I wasn’t really expecting much from our stop at Devils Tower. Devils Tower is a really big rock thingie and sort of interesting in a way, but what else is there except to see it? Make the stop, see the tower, take the picture, and mark the checklist. That’s it–time to leave.
But I began to change my mind as we approached. From miles away there stands this stark, improbable column rising above the plain. The scene is so dramatic that the highway scenic turnouts start about 10 miles away.
And immediately, one begins to wonder. How could such a thing come to be? What is it like on and around that unlikely object? So, after setting up at the campground (directly at the entrance gate to the National Monument), off we went to explore.
And here’s what we found. In a way, it is just a big rock. But it’s so big, and so vertical, and so different from the surrounding area, that it has a near-hypnotic power to command attention. One can’t help but to stare at the image it presents and be lost in the mystery of it. Plus, that effect changes as one walks the 1.3-mile hike around the base. The north side, almost always shaded, is captivating in a way that the south side, way too bright for something so dark, is not. Different kinds of trees grow in different areas around the base, and frame the tower in contrasting ways. The effect is best illustrated, perhaps, by the fact that everyone walking the trail, including us, stops every few hundred yards to take another picture looking up at the rock. Why? How many pictures of a tower can one take? Does it really demand another picture every few steps? Yes, because the tower’s effect renews in different ways at every turn. No wonder the Indians thought this place has magical powers–it does.
So, we’re surprised at how glad we are that we made this stop. The campground is fun, even though we missed the hayride through the adjacent cattle ranch, and we were too tired to stay through the entire showing of Close Encounters of Third Kind, activities the campground does every night. And, to be sure, a half-day is probably enough. But this is also more than a stop enroute to somewhere else. Surprising as this may sound, if we ever pass this way on some future trip, I’d be inclined to make the visit again. It’s that kind of a place.