Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Devils Tower National Monument

Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Monday, July 8, 2013

Yesterday morning ready to leave Horsethief Campground in the Black Hills, S.D., I didn't really know where to head.  I wanted to explore more of Custer National Park but the weather was inclement.  I then saw Jayne's question on the blog:  'are you going to explore Devil's Tower?' So I decided to head for Devils Tower in Wyoming.  (Jayne's grammar is of course correct, but when Teddy Roosevelt signed the law in 1906 to make the site the first National Monument, they had forgotten the apostrophe, so Devils Tower it remains to this date.)
On the way I stopped in Custer, S.D., went into the Cattleman's ('The best steak in the West') and ordered a 6 oz Cattleman's filet and a bottle of Fat Tire.  I then drove West to Newcastle, Wyoming, and then North along 85/585 passing through Sundance (yes, that's where the Kid got his name from), finally arriving at the KOA campground.  Jim at the check-in office said that they show the motion picture 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', a Steven Spielberg production from 1977, every night a 7 pm.  The movie was filmed partly on location.  So I decided to go see it.  I'm not sure that I understood much of the plot but Devils Tower was there and the main characters did a lot of crawling up and down the rocks.  The weather had been warm and sunny all day but suddenly a thundershower broke loose, and there was an enormous lightning and thunder close by just as the alien space craft was about to land on top of Devils Tower.  The movie used all the light and sound effects of a 1970's movie at that moment, and the outside tremor just added to those effects, so everybody suddenly started laughing (all 12 of us), and someone said 'Perfect timing!'  Earlier I had chatted a little with the lady who both operated the DVD player and sold ice cream, and when I confessed that I had never seen the movie, she was flabbergasted.
This morning I went up to see the real thing.  National parks and monuments are all very nicely laid out and competently managed.  When I stopped at the entry point to buy my ticket, the lady ranger said 'Welcome to Devils Tower' and inquired delicately whether I was 62 years of age or older.  I answered in the affirmative.  She then asked if I was a U.S. citizen.  I said 'no' and added with a smile that my mom had always told me to tell the truth.  She smiled back that she would have had to see an I.D. anyway.  So I paid my full $10 and did not get my senior citizen's discount of $5.  I believe this kind of discrimination because of nationality is contrary to the UN Human Rights Convention and a host of other international conventions.  The money is small potatoes, of course, but it's the principle that counts.
I first went on the 'Tower Trail', a 1.3 mile walk on a paved trail that everybody goes on, but subsequently decided also to go on the 3 mile 'Red Beds Trail' where there was hardly a soul; maybe I saw 10-12 people in total.  Devils Tower is a majestic experience.  You can actually climb it.  Experienced climbers take four hours to get up and an hour to get back.  Afterwards a ranger talked about the site and told funny stories about the people who first climbed the tower back in the 1930's and a lot of other interesting stuff.  Have a look at my photos and enjoy!  
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Linda Deutsch on

Beautiful. And I love that movie. What a place to see it!
BTW, I recall driving across Wyoming many years ago with a friend who was on her way to be married. We stopped for dinner in a place called the OUtlaw Inn., I don't know if it's still there but it was pretty colorful. the main decor was photographs of famous outlaws in their coffins. Quite a place.

Jayne Amerighi on

I'm glad you enjoyed Devils Tower. I stopped there with my family about 1985. We went to Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower and on to Yellowstone on that trip. On behalf of my fellow Americans, I'd like to apologize for the unfair treatment you felt you received concerning the lack of senior discount for a noncitizen. To make up for it, I'll buy you a beer if you come back through this way. I've never had a Fat Tire beer.

marilyn lee on

Your camping in some glorious Western country. My, that tent looks teeeny far away!

Denise Strom on

They say you learn something new every day. I never knew the movie "CEOTK" was filmed here. Beautiful site, and beautiful country side. Thanks again Jens for your travels and those great photos.

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