The Devil’s Tower and the Historic Occidental Hotel, Buffalo, Wyoming

Miles Driven Today:    246             Total Miles Driven 1106

We were up with the lark and down for breakfast at 7am this morning ready to go.  There was a massive thunderstorm in the night complete with sheet and forked lightning and a lot of rain.  It was still overcast when we got up and much, much cooler – 9C.  We bid a fond farewell to the Bavarian Inn – really nice place.

Took Rt 16A north and then backroads to The Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming.  It took a little under 2 hours and was a lovely trip through the northern Black Hills and then the green rolling hills of Wyoming, back to cattle country.  We saw some Longhorn Sheep along the way but I didn’t get a photo. Next time!

Got to the Devil’s Tower at about 0930.  You don’t see it for ages and then with about 5 miles to go….. there it is!!!!  The weirdest thing ever.  A great grey, etched hunk of rock standing up in the middle of rolling green meadows.  It looks totally unwordly, and it is unsurprising that it is a place of great cultural significance to 26 tribes of Native Americans.  The thing is: you can’t take your eyes off it.  It’s just there…. towering….  And it’s a strange “consistency” too.  Not smooth, but deeply sort of pleated.   Scientifically this is because, like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, it’s made up of pillars of rock and you see the crevices between them.  Native American legend says that these are the scratch marks of the claws of a gigantic bear.  It does look a bit that way.    Anyway, it’s a strange looking object.  A geologist’s dream.

We took the 10am ranger lead hike around the base of the tower.  The distance is about 1.3 miles on an undulating paved pathway.  It was a very good and interesting experience.  We moved slowly from point to point and she gave us plenty of information about the Tower: mythology, history, geology, climbing, wildlife, trees and flowers….  It took about 2 hours.  One funny tale was of a chap called George in 1941 who decided to parachute onto the top.  The top by the way is about the size of an American football pitch and pretty flat.  He then intended to let himself down by 1000 foot of rope that he would fix into place.  He managed to land on the Tower – quite a feat in those days – but dropped the rope over the edge.  Hmmmm…..  Poor George then spent 5 days up there till he could be rescued by an expert climbing team.  This is before helicopters were at all common.  Friendly locals dropped him supplies though so apparently he gained 5 lbs during his stay!!!

They have star gazing sessions at the Tower and that must be an amazing experience.  There is nothing around so total darkness and then with this great rock tower……

Many climbers come here to climb the tower and there are about 200 routes up.  We saw some people making both ascent and descent when we were there.  Woohoo, not for me!

We headed off to have our picnic near by at the end of the tour and then took the road to our overnight stop in Buffalo, Wyoming.  Buffalo is a lovely little historic western town founded in 1879 to protect settlers and miners on the Bozeman Trail.  We are staying in the historic Occidental Hotel, a wonderful piece of history dating back to the 1880s.  website      Many famous people have stayed here over the years:  Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, Calamity Jane, Owen Lister (wrote The Virginian), Ernest Hemingway, Teddy Roosevelt, Tom Horn, President Herbert Hoover, Gen. Phil. Sheridan, Buffalo Bill Cody.  The rooms are all decorated and furnished in period style, some of the furnishings and décor is original. It’s all rather creaky but very comfortable.  We are in the Owen Lister suite which has a massive bathroom with claw tub, a little ante room leading to a balcony over main street and the large bedroom.  It’s really cool.  We’ve opted to stay in a lot of these historic hotels whenever we can, just for a different experience.

Downstairs the lobby is straight out of every western you’ve seen,  as is the saloon.  The saloon has the original massive bar “Make mine a sasparilla, bartender”, and the old bullet holes in the walls.  There have been gunfights and at least one death…..   There is a fine restaurant, The Virginian, which was sadly closed as it is a Monday.  But the saloon was open for food and with live music.  There is also a café called the Busy Bee for breakfast tomorrow.  The corridors are lined with old photos of the hotel, famous guests and Buffalo itself back in the day.  It’s very atmospheric.  Possibly a bit spooky!

We had a stroll up and down Main Street.  There were a lot of antique and bric a brac shops and also a humungous fishing/hunting/outdoors shop.  Had a mooch in there.  They had bear spray which we need to pick up in the next couple of days but I wasn’t convinced the cans were large enough.

So, as mentioned the Virginian was not open tonight so we chose to eat in the saloon.  I have to say it was an amazing value dinner.  We started with salads which had just yum dressing.  I always go for ranch, Bob had blue cheese – major lumps of it.  Then we shared starters: jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese and mushrooms stuffed with crab in a tomato sauce.  Both were really good, especially the peppers.  Then, I had a ribeye steak served with mash, gravy and…. toast…. Ok.. the toast was weird.  The mash was a bit “manufactured”, a potato might have once been involved but it was a long time ago. But the steak was really nice, on the bone, juicy and very tender.  Bob had chicken fried steak with mash and gravy – all nice.  Washed down with 2  craft beers and 2 humungous glasses of cab sauv.  It all came to $70 ie about £57.  Not cheap but pretty good value for all we ate.

And at 730 a country music duo came on and they were very good.  We were so tired we left in the break but we really enjoyed the evening.  Would love to stay here longer.

Our room was just a delight to go back to.  I was a bit worried that being right over Main Street, it would be noisy.  No need….  It’s as quiet as Boot Hill out there…..