Friday, October 3, 2014

Wild, wonderful Wapiti offers adventure, romance, good food and a gorgeous get-away

The Wapiti Valley offers a beautiful drive in splendid fall weather, with changing colors, elk on the move and more.


Elk -- here a bull with his harem -- live in large numbers in Wapiti,
a Cree Indian word which means "elk" -- makes sense, doesn't it?



Nick and Nora enjoyed the Wapiti sun,
and a dog-friendly stay.
Yellowstone Valley Inn and RV Park offers rustic, comfortable
 cabins, some dog friendly, and a splendid buffet breakfast.

THE DRIVE through the Wapiti Valley yields plenty of wildlife, including the elk which gave this gorgeous corner of the Rockies its name. Wapiti is Cree for elk!
Trees are turning in the Wapiti Valley creating a fall colors bonanza.

What could be romantic than driving through the autumn scenery with your honey, your Yorkies and gorgeous views? Ah, it's contentment with a capital "C."
FOR YEARS, I've loved this corner of Wyoming. I've seen more bears near the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park than I've seen anywhere else in the park.
We've also seen abundant elk, spectacular rock ridges, beautiful turn-outs along the Shoshone River, and an eccentric house atop a hill.
You've probably wondered about the house; you can't miss it. It's an eye catching jumble of styles and daring techniques -- and this time through, I decided to do a bit of homework.
The Smith Mansion is a sight to behold from the nearby road through Wapiti. 
THE SMITH MANSION, sometimes known as "the crazy house," stands high in the beautiful Wapiti Valley, closer to the park than to Cody.
It is a piece of the Wapiti Valley's colorful history with as many stories about it as there are old timers to tell them.  Stop in any of the lodgings or restaurants along the drive and you'll get an interesting tale or two. According to a newspaper article, in which Sunny Larsen was interviewed, 
The Wapiti Valley can be a base or an entry point
for exploring nearby Yellowstone and Teton National Parks.
the house was built by her father, talented architect and engineer, Francis Lee Smith.  Sadly, he died at age 48 from a fall in 2002, preferring to do his own work himself on the dangerous ledges in Wyoming's winds.
THE PLACE is for sure a piece of artwork left for the public, built by the late Architect/Engineer: Francis Lee Smith.
Smith's daughter, who grew up in the home, began The Smith Mansion Preservation Project which is in full swing.  She wants her children and theirs to be able to enjoy the home, which is falling into disrepair and has been vandalized. 
Elk antlers grace many lamps and
chandeliers in the Wapiti Valley.
IT'S JUST one of the picturesque sights you'll encounter in the Wapiti Valley (also called East Yellowstone Valley).  For my pleasure, the drive is an hour plus of the prettiest driving around. It lies between Cody, Wyoming, and the aforementioned east entrance of Yellowstone, and you'll be driving on highway US 14-16-20. This 50 mile section of road is designated the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway. It meanders through some of Wyoming's prettiest areas and includes the Buffalo Bill Dam, Buffalo Bill State Park and the Shoshone National Forest, our nation’s first just as we claim Yellowstone Park's "first" status.
The Buffalo Bill Dam, named after the famous impresario, Bill Cody,
is worth a stop on your way between Cody and Yellowstone Park. 
THE DAM visitor center is worth an hour's stop, and do watch for wildlife and interesting rock formations. You'll find a range of guest and dude ranches, motels, campgrounds, restaurants, and gas stations. The mix includes deluxe lodgings, simple campgrounds and smaller, more rustic inns such as the charming Yellowstone Valley Inn, right off the highway.  
We had a fine, simple supper in the bar's fancy screening room. The kindly proprietor ushered us in, introduced us to a spirited waitress and hooked us up with Public Television for the finale of  "The Roosevelts," which we'd hated to have missed. (Our room had only "Direct TV" -- no PBS.) 
This healthy bison was spotted on a road not originally planned for travel
during a recent Yellowstone Park trek. He was so close we heard him breathing!
IF YOU'RE a hiker, you'll be in hiking heaven and the Wapiti also offers horseback riding, fishing, photo ops galore, rafting and boating, mountain biking and hunting.  During breakfast, we visited with couples from Texas and California, both making Wapiti Valley their base for visiting Yellowstone which was fully booked last week!
COMING SOON: The road less traveled!  Don't let yourself get in a rut.  If you always go to Old Faithful, try another destination in Yellowstone.  You might find more buffalo than you can shake your camera at.  Be prepared for surprise and turn change into a plus. If you're adventuresome and flexible, you'll enjoy whatever unfolds, even if it wasn't in the original plan. Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Wednesdays and weekends at:

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