Devils Tower National Monument
Our first stop during our August road trip was at Devils Tower in northeastern Wyoming – a new state for us! It’s in the very northwestern tip of Black Hills National Forest which is where we camped, but in South Dakota (also a new state). We recently purchased a National Parks Passport so I’ve become obsessed with getting stamps across the country. Of course I forgot said passport at home, so now I have plenty of loose scraps of paper with dated cancellation stamps on them. Adventurer Fail.
Anyway, the trip to Devils Tower was a solid 2.5 hours out of our way to the campground, but I think the detour was worth it. There is a great visitor center in addition to a cute post office and trading post just outside of the entrance gate. But the monument itself is quite the sight and you’re able to walk completely around the base. (I’m not even going to try and explain how the thing was formed or any of its history – I trust you know how to use the Google.)
After driving for 6 hours, we were so excited to get out and stretch our legs at the visitor center. We’d realized shortly before leaving town that we were heading to the area at the beginning of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Now, you probably can’t tell by looking at James but his parents are old-school Harley riders. And given the fact that I’ve been with James since I was 15, they are like my own parents. Sooooo we feel pretty comfortable in a biker crowd. Still, there were people and bikes everywhere. And that’s a little nerve-wracking!
We made a beeline for the restrooms (of course), and then we walked around and shopped a little. We only planned on spending about 90 minutes at the monument because we needed to get to our campsite. So once I picked up my memorabilia and we got our stamp, we headed towards the Tower Trail that encircles the big rock.
But first, I snapped some shots from the visitor center. (Those are vultures flying above.)
There are a few trails around the monument, but we chose the short 1.3 mile Tower Trail because it was paved and quick.
So many selfies were taken.
How cool is this? They don’t seem to mind the kids climbing around on these boulders either as long as you stay behind the “yellow line”. Beyond that, you need a climbing permit.
A look from the trail as we were about 1/4 of the way around – going counter clockwise.
The monument is held sacred by many Native Americans and we saw these prayer bundles in several areas.
It’s amazing to me that a rock can be so interesting and photogenic from several different vantage points. But I had a lot of fun snapping photos from different angles.
Just before we got halfway around, we discovered this little family of deer.
Just more shots.
Can you see the climbers?
There they are – four of them!
When we’d almost made it all the way around, we finally found a spot where we could get a good family photo. (And I’m always so grateful to the friendly strangers who will use my camera and listen to my directions.)
But first, I grabbed this shot. I gotta tell you – Austin is gonna have some seriously amazing childhood photos to look back on because he’s always up for a little posing! I love that at least one of my children understands the value of capturing these memories. The other two just put up with it.
As we were driving back out, we pulled over to the side of the road where we saw other vehicles stopped. At first I thought it was just because of this beautiful view.
But then I saw all of these little prairie dogs who were not at all afraid of humans. Despite the signs instructing us not to feed these guys, I suspect that’s exactly what happens. Our neighborhood is packed with them, and they always run from us as we walk by. But these prairie dogs just kept getting closer. So much so that I backed up. I’m not interested in contracting the plague no matter how cute the little rodents are, thankyouverymuch.
I had my 135mm lens on, but these images are not cropped at all. They were just very very close to me.
As we made our way off the monument grounds and headed toward the Mount Rushmore KOA, we stopped one more time. It still amazes me that we live amongst so much natural beauty.
Next up, our visit to Jewel Cave!