We had of course visited Wyoming before...but it was a brief skirmish, and the majority of the time had been in the north of the state in Yellowstone on our first roam with Big Henry, back in October 2014. This time we planned to really do some more in depth exploring.
Heading north from Lyons we soon crossed from Colorado into Wyoming and then after fuelling up in Laramie headed further west to a park that had been recommended to us. Back on I80 the heading to Rawlins and then onto Sinks Canyon State Park. The road is very busy with trucks again and suddenly the temperature has dropped from yesterday’s 81’F. to 41’F with hail, snow and torrential rain! A good day for driving and a new Audiobook - the second in the Amos Decker series by David Baldacci. The Blonde heard about 10% in between napping! The scenery is wide open plains with flat cattle grazing land for most of the way. About 80 miles south of Lander the rock formations that ran parallel to the road were stunning. Split Rock historic site...just a pity it was too wet to get out and explore.
We arrive at Sinks Canyon State Park late afternoon and were lucky to find a flattish site with a great view of the cascading Popo Agie River, as the campground is quite busy. It’s too wet to go outfor a hike this evening, so we’ve made Thai curry, drunk green tea (The Blonde had a delivery of Sencha tea from Japan on Friday - she's missed it since we left Australia), and chilled out.
Our campsite @ Sinks Canyon State Park
Wednesday 23 May, 2018 - At this point of the Middle Fork the Popo Agie River (pronounced Po-po-shuh), a rushing mountain river flows out of the Wind River mountains and through Sinks Canyon. Halfway down the canyon the river turns and enters a limestone cavern and sinks deep into fissures and cracks...hence of course the name...Sinks Canyon...simple really. It remains underground for a 1/4 mile before re-emerging down the canyon in a large calm pool called “The Rise” before continuing its course down into the valley below. Time to explore!
The Blonde Hiker ready to explore Sinks Canyon.
It’s not really known where the river goes whilst it’s underground as the fissures in the Sinks are log and rock jammed too narrow to be explored but dye has been put into the water flowing into the Sinks and it emerges two hours later at the Rise. It has also been discovered that more water flows out at the Rise than goes down the Sinks! It gets curiouser and curiouser!
The Popo Agie River in full spring melt flood....gurgling!
We are here during the spring run-off and the river was rapid and full. Our camp was close by and we loved the sound of the rushing water throughout the night. The name Popo Agie is a Crow Indian word. There is some confusion about it’s meaning but most people believe it means “gurgling river” for the sound the water makes as it goes underground at the sinks. We stretched our legs and walked along the middle fork of the river and then circled the Nature Trail and headed towards the next camping area. There are views down to the Lander Valley to the east and the Wind River Mountains to the west. There’s an abundance of Arrow Leaf Balsam and we will be seeing lots of this for the next month or so until other wildflowers start to emerge.
The Blonde hiking out on the Nature Trail @ Sinks Canyon
At the Visitor’s Centre we meet the new Ranger who will be working here for the Summer. She was in the process of opening up the cabin, cleaning and putting out bird tables and feeders for the hummingbirds and looking forward to the season. There was a collection of rocks at the entrance from different geological periods. The Blonde is not usually interested in rocks but these did catch her eye and whilst you can’t make chunks of rock look really sexy they were ordered by date with their main features described simply. The Blonde in "anorak mode" again!
After 2 nights at the very pretty Sinks Canyon we head north now on our way to meet up with our dear travel buddies Al & Wanda Thibodeau from Ontario who have taken a detour to come and catch up with us for a few days. On our way we decide to call into Thermopolis town to see thw "World Famous Hot Springs"...not heard of them? Nope neither had we! "Thermopolis" is from the Greek for "Hot City". It is home to numerous natural hot springs, in which mineral-laden waters are heated by geothermal processes. The town claims the world's largest mineral hot spring as part of Hot Springs State Park. Originally part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes sold this land to the United States in 1896 so that the healing waters of Big Horn Hot Springs would be available to the public. The pageant, held annually during the first weekend in August, is a celebration that recreates the signing of this treaty.
