My AFFs (Animal Friends Forever) at the San Diego Zoo!

My AFFs (Animal Friends Forever) at the San Diego Zoo!

When we first pulled into the parking lot of the San Diego Zoo, I could hardly wait to step out of the door of the truck. I have been waiting to come here since before we even left Maine.

After we went in and got our tickets, we headed to the zoo tour bus. We decided to go on the bus first because it covered 75% of the zoo and we would know where everything is. It was a double decker bus and we got to sit on top!

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When we got off the bus we made our way over to the “big cats.” On the way there, we passed an exhibit with TONS of monkeys in it.  My favorite ones are the Capuchins. They are the cutest monkeys you could ever imagine, and they were definitely the most entertaining! They would pick the bugs out of each others fur and eat it, and the way they eat is so human-like!

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I really liked the gorillas too. The troop leader is always a male and called a silverback. The silverback of the troop we saw was sleeping the whole time with his foot pressed against the glass. I felt kind of bad for all of the gorillas, because how would you like it if millions of people came to see you all day, everyday?

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My favorite animal there was the cheetah. It would just pace along the fence watching your every move. Did you know that every cheetah at the San Diego Zoo has a dog as a companion? Well, when we were there the cheetah we saw was paired with a husky mix. River explained to me that they do this so the cheetah is more calm around people. Sadly we didn’t see the dog, but the cheetah was absolutely amazing! The tiger was also one of my favorites, but it didn’t do much except sit on top of a rock and look down on everyone. I was half expecting it to lick it’s lips thinking we would all make a great meal, but it didn’t.

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There were also two different kinds of leopards, the black leopard and snow leopard. We saw the snow leopard, but not the black one because it was inside it’s little “house” the whole time. The snow leopard was not white it was grey, and had a tail that looked almost as dangerous as the claws. It was really long and very fat at the end.

After a while we finally got to the pandas. There was a mom and a cub. The baby was a lot more active than the mom. He would roll around, climb on stuff, and run around the pen. All the mom did was sit there, eat bamboo and watch her son.

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When you think of polar bears do you think of big, white bears? Well that’s basically true except the “big” part. They are not just big, they are HUGE! Did you know that full grown polar bears can get up to 10 feet?! I don’t know how big the one we saw was but it looked pretty close to 10 feet! The way they get their food is very interesting. They’ll wait outside of a seals breathing hole for hours until a seal comes up, then they will grab it. They must be so patient! If I tried to do that I’d be getting up within 5 minutes trying to find food elsewhere.

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On the way over to the elephants we passed more monkeys. This time there was an otter in the same exhibit as the monkeys. It was funny to see an otter and a monkey living together. Just like the Capuchins he was very entertaining, and happened to be my Dad’s favorite animal there. He was super cute especially when he would float on his back down the river, and catch the food the monkeys threw him.

Then we got to the elephants. There were about 3 of them and we were watching one of them eat hay. It’s really interesting how they use their trunks to take the food then put it in their mouth. The San Diego Zoo has 2 different types of elephants, the African and Asian. Two ways to tell them apart are the shape of their ears and their tusks. African elephants have bigger ears that are the shape of the continent of Africa and both males and females have tusks. Whereas Asian elephants have much smaller ears and only the males have tusks.

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After, we went over to the giraffes. There were a few adults and a few babies. They were all so cute and a lot bigger than I thought they would be. A giraffes neck can be 6 feet long and weigh 600 pounds! Imagine having a neck that tall weighing that much!

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I thought the oddest looking animal there were the rhinoceroses. They have a protective layer of skin on the outside which looked like a huge layer of fat, it was very weird. Well I can’t say the rhino is the oddest looking animal there was, because the camels came pretty close. One of them was very old and had a lopsided hump. Through my research I found out that his hump is like that because he is old and his activity level is low, therefore he uses all his stored energy (which is in his hump) causing it to droop. He also had spit coming out of his mouth. I mean literally hanging out of his mouth, it looked like toothpaste. YUCK! The reason camels do spit is to surprise, distract, or bother whatever the camel thinks is threatening it.

