We are so lucky to live in this beautiful country where we are free to roam and explore as we wish. With that in mind, a group of us flew into Billings, Mont. and jumped on a charter bus to go â€œwhere the deer and the antelope play.â€ We headed out via the Beartooth Highway south into Wyoming.
I have always thought there were a lot of switchbacks on the way up to Paradise, but it was nothing compared to the Beartooth. We had an amazing bus driver who was not afraid as we looked over the edge and down thousands of feet. At the summit, we were just over 11,000 feet. The air was bitter cold and thin with heavy wind gusts. We were later to learn that a blizzard was just behind us.
Our first stop on the trip was the Bill Cody Ranch just out of the city of Cody. Here we had a barbecue dinner, rustic cabins built into the woods, horses for trail rides, and the true feeling of a dude ranch. This was home for two nights as we explored the Wild Bill Cody Museum, saw a western music show and enjoyed a rodeo. Wearing our jeans and t-shirts, we felt right in the swing of things.
Our second stop was in Thermopolis in the Wind River Canyon. It was here that we took a float trip down the river. We were given the choice of a gentle float to see the canyon or a true whitewater experience over the rapids. A fun time was had by all. At the end of that experience, we stopped off at Star Plunge, one of several hot springs bathing areas. The water temperature is 168 degrees as it comes out of the ground, and so they cool it down to a pleasant 104 to 128 in the pools. What a wonderful end to a day of water fun.
In the morning, we ventured out on the range to the Legend Rock archaeological site to walk a one-third mile loop which let us see 15 numbered petroglyph panels. Some of the carvings were as much as 11,000 years old. A very good brochure gave explanations of what we were seeing. It would be interesting to have had time to study these more in depth.
That afternoon, we reached Casper and spent some time in the National Historic trail Museum. Here we could follow the pioneers as they converged on Casper and passed over the Platte River. This was the major crossroads of the Western trails. At this point you made your decision to go on the Oregon Trail, the California Trail or the Mormon Trail. Hundreds of thousands of people came through with wagons and horses. Eventually the railroad came along, but Casper remained the central location.
As we headed further south, we came into Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming. Our first stop was the Terry Bison ranch for bison burgers and a train ride out to visit the herd. It was feeding time, and the bison were conditioned to these strange people who give them treats. We were reaching over the sides of the train cars and putting treats onto 14-inch tongues that quickly recoiled and then came back for more. These huge animals were docile while we were feeding from above, but we certainly wouldnâ€™t have wanted to be on the ground with them moving around.
The next morning there was a tour of the city, teaching us even more about the history of the old west and how important this area was to the growth of our great nation. We saw the capitol, which is being renovated, and the train station where the first big steam engines brought those who built the railroad and opened up the west, making it much easier for people to migrate further west to the Gold Rush and the end of the Oregon Trail.
The last stop on our journey was Laramie at 7,500 feet elevation. By now, most of us had acclimated to the higher elevations, but others were having some problems breathing, so we kept long walks to a minimum. We did visit the first territorial prison and learned how they housed prisoners. Certainly nothing like the luxury they have today. It would take an entire column to tell you all about that.
Travel and all that we learn from it is one of the best experiences of life. We are so blessed to be able to do this. Many trips are coming up in the next few months. Sign up now for Treasures of Egypt (May), Iceland, Land of Fire and Ice (July), Alaska cruise on the new Norwegian Bliss (August), Viking River cruise from Prague to Paris and then an add-on to Normandy (September). Keep in touch with Linda Finch at 253-927-8207 or get on the email list at email@example.com.