Ken's Journal
No. 4 - Summer 2004

Devil's Tower, Devil's Tower, WY - 08/03 - 08/06/2004
Days 38-41 on the road. Part I.


From Hill City SD to Devil's Tower WY is a short morning drive. It's only 120 miles, but it's scenic all the way. You'll pass through 50 winding miles of the Black Hills National Forest before you hit I90 but the great scenery doesn't stop at the borders of the park. You leave Hill City SD on US385 North and in Lead SD, pick up US85 North to I90. At Lead, you pass some 12 miles to the west of Sturgis SD, the focus of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, a mecca for some 500,000 motorcyclists, some already arriving. My goal is to get out of here before they all arrive. Perhaps one of these days I'll make it out here with my bike for the Sturgis Rally. See for more on the Sturgis event.

Anyhow, back on the road -- Head west on I90, cross into Wyoming and get off I90 onto US14 heading west. At SR24, head north for 4 miles and you're there. In addition to such historic cities as Lead SD, you'll pass though Deadwood SD, Spearfish SD and Sundance WY.

 Driving up SR24 you catch an occasional tantalizing glimpse of Devil's Tower, but it's not until you crest the last hill that this amazing formation pops into full view. Although there is not universal agreement, most scientists agree that Devil's Tower started when molten magma was forced into sedimentary rocks above it and cooled underground. As the magma cooled, it fractured into columns.  Over millions of years, erosion exposed the tower. The tower rises 867 feet from it's base, and stands 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.

The Indian legends see it a little differently however. One day, an Indian tribe was camped beside the river and seven small girls were playing at a distance. One of the local bears began to chase the girls. They ran toward the camp, but the bear was about to catch them. They jumped upon a rock about three feet high and began to pray to the rock, " Rock, take pity on us. Rock, save us." The rock heard the pleas of the young girls and began to elongate itself, pushing the girls higher and higher out of reach of the bear. The bear clawed and jumped at the sides of the rock, broke it's claws and fell to the ground. The bear arose again and again, jumping on the rock until the girls were pushed up into the sky, where they are to this day in a group of seven little stars (the Pleiades - look closely at a Subaru logo on the hood of one of their cars - it's the Pleiades constellation). The claw marks are on the rock to this day. There are several versions of this legend, but all involve the seven little girls.


This is the first picture I took of Devil's Tower. I checked into the campground at the base and went back to where I first saw the tower - cresting the last hill on SR24 before the tower entrance road.


The next morning I got up early and caught the sunrise on the tower. The fog was an added benefit!

Some of you may recognize Devil's Tower from the 70s through Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The aliens used an area to the south of the tower to land their spaceship.


More fog - with the bottom of the tower obscured.

A clear view of the tower - you can even see the "claw marks" left by the bear of Indian legend.


There are two hiking trails around the tower. One is right at the base, is paved and is handicap accessible. The other is further out in the forest around the tower and is three miles long. This is the one of the views from that trail. The campground I'm at is just to the right of this picture. This is the Belle Fourche River.

Another view of the Belle Fourche River. The local pronunciation is "Bell Foosh" -- pronounce it any other way and they'll know you ain't from around these parts!


Devil's Tower is a magnet for climbers. As of October 2000, there have been 49,000 individual ascents of the formation. At this time, there are over 200 different routes to the top. Look carefully and you can see two climbers near the center of this photo. As I was hiking around the tower, at one point I kept hearing voices - what I thought was close by. After hearing them for several minutes and concluding they weren't on the trail with me, I saw them on the side of the tower. I was at least a half-mile from them, but could hear them clearly - must have been some strange acoustics going on!


Next, Devil's Tower, Part II.


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