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I had such a good time at the San Diego Zoo and it is definitely on my list of places to come back to.

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The Other North Coast

The Other North Coast

The air shifted and definitely became a little cooler as we drove west from the BurntwoodsStock music festival. With the music still in our ears and the fullness of heart from meeting new friends, we headed out to the Pacific coast. We had already spent the previous week around the Portland (Oregon that is… the SECOND Portland) area and had quickly become enamored with the place. Tan and I both immediately felt that it is somewhere that we could go eventually to escape the long winters yet still maintain a sense of changing seasons. It has that same feel that our own Portland area does with rolling hills, plenty of trees, a sense of culture and of course, good natured people. The only difference is the ocean is on the left. We definitely felt that we could fit in. But I’m years ahead of myself…
    As I kind of work this narrative backwards a little (sorry) I have to mention the Columbia River and the beautiful landscape around it. We initially came west that way and were mesmerized by the gorgeous views of the river as we meandered along. I love seeing hills in the distance with a scattering of windmills along their peaks. It makes me feel that at least on some level, we’re trying to do the right thing environmentally. Many folks would argue that the sight of windmills clogs up the scenery and takes away from the natural beauty, but to me it takes me to another place and time. Perhaps a simpler one where wind power was a valuable resource to the surrounding village and where the people who lived there had more time to appreciate the real things in life like love, friendship, and family. My only regret was that we didn’t stay a couple nights there along that river.

Columbia River
    So, after a brief stay in Portland and our great weekend at the music festival, we finally made it to the Pacific Ocean. Feeling a little like Lewis and Clark, our journey seemed to have reached a certain point. Not a conclusion, but something. A milestone perhaps as the Pacific Ocean was certainly a destination. But even at that moment I realized the journey is far from over.
    One of the first things we noticed about the coast is that it’s not quite as “oceany”. It just doesn’t have that aroma of salty air that is ever present on the Atlantic. Regardless though, the scenery is breathtaking with rocky crags, pebble beaches, and tons of driftwood. The sight of the tall outcroppings of rock just a little ways out into the surf add an air of mystery to the place as they come into view through the fog. While I was always under the impression that pirate activity was relegated to the Caribbean, I could understand how this rough coast with its myriad coves and hiding places was host to its own rich history of piracy.
    Another enchanting difference was the presence of seals floating in nearby waves. Resting on their backs for a bit, they would suddenly disappear into the foam to resurface a dozen or so yards away, their heads poking up to have another look around. As we ventured out across the low-tide sandbars towards the stony islands just off shore, we would come across various eddies filled with all kinds of sea life, like starfish and countless anemone of some kind or other. Gazing up at the cliffs along the shore, I couldn’t help but imagine what it might be like to live up there just through the trees always having a spectacular view into this majestic scene with the rays of distant sunshine slicing through the fog.
    Back in-land we headed for we were told that we could not dare to miss; Crater Lake, especially if we were already this close. While taking us a little further south than we expected to go on this leg, I am happy to say that I am glad we did. Being the deepest lake in America, it is also known for its clear, blue waters. Driving around the perimeter, you are rewarded with spectacular views all around the lake as it sits in its recess formed by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. On such a gorgeous day we could see clear across the five or six miles easily making out the rocky formations of the mountainsides as they descend into the deep blue crater.

Crater Lake
    
    Suddenly finding ourselves with a deadline in hand, we returned north again, although this time staying a bit inland through Oregon on a course towards Seattle. We picked up a job working the sugar beet harvest so now we only had a certain amount of time before we needed to be in eastern Montana for the month of October.
    Along that way we experienced much more of the great Pacific northwest and the intense division between the fog and rain along the coast and the relative warmth and sunshine just a few miles inland. A couple nights outside of Forks, Washington made this phenomenon all the more (un)real as it is the area where the Twilight series takes place. It truly is a great setting for a tale of vampires and werewolves. Of course the town of Forks itself boasts more than a few tourist/fan traps, such as the high school and the beaches where the story takes place, as well as gift shops dealing in Twilight related finery.

