Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Devils Tower Trip

We were still in Black Hawk in the Black Hills of South Dakota on May 18, 2004. It was overcast and we were staying in the motorhome to do some cleaning while the weather cleared. We got a call from our youngest son, Christopher, who at the time was still an active Marine. He called from Thailand. He had been in the field in the rain for two weeks on howitzer training. When he said his cammies were stiff from mud and rain, I could sympathize, having spent a tour in the Army forty years earlier. They came in for showers, clean clothes and a weekend in Bangkok before continuing their field training on Monday.

All of a sudden, our weather felt better and we felt better knowing where our son was and that he was okay. Sometimes, the Marines do not let them divulge their location. Since our day looked brighter now, I talked Kathi into taking a one hundred mile ride into Wyoming to see the Devils Tower. I had heard of it all of my life, but it really became etched in my memory by Steven Spielberg in “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”.

We enjoyed the drive over with intermittent showers, thus intermittent windshield wipers. I had thoughts that this trip might not be such a good idea, but I wanted to see the site, so I did not mention my qualms. I think Kathi was muttering something, but thankfully she did not elaborate.

Devils Tower is unique for several reasons, but I think the most impressive is that its height is so much higher than everything in the vicinity -- you can see it for fifty miles away. It really looks desolate and isolated. Spielberg did well showing that in the movie, but it is more eerie in real life.

We drove into the Devils Tower National Monument and the entrance road goes through prairie dog town. Kathi and I both thought the prairie dogs were a highlight of the trip. They make really fast movements, like squirrels. I think they talk to each other, but I do not know that for sure. They always stay near their holes, which they call home. They stand erect resting on their haunches and buttocks, look around and speak gibberish, like “Chip and Dale”. Then they drop to all fours run a few feet and stand erect again, look around and more gibberish. There must have been a thousand of them at prairie dog town.

The tower was created by an extinct volcano and it consists of many cones where the weather has made the rock porous. Many people climb the tower each year, using one of over two hundred climbing trails. Climbers must register with park rangers before climbing. The park campgrounds allows tent and RV camping on a first come, first served basis.

Most of the wildlife is seen around the base of the tower and along the Belle Fourche River. Other than the prairie dogs, we only saw a few cattle, but I understand there are plentiful deer in the area and many bird species. We did see a herd of deer on the way back to Black Hawk, but we saw none near the tower. Driving through the rolling hills, we saw many plots of plowed ground ready for planting. Another great day, despite the rain.
Hidden rabbit

Devils Tower -- poor picture on a cloudy day

1 comment:

  1. My Brother in Bangkok. Whew. What a mix of person and place. He told me about that weekend. I can picture him there