May 28, 2017
Who knows? Maybe this snake was the runt of the litter. A 9 foot rattlesnake is on display in the gift shop just before the entrance to Devils Tower National Monument, and right across the road from the KOA campground, where they show the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", filmed here in 1977, every night out on the deck.
When I was a kid, our family took a lot of camping trips out West, the Black Hills, Yellowstone Park, the Tetons, but we always drove right by Devils Tower. My mother thought it was terrible to name something after the devil, and she certainly wasn't going to encourage that kind of activity and risk corrupting her children by stopping here.
We left Deadwood late in the morning and headed to Aladdin, Wyoming to have lunch at a restaurant, the only one in town actually, highly recommended by several campers we met. In early afternoon we arrived in Aladdin, population 15, the restaurant, a motel, general store, and a few homes. Turns out, the entire town is for sale, and will be auctioned off the end of the month.
A country western singer was stationed outside the door, and with the help of his microphone and guitar amplifier, the sound came through just fine inside, we were serenaded our entire lunch. Hazel and I had the recommended BLT sandwiches and fries.
Going back to the motorhome, I spotted a man wearing a cowboy hat and sitting in a chair outside the general store, leaning back against the wall with the two front chair legs up in the air. Hazel will tell you that I can spend hours talking to total strangers, and often I'll return back to the motorhome after walking the dog around an RV park, and Hazel will give me that look. I'll say, "A guy's just gotta' have friends", and then we'll both smile, thinking back about 40 years.
When our son David was about 3 or 4, we'd just moved to International Falls, Minnesota. No sooner had we gotten unpacked, when Hazel saw the little guy heading out the door. "Where are you going?" Hazel said. "Mom", David said, "a guy's just gotta' have friends", and out he went, looking for some.
Turns out, the fellow was the auctioneer who would be selling the entire town in a few days, everything except the homes where residents say they'll continue to live. I had some knowledge of the auction business, having spent 35 years in banking, where I financed a few of those operations, and the bank would often be hired to clerk and handle all the money. After several minutes he glanced over to my motorhome and asked about it. That's when I saw Hazel giving me that sort of patient look from the passenger seat 100 feet away, and I knew it was time to go. We shook hands, and it was off for the one hour trip to Devils Tower.
After a while, we spotted Devils Tower, at nearly 1,300 feet above the valley floor, you can see it for a long way.
Getting into the National Monument was easy, I just showed the lady ranger my National Park Senior Pass and drivers license, and we were in, no-charge. Picking a camping spot with a good view of the tower, I walked back to a registration drop box a few feet away and paid $20 for two nights, half the normal rate for younger campers in their peak earning years. This was boondock camping, no electricity, and we quickly discovered no television reception, but the view was tremendous, and we own a book.
.Up-and-at-'em the next morning, Hazel and I headed for the visitor center, gawked upward at the massive natural wonder, and looked for climbers, soon spotting a few, then took the 1.3 mile walk around the base of the cooled igneous intrusion. A ranger told me they really don't know for sure how this thing was formed, there are several theories, each worthy of years of research at taxpayer expense.
.The official story is, only 5 climbers have fallen to their deaths in 100 years. That sounded to me like a conspiracy theory government cover-up, knowing that if I tried to get up that thing, the number would rise to 6 immediately.
After two days, we packed up and headed North to Little Big Horn Battlefield in Montana, formerly known as "Custer Battlefield", or the site of the "Custer Massacre", before we got so politically correct.
See the map of our trips since 2011, and travel along with us, on our homepage.