevation at the edge of the plateau before heading down into the Bighorn Basin…you can see it in the distance in the shot below. The basin is about 4,000 feet elevation…so almost 6,000 feet lower than the edge of the plateau where the trees are. The road winds around the edge of the plateau for 13 miles at 10% grade before getting down to the basin.

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We stopped partway down for a wider panorama of the basin.

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Once at the bottom…we headed generally back towards Cody…with a couple of other brief stops. First up was the Preyer Mountain Wild Horse Range…where, naturally…we got a shot of some of the wild horses.

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Continuing on into the Preyer Range…we stopped by Devil’s Canyon Overlook where you can see both Devil’s Canyon as well as Bighorn Canyon.

Devil’s Canyon…about 2,000 feet down to the river surface.

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The river flows out the bottom of the shot above and then bends to the left and into the bottom of this shot taken about 90 degrees to the left of the above. You can see the tour boat down in the bottom of this one…we’ll be taking that boat later on before we leave…long way down. The following photo is a close up of the boat so you can see its size and get a better perspective on how far down it is to the river.  For the photographers amongst ya…the first shot is at 27mm focal length and the second at 450mm…both are just about full frame crops.

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Closer view of the boat.

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On the other side of the overlook…about 180 degrees from the first view above of Devil’s Canyon…looking out over Bighorn Canyon…the boat eventually would have come around in a 180 bend to its left and then 90 degrees back to its right to get into the section of the river flowing away from you in this view of Bighorn Canyon…from above it’s a horseshoe shaped bend just like the famous one down in Arizona.

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Looking at part of Bighorn Basin as we exited the Preyer Range.

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Shortly after the above shot…we turned right back into Highway 14A for the last 30odd miles back to Cody…no interesting photos there as it’s out in the middle of the basin with not much to see.

We spent the afternoon roasting more garlic…ran out a couple days ago so we peeled, roasted, and stored 4 heads worth in our fridge…that will keep us supplied for mebbe a month.

Interesting article Neil saw this evening…only in CA can you be sued even though it’s not your fault. As you can read
here
if you’re of a mind to…back in 2017 there were a bunch of fires out in CA and PG&E was blamed for some of them due to lack of tree trimming which in the presence of winds caused sparks which cause fires which caused damage and death. Anyways…one of the fires was named the Tubbs Fire…and in this particular case PG&E was held to be not at fault…the fire started due to an electrical problem on private land not associated with PG&E’s equipment…this was the official verdict of CAL Fire on the Tubbs Fire. However…PG&E ended up filing for bankruptcy due to the damage claims from the various fires they were responsible for. According to the judge overseeing their bankruptcy proceedings…victims of the Tubbs Fire are entitled to pursue lawsuits against PG&E regardless of the fact that they utility wasn’t to blame. According to the victim’s lawyers…they intend to sue because PG&E didn’t turn their power lines off in the presence of high winds to prevent fires…and hence PG&E’s deep pockets should pay the victims…despite that fact that PG&E has been sued and lost in the past for turning off the power in the presence of winds. Go figure…only in the DPRC would this be an allowable legal strategy.

Anyways…Sunday afternoon we headed off for another scenic drive…this one down to the southwest of Cody about 50 miles out and back to the Washakie Wilderness. We had been told that there were plenty of Bighorn sheep down that way and that although it was a dirt road for 10 miles or so at the end it was passable. Turns out that the Bighorns only are there in the wintertime for grazing as it’s much lower than their summer range in the park and higher mountains further to the west…so we didn’t see any but it was a great drive anyway…scenery, a bit of wildlife, and even a bit o’ education for y’all included.

Education first…we been noticing a lot out here in the west how you can always tell that a property alongside the road is a ranch because of something called the Ranch Gate. I know you’ve probably seen them on TV or on the interwebs someplace…but just in case here are a few examples for you.

Usually they’re just made of wood and a lot of them are pretty simple in design like this one. Some have actual gates and some don’t.

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They’re frequently decorated with wagon wheels and such.

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Or elk antlers or cow horns.

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Sometimes they’re really massive hunks of wood. Notice the authentic cattle beyond the gate.

