Mother’s Day drive to the Bighorn Mountains

Mother’s Day Drive Field Journal Entry
10 May 2020

Miles Driven: 217
Route: Cody to Shell to Burgess Junction to Red Gulch to the Devil’s Kitchen and back to Cody.
Weather: Cool. Overcast in Cody, then partly cloudy in Shell with clouds that moved in through the day. No precipitation.

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We just needed out. I asked Mom if there she’d like to do something special for Mother’s Day this year. Her answer was a request to head to the Bighorn Mountains for the day. So, we did. We took off around 9:00 AM under cloudy skies, though we could see blue skies out east.

On our way out of town, there were critters on the road that had us slowing down. We both laughed that it took us a while to figure out what they were. Cattle? No – the shape wasn’t right. Then we saw it was a group of domestic goats out and about, and unattended. There were about 30 of them. Someone left the gate open! We called highway patrol, but after arriving home at the end of the day, we learned they were still roaming. I suppose if they were off the highway, they were no longer in their jurisdiction.

Goats on the road outside Cody,Wyoming
Goats on the road outside Cody, Wyoming

We drove past the McCullough Peaks wild horse area, but no wild horses were visible from the road. A car in front of us pulled off and headed out that way for the day. We only spotted a couple of pronghorn as well. Just not a lot near the road – other than goats.

Between Greybull and Shell, we reached those partly cloudy skies where the dappled light danced with the landscape to cause me to stop for a photo.

Dappled light dances across the western landscape near Shell, Wyoming.

Everything this far out was greening up nicely. The colors were all harmonious – the sage green, light purple of the mountains in the mid-ground view, and the blue of the farther mountains. Add to that an occasional field of soft yellow stalks from last year’s cornfield, and you have a lovely palette of colors to please the eye.

Our next stop was near the bridge over Shell Creek. This well-built bridge was the original cattle trail in this area and only recently turned into a hiking trail. The chokecherries are just about to open their blossoms here. No flowers were blooming as opposed to when we came up here on Mother’s Day a couple of years back. Overall we’re just a bit slower this year. Likely there were pasque flowers out, but we didn’t find any.

Bridge over Shell Creek in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming

We drove up to Burgess Junction where we stopped and ate lunch in the car as nothing was open yet due to the restrictions. Snow flurries came through here, and the snow was still up to the top of the fence in many spots, but on average, it had probably melted to the just around the second rail. Lots of snow left on Granite Pass.

I realized there that mountains made of old granite feel like home. That’s what geology our cabin was situated in when growing up. Those softly rolling hills with peaks in the distance were easy on my eyes in a way home always is.

Granite Pass in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming

As we headed down, we decided to head out to the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite since the roads should still be dry. That’s not a backroad byway you want to take when it’s wet. There’s bentonite that will turn to slime that can swallow cars up to their axels and dry to a concrete-like consistency. In 1997 dinosaur tracks were discovered and reported to the BLM. The site now has picnic tables, interpretation signs and covering to get out of the heat that can be oppressive here in the summer.

Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite in Wyoming.
Ancient sea beds now slope where the Jurassic dinosaurs once walked at Red Gulch Dinsoaur Tracksite in Wyoming.
Dinosaur track at Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite in Wyoming.

On the way out, I took some photos of the colorful badland hills of the Cloverly Formation.

Colorful badland hills of the Cloverly Formation.

Next on our list was The Devil’s Kitchen, which is also a bit of the Cloverly Formation. Travel to this site uses a hauling road for the local bentonite mine. Usually we’d need to keep an eye out for trucks driving fast on this dirt road, but this being a Sunday, none were out.

The Devil's Kitchen between Greybull and Shell, Wyoming.

There’s a knoll out this way that has a tremendous view. Walking over to take a closer look, I could see bird poo here. My guess is that’s from a Golden eagle. It would be a perfect perch for one.

Golden Eagle perch in Bighorn County, Wyoming

The day was full of ease – just wandering and checking things out—easy conversation, easy driving, and a day rich with moments to remember. One last pause to enjoy a view of Shell Creek and we were back on the road home.

Shell Creeek near Shell, Wyoming

Note: I’ve linked to a geology site created in part by a friend of mine, Mark Fisher. If you’re looking for unusual places to visit in Wyoming, this is a fabulous resource.

Be Outside • Take Notes

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This site contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I receive a small portion of that sale at no extra cost to you. Your purchases help to keep this site in development.




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