After leaving Rapid City our next stop was Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Devil’s Tower was another stop we meant to make the previous year, but didn’t have time, much like Hot Springs. So I was very excited to finally be on our way.
We took off down I-90, which loops around the Black Hills. As we passed exits for Sturgis and Deadwood memories of last year’s trip flooded passed me. Oh, how I would love to stop by these cities again, but we have a mission today and we’re trying to make it to Montana by sundown, so there’s no time. We travel on.
But the view along I-90 along the Black Hills is nonetheless a pleasure. I’ve definitely had worse drives. The Black Hills are an absolutely beautiful place, and a great sight to behold. As we passed the Black Hills and entered Wyoming we missed the exit for the Vore Buffalo Jump, something I was hoping to see. Unfortunately, we weren’t making good time and I knew Erin, my wife, had no interest in it, so there was no turning back. Better luck next time.
We passed through Sundance, WY. This is where the Sundance Kid got his nickname, while serving time in the local jail. After passing Sundance and scooting down the road a ways, Highway 14 hitches north. The road, as I recall, was quite a ride some of the way, twisting and turning with steep ups and downs as we passed through the Bear Lodge Mountains.
As we traveled along for what felt like forever in the anticipation of getting there, we could finally see the monolith in the distance. Upon seeing it, one would think that you have almost arrived. You are wrong. You are still a ways off, it’s just that Devil’s Tower is so massive that you can see it from miles away.
When we finally arrived at Devil’s Tower National Monument we pulled up to the entrance at the visitor’s center, paid our admission, and continued over the Belle Fourche River. We drove down a road that ran along the Belle Fourche in a beautiful valley that laid in the shadow of the great laccolith. There was a prairie dog colony that lived between the road and the river, tourist were parked along the road to see them. Having been raised on a farm in Nebraska, prairie dogs were not a big deal to me, nevertheless, I snapped a picture of some on the way out of the park.
The road wound around the base of the Tower to a parking area with some informational centers and restrooms. There were several tour buses with foreign tourists. I was pleased to see such a diverse group of people coming from all around the world to gaze upon this wonder and bask in it’s sheer immensity.
From the parking area a trail went further up towards the tower at a rather steep incline and then around the entirety of Devil’s Tower. I hiked the entire trail (besides taking a few improvised shortcuts). From the trail I could a clearer, closer view the Tower and a great view of the beautiful valley where the river runs.
In certain spots you could see climbers, scaling up to the top of the Tower. Something I plan on never doing myself. By the time I got to the other side of the Tower it was almost getting dark and there were still climbers with more than half of the way to go up. It was obvious they would be climbing throughout the night. Something I would DEFINITELY never plan on doing.
There were warnings along the trail about wildlife, but I never saw much, other than a little chipmunk. I was halfway hoping I’d spot a bear, pronghorn, wolf or porcupine… or just anything I don’t normally see in Nebraska, really. To see something at a safe distance would have been a great thrill, but, alas, I saw nothing else. But I’m also glad I did not get any kind of surprise close encounter either. At a certain point along the trail you could see the wooden pegs that William Rogers and Willard Ripley, local ranchers, used as ladders in the first known ascent of Devil’s Tower.
Devil’s Tower is pretty out of the way as far as sight seeing goes. You’re looking at a least a couple of hours driving time. But it is definitely worth the visit. Little else on this Earth can put the grand scope of nature and time into perspective for us. It is not only a thing of immense size, but also of immense beauty. Take the time or make the time to see it.