Can you Ever Go Back Home? Returning to Cody, Wyoming

It has been 19 years since I called Cody, Wyoming home. In many ways, both Cody and I are the same and completely different. While the streets were as familiar to me as they were nearly 20 years ago, so many things lining those streets were new or changed or no longer there. We stayed in Cody for a week and a half, and part of me wanted to stay longer, but also, I was more than ready to leave.

After high school, I was ready to leave Cody. I was ready to see more of the world, grow into myself, and leave behind the image of myself that Cody had of me. I wanted more than what the small town of Cody could offer. However, for all my desire to leave, there was so much I wanted to show Will and Bird during our stay, as for better or worse, this town played a huge role in shaping who I am.

We drove by my old houses, my old schools. I recounted endless stories about memories I had long forgotten. We took Bird to play at a park that was brand new when I was young and was recently updated and made new again. I was able to meet up with one of my best friends and we leapt at the opportunity to see the latest Fast and Furious movie at the same theater we saw the first movie 20 years ago (it was as terrible as expected, and we loved every minute). We did some touristy things, some “local” things, and some things I had never even known or thought about.

We also skipped some things I truly wish we would have had time for: the rodeo (we stopped at the rodeo grounds but decided not to take a toddler to an event that starts at her bedtime), Yellowstone (we will visit, just not through the East Gate), July 4th festivities (tourist season was already in full swing and we were not prepared to face that many people or find a place to stay; even though we made reservations in early April, we were already running out of options), and so much more. For a small town, there is so much to do and see, and even though we missed out on a few things, we still crammed a lot into our stay.

We spent a few hours at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. While Will and I certainly could have spent at least a full day there, Bird was good with our short but sweet visit. With 5 museums under 1 roof, the museum has so much to offer. The Draper Natural History Museum was definitely the most engaging for Bird, but Will spent the most time in the Cody Firearms Museum. Since going to the museum was a common occurrence growing up, I was happy to wander aimlessly with Bird and admire the updates and modernization that have occurred in each of the museums over the past 20 years.

A trip to Cody is not complete without a walk down Main Street. We went early on a weekend morning and found town surprisingly quiet. We ducked into a few stores but mostly enjoyed getting out and seeing how much has changed.

One evening, we took a nice walk on the Paul Stock Trail. I had been on the trail on one my more recent visits to Cody, but I had never fully explored it. The trail follows the Shoshone River where it flows through town, and it offers a great perspective of the mountains. There are few hills, but for the most part, Bird walked with us and thoroughly enjoyed picking up sticks and rocks along the way. The best part of the walk was seeing several cactus in bloom.

Because I grew up here, my dad gave Will all the pointers about fishing and where to go. So, on a day when Daisy needed a rest from all our activities, we took the paddle board out to Newton Lake. While I was on the water, Will and Bird walked the trail around the lake, fishing along the way, and while Will was out on the paddle board fishing, Bird and I had lunch and played in the water. Will caught a few, and as always, it was a treat just to get out on the paddle board.

Near the end of our stay, we took an evening ride out to McCullough Peaks. This area is known for the wild horses that inhabit this stretch of land, so we were really hoping we would find them. We had seen the herd from the main road on our way into town, and Will had seen them on an afternoon when he had taken Bird for a ride to inspire a nap, but unfortunately, our evening adventure came up dry. However, the loop we drove offered some spectacular scenic views. The road was a little dicey in places, but it was absolutely worth it.

Of course, we also fit a lot of hiking into our schedule. When we arrived, we set a goal to hike at least 15 miles during our stay, and with the 4 hikes we took that were each 4 miles long, we accomplished our goal. Each of the hikes we took were amazing in their own regard, so stay tuned for future posts over the next couple of weeks that detail where we went and share some of the beautiful views.

One of the things I enjoyed most during our stay was walking at Beck Lake Park. While I only made it out 2 mornings, it is a nice, easy 2 mile walk with great views of the mountains surrounding town. Those 2 mornings offered great time for me to reflect on what being back in town meant to me and where our journey is taking us. Part of me had hoped that returning to Cody would feel like coming home, and while it offered the familiarity of home, I did not feel the warmth and feeling of comfort I had hoped for.

We had such an amazing time in Cody, but we were ready to move on by the end of our week and a half. It was so special getting to show Will and Bird around my old haunts and explore areas that were new to all of us. I know Cody is a place we will continue to return to throughout Bird’s childhood, but I also know it is not a place I will ever call home again. And I am okay with that.

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