Stories of the Wild West and Devil's Tower

Trip Start Sep 07, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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mountain view rv park

Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Sunday, September 16, 2012

Leaving Yellowstone through the East Entrance, you descend about 2000 feet to the valley, through a beautiful mountain pass...and then it's pretty much flat most of the way across Wyoming, with the exception of a very long 60-mile pass heading to the Northeast corner, toward Devil's Tower.

Our first stop on this leg was in Cody, Wyoming, named after Buffalo Bill Cody. Cody calls itself the "rodeo capitol of the world", though I can't vouch for that. We stopped at an attraction called Old Trail Town, which was a conglomerate of a bunch of old west cabins and homesteads, including the cabin and saloon that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hung out in on a regular basis. You can see some pictures below of these things, as well as some weird attractions, like the two-headed calf.

We read some stories of Cody history there as well, including the story of Jeremiah "Liver-Eating" Johnston, whose wife and unborn child were murdered by the Crow Indians and then he spent the next 13 years of his life killing every Crow he could find, and eating their livers. Also, we heard the story of Belle Drewry, Blind Bill, and W.A. Gallagher. Basically, Belle started dating Gallagher, then flirted with a man named Wheaton. Wheaton killed Gallagher. Blind Bill killed Wheaton, and then Belle was killed by an unknown assassin a couple years later, after she shot a cowboy leader who got a little too wild at one of her parties. The people of the Wild West apparently lived short and very brutal lives, at least the infamous ones.

Looking for something to break up the boredom of the long drive across Wyoming, we came across this place called Castle Gardens. It's an ancient petroglyph site, where some massive and very interesting rock formations rise seemingly out of the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Wyoming. See some great pics below. We never found the petroglyphs, but we had a great time, and it felt like a very special place, partially because we were the only people there.

After traveling through a monstrous, 60-mile-long mountain pass (where the pavement unexpectedly ended for a couple miles in the pitch black), we finally made our way to Sundance, perched in the NE corner of the state. We could definitely tell we were in the country now, with the restrooms pumping modern country music 24/7 and the town having one general store and not much else.

The next day, we made our way to Devil's Tower National Monument, America's first National Monument, made famous by the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was a beautiful, warm day for us, as we hiked around the base of the monument, occasionally peeking up to watch the brave few souls climbing the Tower. The geek in me loved visiting this location, and I had plenty of hankerings for mashed potatoes! The Tower was also important to local tribes, who believed that the columns/ridges in its sides were caused by a great bear who was climbing the Tower, pursuing seven fleeing princesses.

We spotted plenty of wildlife, including about 10 turkey vultures circling the top looking for prey (apparently, there are snakes, mice and birds living on top of this thing) and of course, the prairie dogs in Prairie Dog Town on the drive out (an attraction all by itself).

Stay tuned for our next report, on the Black Hills of South Dakota, including Deadwood, Mt. Rushmore, and the Jewel Cave!

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