By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 8/18/2019
Occurred: 8/20/2004
Topics/Keywords: #Sundance #Wyoming #Devil'sTower Page Views: 1995
All about the fourth day of the trip Michael and I took Mom on to the last of the'48 states' she hadn't yet visited.
Day 4

Since Sundance doesn't have a Wal-Mart, I was hoping for an early start. However, Mom and Michael found a gift shop where we spent a good hour-and-a-half. And that's after breakfast. So, again, it was after noon before we hit the road.

Today was a big day, scenery-wise. It was to end at the town of West Yellowstone, but include Billings, Montana (to satisfy the trip requirement of visiting Montana); and we also were far to close, in Sundance, to not make a short side trip to see Devils Tower, made famous in the Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Devils Tower is a magma extrusion, from around which erosion removed the earth, leaving the tower standing alone. It's odd shape commands attention from anywhere it is in view.

The technical explanation for Devils Tower is probably no more interesting than the Native American explanation, shared, we were told, by most of the tribes who passed through this area.

According to the legend, there were seven sisters who were playing in the meadow one day, when they were attacked by a giant bear. They prayed to the Great Spirit, who rescued them by causing a column of stone to rise into the air, carrying them beyond the reach of the bear, even when it scored the sides of the column with its great claws. However, once the girls were beyond the reach of the bear, they also could not get down. So the Great Spirit transformed them into stars. Which ones? The Pleiades, of course, known to Europeans as the Seven Sisters.

What's so interesting about this story?

Only that the Pleiades consists of more than seven stars. On a clear night, far from cities—such as was the case at Devils Tower before the Europeans invaded—anyone with good eyesight can make out at least fourteen stars. (With binoculars, twenty can be counted.)

Beartooth Pass

Billings was no more interesting than I remembered from my truck driving days; but it did give us an excuse to actually drive into Montana. We then cut down the scenic route, US 212, which brought us into breathtaking (literally!) altitudes as we crossed the Beartooth Mountain Range on Beartooth Pass.

It was long after dark when we drove through Yellowstone National Park for the first time. We didn't see anything, but the air was wonderful and the stars were brilliant.

Finally, we made it through the park to the town of West Yellowstone, where we checked into our motel, the Stage Coach Inn—highly recommended; very comfortable beds. Our check-in time of 12:30 am was our earliest yet.