One of my favorite movies as a kid was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. An odd-shaped mountain in northeastern Wyoming was featured heavily in the story and it stayed with me throughout my adulthood. I’m not sure if it would have been as mysterious had it not been for the movie but for me as a photographer, it was high on my bucket list of things to shoot.
After our spectacular visit to Alaska this year, Linda and I thought that anything in the Lower 48 would pale in comparison. Aside from an extended stay at our our property in Idaho, our main mission was to get to Campbellsville in Kentucky for our seasonal job at Amazon. So, with that in mind, I had kind of resigned myself to a fairly mundane few months of just getting to that destination.
Linda is the planner extraordinaire and her specialty is fitting a square peg in a round hole. What I mean by that is she will look at a short period of time and figure out an epic trip inside those restraints. One day she blurted out, “I figured out our trip!” When I hear those words, I always get excited. Her genius surfaced again this time when she showed me how we could fit a trip to Devils Tower into our itinerary! I couldn’t wait.
Here’s a little information: Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument and stands 867 feet from base to summit. It is sacred to local Native American tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho. The mountain has had various names given by these tribes over the years including Bear’s House, Bear’s Lair and Home of Bears.
In 1875 an explorer named Col. Richard Irving Dodge asked his obviously inept interpreter what the local name was and he mistranslated it as Bad God’s Tower. This eventually morphed to Devil’s Tower and, when it was designated a National Monument, the apostrophe was dropped. So now you know.
The campground where we stayed lies just inside the main entrance. Fall had taken hold in all its beauty and we found a campsite with a great view of the mountain. Because we were at the edge of the season (the park closes in mid-October), there were few campers about and it was a wonderfully restful time for us.
There is a loop around the base of DT that’s an easy walk with plenty of views of the mountain itself and the surrounding landscape. DT’s shape changes drastically according to wherever you happen to be on that loop, making it a really interesting walk. The first day we attempted to get to the base, we found ourselves on a somewhat strenuous ascent that left us completely out of breath! When we finally got up to the trail, it spit us right out at the Visitors Center! The next day, with newly-acquired wisdom, we drove up and walked the flat and paved loop trail which was a heck of a lot easier!
There are many trails in the area, including one that goes right through Prairie Dog Town. These little critters are fascinating to watch. They are so named because of their bark-like sounds when sounding danger and, believe me, they always seem to be in danger! The barking and screeching never stops. They have created an elaborate network of interconnecting tunnels and every few seconds, they are either ducking inside or heads are popping up.
We had a really great time here and, although it was a brief visit, it made a lasting impression. Our list of “must return” places is growing and this is one of our favorites.