It seems to me, anybody who saw the 1977 Steven Spielberg film “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” and who had never visited the filming location, would certainly wish to do so. Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming finally got checked off my list this summer. Unfortunately, most of the area was covered in a smoky haze from the many raging forest fires in California and Oregon. As a side note, it seems as if Smoky the Bear may have had it wrong. We are now paying the price, an unintended consequence, for the many years when the US Forest Service tried to put out every fire.
The appeal of this monolith to avid rock climbers, with its thousands of cracks and vertical columns of rock, is obvious. This mountain is climbed numerous times every week by way of relatively easy routes to the top as well as other routes which are among the hardest in the world.
In 1941, based on a bet, George Hopkins parachuted from a plane and landed on the top of Devils Tower. The plan was then to descend by ropes which were to be dropped by a second pass of the airplane. The package of ropes, food and water missed its mark and poor George was stranded on top of the tower for six days in rain and 50 mph winds until climbers could reach him and help him down. This was all done without permission. No account of this story explains why more ropes were not simply dropped to him.
The hexagonal volcanic rock columns which formed this geologic protrusion is similar to others in the world, such as Devils Postpile National Monument in California and Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. A very pleasant 1.3 mile loop trail takes the visitor around the base of this monument.