My first stop after the border was fuel, which was only about $2.74, and which would be very likely the most expensive I’d experience on the U.S. leg of my trip, a very good start!
There’s basically nothing in this part of Montana, so I just drove and drove and drove until I got to Miles City, where I had a quick lunch and checked in that I’d made it across the border.
Then, there was a whole lot more of nothing as I headed towards the Wyoming border, stopping in Broadus for more fuel.
This part of Wyoming is just like home, only with more trees!
I caught my first glimpse of Devils Tower around 3:15, from an angle I’d never seen in pictures, with it rising above the tree tops like a shark’s fin.
I was exhausted by this point and so disappointed to finally be there in absolutely perfect hiking weather so late in the day. The views from the highway were quite good and I decided that I wouldn’t get my $10’s worth out of the access fee. But just before the turnoff to the entrance to the monument, I had a thought: my interagency pass that I bought last year! I pulled over and took it out of my centre console (I can’t believe I still had it so handy!). October 2015 was punched out. I couldn’t remember if that meant the card was good till the end of September or the end of October so I went to the entrance to find out. It was still valid all the rest of this month! So I drove the 3 miles up to the base of the monument.
Finally saw some fall colours on the way!
The monument is a place of immense power. It’s not just a bunch of rock columns popping out of the ground. I’m so glad I got closer because I couldn’t see the incredible textures until I got up close.
At its base is a boulder field that reminded me of the Chilkhoot Trail. (For those who track such things, that is NOT once ubiquitous pink hoodie. I found a similar one in my new size and it was like meeting up with an old friend! And I have no idea why I’m leaning that way…)
Even though I was mentally exhausted, I had physical energy to burn, so I decided to do the 2KM hike around the base of the monument! It’s all paved, but hilly. There were places with amazing views to the valley below. I enjoyed the fresh air and scent of the ponderosa pines.
I was surprised by the colour of the monument, a bright lime green.
I could imagine people taking shelter from the rain under this overhang.
Wonder what these holes were for…
I had fun watching this little guy eat his lunch.
There hasn’t been a major rock fall from the monument since 1906, so these boulders predate then.
The monument is a tricky place for the Parks Service to manage. They consider rock climbing an acceptable sport, but that clashes with Native American beliefs in the holy nature of the site. A compromise is that there is no climbing of the monument during the entire month of June. A permit is required to climb to the top and you have to check in when you get down. Needless to say, there’s no chance of my ever seeing the top, but it’s apparently a fairly level surface about the size of a football field.
Detouring to Devils Tower was definitely worth my time today and I’m very grateful that my interagency pass was still valid.
From there, it was an hour to Gillette. I was in absolutely no mood to shop for a room, so I took the first one I enquired about and then walked across the street to the Applebee’s for dinner. I haven’t been there in a year and boy as it changed! Most of the menu is the same, but it is now really crazy expensive! The steak dinner I was looking forward to that would have cost $15 with a beer and the tip a year ago would have been over $30 tonight! Forget that! I ordered their beer special for $2.50, thinking it would be a tiny glass, and it was HUGE. Exactly what I wanted after a long day on the road! I chose a reasonably priced chicken and bacon wrap that was really delicious and satisfying. Got back to the hotel and the lady at the desk insisted on giving me a cookie (a soft chocolate one with white chocolate chips, hard to resist), so I had dessert, too. 🙂
Tomorrow is going to be another very long haul and I have two shopping stops to make so I’m going to turn in early and hope that I sleep well and can be on my way earlyish, and by that, I mean no later than 9:00, although, really, it should be 7:00. Hopefully, the traffic through Denver will be okay. I really should have done another hour today, but Gillette really was my limit!