I popped into the IGA in Buffalo, Wyoming for a few groceries. I paused in the produce section to let an elderly man pass with his cart. He gently laid his hand on my arm and looked at me. “Isn’t the weather beautiful today? So nice after all that rain, but you know it slowed the lilacs, they are just blooming and usually they are way past their prime by now.”
When I checked out, a talkative, middle-aged cashier asked, “Do you like country music?” She tucked two copies of her band’s CDs in my grocery bag, “I play the fiddle and share lead vocals, hope you enjoy, they’re free.” What wonders lurk in the IGA. I will remember those encounters.
Buffalo was full of friendly people. And, like Dubois and so many other western towns, it has a beautiful setting. Flanked by the Bighorn Mountains on one side, it rolls into grasslands on the other, and the downtown is full of historic buildings and classic bungalow-lined streets. We stayed at Deer Park, a sweet little oasis of an RV park, staffed by funny, charming people. There must be some real jerks in Buffalo, but we didn’t meet any.
After a nice interlude in Buffalo, we continued on to the Devil’s Tower, the unreal-looking monolith featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The entrance to the Devil’s Tower Monument was filled with the usual stores and crowded private campgrounds that proliferate near national parks and monuments. We bypassed them and stayed at an amazing public campground, Belle Fourche, within the park. It did not have hookups, which isn’t a problem for us because, with a little sunshine, our solar panels provide enough electricity for days. At $12 a night, we had an almost unbelievable campsite, with a private lawn looking out on a stream, mountain meadow, red cliffs, and the Devil’s Tower looming as a dramatic backdrop.
There are a wide variety of campground types, each with their own distinct flavor. Campgrounds without hookups tend to attract people with tents, pop-ups, or small trailers, rather than those with behemoth RVs. As a result, the crowd is generally a bit more quirky and interesting and this place was no different. There were people from several different countries, climbers, and young (very polite) families. It reminded us of a backpacking crowd—independent and diverse.
The serene campground was a nice escape from the crowds at the Tower parking lot–it was a madhouse. I can’t imagine what it is like on weekends in full summer. But it was worth enduring the crowds for the up-close view because the rock formation is so striking and unusual.
We had a warm, sunny afternoon, a period of thunderstorms—which we miss in Alaska—followed by rainbows, and an almost full moon that night. I am running out of superlatives, but it was quite a show.