Posts Tagged With: Wyoming

Worthwhile in Wyoming

I’m frequently asked whether a place I visited was worthwhile.  If it’s worth the time, effort, or money expended, it’s worthwhile.  For me, this is true in all things travel.  For example, I’ve been a member of AAA for many years.  Some of you are likely thinking, what’s that?  AAA stands for American Automobile Association and they offer emergency roadside assistance.  Having used roadside assistance very little in all those years, you may think it’s not worthwhile.  But, they also provide travel services including TourBooks and maps, and that’s where I believe I’ve gotten my money’s worth.   You can purchase AAA TourBooks on Amazon for $7-$11 so getting them free with my membership is definitely worthwhile to me.  In addition, TourBooks are updated every couple of years so each time I visit an area, I get the new edition.  As part of my travel planning within the United States, I order the TourBooks and maps for each state before I visit and use them to begin planning.  Of course, with the internet, that’s really no longer necessary.  You can search any location and find exhaustive information for your planning purposes.  BUT, when I was in Yellowstone with no connectivity on my smart phone and no wi-fi in the hotel, the old stone tablet, aka paper books and maps, came in VERY handy.  And even outside the park, reception was spotty in Wyoming.  Apparently, ATT has some room for improvement in the western U.S.

Upon leaving Jackson, Wyoming, just like in the old days, my husband drove while I read out loud from the TourBook about every town and attraction along the route and some off the route in case we found something worth a side trip.  We decided to head to Thermopolis, Wyoming, by way of the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway.  Our first stop, however, occurred when we spotted some hunters on the side of the road.  Thinking maybe we’d see some wildlife, we pulled over.

Hunter with his dismembered moose

Hunter with his dismembered moose

Since this was the only moose I’d seen on this trip, I snapped a picture, even though he was no longer in one piece.  I told the hunter I’d really like to see a grizzly bear and he said to come back in the morning to the “gut pile” and I’d likely see one.

By this time, it was late in the afternoon so locating accommodations for the night was our first priority.  The TourBook also contains accommodations so I quickly found a good rate at the new Wind River Hotel and Casino in Riverton, WY.  We’re not gamblers but we like a bargain and this hotel owned by the Northern Arapaho Tribe fit the bill.  By the time we got our AAA discount and all the other perks including gambling dollars and meal vouchers plus some extras because it was my birth month, we figured our room cost around $40.  I found it ironic that no alcohol was allowed anywhere on this property although smoking and gambling were plentiful.

The next morning, we headed straight to the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway.  The varied terrain and vast rugged beauty is breathtaking.   The photos below are actually in the order taken showing the rapid changes in scenery.

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

IMG_4262

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway

Arriving in Thermopolis, the northern endpoint of the byway, at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center & Dig Sites  when it opened at 10 a.m. allowed us to see all the exhibits before the school children arrived on a field trip.  We were reminded of our own children when they were school age years before.  They would have loved Jimbo, the Supersaurus, and Stan, the T-Rex as well as the Triceratops on display at this delightful museum.

Today, the real draw to this small private museum is the famous Thermopolis Specimen, a fossil of an Archaeopteryx.  It is one of only 10-12 specimens in the world and the only one on display in North America.  It is also considered the second best specimen in existence.  The specimen was discovered in Bavaria and sold from a private collection to an anonymous donor who put it on display at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in 2007.  What a treasure!

"Thermopolis Archaeopteryx" by incidencematrix - DSC_0034. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thermopolis_Archaeopteryx.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Thermopolis_Archaeopteryx.jpg

“Thermopolis Archaeopteryx” by incidencematrix – DSC_0034. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thermopolis_Archaeopteryx.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Thermopolis_Archaeopteryx.jpg

This town of 3000 inhabitants has more to offer than just the dinosaur museum, however.  It is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs with over 8000 gallons of water heated to 135 degrees flowing each day.  Hot Springs State Park, the first state park in Wyoming, is adjacent to Thermopolis with a free public bath house for mineral springs bathing and swimming year round.  In addition, boating, fishing, and hiking are available, and a herd of bison roams through the park.

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Tepee Fountain, Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Tepee Fountain, Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

A visit to Thermopolis was definitely worthwhile and I highly recommend spending some time there.  As we headed for home, one last beautiful photo of Wyoming begged to be taken.

