The days' notes read:
Thursday check out of lodge 2 leave morning of Sept 1- last chance to see Yellowstone; drive 5 hours to buffalo, wy; stay 9-1 in Super 8 Buffalo (2 rooms with 2 beds and sofa each )Head East on US 14/16/20 thru Cody to GreyBull. Stay on 14 to the Tracksite, Shell, etc, At Ranchester, go S/E on I-90 thru Sheridan to Ft Phil Kearny to Buffalo. South on I-25/US87, Exit #299 and turn Right on E Hart St/US 16/90 business. Hotel on the left.US 14, also known as the Bighorn Scenic Byway, is a great way to go. One of three highways that crosses the Bighorn National Forest from east to west, the Bighorn Scenic Byway crosses both rangeland and forest, offering a variety of different scenery from mountain peaks to valley overlooks, sub-alpine meadows to dense forest, and unique landscape features such as craggy limestone outcroppings.
The Bighorn Scenic Byway begins in the city of Shell, Wyoming, ( Red Gulch Dinosaur tracksite - FREE - approximately four miles west of Shell on US Highway 14 to the Red Gulch/Alkali National Back Country Byway turnoff. Head south on the Byway approximately five miles.) and enters the Bighorn National Forest on its western border at Shell Canyon. From there it's just a short drive to the breathtaking beauty of Shell Falls, where one can get a close up view of the falls or take a walk down the interpretive trail. From there the byway zigzags up the mountains while numerous turnouts give chances to stop and appreciate the stunning scenery. The highway levels out at the Antelope Butte Ski area, and then it's on to Granite Pass, the highest point on US 14. north from here it meets up with Highway 14A, (highest elevation US hwy intersection at the Burgess Junction Visitor Center, another stopping spot complete with information, exhibits, interpretive trail. The highway also continues to Twin Buttes, Sibley Lake, Steamboat Rock, and spectacular views of Tongue River Canyon and the Sheridan Valley.
Checkout was fast and easy. "Last chance to see Yellowstone" was a bit more involved emotionally and logistically. We saw the Upper and Lower Falls on Yellowstone River, but did not get up at 5am for a chance of seeing a rainbow over the water. Whichever Fall we came to first, the boys saw a sign about a trail, and wanted to go down it. I "almost" let them, but then Bob decided to walk it with them. I can't remember why now, but I was upset about that decision, though it turned out to be a good thing. I drove the rest of us over to the other Fall, and we took pictures and looked and breathed the clean air and waited. The boys finally turned up. They had taken a wrong turn and doubled back, but overall had enjoyed the walk. Then we stopped at Fishing Bridge Village where we skipped the museum but did some shopping. I think this uncelebrated spot was the largest park store. I got a latte mug and a coaster. It was a straight shot out the East Entrance and into Wyoming-apart-from-the-park.
|One last mud pit. It was stinky!! I love Daniel's face!|
We had lunch in a little RV park in the National Forest, since we were getting very hungry and couldn't depend on a picnic site coming up. It's not on my notes for the day, but I had found info in one of the Yellowstone travel books about Cody, Wy, so we stopped at the Buffalo Bill State Park to see the dam. It was pretty impressive, and we stayed a little while. We learned that part of the significance of the dam is that the area averages like 5 inches of rainfall per year. So it was a rare sight indeed as we left the dam and entered a thunderstorm.
|Tallest in the world at the time of completion.|
We saw the turnoff for the dinosaur tracksite, but it was 5 miles down a rather rough-looking dirt road, and all the children insisted that they weren't the least bit interested. I sort of regret not going, but it's not a big deal; they just aren't that "into" dinosaurs.
We stopped at Shell Falls, and it was beautiful. The road was quite zigzaggy and I kept the speed down. Since there was so much up and down in the hills, I was surprised to find this was the day with the best gas mileage - right at 20 MPG.
When we arrived at the Super 8 of Buffalo we ran into our first real hotel problem. Their website and Hotels.com both advertised the hotel as having a mini-golf course, but when I asked about it the woman directed us to the unaffiliated facility next door. No discount coupon or anything. Oh, well. We got our room keys, and the room location was great for our needs, but when I opened the door I paused. Hadn't I reserved a room with a sleeper sofa? Why, yes, I had. In fact, the availability of 3 bedded rooms was why I had selected this hotel with no pool in the first place. So we went back to the front, where we were abruptly informed that they had switched it for us because I had requested a pet-friendly room. You see, there are nice big rooms and there are pet rooms, and having a dog takes precedence over paying for a big room. Seems like if they can't give you both things you ask for, they should attempt to contact you and see which one you actually want. Anyway, after going around with the receptionist for a few minutes, she decided to give us the rate appropriate to the rooms we actually had.
The best thing about the place was that on the other side of the building was a laundromat. Even with the super-giant-sized machines, it took a few hours to wash our 4 days worth of clothes. I am very glad I thought to buy a package of detergent before we left. Normally I get the giant, HE, all-natural detergent from Sam's Club, but for the trip I scouted out Walmart and found a small pack of detergent pod things. No spills! And still MUCH cheaper than buying single servings from the vending machine. I do wish I had thought to bring some dryer sheets, and maybe a stain-remover stick of some sort.