Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cody, Part the Third

On Saturday we rested. By this I mean I sat around and did nothing while Paul did chores around his motorhome. The women… well, I really have no idea what the women did, but they didn't bother me about it, so that was fine. And so all was well with the world until about three o'clock in the afternoon when it was universally agreed that we were bored and something needed to be done about it, so we drove out the South Fork Road.

Along South Fork Road
More scenery
That would be the South Fork of the Shoshone River which supplies the water required to make this area a viable farm and ranch land rather than a stinking desert. The North Fork of the Shoshone River provides most of the water, having been dammed back in the first decade of the 20th century. Originally called the Shoshone Dam, it was at the time the tallest dam in the world and kind of served as a feasibility study for the Hoover dam which was built some 20 years later. The dam was later renamed the Buffalo Bill Dam because everything around here is named after him in one way or another. The South Fork continues to run unimpeded along its length and is apparently where the well-to-do have their ranch houses.

South Fork Road winds for 40 miles through what would've been a quite scenic valley if we had not just driven the Beartooth Highway. As it was, we were a bit blasé about it, but as you can see, it really is lovely. Some of the houses were damned impressive as well but no one invited us inside for drinks. We
A maybe moose
saw a few animals… a pronghorn, a couple of deer and one very far away dark shape that was alleged to have been a moose. Unfortunately, I did not have my long lens with me, nor did we bring any binoculars but what the heck, here's a blurry photograph of something that might be a moose. Anyway, that's Ruth's story and she's sticking with it.

Sunday it was back to the old tourist grind. We took a drive south to see Thermopolis, a town built around what is allegedly the largest Hot Spring in the world (unless you talk to somebody from New Zealand who will tell you different). The site was sacred to several bands of Indians who eventually relinquished ownership on the condition that access to the baths would forever be available free of charge. So there is now a public bath at Hot Springs State Park which is free as well as two commercial facilities with water slides and cooler pools in addition to the hot baths. We had all brought our bathing suits to try out the supposed healing properties of the public mineral bath but there were a couple of problems. First of all, the air temperature was in the high 90s which made climbing into the 105° mineral pool considerably less inviting than it would have seemed in say, October. The second problem was the overwhelming smell of sulfur coming off the pool. We all agreed that it was an interesting place but we were not going to be bathing there.

One interesting feature of Hot Springs State Park is Teepee Fountain. It started out life as a metal teepee (actually a pyramid about 5 feet on a side at the base) back in the early 20th century and water from the Hot Springs was piped to the top and allowed to flow down over the metal plates. As the water evaporated, minerals in the water precipitated out layer by layer until today the teepee looks like this:
Teepee Fountain

Supersaurus and friends
The only other point of interest in Thermopolis is the Wyoming Dinosaur Center which we went ahead and visited mostly out of pity. "Aww... make the locals feel better by visiting their cute little fossil collection."   Well, it turned out to be a pretty kick ass museum. Certainly the largest collection of articulated fossil skeletons I had ever seen. They also had a progression of fossils following the history of life on earth from the slime molds forward. If you're ever in the area, don't miss it, particularly if you have kids or grandkids along.

Sylvan Lake, Yellowstone Park
The following morning, Paul and Ruth packed up their belongings, hooked up their car and headed west towards Yellowstone. We followed along as far as Sylvan Lake, just inside the eastern entrance to the park. Here we stopped and had a picnic lunch in a lovely setting except for the flies, which were the size of hummingbirds and were able to drain a pint of blood out of you in less time than it takes to whistle Dixie.  Ah, the miracles of nature. Vicki and I then turned back to Cody where we were spending one extra day because we got it free for staying the full week. We spent it mostly going through bills and other largely obnoxious mail we had received while there. We were planning to try and have our service forward mail to us about once a week, but so far nothing particularly good has arrived so we may be tempted to space deliveries out a little more.  Bad news can wait.

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