Rialto Beach
    A few casino parking lots later we found a wonderful little fairgrounds RV park we could call home for a week or so. From there we could visit Mount Rainier and hopefully meet up with an old friend in Seattle. Unfortunately the hookup with the friend didn’t pan out. (An aside: I’m wondering if people along our path fear that we are expecting them to put us up, and therefore feel uncomfortable making plans. I’d like you all to know that we are entirely self sufficient and don’t expect or plan on any kind of accommodations from anyone. If you have, or know of somewhere we can park it, great. But if not, please do not feel obligated to make arrangements for us. We will find a way.) But fortunately we met some new friends who we hope to see again.
   Mt. Rainier turned out to be pleasant, though not an unexpected surprise. The drive through the park to the mountain itself wound up and up until finally reaching the base. With a few different paths to choose from to begin a hike, we picked one and began our ascent. After a half mile or so we began to distance ourselves from the denser foliage and emerged onto the inclining slopes of snow and flowers that form the lower regions of Mt. Rainier.

Mt. Rainier
    We continued on always moving uphill, with a tremendous view of the summit, and eventually decided that was good enough for us (as much as we could have gone on, we don’t always have eight hours to dedicate to long hikes that we can’t bring Daisy on) and began the gradual trek down. The geography surrounding us looking away from the mountain was almost as breathtaking as the peak behind us and I couldn’t help thinking that I was in The Sound of Music or something!
    With the aforementioned deadline to be in Sidney, Montana for the fall beet harvest, we had to head a bit east again. After a quick trip to Seattle (see Mercy’s post) we made a straight shot across the northern plains with a stop in Idaho to see some family of a friend back home. With a welcome that felt as if we already knew each other, we fell right in and extended our planned stay a couple times. River was taught how to shoot and properly maintain a variety of guns, and Mercy got to do a little horseback riding; something she had been asking to do for quite a while now.

Weippe

We couldn’t have hoped for a better and friendlier stay as we made some great new friends. I can only hope that they make their way back east so we can see them again sooner rather than later!
    Sidney proved to be quite an interesting place (see Tanya‘s previous post). A strange dichotomy where many of the residents are quite well off due to the oil richness of the Bakken, yet the town  itself is virtually devoid of culture. Suffice it to say that after a couple of weeks I was more than ready to move on despite the kindness and hospitality of the locals we met and worked with at the beat harvest.
    With just hours to spare we made our way south again trying to avoid the snow and increasingly chilly temperatures descending on the northern plains. Not entirely successful in our escape, we wound up spending a couple frosty nights in southern Montana and Wyoming on our path to northern California. With the west offering a warmer climate where we could explore the Redwoods and coastal routes that would take us down to the San Francisco Bay area, we were more than happy to finally escape the cold of the encroaching winter.
    As I finish this up in our warm and cozy home on Christmas Day, I begin to think back on the last month and the craziness that has been our life selling Christmas trees since that retail nightmare known as “Black Friday”. Still in decompression mode from those busy, exhausting (yet exhilarating) few weeks, I’m thinking of friends and family back home and hoping all have had a very merry and happy Christmas.

