Wyoming. It’s big country. Vast and blanketing fields rolling yonder to no end with juxtaposed red clay mesas. Its semi-arid climate gives it a desert-like feel and yet grass and hay fields go on for eons. At times, the wide open ranges condense into narrow crevices of a canyon and after winding through the rocky walls the drive returns to a martian expanse.
The first history marker we passed was the Buffalo Jump—native Americans would herd buffalo and chase them off a cliff and into a sink hole where it would be easier to make a kill for the food and material that these bison provided.
Crazy Woman Realty office
Wyoming is the least populous state in the entire United States. At the first sign of a town, the sign read: Population 33. Main street was a quaint Old West style village with a watering hole, motel and this realty office pictured above. Later, I learned that Crazy Woman is also the name of a town and a creek (origins unknown), however, I prefer to imagine the name of this realty office was self-designated by the woman holding the rifle in their company photo.
Devil’s Tower at a distance
Mandatory Devil’s Tower in-your-hand pose
The first major tourist destination can be seen 30 miles before you’ve even arrived. Devil’s Tower stands 1,267 feet above the surrounding landscape like a tall skyscraper. It’s summit is 5,114 feet above sea level.
The strange growth is thought to have been caused by a volcanic eruption and the tower as it stands is actually the neck of an extinct—by roughly 40 million years—volcano. Overlying sedimentary rocks have eroded away over time leaving behind the basalt columns created by cooled lava. This isn’t the first time we saw this strange geometric column created by volcanic activity, check out our trip to Iceland.
Millions of years of rubble at the foot of Devil’s Tower
It’s about a one mile hike around the tower, which is accessible for most ages save for the high altitude and lack of acclimation for Andrew and I. Free climbers may also make their way to the top.
The tower was and is considered sacred by many native American tribes. Most of the folklore indicates that the proper translation for the name of the geo-monument should have been Bear’s Den or Bear Tower—at least something having to do with bears and not with devils.
Devil’s Tower was the first declared National Monument in the United States by President Theodore Roosevelt on September 24, 1906. In Teddy’s multifarious history, he spent some time as a rancher in the Dakota territories.
Campers may stay at the foot of the tower at a KOA.
Big horn & Ten sleeps
The route to Cody from our departure in Spearfish, South Dakota takes you through the Big Horn Mountain range which is covered in beautiful Aspen trees and evergreens, a sudden alpine departure from the rolling plains.
Aspen in the Big Horn National Forest
Hanging out among the birch in Big Horn National Forest
Alas, we descended from the mountains to arrive in Ten Sleeps, located once again in a desert-like plain with blankets of red rock leading up to canyons which date some 300-570 million years.
Historic sign in town of Ten Sleep
On our route across Wyoming we learned that native tribes used to indicate distances between places by how many sleeps (or presumably an evening’s rest) places were from each other. Unfortunately, we only had time for one sleep in Wyoming.
The martian plains as the sun sets low in the sky
Epic skies of Wyoming
Lone trailer as the pink skies turn to dusk
After hours and miles of landscape undressed by civilization—except for pockets of strangely close quartered neighborhoods considering that space in Wyoming in the order of supply and demand should be in rather full supply—we neared to Cody.
Photo credit: SpringintoYellowstone.net
Cody is named after its founder, William Frederick Cody—better known as “Buffalo Bill.” Buffalo Bill was most famous for being a showman—he founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West which put on performances depicting cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West toured the United States and Europe, and at a point, he was arguably the most famous man in America.
The town maintains a cowboy and cowgirl charm, boasting several boutiques with beautiful home décor and Native American art as well as turquoise jewelry. Horse paraphernalia is ubiquitous—even the benches along the side walks are adorned with horse shoes and wagon wheels.
The local high school football team is the colts, symbolized by a rearing horse—similar to that on the Wyoming license plate. Also right at the end of main street is the Cody Night Rodeo and Stampede. We’ll have to return for rodeo season which takes place in the summertime.
Photo credit: YellowstoneCountry.org
Our first evening in town as we perused main street for a dinner option and we knew exactly where we would be going as soon as we stumbled up a theatrical corner building with intricate woodworkings and heaps of flag bunting inside. Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel, Restaurant and Saloon was built by the man himself in 1902. Some famous faces of the old west have stayed there like Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley—and it’s not to hard to imagine them there toting their gun and swigging firewater.
While a lot of the original moulding and decoration are still in tact, some of the charm is lost to plastic laminated menus and the cheap plastic tables and chairs which fill the middle dining area.
Photo credit: cody.top-hotelek.hu
Home for the night would be the Buffalo Bill Village Cabins. A drive through the parking lot of a Comfort Inn and a Holiday Inn off the main drag of Cody took us a row of cabins. Literally, log cabins, each with their own parking space next to them, at the edge of the parking lot. It was bizarre. I did learn that cabins for rent in the middle of town is actually quite typical as you enter into the great west.
For our morning coffee, we stopped at the Rawhide Coffee Company right in the middle of Main Street, a quaint joint with comfortable couches and high tops by the window. Our brief stop in Cody came to an end and off we went to Yellowstone National Park.