Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Devils Tower (Bear Lodge)

Since seeing the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind almost 30 years ago, I have wondered if Devils Tower or Bear Lodge as some Indians referred to this special place, was really as impressive as I had seen on the silver screen. On a recent trip to the area, I was not disappointed.

The drive from Denver to Wyoming takes approximately seven hours and although my previous trips had included Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse’s monument, Devils Tower had been excluded, but was now on my agenda.

The drive from Mount Rushmore to Devils Tower, America’s first national monument takes approximately two hours. It is a pleasant drive often with many deer or pronghorns in the grasslands along the route. The looming tower, all 867 feet can easily be seen on Highway 24 on the approach to the National Park.

On arriving at the tower, we were surprised to see that climbers were allowed to scale the tower. Park service personnel described how climbers’ pitons had been used in the past to secure their hold, but nowadays, most climbers used their own strength and skill to carry them to the summit. Almost 4000 climbers visit the tower each year to test their skill on the massive rock. The National Park Service considers the rock to be a valuable and historical monument and one that is to be enjoyed by all, including climbers.

There is an excellent winding path around the base of Devils Tower. The hike is relatively easy and takes about 45 minutes for the 1.3 mile walk. At various intervals around the base, there are spectacular, panoramic views with many opportunities for excellent photographs.

On exiting the park, there is a well stocked gift shop that also offers light refreshments. Located across the road from the gift shop, there is a Post Office where one can mail postcards presumably with the postmark “Devils Tower”.

It was a good trip and well worth the extra time and energy to visit Devils Tower.