We made an early start from Moran back into Oxbow Bend, hoping to catch sunrise before the crowds arrived. Despite getting there at 6.30am, there were already a dozen cars in the small lay by, all hoping to catch a sight of a grizzly bear or other wildlife in the cooler early morning breeze.
Wrapped up in hoodies we waited around for a few minutes, admiring some swans that drifted by. With no sign of bears and lacking the elevation to appreciate the Oxbow we headed around the corner and sent LARS out for some photos. After a long flight through low cloud we got some great shots of the full aspect of the river which just wouldn’t have been possible from the ground.
With the car loaded we drove north out of the Grand Teton park and back into Yellowstone National Park. Having driven in through West Yellowstone, passed Old Faithful, this time we took the eastern road to West Thumb Geyser on the shores of Lake Yellowstone.
Like the Grand Prismatic Geyser the night before, West Thumb consisted of dozens of geysers, some bubbling light grey mud and two larger geysers featuring incredible shades of blue and orange. A long boardwalk meanders between all the geysers, allowing you to get photos from different angles, including of several under the water in the shallows Lake Yellowstone.
During drier years these geysers are above the water line but after substantial snow falls over winter, this year the level of Lake Yellowstone has kept them submerged. We stopped and chatted to the local ranger who talked us through the formation. He also noted that the geysers at West Thumb are sporadic, having only erupted eight times in the past eight years – as such we wouldn’t be waiting around.
Our drive through Yellowstone continued around the Lake side, occasionally you could smell a whiff of sulphur from the geysers. After nearly an hour we exited the East Gate and hit the road to Cody.
As you enter Cody you pass the impressive Buffalo River Dam, darting through a series of tunnels in the mountains to arrive at the historic cowboy town of Cody, Wyoming.
We knew nothing about Cody, apart from seeing the Old Trail Town museum listed as a place to visit – had we done more research we’d have discovered that Cody is bustling with things to do and well worth at least a day or two’s stay.
Our first stop was the Old Town Trail, a small private museum featuring original wood buildings and artefacts from across the region which have been acquired to preserve some of the history of the Wild West.
Entrance was $9 and worth every penny as you walk around the small ‘town’ which is laid out with houses, a school, stores and even a saloon that was frequented by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s clear that without the intervention of this museum all this historic buildings and their contents would have been lost forever.
For Jamie it was the first time he’d ever handled a gun but with the diligent guidance of our Range Safety Officer we each selected a handgun and rifle. Jamie opted for two historical guns, a 45 colt army revolver from 1873, the same type used by Col. George Custer and the 7th Cavalry and a Winchester 1866 breach loading lever rifle called a Golden Boy.
Having been shooting before, I opted for a Glock 17 9mm, a modern handgun popular with police and an AR-15 223/.555 armoured rifle used by hunters and military.
After a thorough safety briefing we went into the indoor range and took turns shooting at a target. The first thing you notice is how loud and heavy the guns are and also just how much kick they have – especially Jamie’s historic guns.
Despite never having shot before, and not having the benefit of a laser sight, Jamie probably just won on the target shooting. Apparently we were both naturals with every round we fired clustered in the central four rings.
With the adrenaline pumping we headed for some lunch at a local diner a planned our afternoon. Unfortunately our planned route to Little Big Horn the next morning meant we could to stay to take in a rodeo – we’d have to try and find out further down our journey. If you get a chance to visit Cody, it’s definitely worth staying a night and taking in a rodeo show.
Just outside of town we stopped at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Museum. Again we wished we’d allowed more time here as the massive museum complex featured half a dozen exhibits on the life of William Cody (Buffalo Bill), Native Americans, Natural Wildlife, a photography exhibitions and more.
From Cody we took the long and winding road north east to Sheridan. We were again held up by roadworks and variable speed limits meaning we didn’t arrive in town until early evening. Food options and entertainment were limited in Sheridan so after a quick dinner we headed back to the hotel for an early night.