After our fun visit from Sean, Kailyn and Brady, we headed over to Baker’s Hole National Forest Service campground in Montana just outside of West Yellowstone. Of course, the weather turned perfect and sunny right after the kids left! We snagged a great site and stayed for a couple of days ($14 a night, with electricity, senior rate), enjoying the hiking along the river and on the ski trails in the area. It was very relaxing.
Next we drove the Bear through Yellowstone Park from the west entrance to the east entrance. We wanted to spend a week or so in Cody, Wyoming and the closest spot we could get was in Wapiti Campground which is another National Forest Service campground. We got an absolutely perfect campsite! We could not believe our luck. Most of the sites are first come-first serve, and fortunately for us our site had become available just before we drove up. This campground, and particularly our site, had everything we desire – electricity, total privacy, no road noise at all, a rushing river behind us, birds singing, a gentle warm breeze rustling through the trees, and no bugs! All this for only $10 a night (senior rate).
We were about a 30 minute drive away from Cody, but we didn’t mind the distance because the drive was so scenic and pleasant.
The Buffalo Bill State Park surrounds the reservoir of the Buffalo Bill Dam. The Visitor Center at the Dam had a fascinating video presentation on the colorful history and building of the dam. It was the tallest dam in the world when it was completed in 1910 and is a National Civil Engineering Landmark.
We made the trip into Cody often and had a great time in this historic western cowboy town. Mike enjoyed the bison steak during our dinner at the Wyoming Rib and Chop House. One of our trips to town coincided with the Independence Day Kids Parade, and Arts and Craft Fair at the park.
We particularly enjoyed the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It took us a full two days to tour this amazing place which is described as the “Smithsonian of the West” and it was time and money well spent. It is actually 5 separate and distinct museums under one roof, with over 50,000 artifacts. We learned all about Bill Cody’s life in the Buffalo Bill Museum. Mike saw the largest collection of firearms in the world in the Cody Firearms Museum. The Whitney Western Art Museum was so much more than amazing art. All the exhibitions and history made each piece come to life. The first museum we toured was the Plains Indian Museum which so beautifully and movingly depicted the lives and legends of the Plains Indian people. The Draper Natural History Museum brought to life the power and beauty of the Yellowstone region. We attended several of the special presentations put on at various times throughout the day. Always a favorite of ours is seeing the live raptor show. We also attended a bear safety and survival presentation, and enjoyed the chuck wagon cooking demo. We heartily recommend visiting the Center of the West if you visit Cody. Just be sure to allow plenty of time to fully appreciate all there is to see here.
The main reason we wanted to be in Cody at this time was for the 95th Annual Cody Stampede Rodeo on July 1-4. This is not to be confused with the nightly amateur rodeo that is put on throughout the summer. The Stampede Rodeo is the real deal. With a $400,000 purse and attracting the top cowboys in the country, it is one of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys of America’s (PRCA) largest rodeos in the nation. I was motivated to get a cowboy hat for this event!
The night before the Rodeo starts is an annual event for only bull riders, called the Bull Stampede. In addition to the announcer providing interesting background info on each rider and bull, this professional arena has a large screen which gave instant replay and final scores after each ride. It was so much fun to get caught up in the moment and cheer like crazy for the cowboys that were from any of my favorite places. And the rodeo clown kept us all laughing throughout the evening. I’m not a big fan of clowns, but this guy was a standup comedian. So funny. The beer might have helped. (Actually, I don’t drink beer. It was Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It works on the funny bone the same way.)
The opening night of the Stampede Rodeo was even more exciting. They had lots of entertainment – from the emotional opening ceremony with the veterans, police and firefighters, to the horseback drill team and their choreography. At the mid-break we were treated to a performance by the EhCapa Bareback Riders of Idaho. This is a group of kids (looked like mostly girls) ages 8-19 whose style of riding is reminiscent of Native Americans. They ride without saddles or bridles and only control the horse with their legs, voice, and a 1-inch leather strap around the horse’s neck. They wear beautiful handmade Native American clothing. Their performance included choreographed riding and jumping over barriers with up to 16 across. It was beautiful and impressive!
So glad we scheduled 9 days near Cody. We could have easily stayed longer. But we needed to get over to Jackson Hole for our 13-yr-old grandson Garrett’s arrival. He will be touring with us for a month, and we’ve so many things on our plan. Much more fun to follow!