Monday, August 11, 2008

As I hoped, dawn broke with blue skies and cool breezes. Another delightful day. We dressed and applied sun block before entering the park to start a hike around the base of the tower. We first stopped at the prairie dog "town" just past the gate, trying to snap some pictures of these fascinatingly social yet skittish creatures. Unfortunately, even though Jenny and I made every effort to avoid startling them, we could never get close enough for a decent shot. Even so, we caught wonderful glimpses of rodents sitting on their haunches, squeaking warnings against potential predators. Impressed with their their social defense network, we headed off to the Visitor's Center to begin our morning march.

The trail we chose is easy and pleasant, offering a full circuit around the tower. We could see birds dancing in the air above, and we also saw some climbers tackling the monument. I recently read about one fellow who climbs Devils Tower daily to ward off his addiction to booze. Jenny finds a certain wisdom in his plan, given that the climb looks sufficiently arduous to lead only to sound sleep in the evening, no time for drinking. We talked about such things, stopping occasionally to stare up at the fluted sides of the tower, whose facade does indeed look like it was scraped by the bear claws of Native American legend.

Finishing our circuit, we drove back down the hill that leads out of the park, figuring on only a brief break as Jenny would try to photograph some prairie dogs once more. Maybe we simply stopped at a better place this time, but the prairie dogs in this part of "town" seemed much more amenable to the presence of our cameras. Clearly they weren't pleased, as evidenced by their high-pitched barking -- announcements that intruders were near. But as long as we kept a reasonable distance, they were glad to ignore us, focusing their attention on play, grooming, and whatever else prairie dogs do to get through the day. Even Vienna, who was tired from staying up to talk with her boyfriend the night before and had opted to rest in the car, seemed enamored by the prairie dogs. Soon enough she joined us as we took photos and laughed at the antics of these engaging creatures.

Afterward, we drove ten miles to the small town of Hulett, appreciating their well-stocked grocery store (as compared to the offerings found at KOA). We bought supplies to cook out in the evening and then returned to our "kabin" for the afternoon. Jenny and Vienna bought some souvenirs, I did some reading, and then Jenny and I headed out for a cool dip in the pool.

As night fell, I noted the clear skies that promised a chance to see the Perseid meteor shower in early morning hours. While Jenny was ready to start our cookout, I longed for another visit with the prairie dogs. Happily, she's a good sport. So we reentered the park, listening to the squeaks announcing our arrival. The sun set below Devils Tower and the shadows lengthened over prairie dog town. We took a few more pictures before returning to a campfire meal of steak, onions, and peppers, sided with some fresh cantaloupe. Some s'mores later, and a little night-walking, and we then returned to our bunks.

All text copyright Andrew Wood.
Photos copyright Andrew and Jenny Wood.