Cowboy Country! - Colorado and Wyoming

Trip Start Apr 17, 2011
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Trip End Jul 20, 2011


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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Sunday, June 12, 2011

We seem to be constantly behind with our blog, at the moment I think about 6 days behind where we actually are. On leaving the Arches National Park our route took us along the river valley of the Colorado with the river nearly at flood level, & I think Kathy may have mentioned that drive as well. We headed for Denver and for much of the day were in desert country at a high elevation and in the course of the route dropped probably several thousand feet. The views and formations were spectacular and after initially being in red rock, then were very light coloured, more like limestone but in different sorts of formations than we might see in SA.  As we thought that we were going to arrive at our destination in mid afternoon we decided after lunch to take an alternative route through mountains that would be more scenic. Well it certainly was, and we didn't get to our destination until after 7.30pm. Our route took us through the small city of Aspen in the Colorado mountains where we took time to see (the hard to find) John Denver memorial alongside what we think was the upper reaches of the Rio Grande River. We then travelled through snow country on a road that made the Greenhill Rd look gentle and good. Magnificent scenery though. At the top we stopped at the snow covered Continental Divide at a spot called Independence Pass. Very cold, though sunny. We still had along way to go for our night accommodation and we actually made a mistake about where it was so went to the wrong town & had to back track before travelling further. We spent that night at a town called Dillon.

The next day we headed for Denver, and in particular a spot just before Denver that I had wanted to see. It is an outdoor natural rock amphitheatre that many years ago was set up with seating and made into an outdoor entertainment venue that seats over 9,000 people. It is called The Red Rock Amphitheatre and there were a lot of visitors, as well as people on stage preparing for a concert, that it turned out was being held that night. So after booking in to our room at Denver which was over 1/2 an hour away we returned at night for some of the youth concert and the film "Footloose'. From the theatre seats you could see Denver in the distance and it is quite a Denver iconic facility. So now we have been re-introduced to some of the ways of the young! All in all a good day & night.

The next morning we went to the Denver museum which we had been told was really worthwhile and then after lunch there, drove on to a place called Estes Park which is in the Rocky Mountains National Park, still in Colorado. We stayed in what was probably the crummiest looking, and possibly the cheapest, motel/hotel in the town, but it was quite good for the 2 nights that we were there. (Most accomodation was very expensive.)  We even had a microwave & fridge.

The National Park was lovely. Lots of mountains of course, snow, fast creeks & rivers and wild life. Included were deer, elks, caribou, a moose, squirrels which are common in USA, chipmunks, and occasional other critters. We loved the place. In particular the day we left and the road that we travelled called the Mountain Ridge Road. It had only been open for a few days and at some places the snow was about 10 feet or more high at the side of the road. It is the highest paved mountain road in North America and took us over 12,000 feet I think. Our route out took us through steep mountainous roads alongside snow and in view of even higher mountains & we loved it.

Our aim that day was to reach friends who live in the south of Wyoming in a little place called Encampment. We arrived in good time just as our host was going off to a prayer meeting regarding the flood threat to the next town of Saratoga. So we went with her & saw not only the other parts of the towns but the flood threat situation as well. (The flood was supposed to peak at 4pm that day and flood many areas of the town - but thankfully our prayers were answered and it didn't flood that day!) All through these areas we have been surprised at the racing waters in the creeks & rivers yet we learned that the snow fall is up to 3 times as much as usual. We couldn't understand why the water level in most lakes was so low. On asking I discovered that the water has been let out to make way for the snow melt to try and avoid flooding as spring & summer move in.  Anyway the next full day with our friends Cindy & David (& their 2 boys), we caught up on laundry and some local sight seeing & later they took us further out to some of their favourite spots. We were going out for dinner and it turned out that the most direct route road we needed to travel (through a high mountain pass) had been open a couple of hours before we used it so it was another drive through snow and very pretty. We had a great meal and on the return & quite late, we stopped at another pub or restaurant as they wanted to serve us a special  treat - Rocky Mountain Oysters. We had our suspicions about what it was going to be, but were surprised when it came out as a sort of deep fried (in batter) crispy nibble thing. We ate along with our hosts before they confessed that the "treat" was what we had guessed. It was actually bull's testicles, sliced & deep fried, very crispy. Certainly better presented than round 'things' that we were anticipating.  Probably best described as small beef slices, deep fried. And better than some of the deep fried insects that you get at roadside stalls in Thailand and other parts of Asia!

