Early to rise and a farewell to Cody. There was a lot of road to cover, and we had hoped to at least check out the main streets for some of the cool sounding names that were on the map – Greybull, Ten Sleep – you get the picture! For as small as the main drag is in Greybull, they did have a quilt and yarn shop in town! Houses were very well maintained, very Americana. Lots of patriotism announced in store windows – “Made in America or Not Made at All” and “Go with Humility,Return with Honor” are two standouts.
There are many legends in the area – Crazy Woman being one of the more interesting one. Her memory is strong and everywhere. Our main road (and believe me, there weren’t too many alternatives!) brought us through Big Horn National Forest – lots of trees, lots of beautiful vistas. We found new meaning in “the long and winding road”. Ultimately reaching Buffalo, it was a relief to stretch our car-cramped legs. Had a fun conversation with the volunteer in the visitor center – it seems that we picked the day before the mass exodus would arrive for the Longmire festival (more on that later). Main Street was looking good, and we hit the legendary Taco Johns for a quick bite to eat. I say legendary because we had heard more than one party talk about getting their Taco Johns fix once they got to Wyoming. And I must admit, for a fast food taco, it isn’t too bad.
There is no question (as can be testified by anyone who truly knows me) that I am an incorrigible fiber hound. Which means that I am always scouting my environment for signs and evidence of anything fiber related. No surprise, then, while I was listening to a podcast (shock! about fiber!) that I learned of Mountain Meadow Wool Mill – a mill started from the ground up by two women from Buffalo, Wyoming, as a hobby that grew into a viable business that supports the local community. What a coincidence that we would be traveling that way…..The website advertised a 1:30PM tour, which I validated via email before we left. What a totally cool operation! There are about five employees (not including their mascot golden retriever), and most of the operations are conducted as sustainably and water-efficiently as possible. From cleaning the fleeces, to spinning the wool and then dying it is all done on their premises. Love the smell of lanolin in the morning!!!!!!
About that Visitor Center tip that the town was prepping for a weekend-long Longmire Festival. Hmm. New to me. As it turns out, Longmire is the main character of a book series and TV show, and many of the landmarks in the novel and show are based right in the Buffalo area – mostly downtown. The old Carnegie Library-turned-Museum is Longmire’s Sheriff office. What a hoot. Downtown Buffalo is a cute stretch of town, loved the local ice cream shack (outdoor seating and cash only!) and it has all the comforts and activities for the locals as well as the passers-through.
Another downtown attraction worth mentioning is the old Occidental Hotel, which is still in operation and a main anchor for the downtown area. Old West paraphernalia abounds within its walls. Velvet drapes, wood panelling throughout and an intricate staircase showcase the hundreds of pictures from the days of yore profiling the who’s who of the increasingly distant past. I kept expecting to find my self dressed in crinoline and had to make sure I was still in the present. The employees are used to tourists milling through the lobby – it’s actually more of a museum. Lobby tea service would have been a nice touch!
Not to make a long day any longer, we were soon saddled back in the car and on the road to Sheridan. It was WINDY!!!!! Part of the reason could have been because our hotel was up on a hill, which had panoramic views of the varied area. After checking in and cleaning up, we headed across the railroad tracks and landed smack in the middle of a fully engaged Downtown fair, closed streets and all. All the locals were out, and we had quite the walk and entertainment. It was nice to see the cross-section of towns people out having a grand time on a summer evening. All varieties of music entertained us as we window-shopped the food options. We settled on dinner at Frankelton’s – relatively good service. Open kitchen area so we watched our meal being prepped and cooked. Not so much from scratch, unfortunately, but great flavor. We made up for it with a locally roasted espresso at Java Moon Coffee Shop, and ended the evening with a tour of an old JCPenney’s store. Talk about a walk back in time.
Surprise!!! More unsettled weather as we started the day at the Sheridan County Museum. It hadn’t been on our list, but we managed to score a pair of free admission tickets at the street fair, and with a few drops of rain obscuring the windshield, an indoor activity fit the bill. It was surprisingly interesting, and we learned a lot about the development of the town and surrounding area – a mix of ranching and mining and milling; sugar beets, Military sheep breeding. Art by Hans Kleiber, E.W. Gollings, George Ostrom and Remington made for some interesting discoveries.
John B. Kendrick, one of Wyoming’s Governors and also State Senators, was a transplant from Texas that made it big when he moved to Wyoming. One of his legacies is the home he had built – Trail End – that is the focal point of Trail End Historic Site, a State Park. The grounds are self-guided – there is a playhouse on the premises, but we were in-between productions so we didn’t get to see it. There are docent-introduced tours of the house, and you can self-tour most of the four floors of the house – including a full ballroom with orchestra pit. This particular home was exceptionally well preserved, and had many original items still in great shape. Great floor plan, comfortable living space. This is definitely worth a stop.
I am still surprised at how much we found to explore in the Sheridan area. Driving to the little town of Big Horn, I was constantly reminded of snippets of Arizona – an old Flour Mill, the shape of the distant mountains, ranches with horses, sheep or cattle tucked away on side roads. We were having a little difficulty finding the new destination in Big Horn – The Brinton Museum and House, which had opened in May of this year (2015). It features one of the longest rammed earth walls in the U.S. Quite impressive. The new building was an addition to the old Quarter Circle A Ranch, bought by Bradford Brinton in the 1920’s, and maintained by his sister after his death. They both had extensive collections of Plains Nations artifacts, as well as many established Wyoming artists (some of which we had been introduced to at the Sheridan County Museum). The ranch house has a very interesting collection, with more than a few Remington paintings and prints in each room.
All this sure worked up an appetite, and unfortunately the cafe was closed by the time we finished the house tour. Taking pity on us, one of the volunteers made a few suggestions – and when he mentioned barbecue it resonated with our stomachs. Within minutes we were parked in front of the Big Horn Smokehouse – and it has the most awesome BBQ on the face of the earth (sorry Bryan’s Black Mountain BBQ!). There were a few filled tables even though we were definitely between the lunch and dinner crowds. The pulled pork was so tender and juicy I almost didn’t even try the sauce. Once I tried the sauce, I almost finished it straight – a real nice cayenne hit, without being overwhelming, and not too sweet – they make it all in house.I still fantasize about going back, it was that good. Friendly service, comfortable atmosphere, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
It was sure hard to top Big Horn Smokehouse. But the show must go on, and time does not stand still. Another pass through downtown Sheraton. There was an enthusiastic effort to follow the Sheridan Pathways trail through town. Not well marked, we did see some neighborhoods, a park, and a yarn shop – The Fiber House, which was closed. Oh well. Probably saved a lot of money that way – they specialize in local alpaca, which is one of my favorite yarns to work….sigh! The previous night we had inspected the WYO Theater – a really neat art deco period theatre. Tickets for Romeo & Bernadette were sold out. When we requested tour, the theater manager let us in, and even scared up two tickets for us – yay!!!! Curtain time one hour away, we hung out and really enjoyed there performance. A late night brew at Blacktooth Brewing Company – a REAL local watering hole geared for the young set – it’s all about the beer, so don’t expect to find food served here! Loved the Brown.
The next morning we took a nostalgic drive over the railroad tracks for the last time. The old Railroad Station – which is part empty, part Art Co-op, is on the market. What a great place for a weaving studio (the only thing this area is missing!). Maybe in another life….
On to the next stop – back to Rapid City and the Black Hills.
Where’s the Fry Bread? (next)
Gateway to Yellowstone (back)