Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Devil's Tower to Nickle & Dimeville

With the Big Horn's mighty Tensleep Canyon fading in our review mirror, we wound over prairie hills, only stopping in Gillett for some duct tape and groceries.  Our 1/4 electrical tape at this point wasn't quite holding the one inch hole in our blown Engine hose.  And, with the Dodge Dealership in Rapid City a few days down the turnpike, we decided it best to get a more durable band aid.

It was while we were still a  couple hours from Gillett that we noticed a high pitch whine coming from under the hood.  A couple hours on the road with no turbo and Ben's hair was starting to turn gray.  Don't worry, it eventually turned back into its sandy blonde self.  Our theory proved correct when later we opened er' up to find the electrical tape a gory wad of adhesive shrapnel.

Home Depot we love you!  For a few greenbacks we were back in business; and of course, our white box was once again purrring like a kitten.

Above...Devil's Tower framed with some nice grass.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure to visit Eastern Wyoming...  from out of the vast and rolling grasslands, a visual relief arises out of nowhere.  Devil's Tower sticks up over 500 feet above the surrounding terrain.  And, so it wasn't a surprise that for many miles we saw it looming and growing bigger upon our approach.

Devil's Tower National Monument was a first of its kind.  Considering that Yellowstone National Park was also the first National park, it begs the question?  There must be some special preferential aspect to Wyoming...  at least, we think so.

We arrived late in the day on the 29th to find very few Tourons wandering its slopes.  We quickly viewed the visitors center and proceeded to take the 1.3 mile loop trail (paved) around the tower.  It felt REAL nice to be out of the van and on our feet.  Towards the North side we took care to observe our chosen route for the following day: Assemblyline via Wave Line.  510-.

Interestingly enough, this columnar basalt looking formation is much more akin to granite.  In my mind I had always pictured it as basalt though.  Devil's Tower also stands out because the columns go all the way around in a continuous unbroken wall.  Very cool!

During our hike around the Tower we witnessed lots of wildlife: these included turkey vultures, groundhogs, peregrin falcons, and other birds that we couldn't identify.

There were also {read}--lots-- of white tailed deer, many of which appeared quite young.  Most of them looked just like bambi.

Tiffers here sitting on a bench deciding on where our route is...

Ben here getting a little on the artsy side with this juxtaposed shot.  The Ponderosa Pines were in fact quite beautiful.

And, our trip wouldn't have been complete without these little rascals.  Upon entering the park there is a field filled with these furrballs.  You just want to take one with you they are that cute!  Unfortunately, the NPS forbids tourists from actually netting them.

Ben {shown below} feeling quite peaceful sitting below our chosen route.
The climb we chose was 4 pitches in length and 5.10-.  For those of you non climbers, that means it took four rope lengths of rope to attain the summit.

The guide book warns that climbing here on the columns can be a little on the stiff side due to the long pitches and splitter nature...

Tiffany really showed her adroit footwork and dispatched the first couple pitches with no falls (10a).  Nice job hon!

However, the 3rd pitch (5.9) both served us a little humble pie.  Though Ben didn't fall (which is good because he had to run it out major; 25 ft between some placements) he apparently missed the "belay" (this is a term for where I would anchor myself into the wall to then bring up my second 'tiffers'.  In this case it was a bolted belay).  Being strapped into a light 9.2mm 80 meter rope didn't help things.  By the time I realized I had passed the belay I was a good 60 foot above the anchor (over 200 feet from the beginning of the pitch) and running out of gear.  Fortunately, I was able to find a nice ledge and one meager crack which took my remaining gear.  It was then that I realized some of my fatigue was due to not eating lunch.  It may sound like a rookie mistake...but, I am notorious for doing this.

Tiffers only looks like she doesn't have a rope on!  Magic.

Looking a little run out here Gilkison.

Tiffers showing some gumption on the enduro 5.9 pitch.  As you can see here, the columns are big!



That was so much fun!

Can you lower me down so that I can do that again?

