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Driving through Wyoming is like taking a trip in a time machine to the days of the American Frontier. Indeed, the 19th Century seems a lot closer once we cross the border into the Equality State. Among the many layers of history, Wyoming is the land of the mountain man, and there are many historic sites devoted to extolling the romance and self-determination of these rugged individuals.
We start our trip at Moran Junction; this isn’t a town, but an intersection of various highways that lead off to points of interest. We head north from the Junction, taking the US-191/US-287 for 46 miles until we come to Grant Village, which sits just to the south of Yellowstone Lake. The lake itself is the largest freshwater lake in the United States, with a width of 14 miles, a length of over 20 miles and a depth of nearly 300 feet. Boats can be locally rented for a cruise across the water, or maybe just to plop a rod and reel into the water for a quiet day of fishing.
Our course carries us through the massive Yellowstone Park, 2 miles further up the US-191 to West Thumb. The West Thumb Geyser Basin is covered by a short trail and includes several small hot springs; if we want to get out and stretch our legs, there are several excellent hiking trails in the area. Old Faithful is just 17 miles further north, and if you’ve never experienced this massive eruption of hot water, it’s worth checking out to see the power of nature at work.
It’s a 20 mile drive northeast on the US-20 to get from West Thumb to Fishing Bridge, which has an excellent visitor’s center with information about the local birds and other wildlife. The Fishing Bridge Museum was designed by noted architect Herbert Maier, and is the largest of three such structures to be found in Yellowstone.
Leaving the Yellowstone area by way of the eastbound US-14 (also known as the US-16 and US-20) takes us 77 miles out to the town of Cody, named after famed frontiersman and showman “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Be sure not to pass up the chance to visit the Buffalo Bill Museum and Historical Center, which features all kinds of exhibits and artifacts devoted to the glorification of this colorful Wild West personality. In keeping with the spirit of the man, Cody hosts a full-on rodeo, every night of the week, all summer long. Events include calf roping, bulldogging, and barrel racing, and of course the main event is the gut-wrenching bull ride, featuring some of the most talented riders currently on the circuit.
Cody is also an excellent place to go rafting, either as part of a scenic trip down the Shoshone River or in a more adrenaline-charged trip through whitewater. With all the rivers and streams in the area, you’re sure to find a secluded spot to do some fly fishing with just you and Mother Nature.
The Wyoming countryside is where modern times fade into the background, and where a simpler, more relaxed pace of life is allowed to take center stage. It’s such a comfortable place to be that you may never want to return to the 21st century.
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