Wild West And Encounters -> A Drive Across Northern Wyoming
It was the first snowfall of the season and we were driving in it. Flurries of the white stuff hit the windshield intermingled with sheets of rain and sleet. What we didn’t know was that they were about to close the pass, but sometimes ignorance is bliss and “the beast” sneaked her way through with seconds to spare and barely a blink. Despite the slick roads and poor visibility this was actually fun!
We’d just left Yellowstone under one of her notoriously fickle weather blasts. It happens this time of year, especially this far north, but normally the fits are short and fast. This was no exception, and would be over within a few days. Besides our handy dandy weather app promised us warmth and blue skies a mere ~200 miles east.
Wild West In Cody, WY
Our destination was the Wild West, East that is, to the Western town of Cody, WY located in Northwest Wyoming. Got that? Once we passed the snow our trip plunged us into a stunning canyon, bounded by meandering rivers, wide multicolored valleys and finally towering spires of white and bronze rocks. We rolled into spacious Buffalo Bill State Park, picked a spot with 360-degree views and almost no one around us, and all piled out of the RV and onto the grass to soak up the warmth. Ahhhhhh!
Not only was this place FAR prettier than I ever imagined, but we were going to see some Wild West history which always gets my heart-strings fluttering. The Buffalo Bill Center of The West had been recommended by so many people on our original travel plan, that we decided to switch up our route to come see it. Well, that and the fact that it was warm here and we’d fallen behind on our original schedule (waaay too much dilly dallying in the Tetons you know), forcing us to cut out North Yellowstone and head due East.
We visited the museum that very next day, and I admit it was well worth the stop. Far from just a history about Buffalo Bill (who was I grant, a master personality, preservationist and showman of his time), it was a 5-in-1 Exploratorium that included an outstanding Plains Indian section, as well as a wonderful Natural History section. The latter two were particularly good and took several hours for us to explore. Excellent recommendation, my dear blog readers!
We followed our visit with a few beers at Pat ‘O Haras the local brew pub and eatery where, in complete jello unplanning a little red van and a man with a cane joined us. The van-man found himself close(ish) and had, rather impressively, dragged himself over from hot pools to see us. We shared beers and passed yet another great afternoon and evening shooting the breeze in “the beast” (sorry no pics, we were having way too much fun). Oh, and blog reader Smitty happened to be in camp too, so I met them and their lovely doggie the very next morning before we left too. Gotta love these random nomadic meet-ups!
But our time was ticking and we had miles to make….
Encounters At Devils Tower, WY
The very next day we embarked on another monster (for us) drive, traveling sheer across Wyoming to the northeast corner to see a bucket list item for both of us. It was yet another spec-at-cu-lar drive that took us past pastel badlands, up through billion year-old canyons and over a pass at 9,700 feet. If we weren’t on a time crunch I would’ve stopped a hundred times to set-up camp. Darn, this state is pretty!
But we were on a quest, and our goal was no less than alien encounters and mashed potatoes. Like all who come here, especially those of the X-generation, we’d been dreaming of this place for years. The form was etched in my mind, a thumb-like protrusion that rises out of nowhere, a mountain created of bizarre 867-foot, geometric columns. I’ve never quite been compelled to build a replica inside the RV, but I’ve certainly had an insatiable desire to see it.
Devils Tower, America’s very first National Monument (est.1906) sits ~33-miles north of Hwy 90 in the far northwest corner of WY and there is nothing out here, apart from this. You come here for one reason and one reason only, to bask in the wondrous shadow of her form, hike the rim trail, gawk at the crazy climbers on the rocks, meditate on the sacred ground and well…watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Well ok that’s technically 6 reasons, but they’re all kinda related, n’est ce pas?
She’s an igneous intrusion, and although scientists aren’t exactly sure how she formed, all agree it was volcanic activity and most believe she formed underground and the earth around her eroded to reveal her form. She’s sacred to the local Indians, known as Bear Lodge, but her Devillish name was given by to her by Col. Richard Dodge in 1875 and it’s stuck ever since.
That’s the low-down on the facts of her. In person, she….is…WONDROUS!
I grew up in the time of Close Encounters, and have always been obsessed by this rock, but I have to say the reality is even better than film. When you first meet her, she touches you in a most profound way. She so dominates the landscape that you can’t help but focus only on her, and there is a quiet and spiritual aura around her which engages just about everyone who visits. I can’t quite explain it, but you just feel different here. We sat outside and just stared at the tower for hours, and when we hiked around the rim we probably said “wow” about 800 times. I can totally see why the Plains Indians consider this area sacred.
We planned one day and ended up staying two, mostly because one just wasn’t enough. We passed the time gazing at her beauty, photographing the thousands of prairie dogs by camp, re-watching the movie (naturally) and just soaking in the wonder of nature. Folks, you’ve gotta come here at least once in your RV lives!
Today we move on east, yet again. Our appointment at the South Dakota DMV is waiting early tomorrow AM, and then we start a mad rush (even madder now, with all the extra dilly dallying we’ve done) down south towards New Mexico. Who know what we’ll encounter next?
Doggie Notes/ The State Park at Cody is 100% dog-friendly, but the museum in town is not. Devil’s Tower allows dogs in the campground, day-use areas and main roads, but does not allow dogs on any of its trails. Reviews of both campgrounds coming soon…