Thursday, June 21, 2012

I've Been There

This billboard is adjacent to the Eisenhower Expressway as I was heading west.

I've been there. It was ages ago, but I was there, long before Steven Spielberg.

It was July of 1972. Dad wanted to see the Black Hills so we packed up the van and drove west. We spent a week camping, of which 4 days were spent in the Black Hills area. I remember the weather going from hot to rainy and very chilly. We had come prepared however, with everything from swimsuits for the pool at the campground to sweatshirts and rain gear for walking around Deadwood, South Dakota in a steady rain.

On this day, it was mild and sunny and Dad just wanted to see things. He might have looked at a map and decided to drive west to say he'd been in Wyoming because it's not that far from the Black Hills to the Wyoming border. I remember two lane black top roads and mom fumbling with a map and suddenly, there it was, this mountain. I don't know if Dad knew where we were. If so, he didn't let on. He just pulled over and we all got out to marvel at this piece of stone in the middle of nowhere with no other attached mountains.

We drove for a few more miles and came upon what was the entrance road to the actual Devil's Tower Monument Park. I remember passing prairie dog towns, stopping to look at them and the big signs erected that you must not get too close to a hole because rattlesnakes like to take over burrows. I remember a small-ish log building that served as the Park Service's Devil's Tower Welcome Center. I remember placards which described the discovery of the monument and the legends surrounding how it was made. I remember an Indian tale about a great bear trying to get one of their gods who had escaped to the top of the mountain. The ridges, naturally occurring in the rock as it's of volcanic origin although scientists cannot agree how it was formed, are the result of the bear clawing the sides in a vain attempt to climb this mountain. I like that tale even if the geologic one is quite fascinating, too.

I think this photo was taken when we did one of the hikes available. There was a hike around the whole tower but it was a 4 hour hike and Dad wanted to get back to the campsite at a reasonable time. I'm thinking we did a one hour hike which took you to a shaded overlook with more placards and a grand view the the surrounding area. I returned here 2 years later with a church group and did the 2 hour hike. I don't remember much about that and can't find any photos of it.

Sometimes I wonder what the Black Hills and Devil's Tower look like now. I know Mount Rushmore is more commercialized that it was when we first crossed the wooden floorboards to walk to the viewing platform. I remember the awe I had with the first gaze. Having not seen these places in decades, I'll bet I'd still be awed.

Beverage:  Irish Breakfast tea


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