We left our friends who had been overwhelmingly hospitable on Saturday and headed for a long drive to Mt Rushmore in South Dakota. We had a late lunch at a place called Guernsey which has some very interesting places of significance. In the early wagon train days they were hampered by the big river and had to go over a decent sized hill to avoid it and continue on.  At one point many of them inscribed their names & the date in limestone cliffs & names now date from the late 1700's to present day graffiti-ists. But there are many through the 1800's that are quite visible.The other place of interest nearby was the route that the wagon trains took along the limestone hill. Their steel wheels wore away the soft limestone and the roadway is entrenched in the hill to a depth of 4 feet or so as one after the other followed the same track before coming out on the plains and going their various ways. 

 I am still surprised by the number of usually, very long trains that we are seeing, with up to 5 locomotives pulling & pushing them. We eventually reached the mountain area we were seeking. The first point of call was at the mountain where there is a big project which has been going for many years to honour the American Indians. A mountain sculpture is being created which is of Chief Crazy Horse riding his horse. Whilst it is a work in progress it will be amazing when finished, and there is an excellent Indian interpretive Centre etc there. It will be very much bigger than the Mt Rushmore sculptures when finished. 

We were again late getting to our motel so had to rush back to Mt Rushmore without having tea to see the talk & film before the lights are put on the President's faces every night.  As the short talk from a Ranger and then a film were shown to probably almost 2000 of us a thunder storm came from behind the mountain, and it all looked great as the lightning flashes lit up the mountain. But then the storm came and we all got soaked. So my first impressions of Mt Rushmore was that it was a rush to get there and a rush to leave. However we returned this morning to enjoy it in sunshine and at relative leisure before heading off again.

Today we almost crossed the whole state of Wyoming after leaving Colorado and the Mt Rushmore area. Once again a lot of driving and we were surprised and delighted by the magnificent countryside that we travelled through. One particular spot was 'Deadwood' and it was a real old historic cowboy town deep in a mountain valley. I remembered the Doris Day song about ..the Deadwood stage is a coming on over the hill... and Kathy found it on Google & even got the song from the film "Calamity Jane". The town has a lot of Wild Bill Hickock history and we stopped in the Visitor Centre for a while but had to move on. Tonight we have been in an historic town called Cody. We had dinner in Buffalo Bill Cody's original hotel and then went to the Cody Night Rodeo which is an historic feature of the town. Excellent food and a fun night out. We are only about 50 miles from Yellowstone National Park where we will spend tomorrow.
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Comments

Wendy on

Hi Max and Kathy, appears you are having a great time! Photos are great.
Stay safe and stop "Rush"ing around in the rain......

Peg on

Hi there - hey you should bring that Stag Horn Chair home - can imagine it out back at Summertown and Honey "çlimbing in and out of it'" - great scenery and what wonderful memories? Look forward to next installment
Peg XXXX

mnkschultz
mnkschultz on

Hi Peg, that stag/elk horn chair was funny! I actually think it would be VERY uncomfortable to sit in! We saw lots of elk, deer and bison heads mounted on walls all over Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Hunting is obviously a popular passtime! We didn't make it to Jackson (a town south of the Grand Tetons) but I hear they have a huge archway made of elk horns there.

mnkschultz
mnkschultz on

Hi Wendy, thanks for the note. We are having a great time - in fact, we have taken your advice - we have taken a couple of days to rest a bit at Banff, Canada. The weather has been wet, but it's almost 10pm now and the sun is still out and I'm looking out a large picture window up to snowy mountain tops that are golden from the suns last rays. I wish I could take a photo to do it justice! Hope things are going well for you. I'll talk to you when I get back in late July.

Take care, Kathy

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