Part 10 - Adventuring with Don 2018

Part 9 – Ghost towns, rodeos, cowboys and Buffalo Bill Cody


My stay in Butte, MT was brief. Just overnight. Early in the morning I backtracked a bit so that I could stop at some ghost towns that Mark had suggested. The day was very pleasant. More blue skies were breaking through the haze as I made my way to two once booming mining towns, Nevada City and Virginia City, Montana. Millions of dollars of gold were mined in the area, much of it dredged from the local stream. Now classified as ghost towns, they both were throwbacks to late 1800’s. 

Weather beaten, dilapidated looking old buildings were still standing and in use in these neighboring towns. Driving through the towns, one would think he had been transported back in time to the Old West where an impending gunfight would surely erupt. Besides the old buildings lining the road in Nevada City, several vintage train carriages sat on rusty old tracks, near the well-kept train station from which tickets were still sold.

A train ride from Nevada City was on a “mini” train and narrow gauge rails. It traveled to Virginia City a mere 3-mile trip one way. The second town was bigger, more populous and busy with tourists. An abundance of similar old wooden buildings plus others of more solid construction still evoked the vision of those bygone days of the West.


While not intending to spend much time in either town, they both held me captive. I was taken by the charm, history, lore and my own imagination. Luckily I was not incarcerated in the local hoosegow; rather I was able to choose my night’s lodging in the Nevada City Hotel. Nearly 130 years of history has passed by and through the old hotel and now I wanted to be a part of its’ history. Inside the floors creaked, a narrow staircase led up to a large sitting area with two large Victorian rooms on either side. Down a long hall more rooms awaited guests, including me. Two comfortable queen beds, a heater, dresser and chair were the extent of the furnishings including a full bathroom. 

Late in the afternoon I relaxed on the upper balcony, read a bit and watched the sparse passing scene on the road below. As dusk prevailed, the road traffic dwindled to a trickle of vehicles. Nevada City was ready to say goodnight - it was time to roll up the sidewalks and call it a day. 

Up the road in Virginia City, a little more active, several restaurants were serving dinner, a theatre troupe was performing in the local opera house, and several saloons were offering up their best intoxicants. There too, as the evening advanced, the tourists retreated. The moniker “ghost” town then more closely resembled the theme.

No surprise, I was up early and on the road soon after breakfast in Virginia City. 

Where to next? How about Bozeman? From there I wanted to go to Cody, Wyoming a town that (for me) exuded more of the Old West intrigue.

Bozeman was merely a short stop this time, although I very much enjoyed the city from a past trip and would recommend others as a place to go if in Montana or near Yellowstone National Park. But on this trip I wanted to see another part of Wyoming and a different entry point into Yellowstone.

My intentions were to visit Cody overnight then enter Yellowstone National Park from the Northeast entrance. Plans change - I was free to go where the winds took me and my interests piqued by wherever I may be. Having little foregone conclusions about Cody, I was first impressed with the town’s size, hustle and bustle along the main street and its friendly appeal. 

My motel at the edge of town was across the street from the Cody Rodeo. Every night in the summer Cody holds a rodeo there. Well, heck, I couldn’t miss that. I got a first row bleacher seat. From that vantage point I looked down on the staging area where youngster cowboys (and a cowgirl too) were hanging out dressed as one might expect in blue jeans, boots, cowboy shirts and, of course the tell tale cowboy (girl) hats. Those little pint size cowboys, as it turned out were also to be a part of the evening’s festivities.


Watching from above, bulls and then horses were herded into the chutes where the cowboys worked to put on the saddles, harness and ropes.  The animals, rambunctious in the tight space of the chutes, tried mightily to avoid having any apparatuses put upon them. Working around all the jumping, kicking, squirming and bucking the cowboys patiently continued with their tasks of outfitting the animals.


Then, gingerly, carefully the cowboys would climb on and over the chute gates easing themselves down onto the backs of the bulls or horses. Further agitated, the animals in full stress mode barely held still until the chute was opened. Immediately jumping, bucking, kicking, the cowboys hanging on for dear life, those frazzled beast’s frantic maneuvers quickly threw the cowboys up and off crashing them to the ground. At least one thrown cowboy was almost immediately attacked by a bull enacting its’ violent revenge. The ride was short. The cowboy was injured and assisted off the field. One might say the bull won. 

Other events like barrel racing and calf roping also ensued during the show. All in all, the rodeo was a fun time. I was glad to have gone.

The following day I thought I would be leaving Cody, but first checked out Old Trail Town, the original Cody city site. Composed of many historic Western buildings and artifacts, it gave a good impression of how the old town once appeared from around 1879-1901. Historic figures, both men and women are a part of the stories told within the old buildings.

Still caught up in the history and lore of Cody, I spent the rest of my day at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West a large and very impressive museum representing the fauna and flora of the area, the history of the area, a massive collection of firearms and a large section devoted to the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody. There was not enough time to view everything in the collection. 

Before leaving Cody the next day, I enjoyed an evening at the Cody Cattle Company with a chuck wagon dinner and some foot stompin’ live entertainment. There, I found the same company has a similar venue in Apache Junction, near Phoenix, where they serve up the same good times and cowboy dinners during the winter months. Taking the show on the road they manage the best of both worlds, summers in the cooler Wyoming and winters in the warmer Arizona. The Arizona venue is Barleens Dinner Show.


Leaving Cody, I crossed over the mountains on Chief Joseph Scenic Byway summiting at Dead Indian Hill. Here too the visibility was restricted due to the smoky atmosphere, and yet the drive was spectacular. From this drive I entered Yellowstone National Park at the Northeast entrance. Having been to Yellowstone in the past, I intended to just enjoy the drive through from top to bottom with the intent of stopping in Jackson Hole, WY overnight.


Not long after entering the park, large herds of buffalo where present, on the roadside, on the road and out in the meadows. It was exciting to be up close (but not too close) to those magnificent beasts.

After a brief lunch stop at one of the lodges, I drove on through the afternoon to the South entrance and then to Jackson Hole. The normally spectacular Grand Teton Mountains were barely a wispy image through all the haze. Jackson was bustling with tourists and traffic and motel space was at a premium. Not caring to be caught up in the frenzy there, I opted to keep going until Afton, WY where a cozy little motel was my stopping point.

Afton, WY was a calm, charming town that avows to have the largest elk horn archway. That unique arch spans over the downtown main street. 


With skies continuing to brighten, my drive became very relaxed as I enjoyed more crisp views all around. Stopping at a roadside information area, I learned of a nearby ghost town that, of course, piqued my interest.


Leaving the paved road, I headed out over rolling hills on dirt roads, I eventually found Piedmont, Wyoming, a collection of mostly ramshackle buildings. Nearby were several well preserved charcoal ovens, like the ones I had seen earlier in the month near Ely, Nevada.


After poking around in the area for a while I took a chance and headed out on another backroad hoping to find my way back to the paved road. My instincts did not fail me and in time I was back on the highway heading toward mountains in the distance. 


For the rest of the afternoon I climbed steadily up into the pine forests of the Uinta Mountains (the only mountain range in the US that stretches from east to west) and then down on the way to the Salt Lake City, Utah area where I spent the night. 

It had been a wonderful day for me with brighter skies, sharper images and exploring off the beaten track. As the hazy smokiness was now disappearing, the next day was to produce scenes set against bright clear blue skies with billowy white clouds floating above.

u © Donald E. Kline 2012