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Many have the name of the ranch and the corresponding brand they put on their cattle, pigs, and horses displayed on the crosspiece.

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We wanted to stop and ask if JR was in residence…but then Connie ‘membered we were not in Texas but Wyoming.

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They’re even made occasionally of metal and decorated with whatever comes to mind.

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Ya gotta ask yourself…why do these things exist? Well…you may not be asking yourself that…but I did…and after Connie googled it for me…Ima gonna ’splain it to ya so’s ya can lern it too. Just why in the heck did ranchers waste the money, scarce resources, and most importantly time that they could spend doing something more productive on building these gates…they didn’t do much decorative stuff back then as just life itself was hard enough without wasting time on frippery?

Turns out there have been 3 reasons over the years…current reason first. Nowadays in modern times…they’re just a status symbol and indicate the rancher’s idea of his prestige…in other words they’re to impress the neighbors and make the rancher a legend in his own mind. That’s probably because folks today have a lot more excess cash and a lot less common sense than they did back in the old days.

Originally…when a fella wanted to start himself up a ranch…he came out in the wilderness and obtained himself some land…mebbe from a settlement claim, maybe bought, maybe just squatted on it and declared it his since nobody really owned it back then. He then owned a patch of land up to several hundred thousand acres…250,000 acres would be about 390 square miles or a 20 by 20 mile square assuming it was square…or it would be 1000 square kilometers or about 31 kilometers square for our metric centric readers…and no, Ima not figuring it out in hectares because that’s not a unit I tend to use…and it ain’t important to the lerning part anyway.

The rancher would establish himself a herd of mostly cattle…side note, there are about 1.3 million cattle in WY today which is more than 2 for every person in the state…that he intended to sell and let them graze on his land until time to sell them. He would have ranch hands to help with the work and horses for them to ride…along with a growing hay for winter use as well as vegetables for everybody to eat. The cattle would mostly just wander around the ranch on their own…nothing was fence back then…until time for the roundup and shipment…or cattle drive depending…to market or to the railroad that would take them to market. 

Then the rancher built himself a nice ranch house someplace…there would be the house for his family, a bunkhouse for the hands, barns, corrals, privies, and all the other outbuildings necessary. There would also be some outlying cabins with small corrals for hands to use when they were away from the main compound. The ranch house would be built either in a central location for better management of the lands or where the best view on the property was and would typically be oriented so that the prevailing winds would help keep the family cool. Most of the buildings though…were pretty low to the ground and not really visible easily.

Now ranchers are friendly folk…and might take to visiting their neighbors. They might know more or less where the house was but they needed to be able to ride their horse up to the front. So the rancher would put up himself one of those ranch gates at some distance from the house to mark the front where visitors should come too. If they were to come say around the back…then the rancher might think that their intentions were less than honorable or even that they might be cattle rustlers…and they might became shot as they used to say. So…friendly folk used the ranch gate to know where the front was and hence they could ride up to find a friendly face for a visit.

Later on…more folk moved out to the west and what used to be easy to drive the wagon on paths across the hills became early roads throughout the countryside. Along with that…since there were now more roads, people, and ranches…individual ranchers started to put up fencing…usually made of barbed wire or bab-wa as westerners call it. This prevented their cattle from mixing with their neighbor ranchers cattle, made roundup time easier, and generally made for better neighbors.

Now naturally…the rancher couldn’t completely fence off his land along the roads and neighbor’s property lines…well actually he could and did do that…but all of the fences needed gaps in them for assorted purposes. Maybe they needed to drive their cattle across the road to more of their property so they put in gaps in the fence…maybe they had a shared water resource that their neighbor was allowed to use for his stock…or needed an opening where the ranch hands could enter the property to get to one of the outlying cabins without having to have their horse jump the fence. So the rancher ended up with a fence with a lot of gaps in it.

Now remember…they’re still neighborly folk and might take it upon themselves to go visit periodically. If this period was somewhat irregular…or if they had never visited this particular ranch…how the heck did they find the gap that led to the ranch house instead of the one that led to the roundup corral or cabin or watering hole? Simple really…the main gate that led to the house got the Ranch Gate moved from its original location out to the road so that folks coming down the road to visit via horseback, wagon, or horseless carriage would know where to turn.

