One of the occasional pleasures of traveling is when you run into a delightful surprise. That was Wind River Canyon, which is just south of Thermopolis, Wyoming. We were traveling from Cody to Caspar when we went through it. Wind River Canyon isn’t really marked all that well on the maps so it really did come as a complete surprise. Think of a smaller version of the Grand Canyon, but instead of being at the top and looking down, we were at the bottom, looking up.
At the entrance to Yellowstone Park they had signs saying that there were forest fires and smoke in the park. It was a bit hazy but not noticeably smoky at the entrance but when we came over the pass into Yellowstone Basin there was a very distinct odor of wood smoke and it was difficult to see in the distance. As we came around Yellowstone Lake we could see dense smoke rising from a forest fire in the south. By the time we got to West Thumb however, there was enough wind from the west that the air had mostly cleared. We later learned there were three forest fires in Yellowstone that day.
There was a wheelchair accessible boardwalk around the West Thumb Geyser Basin although it was there mostly to protect the geysers. A few of the pools were bubbling and there was a wide variety of colors from pool to pool.
We took the North Fork Road (combined US 14, US 16 and US 20) from Cody to Yellowstone. The road goes due west and follows the canyon made by the Shoshone River. The landscapes next to the road were as spectacular as anything we saw inside of Yellowstone. The Shoshone National Forest is west of Yellowstone and we saw at least 8 or 10 campgrounds along the way. We also saw at least a couple of fly fisherman in the Shoshone next to them. At least two campgrounds had motor homes as big as ours so we could fit in there if we ever came back. We’d have to dry camp (they’re just campsites without electricity or water) but the campgrounds were in some incredibly scenic setting so it would be worth it.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is much, much bigger on the inside than it looked from the outside. We spent the good part of a day there. It is really several different museums under one roof. There is, of course, a museum on the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody but there is also a natural history museum, a museum of Western art, a Plains Indians museum and a firearms museum. There were several other smaller sections, including one on the outlaws of the west. All of them were quite good but I’d have to say we enjoyed the Western Art museum the most.
The Art Museum has an eclectic view of what Western Art is and had paintings from the 1700’s and 1800’s as well as contemporary works that included Indian artists. It was mostly paintings but there were a large number of sculptures too. They had the largest collection of Remington bronzes I’ve every seen as well as a whole room devoted to Remington’s drawings and paintings. The West is core part of American mythology and most of the pieces acknowledged or played to that fact. Susan and I haven’t had good luck at art museums up until now, but we enjoyed this one a lot. I think we stopped and looked at every piece there.
The firearms museum was dauntingly large. It was intended to be as complete a collection as possible of all models of all guns made primarily by American manufacturers but also included some European manufacturers as well. There was display case after display case after display case of guns. I imagine that a collector or gun expert could see and understand the subtle differences between what looked to us to be identical guns, but it was hard for us to seem them. Interesting in its own way, but a bit overwhelming.
We entered through what we thought was the main entrance (it was, after all, right next to the parking lot) but it was really a side entrance that brought us first to the Natural History museum. We got a brochure with a map, but the map wasn’t detailed and just indicated which section was approximately where so it took us a while to figure out where we were and how to get to the rest of the center. Once we’d done this one of the first things we ran across was a live demonstration of a Chuck Wagon and its history which was a lot of fun.
When we first went in, the person selling us the admission tickets said that they were good for two days. We didn’t understand why they’d do that, but once we got an idea of just how big the Center was, it made sense. If we had more time we would have come back so and gotten a better look at some of the sections.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center was excellent and worth a trip to Cody just to see it. We would give it an A for handicap accessibility since we had no trouble, other than getting tired from the sheer size of the place, getting into any of the museums and other sections.
Glacier National Park was a bit out of our way since it was about a day’s drive each way from our route on I-90 but we didn’t know when we’d back in the area so it seemed like it would be worthwhile to visit it while we could.
From our campground in Forks, which is on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula we drove first to Port Angeles on the northern side and then south into the Olympic National Park. On the way to Port Angeles we kept driving in and out of fog and when we drove up to Hurricane Ridge we were in dense clouds for most of the way. The clouds were so dense and the visibility so poor at times that I had to drop our speed to 20 MPH to make sure I didn’t hit anybody in front of us. A couple of miles before we reached the Visitor’s Center on Hurricane Ridge we finally drove up out of the clouds into sunshine.
There was a paved nature path near the Visitor’s Center that I took with Susan. It went through a meadow that was in bloom and then by some vista points where we could look in different directions over the park. Even though it was August at one point there was still a large patch of snow next to the nature path we were on. Unfortunately, much of the view below us was still blocked by clouds and that included Mount Olympus itself. We took our time however, and were rewarded when the clouds started to break, giving us a great view of Mount Olympus.
The Visitor’s Center was pretty crowded but it was the weekend. There were signs next to the nature paths telling people that the habitat was fragile and asking people to stay on the paths but there were a lot of people who thought those signs didn’t mean them. A deer was in the meadow about 50 feet off the path and I saw a half dozen people walk over and try to get as close as they could to take a photo.
The view was beautiful from Hurricane Ridge and it was a pretty drive there despite the fog and clouds so we are glad we went. We would give the Visitor’s Center a B for handicap accessibility. It was nice that the nature paths were paved but we couldn’t go all that far because they became much too steep for us so we can only give the nature paths a C-.