Gatchell Museum, Badlands, Tensleep, Black Hills -They’re all good

It’s the end of day three of our Yellowstone trip, which started in the Badlands outside of Rapid City, S.D.

The trip has been awesome so far and saying the West is impressive just doesn’t do justice. Here’s an update of where we’ve been followed by bulleted briefs of the highlights. The natural wonders are amazing so we stop for everything regardless of our loose schedule. Not once have we been disappointed. Quite the opposite – blown away in fact.

Teddy Roosevelt bust at the BBM

Tonight we’re in Cody, Wyoming, which could be described as Buffalo Bill’s town (he had a ranch here). It’s 50-miles east of the eastern entrance to Yellowstone. We ate at the Irma Hotel, built in 1902 by Buffalo Bill, who’d named after his daughter. Great buffet.

We almost had a setback when a Wyoming state trooper pulled me over this morning going 80 about a dozen miles east of Moorland (read, middle of nowhere!). Alas, I was wearing my WNFD t-shirt and only got a warning. My Commercial Drivers License might have helped, too, as welling as putting booth hands on top of the wheel as the cop wandered up to my car.

Here’s the rundown of attractions:

Jim Gatchell Museum, Buffalo, Wyo. was a wonderful surprise recommended to us by a grocery store check-out cashier in Hill City, S.D. Gatchell was an early 1900s larger-than-life druggist in Buffalo who was a friend to Native Americans and who collected artifacts from many Native American battles and the forgotten Cattle Wars. Five bucks goes a long way in this museum. A must…but you’ll have to wait as we were there (10/1) on the last day it was open until renovations are complete.


— The Badlands is a moonscape. Beautiful and haunting…monuments to the dead. A complete high plains anomaly. A must…easy to do in an afternoon.

— The Black Hills is a piney setting but with unusual cathedral like mountain peaks. Needles Highway a must..beware of single lane tunnels cut through the rock.

— Mount Rushmore was a lot more inspirational than I thought it would be. Borglum’s creation took him and his 400 workers almost 10 years to complete. We caught it early morning when the sun lights the four faces up. Thought we’d be there 15 minutes….more like two hours.

–Devil’s Tower is a rock outcropping rising 867 feet out of the small rolling Wyoming plains. We caught five rock climbers  this day. Nice 1.3 mile walk around the base of the cone.

—  The Buffalo Bill Museum is world class, but I have must been museum-ed out when we went. It’s five museums, actually – Plains Indians, Buffalo Bill, Firearms, Yellowstone and Western Art. Firearms and there were thousands of them celebrating Winchester, Remington among many other gun makers, were impressive, but a snore for non-gun owning me. Buffalo Bill wasn’t high on my list. But the other three were terrific. I’ll take Gatchell’s intimacy over BBM’s size any day.

Ten Sleep Canyon was another thrill we did not expect. Descending ten miles down the west slope of the southerly Big Horn Mountains, it blew us away. Sheer rock faces lined either side of this wide pass as it took two or three sweeping turns onto the plains.

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