We left the hotel in Keystone, South Dakota this morning, intending to head north to the notorious town of Deadwood, South Dakota. We had a lovely drive of about an hour through the Black Hills National Forest. The terrain was still very, what they would call out West, “hilly” (we’d call them mountains, but that’s another discussion), and the road curved around and went up and down through some beautiful vistas. We passed a couple of beautiful lakes and lots of camp grounds. It was very serene…then we got to Deadwood!
Deadwood has a checkered history, starting in the 1870s as an illegal settlement on land that the government had granted to the Lakota Indians. Then when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, it only became worse, as the center of gamblers and prostitutes in the Black Hills. The town attained further notoriety as the place that Wild Bill Hickok was murdered while playing poker…the famous “Dead Man’s Hand” Aces and Eights Hickok was holding when he was shot and killed at point blank range. Today, there is legal gambling in the town, combined with it’s checkered past, making it a tourist destination.
Our plan was to stop there today to check out the town before heading into Wyoming. We didn’t expect we’d stay long, but just take a look around town. Well, look is all we did, as it seems the entire town is being given over to an old car rally/show/auction this weekend! There were lots of old cars, but there were also lots of new cars parked everywhere! We drove around for close to a half hour looking for a place to park, and were practically out of town before a spot appeared! We even went to the Wells Fargo Bank in town to use the ATM, and almost couldn’t get to the parking lot because that was full of cars too! As I said, a very quick drive around town a couple of times, and then we figured to cut our loses and move on!
Our first destination in Wyoming was Devils Tower, which you have seen if you have watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Devils Tower is a laccolithic butte in the Bear Lodge Mountains near Sundance in Northern Wyoming. Devils Tower was the first declared US National Monument, established by President Theodore Roosevelt on September 24, 1906. The Native Americans have a tale that 7 sisters jumped on a rock to get away from a bear, and the rock grew and grew till the sisters were in the sky. The bear attempted to climb the rock, leaving deep claw marks in the sides, which had become too steep to climb. When the girls reached the sky, they were turned into the stars of the Pleiades constellation.
Shortly after you exit Interstate 90 at Sundance, you catch sight of Devils Tower through the trees, and the closer you get, the grander it becomes. As you park at it’s base, you are amazed at the height and massiveness of it, as it rises 867 feet to it’s summit. As incredible as it seems, it’s even more incredible when you realize that about 1% of the visitors to Devils Tower actually climb it! To us, climbing Devils Tower would be similar to climbing a sky scraper in Manhattan, as the sides seem vertical, but that didn’t stop four intrepid climbers we watched today, making their way up the side. Incredible!
We then headed off to Sheridan, Wyoming, where we had reservations to stay tonight. We had reservations, till we drove up to the Roadway Inn and discovered what looked like a motel dating from when we were children! We looked at the motel, looked at each other, and agreed we were not going to stay there. A quick visit to one of several hotel apps I have on my phone, had us reservations at a newly built Comfort Inn, also in Sheridan. As we had arrived somewhat early, we then spent about an hour and a half reviewing the rest of our trip reservations, and changing several. If we’ve learned one thing the last 6 days, it’s that we want to have a nice clean, modern, and comfortable room to spend the night in!
After our planning session, we were ready for a good meal, and lucky enough, happened on Wyoming Rib and Chop House. Not realizing that it was Friday night (what day is it???), the restaurant was pretty crowded, but the hostess offered us a couple of seats at the bar. Not strangers to eating at certain bars we frequent, we had no problem sitting there and had a couple of real cold beers and a great meal! We even missed a rain storm while we were at dinner!
Our destination tomorrow night is Cody, Wyoming, but first we will detour to Montana and visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, the site of the battle between the combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and George Custer’s Seventh Calvary, commonly called Custer’s Last Stand.
Sunset over the Bighorn Mountains