Roaming in Wyoming

2 Oct

What we did not take into consideration is that Parks have boundary’s which geography does not, and scenery on the drive from Yellowstone east to Cody came as a surprise to us. The rock formations shaped by wind and water fascinated us and again many pictures were taken. We had lunch beneath towering cliffs beside a river hoping nothing fell on us.

The wind had been blowing steadily since we left Yellowstone but along this section it was buffeting us regularly. Early in the afternoon we passed Cody reservoir and dam and questioned why it was labelled an historic site. On entering the town of Cody we gathered information and checked in to the campground. Snow and overnight lows still forecast we opted for a 50amp site to enable us to keep warm with both our heaters however at this time the sun was still shining and bad weather looked a long way off.

Cody is named after its famous “son” Buffalo Bill Cody, not being cowboy enthusiasts we thought we should educate ourselves and visit the very smart looking museum named after him in town. Our information had revealed why the dam was an historic site, built in the early 1900’s its design ideas were used for the Hoover Dam and as Robert is always fascinated by any engineering project we decided that it would go on tomorrows list for a visit too.

Sometimes the weather forecast is wrong, and sometimes it is correct, the heavy clouds which arrived with daylight quickly covered a short glimpse of sunlight and the strong winds brought driving rain which got more and more persistent as we neared the dam. The car park seemed a long way from the front door and we were just contemplating getting a drenching when a golf buggy trundled towards us and a very wet gentleman offered us a lift, he was the courtesy transport. We had not realised today was the last day of the opening season for the visitor centre; it looked like being a quiet one!

We watched a film which told of the ups and downs of attempting to build the dam in very difficult conditions the final ‘bucket’ of cement being tipped on January 16th1910 at a temperature of minus 10 centigrade. As usual the social history fascinated me, letters written between William Cole the chief engineer and his wife and family gave a very personal insight into the sacrifices made and the conditions endured by him and the men who worked to build the structure.

Our friendly guide drove us back to the car park the rain still lashing down and we drove back into Cody to hopefully dry out in the Buffalo Bill Centre. The entrance fee of $15 each however changed our minds, we wanted to get on the road to Thermopolis before the weather worsened and did not feel we had the time to do the entrance fee justice.

The electronic temperature display in town had dropped 3 degrees since we passed it in the morning and the rain was fast turning to snow, at 3pm we were on the road south and east but it being high and flat meant within a short distance the windscreen was all but covered with wet snow, thankfully it was not settling on the road. By the time we reached the campground in Thermopolis it had changed back to rain, we checked in and put the heaters on hoping the snow was not going to be too heavy overnight.

What a difference a day makes… the sky was higher and far more promising and before too long glimmers of sunshine were visible, however at 9am it was still only 4 degrees centigrade. Thermopolis is a town of hot springs and our campground had its own pool, Robert took trunks and a towel and went for a hot ‘dip’…yes at 4 degrees..

We went to visit the Wyoming dinosaur museum before leaving town and I have to admit I was not too sure after the Museum of the Rockies information overload. We found the Thermopolis museum explained the evolution process in much easier language for us to follow, the exhibits of fossils found both locally and further afield illustrated the text in a way which kept us interested enough to stay nearly two hours. One of the young technicians stopped to chat to us in his lunch hour and we discussed how the bones were removed from the rocks they were found in and delicately cleaned. I was interested in the learning process for him as a technician and what happened if he made a mistake, he related an incident which had happened to him the day before when he had ‘dropped’ a piece of fossil on the floor, it smashed into lots of pieces which he proceeded to put back together as best he could (they use super glue).

Driving out of town and further south the mountains were coated with snow, some areas obviously thicker than others, our drive took us through the Wind River Canyon where roadside markers show the age of the various rock formations which have been revealed as the water has worn away the rock layers earlier folded and heaved with the forces of the earths evolution.

Our destination of Riverton is a convenient overnight location only, our next section of journey we hope will take us through areas travelled by the settlers on the road to Oregon and their new lives in the west, we are travelling in the opposite direction to them however, east towards Casper.

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