On our way to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming along Highway 24 I was hoping beyond reason that it would live up to all of my expectations. After all, I have been envisioning that huge monolithic tree trunk of sorts, in my mind and dreams for almost as long as I can remember. I used to draw pictures of it in school while I was supposed to be doing math, and even built a model of it out of Lego once.
As we approached along the winding road, rising and falling with the hills, I began to notice something odd. There was no traffic coming from the other direction. This went on for miles and miles as I began to see that there were no people about either. The few businesses we passed seemed to be closed, the only motion being the swirling dirt clouds kicked up around the dusty parking lots. Strange.
With the tower hazily coming into view in the distance, I saw some cattle lying down in the grassy field we were passing. Coming up to another ranch, we noticed that those cattle were also sleeping. Because the area presented a nice view of the surrounding area, we pulled over to take a few pictures. The cattle lying near the road continued their slumber regardless of our noisy presence. As we got out of the truck Mercy exclaimed, “Eww, what is that smell?!” I approached the cattle while at the same time slapping at a rather large green fly, and realized that the smell was coming from them. Immediately it dawned on me that these cows weren’t sleeping… they were dead. In fact all of them were dead!
We jumped back into the truck and continued on our way towards the tower. Suddenly a military jeep came flying up over the hill before us. As they passed in the opposite direction I looked in my rear view mirror only to see them spin around to give us chase. Not wanting to get myself in trouble, I pulled over hoping that they would continue past us. Unfortunately the jeep pulled off right behind us and two armed MP’s wearing gas masks approached both sides of the truck. “Please step out of the truck sir,” the one on my side said through his mask.
“What’s the problem Sergent?” I replied.
“This area has been evacuated due to an airborne contagion. You’ll all need to come with us,” he ordered as I noticed his grip tighten on his assault weapon. With that I threw the truck into gear and sped away as fast as I could leaving behind a huge cloud of dust as the tires bit into the dirt. Tan screamed at me as we hurled down the road when suddenly a barbed wire barrier stretching across the asphalt ahead came into view. Not wanting to get caught up in this madness and unable to stop in time, I crashed the gate sending wood and wire in all directions, as I continued our race towards Devil’s Tower!
As dusk began to settle over the hills we continued our mad trek towards the tower, the military jeep left in our dust. Finally we neared the base of the huge dome; a mountain of pure rock jutting into the open sky surrounded only by the emerging stars. I put the truck in park and dove out never even bothering to close the door.
“Hurry!!” I yelled to Tan and the kids, “We’re going to miss it!”
“Miss what?” they asked, unable to comprehend my apparent madness. But suddenly we heard an ear-rattling rumbling noise and the sound of what could only be described as the blowing of a giant tuba. And there before us, but somewhat eclipsed by Devil’s Tower came rising a huge craft of metal, and lights, and glass…
“The aliens!” I shouted as I felt Tan’s hand on my shoulder. Quickly she began shaking me and I turned as she yelled in my ear.
“Bri, you’re dreaming about Close Encounters of the Third Kind Again!”
That’s what I was hoping for anyway… an immense cornucopia of lights and sound floating behind Devil’s Tower and rising into the sky. I could most definitely see why Steven Spielberg chose this place as a major “character” and the setting for the film’s climax.
Formed millions of years ago (ask Mercy, she’ll know) it is truly mysterious and magnificent at the same time. An immense body of lava rock that cooled within its path to the surface, forming what can only be described as a molten plug. Then, over the course of eons, the land around it was slowly eroded away leaving the solid rock jutting over 1200 feet into the air. To the Native Americans this is sacred land, and it’s easy to understand why. As it sits upon a rising bluff gloriously overlooking all of the surrounding area, you can’t help being transfixed as the sun sets and the stars come into view around its darkened silhouette. With the quiet of night, broken perhaps only by the howling of wolves, I was filled with the spirituality that this place invokes.
During the day we took a hike up to, and around the tower. It was quite a walk up the hill and I kept looking over my shoulder for some sort of devil or odd creature to pop out of the woods and give reason for the tower’s name. Unfortunately (fortunately?) none materialized and we enjoyed a nice walk around the base gazing up at the shifting faces and shadows as we made our way through the surrounding woods.
The trip back down was highlighted by a jaunt through “Prairie Dog Town”, a field bordering the campground that is the home to countless prairie dogs. It was quite comical to walk along the path as one would bark out a little warning of our presence only to disappear down its hole as we approached. The warning call would then be taken up by another ‘little dog’ further down the path, again vanishing as we neared. This little scenario played out again and again for half a mile keeping us in stitches the entire time.
Once again the time came to move on. Driving off I couldn’t help stealing as many views of the tower as possible as we headed back over the hills and by the fields we passed on the way in. With Devil’s Tower receding in the distance I told myself that I will most definitely have to return there someday. As we finally neared the pair of MP’s standing off to the side of the road I gave one a nod of recognition, and noticed the gas mask attached to his belt. He returned the acknowledgement saying, “Nice to see you again.”