Sunday, June 12, 2011

Close Encounters of the Fun Kind

Devil's Tower w flagWith a day off from our volunteer duties and bright sunshine for a change, we headed off for a road trip to Devils Tower National Monument in nearby Wyoming.  When mentioning Devils Tower to some of our friends, they weren’t always sure what it was…..but mention the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and they remember that it’s the big rock where the music-playing aliens landed and took Richard Dreyfuss away with them.  In reality, there was no filming done at Devils Tower; the alien landing scenes were done in a large hanger in Alabama.  But a visit to the “tower” is a memorable Devils Tower Routeexperience, and getting to and from the monument is a worthwhile trip in itself.  We began by heading north to Belle Fourche, then headed west into Wyoming, passing the bustling towns of Aladdin (pop. 15), and Hullett (pop. 45), all the while driving through incredibly green hills, meadows, and pine forests. 
Approaching the tower is almost surreal – suddenly in the distance this strange monolith rises out of the ground, looking completely out of place.  After passing the entry station, it’s a winding, three-mile road up to the base of the tower, where we stopped at the visitor center before heading out on the 1.3 mile loop around the base of the tower.  It’s a fairly easy trail, nicely paved, and with plenty of benches for sitting and staring at the strange columns of rocks.  Once again, those fun-loving park service folks made sure that all of the uphill grades are in the bright sunshine, while the downhill grades are in the shade.  It was in the mid-80s and sunny, so those uphill stretches seemed longer than they probably were.  Devils Tower 2
Devils Tower 3As we walked around the tower, each opening in the trees gave us a different view of the strange, columnar rocks.  There are a number of Indian legends about how the tower was formed, but all have a central theme of a giant bear trying to claw his way up to the top where children were hiding, and so the columns were formed by the giant bear’s claws.  The real reason isn’t nearly as enchanting, you can read about it here.  
Wherever there are tall rocks, there seems to be a group of people, who for a reason unfathomable to us, want to climb them.  We watched as a group was attempting to scale the tower.  I say attempting, because there seemed to be a problem with one of the climbers who was getting help from another.  You can just see them in the next picture, then see them up close in the following picture.
Climber Close Up
Bearlodge MountainsAs we trudged along the trail, the trees would open up and we’d be treated to a view of the surrounding Bear Lodge Mountains.  This is probably the prettiest time of the year as everything is green from the spring rains.
Prairie Dog Mom & PupsLeaving the visitor center, we stopped at “Prairie Dog Town”, and pulled over to watch the show.  Since it’s Spring, the “town” was filled with mothers and their young, and it was fun to watch them as Baby Prairie Dogsthey scampered around, playing and tormenting their mother. 
Back on the road, we turned south to Sundance, where we turned onto Interstate 90 for our return trip.  This was a great road trip that we’re sure we’ll remember for a long time!
Things are heating up here in the Black Hills - we’ve got more adventures planned, so stop back and visit!


  1. great shots today!..thanks for sharing your fabulous tour of the Devil's Tower Monument!..another place added to our list of must see's!!

  2. I loved reading about your road trip today. Great pictures - I want to visit there someday.

    The prairie dogs are so you enjoyed watching them.

  3. Great photos of an outstanding fantastic place. Pictures barely help show how truly amazing it is. We visited there last summer on our way from Theo. Roosevelt Park in ND, going to the Black Hills. We fell so in-love with the Black Hills area & plan to return, hopefully even to workkamp there.

  4. Oh my goodness...they are so cute!