Day 10-12 Devils Tower/Buffalo, Wyoming   4 comments

Driving from Deadwood to Devils Tower was a gorgeous ride.

Devils Tower is a unique and striking geologic formation that has attracted people and captured their imaginations since prehistoric times. Theodore Roosevelt designated it America’s first national monument in 1906.

The Tower is composed of igneous rock called phonolite, which formed approximately 1.5 miles below the earth’s surface when magma pushed up through the sedimentary rock layers about 50 million years ago. Over millions of years, erosion stripped away the softer layers of sedimentary rock, exposing the Tower as we now see it. Ancient rivers took millions of years to excavate Devils Tower. The Tower is still emerging. The Belle Fourche River continues to wash away the softer sedimentary rocks. Plateaus across the valley – some higher than the Tower’s summit – are eroded layers of the same sediment that once surrounded and covered Devils Tower. There are three different interpretations of the Tower’s original size and shape. Because of erosion, we may never know which interpretation is correct.

The Tower today stands 867 feet high from the visitor center to the summit. Approximately one and one-half vertical miles of rock and sediment have washed away since the Tower formed.

Weather is always prying at the cracks. Water collects in the crevices. As the temperature changes, the water freezes and thaws, jimmying the cracks. After a column falls to the ground, a larger surface area is exposed to the elements. As time passes, the angles and corners become weathered and rounded. According to historical accounts, no large rocks or columns have fallen since the park was established in 1906 – a clue to how long the Tower will stand! Below is a photo of one of the “columns” that fell out of the tower.

Anyone can climb Devils Tower, if they wish to. We walked the mile and a half around it which was a very pretty walk.

We did, however, see climbers while we were there. Below, the top left hand photo has 2 climbers in it. If you look closely at the photo, one of the climbers is just to the left of the center at the bottom. The other climber is on the ledge just above her a little more to the right.

Interestingly enough the youngest person to climb to the top was 6 years old and the oldest was 81. One person climbed the Tower 365 times in one year. That would be once a day for a year, but because there were times that he could not make the climb for whatever reason, he climbed it 18 times in one day to make the time up. CAN YOU IMAGINE? I can’t even imagine climbing the Tower one time.

In the fields around the Tower are many prairie dogs and deer. People must feed the prairie dogs because they certainly weren’t afraid of the many photographers and even posed for us.

I could not resist taking a picture of this old car pulling a trailer in front of our campground.

We had a great fire pit to have our drivers’ meeting, but due to the high fire danger, we couldn’t do a fire….

But as the sun set, I was so glad I had my camera.

We snapped pictures for about 3 minutes before it got too dark. What a way to end the day!

We only stayed one day in Devil’s Tower and we were on our way again, towards Buffalo, Wyoming. Not too far from Devil’s Tower, the hills were destroyed by fire.

It is so cool driving out west. Every turn around the bend brings on another kind of terrain.

We drove for quite a while, getting closer and closer to the mountain range. It’s so strange to see so far into the distance and taking hours to get there. It sure isn’t like that in the East.

There’s already snow up there and it won’t be long before we are up there.

Everyone got to camp in time to celebrate the birthdays we’ve had so far on our caravan. AND it was celebrated on one of our guest’s real birthday, Marie, who I won’t tell you how old she is, BUT SHE CERTAINLY DOESN’T LOOK IT!

Sunday morning brunch at the Occidental Hotel proved to be the highlight of our trip so far.

Founded in 1880, the Occidental Hotel quickly became one of the most renowned hotels in Wyoming.

Located near the Bozeman Trail at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, it was visited by many famous people of the Old West – Butch Cassidy and the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill, Tom Horn, the young Teddy Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway – as they traveled along the Trail. As time passed, the Occidental was expanded and re-built until it became a “grand” hotel. One of the expansions, took over the local bank.

Below is a photo of the private dining area in the vault.

Some of the guests really wanted Bill and I to dine in there, but I think they had and ulterior motive.

In 1918, two ranchers named John and Al Smith (father and son) won the ownership of the Occidental Hotel in a high-stakes poker game in the back room at the Occidental Saloon. Not knowing what to do with their enormous new possession, they asked Al’s wife Margaret to take over running the hotel for “a month or so” until they could sell it. Margaret Smith ended up running the hotel for 58 years, until she died at the age of 92 in 1976. During all that time, she rarely threw anything out, so the Occidental Hotel became a kind of time capsule.

In 1986, the hotel finally closed its doors. By 1997, the final demolition of the Occidental seemed close at hand. Dawn and John Wexo purchased the building and began a 10-year restoration process that has returned the Occidental Hotel to its status as one of the fine hotels of the West. You can visit an authentic Frontier hotel today that looks as it did almost 100 years ago.

Everywhere you look, you will see the Old West the way it really was.

The magnificent back bar that you will see in the saloon is the original back bar that was brought in by wagon a hundred years ago.

The chairs you will sit in are likely to be antiques that are original to the hotel. Even the (23) bullet holes that you will see in the saloon are originals.


4 responses to “Day 10-12 Devils Tower/Buffalo, Wyoming

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  1. So glad you stopped through South Dakota. Isn’t it lovely? Thanks for posting!

  2. We just love South Dakota. We were here last summer to scout out our trip and enjoyed it just as much this year.

  3. This is the 2nd occasion I have come across your blog post in the last couple weeks. Seems like I ought to take note of it.

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