Devil’s Tower – Belle Fourche

Doo doo doo dum dum

I watched “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” like over a dozen times back in the day. I’m thinking this came out in the days before video rentals, so I probably saw it in actual movie theaters that many times. We got ourselves in the mood by watching it in Dory the night before. We were so primed.

First encounter

The drive was easy, even with road work on I-90, because there wasn’t that much traffic. We saw lots of Sturgis bound motorcycle groups on the road, and actually passed through the town of Sturgis on our way. We were on the highway though, so we didn’t see any signs of the big rally.

Getting closer…

After we turned off the interstate and headed north, we finally started to get glimpses of the tower. It is so iconic, even from a distance, and super cool to see in person. I felt like Jillian; “I can’t believe it’s real.”

Beautiful site

We made a bee line for Belle Fourche Campground to see if we could get a site, knowing that the KOA just down the road had plenty of spaces and looked really fun. They have ice cream, and a store, and nightly showings of “Close Encounters.” I was thinking, “this first come campground better be worth all the stress.”

Made it, minus one step and one stabilizer.

It was. And there were tons of sites. In fact, there were two in particular that looked especially well situated and we got one of those. Once again, the first come worry was all for naught. Will that information chill us out the next time? Probably not.

Movie fame aside, it’s a pretty cool geological feature.

Once in and set up, we got ready to do the loop hike around the mountain. There is a trail that goes right out of the campground and then up the side of the grassy skirt below the tower. It’s a climb, and I’ll bet it was where Roy, Jillian, and Larry made their daring dash. If only Larry hadn’t given up jogging, he could have made it. Roy: “Don’t look back, don’t look back!”

Hikers climbing waaaaay up the mountain

Once you get to the base of the mountain, there is a small visitor center, a parking area, and some bathrooms. There are also twenty-minute ranger talks. One was commencing so we took a bench seat to listen. The ranger was a Native American of the Crow tribe and an expert on the history of the area. He told some stories, like about how there was a story about a bear clawing at the mountain to try to get some young girls, thus explaining the long lines on its sides. Besides that story though, he rambled a lot, and went well past the advertised twenty minutes. We tried to sneak out as unobtrusively as we could, but we were near the front, so it was awkward.

Jillian: “Move your ass!”

The loop trail around the base is 1.3 miles and a pretty easy hike. There are informational kiosks all along the way so it is very fun. We never did find the landing strip where the mothership landed, so I’m starting to wonder if it was all fake. We did see a section on the side that I’m pretty sure was where Roy and Jillian had to scramble up, narrowly escaping the search lights and EZ4. Francois Truffaut: “What eez zis, EZ4?”

Lots of explanatory displays to address the most common question

From the various kiosks, ranger explanations, and visitor center displays, I think I have some understanding of why this thing is the way it is. Basically, if magma finds a way to push upward, under the earth, but then hits a point where it stops, it will flatten, and then cool. As it cools, it crystalizes and contracts, and does so in a perfectly geometrical way. Cracks form, but the vertical structures remain bonded. Over lots of time, the earth that once buried it, erodes away, exposing the hardened rock tower beneath. …. Ooorrrr … it was made by aliens. That’s a possibility too. Roy: “This means something. This is important.”

Prairie dog on duty

We hiked back through a Prairie Dog meadow, listening to the yapping and barking, while surrounded by wildflowers, with John Williams’ score playing in my head. What a fun day.

Steak with corn on the cob, and sesame-miso marinated zucchini and eggplant

I set about making another delicious grilled dinner while sipping a well earned margarita. Remember that just that morning, I had crunched Dory on a wooden post. We did a good job just keeping swimming, one step and one stabilizer short, but ok in the end. Some harm, no foul. Ronnie: “Don’t you think I’m taking this really well?”

Just keep swimming…

Who needs steps and stabilizers anyway? If anyone asks, I’ll say we decided we didn’t like it and prefer to climb in and out. Plus, it improves gas mileage not having it there. In reality, we are just waiting until after the weekend to let Randy know we’re coming in hot. Like that car by the end of “The Blues Brothers.”

I expect you want to rent “Close Encounters” now. When you do, please explain to me the purpose of assigning hand gestures to musical notes. Who was that for?? In the immortal words of David the interpreter: “What the hell is happening here?!”

Total miles from Cedar Pass: 189.0, 19.3 mpg, 4 hours 38 min. Site A10. No hookups. Water spigots. No dump. Ok cell service for both from campground. Great solar. Afternoon shade.

2 thoughts on “Devil’s Tower – Belle Fourche

  1. Thx for asking about hand signs corresponding to musical tones. It’s a child education thing!

    The Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) and the German composer Carl Orff (1895-1982) are considered two of the most influential personalities in the arena of music education during the twentieth-century due to two distinct teaching methods that they developed under their own names. Kodály developed a hand-sign method (movable Do) for children to sing and sight-read while Orff’s goal was to help creativity of children through the use of percussive instruments. Although both composers focused on young children’s musical training the main difference between them is that Kodály focused on vocal/choral training with the use of hand signs while Orff’s main approach was mainly on movement, speech and making music through playing (particularly percussive) instruments. Finally, musical creativity via improvisation is the main goal in the Orff Method; yet, Kodály’s focal point was to dictate written music.

    1. Thank you!! They do reference Kodaly by name as inventing this system. What I don’t get is how this helps with first contact with the aliens. I mean, they wouldn’t know the gestures, so how does it assist with communication?

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