Roughly halfway through Wyoming, somewhere in the granite bluffs of the Bighorn Forest, I realized there’s a lot more to this state than Yellowstone and the Tetons.
Here in roughly the north-central part of the state, some ways east of the cowboy-touristy town of Cody and Greybull where I’d stopped for lunch, the plains dropping down from the Yellowstone plateau had climbed back up into the sky. It started slowly, with a turn to the left and a series of blood red soft-stone bluffs, much like the ones in the Sedona area of northern Arizona. The road started curving through taller structures and all of a sudden I was near the bottom of a canyon, the sides of which gradually grew up above me. Signs around pointed to rock formations and the eras they were from; names geologists must’ve memorized for exams several times over. Ancient, many of these were, some from several hundred millions and even billions of years ago.
The road climbed up, a pulloff offering views of a scenic waterfall. It was hot outside by now, well into the 90s, an uncomfortable change from the mild weather further west. It reached a plateau around 10,000 feet which somehow was unremarkable, some of the land turned into a grazing area. And then my hybrid engine took a break for the next few miles as we coasted down towards the plains, and my month or so in the Rocky Mountains came to an end. In front of me the sight was endless – vast, open plains with only a few interruptions until the Appalachians a thousand miles east.
One of these is Devil’s Tower, the first US National Monument, declared so by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. I reached it just before sunset that same day, nearly 500 miles from the splendor of Yellowstone and Jackson Hole. And it glowed in the evening light, its grayish stone turning darker towards the bottom with the top lit up with a red-orange accent of sunset. I managed to take a few pictures before the light fell away, and I retired to a campsite on the other side of the Tower. I woke up at sunrise again, taking a walk around the Tower at first light. The prairie dog population flanking one side of the monument was up and active, digging and scrounging and chirping, and it was just another summer morning in Wyoming.
View pictures from Wyoming.