Devils Tower

For several days I pondered the prospect of making the 5 1/2 hour drive to Devils Tower. This is a distance greater than the trip from Little Rock to Dallas, and as I preferred not to stay the night in a motel, I would be going up and back in the same day. Fortunately, the magnificent desolation of Wyoming is infinitely more interesting than the featureless plains of Texas, or even the constant thick of Arkansas trees. I accepted the challenge and set out at 8AM.

The journey was mostly uneventful until I turned onto highway 59 outside Douglas. I cannot describe the magnitude of the roadkill, mostly rabbits in various states of decay, that I saw. In less than a mile, I counted more than 100 remains. For several miles, I could not drive 50 yards without seeing something dead. I noticed the lack of trees, and guessed that there was probably a lack of scavenging birds in this region to pick the roads clean. I’ve also heard that many animals choose to sleep on highways at night for the warmth the roads absorb during the day. And on roads so infrequently traveled, the animals are more likely to be taken by surprise. Not only was this somewhat traumatic to experience, I also was reminded of the scenes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the animals near Devils Tower have died as a result of the government coverup.

Fortunately the roadkill tapered off after a few miles. I did see plenty of live fauna along the way – mostly antelope, but also some bison and deer. I reached Devils Tower around 2PM. It was as freakishly magnetic as I had always imagined it to be. For awhile I just sat and stared at it. I went to a couple of different gift shops looking for souvenirs, and took pictures of some abandoned structures nearby[1]. I only stayed for about an hour. It is the geological equivalent of a question mark. Even geologists can’t quite agree about how it was formed, or why it is so rare. I get a peculiar enjoyment[2] out of shifts in my environment, particularly when something that is known for permanence changes – for example, when the full moon gets large in the early evening, or when clouds allow the sun’s outline to be made distinct at sunset, or even just unique cloud formations after a storm. Devils Tower is like that: it’s something that simply does not happen often, and it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen in life or books.

Not wanting to be tempted to stay very long, I didn’t pay the $10 to enter the park. I wanted to get as much daylight driving on the way back for fear of running into antelope on the roads at night. I got to see a spectacular sunset on the way back to Laramie. The sun is gone by 5:30PM up here, and I got back around 8PM.

1.) One building contained several documents: order forms from Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck, and canceled checks from the late 30’s and early 40’s.

2.) I think this enjoyment is the sense that I’m getting as close as one can on Earth to experiencing life on another planet.