Sunday, June 12, 2011

Devil's Tower National Monument - Close Encounter of the Prairie Dog Kind

Roger here...  I am still humming the alien notes from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" -- much to Dianne's chagrin.  

Close Encounters is one of my all-time favorite movies, so it was a no-brainer for us to travel a hundred miles out of the way (50 each way) to spend a night in the shadows of the Devil's Tower in Northeast Wyoming.

The drive was beautiful, as all things seem to be in this part of the country.  After exiting  Interstate 90, we drove an additional 25 miles on curvy, scenic roads.

We turned a corner a few miles from the park entrance, and there it was.  Some places seem smaller than you imagine them (Chimney Rock, The Alamo, Mt. Vernon).  This is not the case with the Devil's Tower.  It is awe-inspiring -- so dominant in the surrounding landscape.

We were hoping to arrive early enough to snag a campsite in the national park.  Evidently, noon is early enough this time of the year, because we were able to find a perfect spot.  It is maybe the most beautiful site we have ever had -- definitely in the top three.  (If you go, just know that there are no hookups, so it is dry camping -- D.)

The view from the front needs no explanation...

The views from the passenger side were of the Belle Fourche River in front of a series of bright red cliffs.  Oh, and the occasional herd of horses.

After taking the dogs on a hike around the campground -- the only place that they were allowed, we hiked 1.3 miles UP to the tower.   Dianne was in heaven during the first part of the hike.  (The flat part -- D.)  The narrow trail traversed a huge prairie dog colony.  These prairie dogs were much more tolerant of people than those at Custer State Park,  not that they were happy.  There was a lot of high-pitched scolding as we passed within a foot of their burrows.   At the last minute, they always dove into the ground, but this time Dianne was able to get several close-up shots.

Awww!  Look at the babies...

We got a glimpse of a little guy we had never seen before.  The park ranger looked at our picture and told us it was a Least Chipmunk. 

After the stroll through the prairie dog village, we started up.  It was a challenging walk, but it was so interesting.

A couple of dung beetles were rolling a ball of "dung" across the trail.

We walked under a giant yellow turtle standing on its hind legs.  Dianne groaned when I told her what I thought it resembled.  (No one ever accused me of not having an imagination.)

We walked by a balanced rock.

The campground, river and roadway grew small:

When we arrived at the visitor center, Dianne stamped her national park passport book, and we began a 1.3 mile hike around the tower (mostly level and paved).  Here are a couple of close-up shots of the tower:

Remember when Richard Dreyfus and Barry's mom hid in the rubble field on the dark side of the moon?  Well the rubble field is there.

After circling the tower, it was time to head back to the campground.  The doggies (especially Bandido) required at least three more walking circuits of the campground.  So down we went -- easier and quicker to go down.

The scenery seemed more enjoyable on the way down.  All-in-all, it was a 7.1 mile trek, according to Dianne's pedometer.  Well worth the effort.

I spent the rest of the evening and most of the next morning sitting in the passenger seat of the motor home with my feet on the console enjoying the view through the front windshield and humming the Close Encounter notes.

The pet pictures of the day show Bandido joining me as I looked out the front windshield, and Charlie striking a pose.

We intended to travel straight north from here to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  However, the massive flooding of the Missouri River in that area has altered our plans.  Stay tuned for Plan B.


Mike and Terri said...

Awesome pics, and those prairie dogs are precious.

Royal ABCS said...

Great pictures!! I esp like all the wildlife you got to see! We stayed at the KOA there, and they showed the movie each night on a big outdoor screen, so you were watching the film with the shadow of the tower in the backround - pretty cool!! :) Enjoy reading all your adventures!! Stephanie King

Nancy and Bill said...

We also visited Devils Tower and were in awe!! We stay in a private campground within walking distance. We could see the rock climbers from our campsite...that was amazing to watch them go up the side of the BIG rock!!

Thanks for the memories :o))

Margie and Roger said...

Enjoyed the photos as always. I'm so glad you always take the hikes because we don't, but get to see the viewthru your eyes...without doing the work!