Mercy's tree
    Next: A Tale of Trees
 

The Ups and Downs of Traveling

The Ups and Downs of Traveling

Astoria

It’s been one year since we’ve been on the road and so far we’ve been to 25 states. My favorite states we’ve been to so far are Colorado, because it was just so lush and green, and Texas, because…well, I just liked Texas. Now, my least favorite state was Alabama. (Sorry to all the people who live there.) The campground we were at was horrible, the capitol looked like it was completely abandoned, the area we were in was not a very pleasant area, and the skies were NOT so blue!  Some of my favorite attractions were Yellowstone, because the mountains, wildlife, and rivers combined were just breathtaking! Bryce Canyon, The hoodoos were so cool! Grand Canyon, it was just so massive and amazing! And, I liked Rocky Mountain for pretty much the same reason as Yellowstone, (they were a lot alike.) The cities I liked were Austin, because during SXSW it was so much fun (and I got a lot of free stuff.) Vegas, the shows we saw there were cool and the light are really colorful. Seattle, because the Pike Place Market, the EMP museum, and the Space Needle were all so awesome! New Orleans, because it was so alive, and I can’t wait ’till we go to all the cities in California!! Right now we’re in Sidney, Montana where there is next to nothing. Our parents are working the beet harvest so my mom is gone from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and my dad is gone from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.! This is the only reason we’re in Sidney, and if my mom and dad weren’t working we would most definitely not be here!! On the bright side, there have been kids here the whole time for us to hang out with, while the parents are working, although they are leaving tomorrow. That’s what I don’t like about being on the road. Whenever I meet a friend either we always have to leave or they always have to leave. I also have to share a room with my brother which is not very fun because of the limited space, and he is always yelling at me to pick up my stuff. When the harvest is done we’re heading towards California to work at a Christmas tree lot for a while. I’m excited for that because I heard that my brother and I get to work too! 

Seattle Gum wall
Seattle Gum wall

 

 

Reflections

Reflections

River

We have been on the road for almost a year now. In trying to find the right word to describe it, I chose: interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been having the time of my life. I will admit though that parts of the trip are hard. Living in a small space with three other people can get very frustrating at times. Especially when I have to share a room with Mercy who RARELY picks up after herself! It drives me crazy! I also miss all of my friends and family back home, but it’s not like I’ll never see them again.
In spite of all the hardships, I am having a great time. We have seen and done so many things that some people unfortunately never will. I don’t think that I could just choose one part of the trip to be my favorite because it has all been so awesome. A few of the most memorable experiences were hiking in the Grand Canyon, seeing the Carlsbad Caverns, and watching a wolf chow on a dead elk in Yellowstone. It was not all woods, caves and canyons though. I also had a great time at Universal in Orlando, Florida. We also saw Smash Mouth in Tillamook, Oregon. Then there was BurntWoodsStock. See my mom’s post: “Summertime,” for more information on that. Yes, sometimes it is hard, and sometimes I am in a bad mood. But all the good things far outweigh those occasional less than fun times. If I was asked if I ever regret going on this trip, I would not hesitate for a second before giving you my answer. Which is: no.

Hangin’ with Smash Mouth guitarist Mike Krompass
Summertime

Summertime

Summertime Blues just hit me. Not because of the weather as I do so enjoy the crispness of the autumn air and the beautiful colors the season brings with it.  Here in Montana (where we are working a sugar beet harvest until mid-October), it’s almost as comparable to Maine…..almost.  But let’s be factual here. Living this nomadic lifestyle allows us to chase the warm weather and enjoy summertime climates year round.  So what’s the deal?  Why so blue?

I’m missing something that highlighted my summer in more ways than one. I’m missing  the celebration of happy people gathering together amidst the trees and fields, under the sun and stars to celebrate life and love in the form of music. I’m missing  BurntWoodsStock.

Family, live music, nature, people, local food,  and quality beer.  If you know us, you’d agree that those are the elements that make The Dunns  “Happy Campers” !  So, when we stumbled upon an opportunity to volunteer at a 3 day music festival in the Burnt  Woods of Oregon, we immediately jumped on it. (Well, I did the jumping.  They had me with the name as  I’m a sucker for anything relating to the flower power era.  Bri, on the other hand, needed a few more details of what I was signing us up for).

BWS

The festival was created four years ago by James and Julz Kasner, musicians themselves, who wanted to share their vision of  an all ages  family oriented gathering down on Kasner’s farm.  Well, their vision turned out to be a successful one and for 3 days in July, a variety of regional and local bands show up to do their thing!  Whether it’s rockin, groovin, swingin or jammin, hippies and hipsters alike all gather together for some soul singin!  And the four of us were fortunate to get the chance to be a part of all this magic.

