Lazy Acres Campground to Ryan Park Campground, Snowy Range, Medicine Bow National Forest, WY
Friday, August 18, 2006 … 43 Camper Miles – Total 5,565
Mostly sunny, clouds in late pm, high 70s in lower elevations, low 60s in higher elevations
We headed just a few miles north, passing through Saratoga, WY, and noticed signs for a festival and bull ride so we decided to spend the weekend in the area. We asked for camping recommendations at the local Visitor Center and were directed to the nearby Medicine Bow National Forest office. They told us the particulars about the Snowy Range area of the forest and we drove the few miles up Scenic SR-130 to the Ryan Park campground and set up the camper.
We then jumped back into the car to continue into the Snowy Range. What an unusual mountain … it is white! The mountain’s rock is mainly quartz and that accounts for the color. We quickly got above the tree line for a clear view of the mountains. We first stopped and walked the Miner’s Trail, past the abandoned Red Mask gold mile.
Then it was off to the Shelf Lakes Trail. We called the next few miles of hiking our “Hike of 15 Lakes”. This is a marvelously beautiful area and we counted 15 separate Alpine lakes that we either walked along or could see. The trail’s elevation was nearly 11,000 feet so we noticed a certain shortness of breath. At this elevation it also wasn’t surprising to find many patches of snow still on the ground. And, with all the moisture, there were lots of wildflowers including several that were new to us. We felt almost naked, though, while we walked. It seemed that we were almost the only folks without fly-fishing rods. Virtually everyone who comes here went from lake to lake to stream doing their best to snag a couple of the many trout that inhabit these waters.
There were a couple of campgrounds at the higher elevations but one was closed for renovations and the other was full. Driving back to Ryan Park campground, however, it was still only 20% full. We made a tasty dinner of Moroccan Chicken with green beans.
Ryan Park Campground
Saturday, August 19, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 5,565
Mid 70s, mostly sunny, threat of rain late pm
This morning we drove back up to the closed campground at Silver lake and hiked the Meadows Falls Trail returning to Silver Lake, itself. It was a pretty hike through meadows and woods, passing a small waterfall and several ponds and lakes. Afterwards, we washed up and went in to Saratoga for the weekend festivities.
Saratoga has a small but prosperous downtown that is oriented toward tourism. There are several antique and gift shops and a few restaurants including the highly regarded Wolf Hotel. We’ve heard that the Saratoga area is becoming a popular area for the wealthy to build homes and that seems to be reflected in the dinner selections at the hotel.
Next stop was the town’s annual Brew Fest and Chili Cook Off. The event was held in a park that is actually a small island on the river that flows through town. For a modest entry fee, several local eateries offer samples of their red or green chili dishes and about eight local micro-breweries offer their wares for tasting. There was a local band (from California) providing entertainment. It was a nice affair for a small town and was a well-attended, social affair without too many tourists. We sampled the chili but passed on the brew because we had too much driving to do.
Leaving the Fest, we looked over the town’s municipal campground at Saratoga Lake. At $10 for a campsite with electric on a lake it is quite a deal. No shade but not bad!
Finally, we headed to the annual Bullfest at Buck Springs. We drove a couple of miles out the dirt road from town to the location. We arrived about 6:15 and were concerned that no one would be there. But the place filled up by 7:30 when the bull rides started. In our opinion, people who ride bulls are crazy! It was fun, but a little scary to watch and we had a good time watching, eating and talking to Judy & Gary, a couple of fellow campers from Missouri.
Ryan Park Campground to Lander City Park, Lander, WY
Sunday, August 20, 2006 … 190 Camper Miles – Total 5,755
50 deg in camper in am, mostly sunny, mid 80s
Last night we heard some kind of animal messing about with the trash cans near our campsite. We found some spilled trash but not too much of a mess. We broke camp and were on the road by 9:30. However, when we did our usual camper light check we found that the right turn signal didn’t work. Bill saw that the bulb was burned out and we stopped at a truck stop and bought a replacement bulb. Unfortunately, that didn’t fix the problem! NOW what’s wrong? We decided to continue toward the Grand Tetons, using secondary highways as usual and attend to the problem later. The driving started out flat and straight and transitioned through low hills toward mountains. It was a mostly dry and brown landscape.
We decided to spend the night in Lander, WY. They had a good hardware store that was open Sunday and free camping nearby in a city park. We were able to set up next to a stream under the shade of a tree. How could we turn that down? It was an ideal place for Bill to troubleshoot the camper’s turn signal problem. He worked for several hours, eventually determining that the car’s turn signal/brake light converter had died. One final trip to the hardware store for a replacement and all was well!
