Saturday 07 July, 2012

Day 24 – Devils Tower and Deadwood


When I was 11 I saw Close Encounters and it had a profound effect on me. Just six months before, Star Wars had dazzled me with its spectacle of a whole new universe of adventure, now Steven Spielberg showed me a fantasy that took place in my world. It was almost too much for a [...]


When I was 11 I saw Close Encounters and it had a profound effect on me. Just six months before, Star Wars had dazzled me with its spectacle of a whole new universe of adventure, now Steven Spielberg showed me a fantasy that took place in my world. It was almost too much for a budding scifi fan to take in. I didn’t know it at the time, but the more adult themes and subtext had also resonated with me. I knew some day I would see Devils Tower for myself. That day had arrived.

A claustrophobically low cloud layer hangs over the rolling hills. At one point I feel like I can almost reach up and touch it. The sun is completely hidden, remaining so for the entire day. A fine mist falls, also for the whole day. The journey to the tower through the dreary, macabre landscape gives the morning a gothic feel.

20120706-215449.jpg
The first sight of the distant tower provokes an involuntary gasp. Seeing this familiar shape in person brings memories and feeling from childhood flooding back. I remember now how much my mother liked the movie too. She took my brother and I to see it twice when it was in theaters that Christmas, an unheard of event in our household.

20120706-220139.jpg
Here is wikipedias article on Devils Tower

20120706-220252.jpg
As I hike around the tower I find myself thinking “I can’t believe it’s real”. Melinda Dillon says that at the end of the film, and it rings true.

20120706-220548.jpg
The tower itself is sacred to the native people of the area, and you can feel how special it is. The whole area seems like another world. Halfway around I realize that the two people I most want to share this experience with are gone. I’m trying to make my peace with this, knowing it will be with me for the rest of my life. The yammering of the other people around me start to grate on my nerves and I move further from the tower, exploring the land around the base.

20120706-220920.jpg
The atmosphere is heavy and I feel the need to move again. The rain is getting heavier, but I don’t care. I fly through the sullen countryside, the displaced air creating a dry bubble of air around me. I pass through two sad little towns. They look like the worst three blocks of Richmond have been picked up and dumped in the countryside.
A good lunch in Spearfish and a quick, wet trip south lands me in Deadwood, South Dakota. As a fan of the HBO series, knew I couldn’t resist seeing the real thing for myself. I didn’t plan to visit two real life locations from two of my favorite films in one day, it just worked out that way. Even though the series wasn’t filmed in the real town, they made an effort to find a location that resembled the real towns geography. Here is some real life facts on Deadwood I am instantly appalled by the nightmare of tourism that covers the main street. It’s like Reno and Fishermans Wharf had a baby.

20120706-222028.jpg
There are quite a few interesting buildings, but the layer of crass commercialism that coats them made the experience nauseating.

20120706-222258.jpg
I fled the downtown area for the quieter, residential neighborhood above the town. There I found a neat little community nestled in a hillside, mature trees shading the streets.

20120706-222507.jpg
The town is set in a gulch, with a stream running through the center of it. Up a steep hill is the town cemetery. It was getting late and even though still light out, all the other tourists had left. I spent hours walking among the old graves, reading the inscriptions, empathizing with the writers who had wanted to let it be known that the person buried there had mattered.

20120706-223344.jpg

20120706-223436.jpg

20120706-223521.jpg

20120706-223547.jpg

2 Comments

  • Jack VanHesteren says:

    Wow, I continue to be amazed by the quality of your videos!! And your descriptions of your experiences are extremely interesting. Scott, you were meant to be an explorer and a writer, for sure. We are so glad that you chose to make this trip, because much of it is what we would have done, if Marilyn had not had the misfortune of having to battle breast cancer-(WINNING THE FIGHT!!), but then being hit with COPD-(a battle which has sapped most of her energy & mobility). We are enjoying the experience, thru your travel. Love, Jack & Marilyn

  • Scott Nelson says:

    Beautiful stories, my friend. It’s nice to be along in your camera. I’ll call my dad again in MN as you’re approaching, and also spoke to friends in Raleigh NC this weekend. Perhaps you can meetup up with some of my Smoky Mtns ride crew?


Trackbacks and Pingbacks