Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming – American Road Trip (pt 17)
Devil’s Tower National Monument sits in the beautiful countryside of northeast Wyoming. Once again I didn’t much about the monument, but multiple friends said I should go see it on my way to Yellowstone so I did. Who was I to say no?
The story of its creation is quite interesting but way beyond my memory to recount or even try to explain. It starts 225 million years ago so even if I did remember it, I doubt you’d want to read about it. But if that is your kind of thing, check out the National Park Service link for all the juicy details. After you visit a few National Parks or Monuments, you realize just how short a period of time humans have been tromping around this planet. And kind of how insignificant we are in the history of it. Well, except in the last hundred years when we started to do some real damage to her. But that’s a conversation for another time and another blog.
The drive to Devil’s Tower from South Dakota was quite scenic with rolling hills, thick forests, and the occasional fields of green farmland. About 10-15 miles away, Devil’s Tower just pops out of nowhere on the horizon. On a nice sunny day, you have plenty of time to appreciate it as you approach the entrance. Near the entrance, there are many snack/souvenir shop/restaurants and of course, I stopped to get some supplies. And by supplies, I’m pretty sure it was trail mix, beef jerky, Pringle’s and maybe a Red Bull. I threw healthy out the window about two weeks prior and was now mainly consuming comfort road trip food. Judge all you want. Those were long hard days……in a very comfortable German automobile.
A couple of minutes after driving into the park, I remember being quite surprised by all the prairie dogs roaming the outer grasslands surrounding the monument. There were hundreds, if not thousands of them. And I wouldn’t say they were singing, but they were trying to do something similar and they weren’t on key. I stopped and watched them for a while, made a couple of furry friends, and then headed off. My iPhone 5 camera couldn’t capture all of them in the fields, or you’d see just as many pictures of them as you see of the monument. I’d never seen anything quite like and probably won’t again anytime soon. Oh, and there was this 50+ million-year-old rock formation there too.
The Monument itself was quite interesting. As you can see in the pictures, it has multiple layers or striations where all the lava cooled off in columns underground all those years ago. At the base, you can see the erosion that has occurred and large pieces of rock that have cracked off the mountain. If you are interested in the history but don’t want to do all the reading, National Park Service Rangers give informational talks about monument at open aired seating areas throughout the day. They do this at most National Parks and Monuments. Just check their website for details.
I wandered around a bit but didn’t really have much interest in hiking the trails leading up to the base of the monument. People from all over the world come here to climb the monument, but I wasn’t one of them. I came, I saw and was ready to go after about 30 minutes.
One thing I remember seeing at the souvenir shop were all sorts of alien dolls and trinkets. I had no idea why they would have such things at a monument like this. It didn’t dawn on me until later when I heard some people talking about how Devil’s Tower was in the movie ” Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen the whole movie, but I do remember the parts when the spaceship arrives and vaguely remember there being a big mountain in those scenes. And maybe a mountain replica made out of mashed potatoes as well, but I’m not totally sure. Anyway, this was that big mountain as you can see below. This link has some Tower pictures from the movie if the one below isn’t enough.
When I left the Tower, I was headed north to Montana with Glacier National Park as my next destination. Ever since I had seen the TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove” as a kid, I had always wanted to see the state of Montana. As a kid, I probably wanted to see it on horseback. As a 41-year-old man, that just wasn’t happening and I settled with driving. I honestly can’t remember what about the series left me with such a lasting impression of Montana. All I remember is that is where the Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duval wanted to take their Texas cattle and it is where the series ended with only one of the characters left alive. An old western TV mini-series had left me with a romanticized idea of Montana and after about 30 years I was finally headed to see it.
As always, thanks for reading. Have a great weekend. I’m in Innsbruck, Austria as I write about my American Road Trip last summer. Look for an Innsbruck post over the weekend with more road show posts next week.