Day 73 of our Journey

We arrived at Devils Tower National Monument just in time for sunset light on the monolithic rock that juts up out of the flat landscape in a way that’s bizarre and sinister enough to warrant the name.

Close Encounters with Devils Tower.

After watching the color change on the rock, we set up camp and meticulously position the door of our tent so that we have a view of the tower right from bed. As we settled in, we couldn’t help but be tempted to make mashed potatoes for dinner so we can sculpt them into the shape of the tower, a-la that iconic scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Our Coleman tent with a view.

Devils Tower.

Devils Tower.

After breakfast, we packed up our campsite and drove to the visitor center before quickly walking the trail around the base of the tower. Rock climbers were 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 took longer than expected as we stopped to watch their progress.

Sunrise on Devils Tower.

Devils Tower.

Devils Tower.

Where to eat near Devils Tower

By lunchtime we were near Story, Wyoming and couldn’t pass up the chance to grab a bite at the 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 soaked 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.

Passing through the Bighorn National Forest on the drive from Wyoming to Red Lodge, Montana.

With full bellies, we pushed on toward Red Lodge, Montana. Huge winds tried to push our Silverado around as we navigated a steep descent through the gorgeous Bighorn National Forest which is full of pines, rocky peaks, and ridges and high altitude (9,000 feet / 2,743 meters and up) meadows covered in wildflowers.

We took so much time enjoying the drive that we had to hurry on to Red Lodge, bypassing Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center 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.

Red Lodge, Montana.

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.

 

Here’s more about travel to US National Parks & Monuments

Here’s more about travel in the USA