I corresponded with Julz via email months prior to the event and I knew without even meeting her that she was an energetic soul oozing with kindness and personality. My feelings were confirmed upon our arrival at the farm when we were greeted with smiles, hugs, a headful of blonde dreadlocks and a baby blue canopy. (See Bri’s post, “Final Thoughts On The Ranch, A Comedic Interlude Part 1”).  Amazingly enough, she knew all of our names.  Mercy immediately became a big fan!Mercy and Julz

After we set up camp in the field with the other volunteers and vendors we went to the information tent to sign up for our duties.  Enter… MrWavyGravyMadHatterPsychadelicJesterMan and volunteer headmaster…Kevin.  A tried and true BurntWoodsStock head, (I believe he is still wearing his bracelet), he and his wife Chris were our super supervisors.  Never a dull moment at their camper… aka… registration booth, security center, ticket counter, supply closet, and volunteer meal shack, they kept things pretty well-organized on very little sleep.

BWS

Bri, Riv and I took gate duty.  Mercy, at her request, was assigned to the kids area and that is where she remained the entire time.  She kept busy crafting and gaming with the little ones. We saw her when she got hungry or when she decided  a hula hooping break was in order.

BWS

Our gate shifts were a mere 4 hours, leaving us ample time to play. Naturally, Bri and I hit the beer tent where the owners of  Rusty Truck, poured us a mighty tasty IPA.  River decided he would hang out with the wood fired pizza guys.  It didn’t take long for him to become a repeat customer.

BWSBWS

We also became quite friendly with the merchandise vendors.  It was great to see folks, mainly families, peddling their goods to people who appreciate supporting “the little guy”.  The tie-dye family was very popular. They kept everyone colorful and comfortable.

BWS

There’s nothing like being able to see and hear live music for 12 hours a day to keep your mojo going.   Not being from the west coast we were unfamiliar with pretty much all of the bands but that didn’t matter. Each one put on a spectacular performance and kept the crowd singing and dancing well into the night.  Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the  impressive fire dancers whose mesmerizing performance left you in a daze.  And the belly dancer who put you in a trance.  Talk about keeping you entertained between band changes!

Bri and I took in as much as our bodies would let us. ( It’s not like the old days where we would dance until the sun came up).  We both agree that our favorite was, ironically enough, The Sugar Beets,  from Eugene Oregon.

What sets this festival apart from others is what happens on the last day. This is when local teens are given the opportunity to take the stage (some for the first time) and showcase their musical talents. I truly admire James and Julz for seeing how important it is to provide a venue for our youth.  We witnessed some amazing talent and  it’s highly likely that some of these kids may find themselves as future BurntWoodsStock headliners.

I can’t imagine the amount of work and time that goes into planning and pulling together an event of this caliber.   My wish is for its continued  growth and success and that we will be able to return in the years to come.

BWS

Until then, I think we’ll just head to California, where there just may be a cure for the summertime blues.

The Black Hills…”Native” vs.” American” History

The Black Hills…”Native” vs.” American” History

MOUNT RUSHMORE

Mt. Rushmore

VS.

Crazy Horse

CRAZY HORSE

                  OR

White Man vs. Red Man?

Power vs. Honor?

The Beach Boys vs. Steven Tyler?

The Black Hills of South Dakota behold many miles of impressive scenery and a wealth of wild west history.  It is also home to two majestic stone mountain carvings drawing millions of tourists annually to marvel at the beauty and perhaps embrace the history that so inspired these masterpieces. And although we don’t like to put ourselves in that “tourist” category (yes, we have totally become travel snobs), I will say that our initial reason for visiting the area was to do just that.

We decided to start at Mt. Rushmore, the monument that epitomizes what most Americans consider the ultimate memorial to the birth, growth, development and preservation of our country. Admission to the memorial is free, however they do get you with an $11 parking fee which was not covered by our National park pass. Apparently, federal funds weren’t used in the construction of the lot which is a concession operating under a contract between the National Park Service and The Mt. Rushmore society.  What???   That aside, the sight of the 60 foot heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln from The Grand View Terrace is well worth paying the parking fee.

