Our destination for tonight was only a few hours north, in Medora, ND. Given that short drive, and following up on recommendations from our dinner with Susan, we decided to take a detour back into Wyoming and check out Devils Tower. (Today, we’d pass through four states — South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota.) Because of the day’s schedule, we took the opportunity to enjoy a real camp breakfast — shake ‘n pour pancakes — before we hit the road.
Before 10 AM, we had made it into Wyoming and found the Tower.
Devils Tower is another “national monument” — not a “national park” — and so gives Wyoming the distinction of having both the first National Park (Yellowstone) and the first National Monument (Devils Tower). Some what surprisingly, scientists do not agree how Devils Tower was created, though they do agree how it has come to be seen — specifically, erosion of soil slowly exposing the Tower bit-by-bit over thousands of years.
A notable feature of the Great Plains that may have skipped discussion up until now, is the prevalence of Prairie Dogs. There are little clusters of these critters (called “towns”) all over the place — Devils Tower is no different.
We were also surprised to learn that Devils Tower, the location, is a sacred site to many of the areas Native American tribes — many of whom refer to the area as “Bear Lodge” (rather than Devils Tower) and actively object to the current name given the negative connotations. On that note, it’s only due to a clerical error that the location is referred to as “Devils Tower” and not “Devil’s Tower.”
After checking out the Visitor’s Center and learning all that there was to learn about the geologic formation, we set out to see how close we could get.
At the top of this rock face, there was a boundary that you could not cross without a permit — a climbing permit. Upon closer inspection, we found quite a number of people rock climbing up the face of the Tower. So cool!
With that visit complete, we hopped back in the truck and were off to North Dakota. We again found ourselves without interstate access and instead had to travel hundreds of miles on “back roads.” Along one of these stretches, we decided to stop at a sleepy little town for lunch.
The “Wagon Wheel Cafe” looked promising — perhaps not because of its marginally positive reviews on Yelp! but rather because it was the only place open. Unfortunately, the service was shockingly slow. With full bellies, we restocked our ice and iced tea supplies and were back on the road.
We finally made our way to Medora, ND — home of both the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and (tonight’s destination) the “famous” Pitchfork Steak Fondue. We quickly checked out the Park’s Visitor’s Center to plan out our visit and then went next door to check-in at the campground.
Once situated with a site, we headed across the street to dinner. The location is named because they cook the steaks en masse on pitchforks — no “fondue” is involved in anyway.
Apparently, this place is quite the destination. Perhaps due, in part, to its beautiful location atop the mesa.
Once through the line, we found ourselves with an overwhelming amount of food. There was the main attraction — steak — but also the buffet — offering buffalo, roasted chicken, and ribs. So. Much. Meat.
Place was BYOB. We came prepared.
The dinner is paired with a variety show — one that is a separate ticket, which we did not get — so we saw some historical figures milling about while we ate. We had the opportunity to chat with Mr. President and Mrs. Roosevelt!
Fun Fact: The second Mrs. Roosevelt (his first wife died in 1884), seen here, was happy to learn we were from CT as she was apparently born in Norwich, CT back in 1861.
Back at camp, we took the opportunity to reset. We did long-overdue laundry, enjoyed hot showers, and simply relaxed. (Also, Ally admitted to having murdered a bird during the day’s drive!!!)
Once the tent was set up, we shared a few beers while chatting with our campsite neighbors from Fargo, ND. (No fires here, though, because of “Extreme Fire Danger!” due to a long-standing drought in the area.) Before long, it was time for bed.
Tomorrow is shaping up to be a long day — we’re hoping to get to the Minnesota-Canada border before sunset, but also want to check out Teddy Roosevelt National Park!
Custer, SD to Medora, ND (via Devils Tower, WY) – 350 miles (6 hours)
-Ally and Patrick