You knew there had to be a function for the gates beyond decorative…right?

Ok…on to the rest of the drive. As I said…it was about 50 miles out and then 50 back and about 40 of it was barely paved or gravel road. Basically the road heads down the valley that contains the Shoshone River as it flows out of the mountains to the southwest of Cody…and the road ends when you run out of valley.

Heading into the valley…the road proceeds to the right out of the frame and then curves back behind the hills immediately in center front of the frame.

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Up on top of the ridge overlooking the Shoshone River valley…about 500 feet down at this point as we’re on the southeast side of the valley.

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The beginning of the “adventure portion of the tour” or unpaved road…we like those though. The peak sticking up at center left is Frasier Peak where the road eventually ends just to the right of it.

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About 8 miles down the road you see above…we crossed the Shoshone River on a temporary bridge (the main one is being rebuilt) and turned more southerly…then took this panorama looking back east/southeast over the river. The road we came in on comes in out of frame to the back left and the head of the canyon and Frasier Peak is out of frame to the right.

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At the end of the road and canyon…this is looking westward toward Yellowstone which is 60odd miles distant at this point. It is probably 2500 feet up to the peak you can see here.

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Turning around and looking eastward across the Shoshone…Frasier Peak is just out of frame to the left…but I liked this view better.

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Looking about 45 degrees to the left of the above shot…back down the road we came in on.

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And finally…a wildlife sighting…an Olympic Marble Butterfly…and no, I did not identify it without the help of google…because the googles knows everything.

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We were pretty convinced we had spotted a grizzly bear up on the mountainside as the profile was perfect…but once we got closer it turned out to be a rock bear and not a grizzly bear…rats. At this point…we figured that the Olympic Marble was our only wildlife for the day as we were headed back out of the wilderness towards Cody.

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Right at the first crossing of the Shoshone on the way back…where the road went from lousy gravel to sorta paved but not really…there was this primitive campground…since it is a grizzly bear area you have to store all of your food in this metal safe instead of your tent.

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As we headed out the better but not really paved road…we lucked out and Neil spotted this mule deer doe crossing the road about 100 yards in front of us. He stopped and let her stop and start grazing before carefully creeping up for some photos. The first one was with his standard 18-300mm Nikon lens…the second he shifted to his new bird lens, the Tamron 150-600 G2. Sorry about the not full shots of her…but she was only 20 or so yards out and he was afraid to get out of Li’l Red because she would spook…so these were taken through the open window.

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Heading on down the road…we spotted this horse out in the pasture just before we went back across the temporary bridge over the Shoshone River.

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With that…our day was done although most of the Ranch Gate photos were taken on the way back and not earlier like ya mighta thought from their position in the post.

We headed back home…made some spaghetti carbonara for dinner…it was really good and it is an easy dish to get on the table…start boiling the spaghetti and while that is cooking the bacon, garlic, shallots, and pesto is done up in a separate pan. After draining the pasta…toss with the meat mixture while still hot and then slowly whisk in 2 beaten eggs, a little parmesan cheese, and enough cream to give it the right consistency. Top with more parmesan and voila.

Interesting stuff found on the net.

Elmer Fudd…of “That Pesky Wabbit” fame…was actually introduced as a wildlife photographer rather than a hunter. Here is a still from the first cartoon he was in.

ElmerFuddPhotographer

Why Germans do not play Scrabble.

GermansDontPlayScrabble

OK…some Italian ones…and before you object let me remind you that (a) I don’t care, as long as I think they’re funny then they’re blogworthy and sometimes it’s just your turn in the barrel and (b) these were all forwarded to me by some Italian ancestry friends.

BreakfastofChampions

ItalianTimePiece

ItalianSpeaking

WineTruckAdults

ItalianSecurityCamera

ItalianMotherSlipper

ItalianDNA

RealItalian

ItalianEbola

ItalianCloseEnough

DisgracedTheFamily

CouchPlastic

ItaliansNamedTony

SpaghettiOnStove

Cyas.

About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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