Twice each year the planet reaches a point where I pause and think about balance.
When the Autumnal – also called the “Fall” – Equinox arrives on September 22, Earth will momentarily be neither tilted towards nor away from the sun.
All over the planet we will see 12 hours of light and 12 of dark before the days shorten in the northern hemisphere and lengthen in the southern.
I am just geeky enough to get a big kick out of factoids like that.
Like many places in this country, Cody, Wyoming used to be primarily a summer vacation destination. Kids were out of school roughly from the beginning of June until the beginning of September, and families took their Wyoming vacations during that time.
Summer is still the busiest vacation season in Yellowstone Country, and July will probably always be the busiest month of the year in and around Yellowstone National Park. Through the years, however, many factors have come into play to not only stretch the tourist season but to make the region appealing at any time of year.
- We are always looking to achieve a better balance. Here are some reasons why we are succeeding:Changes in school schedules. The traditional school calendar came about so that kids would have summers off to help out on the family farms. Since we no longer live in an agricultural society so dependent upon family workers, many school systems have adjusted schedules with shorter summer breaks while adding a week off in the fall or several shorter breaks throughout the year. Add in home schooling, and there are opportunities for families to get away throughout the year.
- Facilities set up for cold weather. The classic Yellowstone hotels – Old Faithful Inn, Roosevelt Lodge, Lake Yellowstone Hotel – were constructed at a time when people simply did not visit the park other than during the summer. These hotels were not designed for a winter visit. When the Old Faithful Snow Lodge opened in the late 1990s, however, the property was built specifically for winter visitors. Around Cody most hotels accommodate guests year round.
- Activities geared for the seasons. Instead of running inside and waiting for warmer weather, we have learned to embrace our shoulder seasons. Fall is a great time to fish the area streams. Hunters are welcome, and we have found these groups to be among our responsible visitors for leaving no trace and respecting the environment. In the winter, we have a terrific local ski hill, Sleeping Giant Ski Area, and great trails for Nordic skiing and snowmobiling. Because of the high concentration of frozen waterfalls, we have the best ice climbing in the lower 48 states.
- Attractions open all year. While our Cody Nite Rodeo and the gunfighters next to the Irma Hotel take a break, there is still much to do all year. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West shortens its hours, but is still open with the same great artwork and interpretive displays which have made it a world-class museum. The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center’s exhibits tell the same powerful story regardless of the weather. Restaurants in town are open, and finding a seat is easy. And there is still plenty of good music to be enjoyed.
Many visitors have also figured out that they simply like to see the country at different times of the year. Often these are the same folks who get off the interstates and are more interested in exploring the area instead of trying to cover as much ground as possible.
These are my kind of people. I bet they know that the word “equinox” is derived from Latin meaning “equal night.”
Until next week, I am lovin’ – and balancing – life in Cody, Wyo.