The park was pretty well deserted in the late afternoon, so we donned our bathing suits and took showers behind the camper. We needed to do laundry so we next headed to the local laundromat. Afterwards, we made a trip through the car wash and stopped at a sidewalk table next to the local bookstore (closed for the night) to rip off their WiFi for e-mail. A local Mexican restaurant beckoned so we stopped there for dinner. The food was so-so and the service fair but it got the job done. We returned to the camper and called it a night.
Lander City Park to Cody, WY
Monday, August 21, 2006 … 205 Camper Miles – Total 5,960
Clear, sunny, low 90s
Sinks Canyon State Park is in Lander and is supposed to be one of the more interesting parks in the state. So, we headed there after breakfast. In the park, a fairly large mountain stream flows down a beautiful canyon only to disappear into a cave (the “sink”). The river reappears as a huge spring about a half-mile down the canyon (the “rise”). It takes a couple of hours for water to make the underground trip and it increases in volume and temperature during it’s apparently torturous passage. In the “rise” pool there is a large school of huge trout. It was an interesting place.
Returning to the city park, we hitched up the camper and headed up toward Yellowstone National Park only to be waylaid once again! Our first stop was in Riverton. The attraction, here, was a very special health food store that marketed directly to people, like Sandy, who need to eat a gluten-free diet. It was a small store but had a wonderful inventory. The woman who owns and operates it has Celiac Disease and so does her husband and all three of her children. Sandy was able to stock up on several hard-to-find items.
From there we continued on the scenic route toward Yellowstone NP. We were on US-20 through the beautiful Wind River Canyon north of Shoshoni. Along that drive we noticed that the next town, with the curious name of Thermopolis, claimed to have the world’s largest hot spring enshrined in a state park in town. Should we stop? You bet!
We pulled into the State Park and took a pleasant walk along the hot springs. The spring has formed huge, natural terraces and the state has built wooden walkways so that you can traverse the terraces and not do any damage to them or to yourself. At the end of the walkway is a suspension bridge across the Big Horn River. The reason for the bridge seems a mystery until you turn to look back and see the wonderful formations that the spring water has built up along the river’s edge. Back on the spring side, you find the main spring, itself, which is huge!
In the park area below the spring are several “baths” which offer indoor and outdoor mineral hot pools and baths. Most of these operations are commercial and cater to families or are resort hotels that offer patrons hot mineral baths. We chose, however, to bathe at the newly reconstructed state bath which is both beautiful and FREE! You get to choose indoor or outdoor pools. There is a 20-minute limit which, at 104 degrees, is all you can take, anyway. There are superb showers where we rinsed off at least some of the sulphrous aroma before heading on our way.
From Thermopolis, we continued to Cody, a very pretty drive. Along the way we were driving at our usual “stately” pace of about 55 mph when we were passed by a minivan pulling an Aliner camper nearly identical to ours … a really unusual occurrence! We decided to spend a full day in Cody so we chose a nice campground right in town, only a couple of blocks from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 5,960
Clear, sunny, mid 90s
We took advantage of the campground showers, had breakfast and used the campground’s WiFi to take care of e-mail and finances. We also chatted with campground neighbors Roy & Laurie from Alberta, CA. They were on their way to Yellowstone, too, for a week in one of the campgrounds near the Yellowstone Lake.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is quite a place. Yeah, it sounds a bit corny but Bill Cody shaped much of the country’s popular perception of the western US. The center actually consists of five museums of which we thoroughly toured two, the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum, which told of the life and influence of Cody and his Wild West Show, and we toured the Plains Indian Museum, which told of the lives of the Plains Indians and how they fared as the west was settled by “white man’s” immigration from the east.
Between museums we patronized the Sierra Trading Post Outlet a block down the street. They had lots of really good stuff and reasonable prices but nothing we needed. What a disappointment! After we’d had our fill of museums for the day, we took the drive up to Buffalo Bill Dam. This dam was the world’s first curved dam and, at 295 ft above the Shoshone River, was the tallest in the world when it was built.
One of the popular attractions in town is the nightly shoot-out at Bill Cody’s Irma Hotel. Locals perform a light-hearted, shoot-out drama on the street and donate chair rental contributions to local charities. The Irma, where they perform, is quite historic and popular. Cody named the hotel after his daughter. It still features the beautiful, cherry bar that was given to Bill Cody as a gift from Queen Victoria.
Since there was a Wal Mart nearby, we made a grocery run and returned to camp about 8:00. Dinner was burgers and a salad.