Saturday, April 28, 2012

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Devil's Tower is a monolith in northeastern Wyoming located not too far from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The site was declared the country's first national monument in 1906. It's probably most widely known for the part it played in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where Richard Dreyfuss' character obsessively sculpted a replica out of mashed potatoes and at the movie's climax the alien ship descended above the tower broadcasting its five-note audio signal.

Back in September 1999 I spent the month driving around the eastern 2/3 of the US. I spent three days in the area of Rapid City, SD visiting Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse memorial (still in progress of being sculpted), Wind Cave and Custer State Park. At Custer State Park I realized you really wouldn't want to rollerskate in a buffalo herd as one surrounded my car on their way across a road.

Devil's Tower is an impressive sight since it sticks up well above anything else nearby. It rises to a height of just short of a mile. Even from further away than this picture (from Wikipedia) was taken, it is noteworthy.

On my trip, I got to the tower in mid-day so I had plenty of time to look around. There's a 1.3-mile trail that circles the base of the tower, giving views from all sides. With a pair of binoculars, one can watch the numerous climbers (about 4,000 annually) ascending to the top. It was a beautiful day, perfect for viewing the tower.

Heading back to the car, I heard a car alarm go off. I wondered what was going on. when I got back to my car, several minutes after the alarm had stopped, I discovered it had been my car's alarm. My passenger side door was open. On the floor of the passenger side, my backpack, which contained my laptop, was still there and apparently hadn't been disturbed. The laptop was still inside. I might've left the door unlocked accidentally as there was no sign of forced entry. Maybe someone just opened the door thinking my car was theirs or maybe someone was looking for easy pickings. I'll never know.

That night I stayed in a KOA campground in one of their "Kamping Kabins," a very basic little cabin with bunks where campers supply their own bedding  - air mattress and sleeping bag in my case. I had to get up in the night to facilitate the euphemism. On my way back I encountered a few small deer, probably white-tailed deer. At least I think that's what they were - at the time I wondered if they might've been a small pack of coyotes. Whatever they were, they moved off pretty quickly and quietly. It was pretty darn dark since there's hardly any artificial light in that area at night. During the night some rain, with a little thunder moved in and was still around by morning, so I headed off to Yellowstone National Park on the other side of the state. Had the weather stayed fair I might've gone back to the tower.

Check out  Wikipedia for a lot more information on the formation and history of Devil's Tower. It's definitely worth seeing if you're in that part of the country.

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