We awoke bright and early this morning at 5:00 AM, tethered our goods to the top of the car and humped it westward. We passed the Wyoming border in the wee morning hours, to the half-hearted cheers of the sleepy crew, and soon a tall rock, jutting forth in the lonely Wyoming skyline, peeked it’s devilish head. Devil’s Tower loomed ahead and it was fun first stop. The Devil’s Tower is an igneous rocky petrusion, a holy site for Native Americans, and a sort of personal Mecca for plucky rock climbers. We hiked around the tower, exchanged pleasantries with other visitors, and talked about what it would be like on top of Devil’s Tower. The Indians’ legend says that a bear scratched the surface while trying to reach its prey at the top. Since the early morning hours had made us silly, we created our own legend:
“Why Devil’s Tower is called Devil’s Tower” Brave and intrepid climbers all venture forth to the great rock jutting forth in the Wyoming sky, all with the single purpose of conquering it through the strength of their limbs and some serious mad skill. Many fail and fall great lengths to their doom. Those stouthearted few who, however, climb the height fall upon a most incredible sight. At the top of the tower, a colony of monkeys greet you with rolled doobies and coolers of Coors light. Great, sweeping eagles lay deviled eggs for the climbers to feast upon whilst Lionel Richie’s hit, “All Night Long” blasts from speakers tucked away in rocky crags. The climbers all enjoy the feast but must, at the day’s end, descend the treacherous tower. The combination of cannibis, alcohol, eggs, and monkeys tickling open armpits often proves too hazardous for the tired climbers, who hurl the fruits of their reward down the tower in the form of projectile vomit, showering unweary tourists with ralph. And that’s why Devil’s Tower is called Devil’s Tower.
While crossing Wyoming on Route 90, the only word that came to mind is “lonely.” The land is good for ranching but little else and therefore there is nothing but cows, horses, and sheep for miles and miles. When I was younger, I read a book about a boy who spends a summer by himself tending sheep in Wyoming. The book explored growing up while alone in a land filled with red dirt, shrubs, and sparse grass and it was all I could think about as we flew down Interstate 90. It’s beautiful in its own way— it’s wide and expansive and open, clouds make well-defined shadows on the plains, and the slow rotation of oil rigs keeps time while swifts dive across the plains.
And suddenly, from nowhere, I see the vague shadows of mountains. I was surprised because I wasn’t expecting to see mountains yet— the atlas I used warned us of the Big Horn National Forest, but not of the Big Horn Mountain Range that corresponds with it. It was an unexpected pleasure to wind our slow way through magnificent rocky passages until we hit...snow! We found ourselves in what looked like a blizzard in the passages of the mountains. Rebecca bemoaned that she was getting seasonal depression and I admit that seeing that much snow at the beginning of our summer vacation was confusing.
We finally made it to Cody, Wyoming, home of Buffalo Bill Cody. Just beyond the town was the Shoshane National Forest and then, finally, at long last— Yellowstone. We planned on getting to Yellowstone as quickly as possible and explore it before settling down for the night. The foothills of the Rockies loomed overhead as the peaks swelled in the background and we excitedly took our picture next to the Yellowstone sign. But trouble was ahead. At the Ranger Station, the gates were closed and I was sent to see what the trouble was. Apparently, recent snows in the high elevations had made the conditions ripe for avalanches. As such, Yellowstone would be closed.
Faced with the grim possibility of never seeing Yellowstone, I, despairing, asked the Ranger what we could do. He suggested settling back in the Shoshone Park, in one of their many campgrounds. I told the news with a heavy heart; Yellowstone was one of roadtrip adventures I was most anticipating. Little did we know how much better it was to be this way...
So we set up camp in Rex Hale Campground, made foil packets filled with vegetables, and roasted them on the fire. It was actually a lovely campsite, despite it all: near a babbling creek, with plenty of deer around. We regarded the warnings of grizzly activity with suspicion— we saw the skeletal remains of a deer nearby, everything but its poor legs licked clean (That bear is in the clean plate club!). But that night we were bear-free, though Rebecca and I briefly considered pretending to be bears while the others slept. Instead, we got to bed early with the hopes of having an early-morning start, so we could see the sunrise before we were permitted to pass through the Yellowstone gates.
Overheard: "Welcome to Cody, Wyoming! Where the men are men and the sheep are extremely nervous."
Gastric Shout-Out: Foil packets/silver turtles/hobo dinners/boyscout hamburgers
Listen To: "Snow," Red Hot Chili Peppers