Some days here at Devils Tower National Monument (DETO) are so beautiful that you find yourself on the Tower Trail and walking around the base of the Tower twice in the same day and yesterday was no exception.
I was scheduled to lead a Tower Walk at ten in the morning. It turned out to be one of those times when I found it difficult to hawk my product and convince folks to join me. Everyone seemed to be uninterested and had another agenda (like walking the trail on their own), but I couldn’t blame them because it was a cool morning with a welcome breeze, unlike the 97 degree day we had just had the previous day.
By starting time at 10 o’clock, two couples joined me at the Kiosk with water bottles in hand. After a brief introduction, I led them across the road and onto the path at the base of the hill. It had been almost a month since my last Tower Walk assignment but I fell right back into the swing of it as we trudged up the steepest part of the trail toward the boulder field.
As usual, I led them around the trail going counterclockwise with the first stop planned for the Tower formation storyboard. They gathered around and I offered explanation while they listened intently before asking questions. It was then that I noticed a young man had joined us, so I invited him to come along.
As we left the next stop – a beautiful and stunning overlook called Cattleman’s Heaven, the young man fell into step beside me on the trail and we chatted.
He told me that he is from Germany and had climbed the Tower the previous day with his girlfriend. I knew immediately that Ken and I had met a photographer who had taken their photo the afternoon before as they reached the summit.
The photographer had a Nikon with a lens as long as my arm. His picture was a clear close-up even though it was taken from a distance of about 800 feet. As he showed us the photo on the camera he asked how he might be able to meet the climbers. He said that he wanted to give them the photo, so our suggestion was to wait at the Kiosk because climbers return there when they finish rappelling. Anyway, now the climber is walking beside me and we put the pieces together through our discussion. What a coincidence!
From there, I shared with my small group that this fellow had climbed the Tower and they peppered him with questions, which he was a good sport about. He told us that he was waiting for a group to finish on the El Matador that morning and then he was going to climb that route.
Shortly after leaving the viewing scopes where we discussed the first ascent using a wooden stake ladder in 1893, the young man left us to prepare for his next climb, but not before a selfie with one of the couples on the tour, and then we continued on without him.
I knew that I was going to have to work hard to match the pace that our guest star had set, so I was happy when the next stop on the tour was about “Devils Tower George.” And as I hoped, I won them back with that story!
After three more informational stops, and two more couples had joined us, I concluded the tour/Tower Walk near the boulder field and intersection at the top of the path where we had begun. At that point there was some applause and thanks given for a good tour, but I thanked them for being a great group and we went back down the hill. Tower Walk #1 complete. It was a good morning.
After serving in the Visitor Center for a couple of hours I then had time in my schedule for Roving, so I headed back to the Tower Trail, this time, on my own. It was during that walk that I slowed my pace so that I could observe and soak in nature.
My uniform attracts attention and people always want to talk and ask questions and that is a big part of what Roving is about. I entertained questions on prescribed burns and climbing the Tower, and I stopped to watch deer grazing in the forest and a Northern Flicker on a tree branch nearby.
On the north side of the Tower I left the paved Tower Trail and hiked a short distance down the sloped bank of that part of the forest to catch the unpaved Red Beds Trail, which runs parallel to the Tower Trail, still heading toward the West side of the Tower and back to the trailhead/Kiosk/Visitor Center… back to civilization and the masses.
I hope you enjoy the attached photos that were taken with my phone during the second hike. Maybe I will find the time to take some real photos with my camera, but I better do it soon because we are only here until the 25th of the month. Time is ticking away!
Regards from DETO,