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Devils Tower National Monument, WY and Red Lodge, MT   07/07/06 (Day 73)

Care For a Samich?


After breakfast we pack up our campsite and drive to the visitor center at Devils Tower National Monument to quickly walk the trail around its base. Tip: go around the rock counterclockwise. For one, it’s the direction all Buddhists circumambulate or spin things in to ensure they’re generating good energy, plus all the slowpokes seem to walk clockwise for some reason. Rock climbers are already inching their way up the tower’s famous cracks, crevices and flutes (which were caused when the molten lava that formed the rock cooled and solidified), so our stroll takes longer than expected as we stop to watch their progress.

By lunchtime we are near Story, Wyoming and can’t pass up the chance to grab a bite at the local Waldorf A’ Story Deli. You should not pass up that chance either. Over a heaping plate of sublime homemade brisket and a delicious Cuban sandwich we soak in the coziness and cheek of the place. Sandwiches are called Samiches, the menu warns diners that the BBQ plates are “for serious eatin’only,” and desserts are listed under the heading “Stuff to Eat After Ya Done Et”. And do save room for dessert. It took us days to finish the scrumptious and enormous piece of apple crumble we ordered, and not because we weren’t trying.

The Piney Creek General Store, attached to the café, is equally worth your time and money and features all the usual staples (from peanut butter to laundry soap to batteries to bug spray) plus unexpectedly gourmet extras like dozens and dozens of exotic hot sauces and a great wine selection including Wild Horse and Peachy Canyon,  two labels from Paso Robles, California, where Karen’s parents live and where we’ve enjoyed our share of great wine. We’ve not always been able to find Wild Horse and Peachy Canyon wines in shops in New York City—and certainly never at such reasonable prices.

With full bellies, we push on toward Red Lodge, Montana. Huge winds try to push our Silverado around as we navigate a steep descent through the gorgeous Bighorn National Forest which is full of pines, rocky peaks and ridges and high altitude (9,000 + feet) meadows covered in wild flowers.

We take so much time enjoying the drive that we have to hurry on to Red Lodge, bypassing Pryor Mountain where seeing some of America’s last wild horses is practically guaranteed. This is a sad omission we hope to rectify soon.

Red Lodge is one of those hub towns that make sense as a place to stay whether you’re on a winter ski trip or a summer hiking or fishing trip. The nicest base camp in town, by far, is The Pollard.  

Originally built in 1893, the hotel has played host to the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. More than a few modern amenities were added during a recent top to bottom renovation (our room had the most fantastically huge bathtub we’ve ever seen), but plenty of authentic Wild West charm remains.

Speaking of Wild West charm, if you happen to be looking for a great gift (or just something fantastic for yourself), stop by The Pollard’s dining room and check out the cool kinetic metal sculptures by artist Charles Ringer.


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