Actually, she didn't say that...

Tiff had actually not climbed a single crack in 2 or 3 years.  And, I want to say that she did a commendable job for a person with almost 0 experience on hand cracks.

Nice work baby!

Looking down on the 4th pitch belay and Devils Tower in the background.

Some nice folks were on top and offered to take our picture!  The Tower is flat on top with a 360 degree view of the surrounding terrain.
During our decent we were privy to soft light and a tapestry of nature.

Some birds here making short work of the summit columns.

We both had a great time climbing the tower and would recommend it to anyone in the area.

There are guide services and easier routes on the South Face; which is actually the side that we rappelled down. With little or no experience most people of modest athletic ability can climb this iconic rock tower.

The Badlands.
DO it!  Ben shown here coiling the 80 meter beast.  And above lies the Durance route.  At 5.6 it is the easiest route to the summit.  And, for that reason, it is quite popular.

Our plan was to finish the Tower and drive to the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota that evening.  But frankly, we both felt worked and so opted to stay just outside the Monument at a climber type dig.  It is owned by a climbing ranger named Frank.  We were able to take a nice outdoor shower (yes, the first one in over a week) which nearly brought tears to our eyes.  A weekly shower just makes sense no?

The next morning we made the decision to forgo the Needles of the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore for later.  We just didn't think that we would be able to do the area justice this round.  Instead we hammered it to Rapid City and spent most of the day sitting in  Dodge Dealership while they dragged their feet around.  Most importantly, we did take care of that nasty hose problem!  The warranty was still in affect which probably saved us 200 smackers at least.  After that... a blizzard from DQ.  There is only one tonic for wasting a day at a car dealership:  Ice Cream.

Once done with that we made short work of SD, making sure to take in Badlands National Park.  Not much to do here but look.

Our van equipped with a new hose!

Badlands is a nice place to see if you are ever in SD; but, due to the lack of recreation opportunity we both agreed that it probably isn't our favorite NP.

Still, with a setting sun this place is gorgeous as the light plays off this bizarre landscape.

South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York...

We drove, slept, drove, slept, drove.  I know that wasn't a grammatically correct sentence.  But, remember, this is only a silly blog.  And, college was a long time ago for Ben; though, that probably isn't an adequate excuse.

One thing that we would like to point out is TOLL ROADS.  Yes, we had seen something suggesting an obligatory payment somewhere around Chicago and then continuing most of the way across the 90.  But, really folks...we are here to say that we almost spent 60$ on tolls between Chicago and Niagra Falls.  Yep, we didn't purchase one of those "easy" passes.  So, we stopped at every toll booth.  I'd wager that we ended up stopping on the freeway no less than 15 times at Toll Booths.  This could be an exaggeration of course...a little artistic license if you will.  I'll let you be the judge.  No, really, it was crazy.  After getting our wallet shaken upside-down for road taxes on the 90 we agreed that we should have taken another route.  People: travel on the Canadian side.  Top off your tank before the border and then forge across.  We were so, er, naive.

Niagara Falls.  It is truly impressive.  We had a great hour riding our bikes around the State Park island  and taking in the sites.  This happened to be a rainy weekday in the off season, and still there were hordes of tourists.  Evidently this is one of the most popular State parks around.
This guy was getting it all!  Notice the determination, the raw focus, the wild look in his eyes!

Burlington, VT.  This guy is really making an interesting living.  

After visiting Niagara we made the final leg of our Journey to Burlington Vt; arriving there at 1230 in the am.  We are excited that the 30 hours of driving between Rapid City and here are at an end.  Now, we can get down to business in New England.  Thanks goes to Peter and Jovial Kamitses for letting us crash in their driveway, feeding us, and letting us wash our road grime away.  Today marks our second day in Vermont and can't say enough good things about it.  That's it for now.  Gilkison's out!


  1. This old man is glad to see that some young folk still have the _____ to explore like you two do.

  2. If only I was young again. But you made my day.