Thermopolis...beware the water is hot, hot, hot!
They are more like swimming pools. Some privately owned but the state owned ones were donated by the Indian tribe who wanted them to be enjoyed by the public forever and without any entrance fee. Outside the calcium and sulphur rich water falls gently over petrified cascades. It’s not quite Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone but it is still worth walking around the boardwalks. There is some coloured algae and in the small pools but again, not quite Grand Prismatic Springs! But is a nice walk through the park and a good place to stretch the legs!
The Blonde on the bridge at Thermopolis...
"Smoking Waters" the transaltion from Arapahoe for this area of Wyoming.
The Blonde - It’s 4 years since we first met Al and Wanda at Lake Havasu in California. It was Christmas. We met again in Arizona at Catalina SP, Kartchner Caverns, Patagonia SP, Chiracahua NP and finally City of Rocks, New Mexico. Then in 2016 we headed to their home in Ontario and spent a few days. In the meantime we’ve kept in contact via FaceBook/Messenger and Wanda was super supportive last year when I was in treatment. So it was really really special to meet them again this year. Even more so when I realised that we were a major influence in them travelling at all this year. They drove 4 very long days to meet us at Boisen Reservoir.
Great campsite @ Boisen Reservoir
We’d managed to make the reservations at the campground this morning as we were leaving Sinks Canyon. They have spent a long cold winter with more than average snowfalls. The weather is perfect and so we decide to stay 3 days enjoying the water, the sun, lots of chat. And Wanda can talk food! My favourite subject!!! Al and David talk campers of course and places to travel....I think some new plans are being made!
Another wonderful sunset @ Boisen Reservoir.....
Sunday 27 May - Al & Wanda head out ahead of us and we promise to catch up with them in Cody....but en-route we have to go to.....Petroglyphs!! We have got into way too much trouble looking for rock art in the past! Many of you will remember our classic "bog incident" in Argentina....but yes here we are again at The Blonde's insistence hunting for more. "But these seem well publicized. Not an ill researched Lonely Planet recommendation", says The Blonde. She had picked up a map at Thermopolis on Thursday and there were "actual" road signs on the map...so what could possibly go wrong?!
The Blonde - So we’re goin’ in I said!!! It was GREAT. Some of the best petroglyphs we’ve seen in the US of A. Legend Rock is one of the oldest and best examples of the Dinwoody rock art with nearly 300 individual petroglyphs in a well preserved site.
The Blonde Petroglyph lover.....
There’s only a little graffiti and an easy access pathway with a prickly scrub barrier to keep people back and stop anybody touching or etching.
Dinwoody Petroglyphs are located only in the Big Horn and Wind River Basins west of the Big Horn River. They are always "pecked" and are often of large humanlike figures with headdresses, an unusual amount of toes or fingers, upside down figures, and a pattern of interior lines in the torso. A fabulous gallery with dozens of Anthropomorphs (human-like) and zoomorphs(animal- like).
My favourite was the large Anthropomorph with a honed headdress which is typically considered a symbol of medicine or power among North American Indians. It has relatively realistic feet but the arms are shortened or in the wrong place.
Many of these figures originate or end at cracks in the cliff which many researchers believe indicates a transition from one world to another dimension. We spent over an hour here. I was more enthusiastic of course than The Bear was! But he got to do his stuff later in the day.
Leaving the petroglyphs we head to Cody. Today is Memorial Day. As we pass through the small town of Meteetsee and see the cemetery full of USA flags. It’s quite a sight and we have to go in. All the Veteran’s graves have a flag. It’s a humbling but colourful and respectful vision.
The Blonde - Arriving in Cody by lunchtime we sit in the carpark at Trail Town next to Al and Wanda’s rig - they missed the petroglyphs, had breakfast in Thermopolis and came straight here. It’s a story of the wild west. There are 60 or more reconstructed cabins, gravestones, monuments, chuck, sheep, and settlers wagons collected by a man called Bob Edgar over 30 years from a 30-40 mile radius of Cody. The Bear is really interested, his love of anything associated with the Wild West shines through, and spends a couple of hours here while I wander towards the centre of Cody.
