Last time we were in Wyoming we were on the western side to do Yellowstone and co – today we were cutting back into the north eastern part of Wyoming to see one key feature – Devil’s Tower. Crossing out of Montana just south of Alzada, it’s about a 40-mile run down to the quaint old town of Hulett. It looks to have retained some of that ‘old west’ feel to it and serves as a tourist junction for those heading to Devil’s Tower. We stopped and had a look around a little museum that operates there – only to get a bit disillusioned over the way the Indian’s were treated in the mid to late 1800’s – being rounded up and chased out of what had been peacefully their lands for I don’t know how many 100’s of years prior. Once the Army with Custer started to push west they just rounded up and pushed the Indian’s off the land – it appears. Obviously there was vast bloodshed as a result of this – on both sides. Emm, to brighten us up the team running the museum enlightened us with some travel info and tips for the coming days.
From Hulett it’s only a few miles up the road (Highway 24) till you get your first peck of Devil’s Tower as you run up and over the hills heading towards it. The tower sits only around 10 miles south west of Hulett, and to our surprise, Saturday was National Parks Day so admission to the Tower and all National Park sites was free today. We arrived at Devil’s Tower around 4.30pm and thankfully the weather finally started to clear for us. As you drive into the Tower park you are greeted by a field of Prairie Dogs – sitting up, ducking back down into their holes – there were loads of them to entertain us. To reach the base of Devil’s Tower you have a climb up of around 3 miles to the carpark. With Romin parked and rain coats on we headed off to walk up and around the base of the tower – a track of around 1.5 miles only. Devil’s Tower will be easily recognisable for the role it played in the 70’s classic movie ‘Close Encounters’ – this was where the alien ship landed – everyone remembers that right. Getting up close to it made this ‘encounter’ all the more special. The tower is composed of symmetrical columns of rock that at their tallest and widest in the world – around 600 feet tall and 20 feet wide (the columns that is) with the overall tower standing at a bit over 800 feet I think it was. The columns range from 4 – 7 sided. They just seem to reach up from above the base of the mount. The tower is very popular for climbing – I think it was first successfully scaled in 1893 – they erected a ladder structure that they climbed and pulled up – looked a bit rickety but it obviously worked. The trail around the base provided great vantage points to take in this feat of nature, and was a good way to wind up our day.
From the park we headed back out onto the main road and turned east up towards the town of Sundance on Highway 14. We found a pull off that had the tower as our vista so we parked up looking forward to the view we would have in the morning. Thankfully Sunday morning dawned fine albeit a little grey but we still had a nice final view back at Devil’s Tower as we pushed on the rest of the way on Highway 14 to connect to Interstate 90 that would run us to Sundance. This eastern portion of Wyoming is known as the Black Hills – not clear on the history other than the local Indians named it this. Our target in South Dakota was Mount Rushmore so rather than coming across the top into Spearfish and heading south (which we were told is a stunning drive), we headed south to Newcastle Wyoming on Highway 285 and 85. Newcastle was a little (well not so little, was quite a big area) gem with old classic cars again so I had a ball checking out yards as we drove past. From Newcastle it’s a short climb to the east on Highway 16 (all the highways in this area / eastern side of Wyoming were all very scenic and pleasant to drive – unlike the Interstate). One of the rewards for our early morning drive was seeing a Coyote crossing the main highway, the colours of fall in the area, and loads of wild turkey enjoying the roadside. Before you know it you have climbed up and cross through and you go from the Black Hills of Wyoming into the Badlands area of South Dakota – emm, sounds ominous. You’d best stay posted for that update.