We began our tour the same way we do at every National Park we visit.  We spent about 45 minutes in the visitor center, first checking out the exhibits followed by a viewing of the park movie detailing its history, culture, science and nature. Then we headed out to walk the 1/2 mile Presidential Trail loop, admiring the different viewpoints, waiting patiently for our turn at the prime photo spots and shooting a few takes for the  “On the Road with Mercy ” series.

This  is what we learned while we were there…

Gutzon Borglum was an incredibly talented sculptor.  It took 400 workers 14 years to complete. The conditions were at times very harsh but there were no deaths. They blasted with Dynamite.

This is what we did not learn while we were there…

The land on which Mt. Rushmore sits was wrongfully taken by our government from the Lakota Indian tribe .

Gutzon Borglum was at one time an active member of the KKK.

17 miles away sits Crazy Horse,  the memorial honoring the culture, tradition and living heritage of  North American Indians.  When finished (which most likely will not be in my lifetime) it will be the largest outdoor sculpture in the world.

Being the colossal size that it is, you can actually get a fairly decent view  from the road.  That being said, we had already planned on going in for a closer look  as for some reason or another Bri and I bypassed this one 20 years ago. Paying the $27  wasn’t  all that difficult to swallow once we were informed that every bit of the fee goes to the non-profit foundation which funds construction of the monument as well as various educational programs and scholarships. The fact that we were able to leave with a chunk of the granite blasted from the mountain was an added bonus.

Once you’re on what they refer to as their campus, you have access to the entire visitor complex which consists of  The Visitor Center, The Indian Museum of North America, The Native American Education and Cultural Center and Korczak’s Studio/Home. Again,we began by viewing the 20 minute orientation movie, “Dynamite and Dreams” which left us all just sitting in our seats trying to absorb the magnificent feat set out upon by one determined man whose motto was “Never Forget Your Dreams”.  We spent the next couple of hours on campus.

This is what we learned while we were there….

Korczak Ziolkowski was a gifted sculptor who worked briefly on Mt. Rushmore.  He was invited by  Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear to carve a memorial celebrating the spirit of their Sioux Warrior Crazy Horse.

Ziolkowski accepted the invitation and singlehandedly took on the project first by constructing roads to the base, stairs to the 600 ft. summit and a cabin to live in. He declined two offers of  10 million dollars in federal funding. He married and had ten children. He worked on Crazy Horse until his death and left detailed plans to carry on his work. His wife Ruth, now in her 80s and 7 of their children are dedicated to continuing his dream. When completed, all four presidential heads will be able to fit inside Crazy Horse’s head.

Crazy Horse was an inspiration to Native American tribes. A legendary leader who wanted for his people to remain on their lands and live freely without having to seek out permission of the white man.  He was stabbed and killed by an American soldier while under a flag of truce.

This is what we didn’t learn while we were there…..

Hmmmmm…..nothing comes to mind.

We ended up extending our stay in The Black Hills region where we camped in an area held sacred to many Native American tribes. We experienced the land, the legends, the history and the culture of these indigenous people and I personally left with a spiritual connection.

However, there is one thing that does not sit well with me and perhaps the reason for me writing this post. From a moral standpoint, how was the US government able to   continuously violate treaties allowing the Indian tribes to keep their own land every time an opportunity for personal gain was revealed?  How ironic is it that the very culture of the indigenous people revolved around respecting and protecting  the land and today these reservations are some of the most run-down and impoverished  areas of our country.  I have seen this personally. This, my friends is American history and it is unfortunate that for centuries this feeling of entitlement may be the only thing that has “trickled down”.

As for the music reference, these “rock” stars  have their own style and perhaps each a different following…..  And, although there are no documented photos of Crazy Horse, I’m guessing he would be the one with the more eccentric wardrobe,  the flashier peace pipe and the more indiscriminate fan base.

Crazy Horse

The Devil Made Me Do It

The Devil Made Me Do It

Devils Tower    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.Devils Tower

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.”
Wait… what?Devils Tower