Leaving Thermopolis, Wyoming

Leaving Thermopolis, Wyoming

Our AAA TourBooks and maps aided us in another worthwhile adventure.  And, we were happy to get out of Wyoming and South Dakota just a day ahead of more than 12 inches of snow in late September.

 

Based on events from September, 2013

 

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Deadwood to Devils Tower

We made a quick stop in Deadwood then drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway on our way to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.  Although the comprehensive website, www.deadwood.org, invites visitors to come see what’s new in historic Deadwood, I only wanted to see what’s old.  Having been there before, I remembered that Deadwood sprang up when gold was discovered in 1874 and that Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed there in 1876 while playing poker.  What I’d forgotten is that the town was destroyed several times due to fire, the first time in 1879.  Consequently, historic buildings burned down and weren’t necessarily rebuilt where they stood previously.  Such is the case with the saloon where Wild Bill was shot.  Saloon No. 10 is now located across the street so there are signs to show where Wild Bill was actually shot and where his killer, Jack McCall, was captured.

Although Saloon No. 10 is not in its original location, the main attraction in the new site is still the shooting of Wild Bill.  Well, maybe the main attractions are drinking and gambling but this historical event does get attention.  The chair where Wild Bill sat with his back to the door, against his better judgement, is encased here along with a display of the cards he held at the time of his death, forever dubbed the Dead Man’s Hand.  There is agreement that he held black aces and eights but the fifth card is in question.  Although the display case in Saloon No. 10 contains a nine of diamonds, other accounts list the fifth card as a jack of diamonds or an unknown card.

There are lots of great things to see and do in the Black Hills but we selected just a few this time because of time constraints.  In previous trips we visited Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and Mammoth Site.  My husband and younger son did a father son bonding trip several years ago and went trail riding at Country Charm Cabins and Corrals.  I highly recommend all of these places.

The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive with several worthwhile stops along the way.

It’s just 2o miles long but it packs some great scenery into a short drive.  We were intent on finding the campsite in the canyon where we camped in our youth and we actually found it quite easily along with a film site from the final scene of the movie, Dances With Wolves.  We also stopped at Roughlock Falls and Bridal Falls before ending the scenic drive at the town of Spearfish, S.D. just 60 miles from our next stop at Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.

By chance, however, traveling along Interstate 90 we spotted a sign announcing Vore Buffalo Jump just off the freeway, so a short side trip was in order.  Vore Buffalo Jump is a natural sinkhole used by the Plains Indians to trap bison.  The Indians would stampede the bison in the direction of the hole and the bison tumbled to their death.  The bison were then used for food, shelter, clothing, tools and even medicine for the Plains Indians.

Although the visitor’s center was closed for the season, we were able to walk around the area and read the signs.  The site was discovered in the early 1970’s when Interstate 90 was constructed.  Sinkholes are inherently incompatible with roads because of their tendency to settle further and swallow up cars, so the route for the road was altered.  Soon thereafter, archeologists from the University of Wyoming began excavating the area.  In 1989, the Vore family donated the area to the University of Wyoming and in 2001, the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation was created (vorebuffalojump.org).

Devils Tower was the first national monument in the United States, established in 1906 by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt.  Called Bear Lodge by Native Americans, the igneous intrusion was named Devils Tower by Colonel Richard Dodge in 1875 when he led a military expedition to investigate claims of gold in the Black Hills.  The first ascent of the column occurred in 1893 and if you look closely, you can still see remnants of the wooden ladder on the side of the Tower.  Today, around 5,000 rock climbers come from all over the world each year to climb the monolith (Devils Tower Official Map and Guide).   Several trails of varying length offer outstanding views of the landmark and surrounding landscape, as well as the abundant wildlife.  You’ll also notice Native American prayer bundles around the area with signs directing that they not be disturbed.  The prairie dog town just outside the monument entrance is a fun stop for kids of all ages.

By the way, did you wonder if Devils should have an apostrophe?  The official proclamation in 1906 mistakenly omitted the apostrophe so they kept it that way.  If you haven’t been to Devils Tower, add it to your list.  Even if you’re not a rock climber, it’s a great place to visit.

 

References:

Vore Buffalo Jump,  retrieved from http://www.vorebuffalojump.org

Devil’s Tower Official Map and Guide, brochure, (n.d.) National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

Based on events of September, 2013

 

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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