Part 22: Cody and Kirwin Side Trip


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The Trip

We spent several days at the Lost Ranch owned by our good friends Bob and Sandy.  It was nice to be able to relax.  After a few days we collectively decided that we needed more than just relaxing.  Bob had gotten tickets to a benefit for the Park West hospital in Cody.  The benefit was held at the huge Pitchfork Ranch and had a BBQ, hay rides, barn dance with a live band and, oddly for a benefit, an open bar. 

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

There is plenty of game at Bob and Sandy's ranch and this deer was quite interested in the green grass next to the house.

The views of the mountains around the South Fork of the Shoshone River were fantastic.

The South Fork of the Shoshone River was flowing strong.  The water provides irrigation for the surrounding hay fields.

We packed up and headed toward Meeteetse, WY then southwest into the mountains.  We saw plenty of antelope along the trail.

We traveled to the Pitchfork Ranch and then continued on up the road to a nice view point.  The surrounding mountains are rich in timber, grazing land and oil.  Bob told us a story about one of the ranch owners who found it impossible to maintain their lifestyle on their $90,000 per month oil royalties, so their response was to start making bad investment decisions.

The creek that flows through the Pitchfork Ranch was flowing strong.

We arrived back at the main facility at the Pitchfork where the party was being held.  We parked in a cut hay field.

Shortly after we arrived, the other patrons arrived, even the EagleMed helicopter (part of the hospital).  The benefit had a large turnout and they served a mountain of food and liquor.  We also found out that there was a live country western band as well.  The band was great and everybody danced their feet off until the band played it's last song.  The open bar combined with the live band created an interesting environment and everybody had a great time.

After plenty of liquor and dancing, we retired to our campers in the hay field.  We spent a calm night there and Kathleen made a great breakfast for us the next morning.  The morning broke clear, calm and hot.

We headed over to the Wood River Valley where we encountered a substantial herd of buffalo.

We followed the Wood River upstream and passed some nice hoodoos in the cliff.

The path along the Wood River followed miles of fences separating ranch lands from Forest Service land.  Our destination was the "Double D" ranch.  Normally, when I think of Double D, I think of something completely different, but this Double D was nice too.

The road to the Double D ranch gave us nice views of the still-snow covered peaks to the southwest.

The trail is visible at the base of Brown Mountain.

On the south side of the canyon the walls were steep and laden with scree.

The trail descended to the valley where the Double D ranch is located.

We headed up the side track to the Double D headquarters and discovered that there were a large group of vehicles there.  Turns out that the group was associated with the hospital benefit.  The Double D was hosting a "history tour" of the old ranch facilities.

Bob, Sandy and Kathleen walk past part of the Double D facility.

The story here is not that this fellow "is packing" but rather a stark reminder that we are in bear country and caution is mandatory.  A near-fatal mauling happened not too far from the Kirwin area resulting in an air evacuation, long hospitalization and extensive restorative surgery.

Part of the history of the Double D ranch included Amelia Erhart.  Back in the day, the Double D was a dude ranch and Amelia stayed there several times.  She later purchased some land to the west of the abandoned mining area Kirwin for her own ranch.  She died before the house was completed.  Above, an actress in character speaks as if she were Amelia and answered questions about her life and the ranch.

The Double D ranch is at the base of Brown Mountain (an obvious name).

Another one of the Double D ranch structures.

From the Double D, we continued up the trail to the abandoned mining camp of Kirwin.  The road followed the creek and had many water crossings.

At the Double D, Bob and Sandy offered to transport a couple of young girls to Kirwin.  They made good use of the camper's roof hatch.

The trail to Kirwin went through steep, scenic canyons.

The slopes of the mountains around Kirwin were the source of many avalanches that killed many of the miners.

The terrain reminded us of the Canadian Rockies.

Kirwin was a site of many gold and silver exploration mines.  None of the mines proved economically viable, but a number of minerals were discovered but were not interesting to the miners at the time.

At the end of the trail we crossed a foot bridge to the opposite side of the creek to see the Kirwin ruins.

The mines were at about 9400 feet elevation so the winters were harsh.  These nails and washers were used to hold tar paper over the wood sides of the buildings to keep out the wind and rain.

Many of the buildings at Kirwin were in poor repair and were dangerous to enter.  But, the scenery was outstanding.

Some of the structures at Kirwin were relatively new.

This fellow wanted to go to the Kirwin ruins in his Ford Escort but thought better of the deep water crossing after watching Bob's 416 cross.

Great thanks to Bob and Sandy for hosting us for so many days and setting up our liquor-fueled barn dance escapade.  The scenery in the Wood River canyon was awesome.

Next, we head north out of Cody to the Big Horn Canyon.

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