The Bear - Oh my!! Trail Town! Fantastico! I am tortally in my element...as a boy I was fascinated by all things about the Wild West...and yes I am a huge John Wayne fan! So here I am in seventh heaven....
I saw this sign at the entrance ...and bade farewell to The Blonde!
Trail Town Main Street.....
Old West memoribilia in every direction....
....didn't say who it was who shot up the door...I would like to think it was Butch!
Standing at the card table in the bar frequented by the Hole in the Wall Gang.....magical!
The "Hole In The Wall Cabin"...home for Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
The Blonde - There’s a fireworks warehouse nearby. During our visits we’ve seen many of these huge retail outlets but have never explored . Today I go in and ask to take photos. The sales assistant is very happy to let me.
First of all the smell of cordite tickles my nose. Then the massive selection is overwhelming. Just how do you choose?
From the many imaginative and crazy names I don’t know if I’m either in a candy store or an adult sex shop!!! I wander the many aisles with packed shelves and towering stacks of colourful cones, boxes, party sets ranging from over $100 to simpler, cheaper thrills.
There are helpful labels describing the colour, burst as well as warnings of course. It’s a fantasy world and there’s a constant stream of customers.
I drag myself away with 50 or more photos and continue along the main road. I’d noticed a number of colourful bison statues which reminded me of our cows statues at home. I’d intended making a beeline for them but got distracted by other wild west statues, bars and signs.
The Bear now wanted to head to the famous Buffalo Bill Centre of the West but that wasn’t grabbing me this afternoon. I wanted to see the Cody Mural and Museum at Cody Latter Day Saints Church. I remembered the wonderful Cyclorama at the Amish and Mennonite Centre in Ohio. This mural has an interesting story too. Glenn Nielson and his wife Olive came to Montana and then Cody, Wyoming from Canada looking for work during the Great Depression. Glenn ended up founding Husky Oil and became very wealthy. Wanting to put soemthing into the community they donated both time and financial support to the local hospital, housing for nurses, Buffalo Bill Centre of the West and Boy Scouts of America, among many other causes.
As lifelong members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Neilsons got involved with the construction of the first Latter-day Saint chapel in Cody. When the chapel rotunda was completed Glenn Neilson wanted to do something extra by installing a church bell but this wasn’t considered appropriate for LDS churches! Instead paintings of the history of the church was suggested and the artist Edward Grigware was commissioned.
Edward Grigware however was not from the Church of LDS and so he spent months researching and producing pen and ink sketches (which have only just been discovered in the basement of the chapel). His idea to paint a mural showing these historical episodes in between the leaders of the church was approved. But to paint in a dome required a soft pliable medium and he chose Irish Linen. By some ‘miracle’ it was found in a small fabric shop in Montreal while Olive and her husband were on a business trip and the result has to be far more appealing than a bell!
I had a tour with one of the members of the Church, Kay. She was polished and eloquent in her presentation and allowed me time to take photos of the sketches that line the wall on the way into the rotunda and also of the mural itself after the 8 minute recorded “tour” with lights shining on the various elements of the work. In the centre of the room was a first edition Book of Mormon, the book of Latter-day Saints. Outside the rotunda was a small museum showing how the LDS had settled and developed the Bighorn Basin building the Sidon Canal for irrigation and when money became tight many went to earn money building the nearby railroad and contributing to those who stayed to complete the canal. I was surprised not to find any information in the Buffalo Bill Centre of the West about Buffalo Bill relinquishing his water rights to allow the irrigation of this area and ultimately its successful development and settlement.
Tonight we will have a Walmart camp fix in Cody so The Bear can continue to view in the Buffalo Bill Center tomorrow....sadly in the morning Al & Wanda will be moving on, they have only 6 days left on their USA travel insurance and want to go through Idaho back to Canada to visit Craters of the Moon NP...until next time, dear travel buddies!
Great view from the Walmart car park in Cody.