Jul 12

Devils Tower, Wyoming

Leaving Black HillsWe left the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota wishing we had been able to spend more time here.  It is a truly beautiful part of the country.  Going West, the next State was Wyoming and, due to time constraints and the fact that we had previously visited Yellowstone National Park, we decided to give the Park a miss and continue to Montana and Glacier National Park.  However, we had one stop in Wyoming on our way through … Devils Tower.   Our main reason for stopping here was that Bill had seen the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Richard Dreyfuss) in which the Tower was featured.  Priscilla was somewhat unimpressed with this, not having seen the movie, but agreed to extend our stay in the delightful town of Spearfish, South Dakota, and take a day’s drive to the Tower.  It turned out to be an excellent decision!

As we drew near the little town of Hulet, we saw the top of the tower suddenly appear on the horizon some 10 miles (16 km) away.  Growing ever larger we came face to face with the 1,267ft  (386 meters) pillar rising dramatically from the prairie.  It was quite a sight to see and, to add to the spectacle, a couple of bison and a few Texas Longhorn cattle grazed in a field as we approached — and posed for photographs!Texas Longhorn

Devils Tower holds the distinction of being the first U.S. National Monument to be established in September 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt.  The Visitor Center at the base of the monument provides excellent information, and National Park Rangers were giving talks the day we were there.  Topics ranged from the geological composition of the Tower to wildlife and the cultural history of the area.  We learned that some 400,000 people visit Devils Tower each year and wondered how many of them had seen the movie!  There are a couple of walks around the Tower, the easiest being a little over a mile.

Although views from outside the National Park are impressive, the best view is at the Visitor Center.  It is well worth the entry fee of $11 per person but for those of us who are over 60 and have a National Parks Senior Pass (which we bought several years ago for $10 for the two of us) there is no charge.  Sometimes it pays to be ‘old’!

Devils Tower is also famous for being one of the best traditional crack climbing areas in North America and, according to the National Parks Service website     Hundreds of parallel cracks divide Devils Tower into large hexagonal columns, making it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America. The longest of these continuous cracks are almost 400 feet long and vary significantly in width”.  We were interested to learn that some routes are closed annually to protect nesting falcons.

Devils TowerAs you have probably guessed, there is a legend attached to Devils Tower and it varies depending on the Native American tribe.  Wikipedia has this version:  According to the Indian tribes of the Kiowa and Lakota, some girls went out to play and were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears, in an effort to climb the rock, left deep claw marks in the sides, which had become too steep to climb. (Those are the marks which appear today on the sides of Devils Tower.) When the girls reached the sky, they were turned into the star constellation the Pleiades.”

Another version is that two Sioux boys wandered far from their village and a huge bear called Mato saw them and wanted to eat them.  When he was about to reach them, the boys prayed to the Creator, Wakan Tanka to help them and the rock they were standing on rose so high that the bear could not reach them.  When the bear left, Wanblee, the eagle, helped the boys off the rock and took them back to their village.  Regardless of which legend is true, as you look at Devils Tower it certainly seems as if a huge bear has gouged the rock!

Priscilla at Devils TowerAt the end of the day, Priscilla agreed that the trip was well worthwhile although watching the movie is not on her “To Do” list right now!

What great memories we have of our stay in South Dakota and our day trip into Wyoming!  Enjoy some more photos here :  https://goo.gl/hHOiZg

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