Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 July 29 - Devils Tower, WY

Devils Tower National Monument is a unique and striking geologic wonder steeped in Indian legend. It is a modern day national park and a climbers' challenge. Devils Tower sits in northeast Wyoming. The Tower is a solitary, stump-shaped granite (without quartz) formation that looms 1,267 feet above the tree-lined Belle Fourche River Valley,(867 feet above the Visitor Center) and 5,112 feet above sea level, like a skyscraper in the country. Once hidden below the earth’s surface, erosion has stripped away the softer rock layers revealing what we now know as the Devil’s Tower.
The two-square-mile park surrounding the tower was proclaimed the nation’s first national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The park is covered with pine forests, woodlands and grasslands, and the tower itself measures about 1.5 acres at the top (approx. the size of a football field).

When you come across a natural wonder as strange as Wyoming's Devils Tower National Monument, you can't help but wonder about it... Even scientists aren't 100% certain how the massive stone structure came to exist, but they do know that the tower was formed from an igneous material (aka cooled magma, which is the cause of the hexagonal columns) and erosion has definitely played a role in the creation of the tower we see today vs. the geology of that landscape 50,000,000 years ago. The view from the base of the tower, across the Belle Fourche River Valley is an awesome sight too.
But enough of the science; the stories, myths and legends surrounding the tower are much more interesting. Devils Tower has been a sacred site for Native Americans since they happened upon it centuries ago. Different tribes have different stories, but they are all very similar. The Lakota and the Kiowa tell a tale of two young girls who, while out playing, were spotted by several enormous bears who began to give chase. The girls, in an attempt to escape, climbed to the top of Devils Tower, and then fell to their knees and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them as the bears began to scale the rocks behind them. The Great Spirit raised the rock to the heavens, and as the cliff grew steeper, the bears fell backwards, leaving only their claw marks as they tried to hang on, it being the ridges on the side of the tower. Once the rock reached the sky, the girls were turned into stars and the constellation we know today as the Pleiades (the Seven Sisters)…

A Sioux version has two boys being chased by a giant bear named Mato (Lakota for ‘Bear’) they climb onto a rock and pray to the creator ‘Wakan Tanka’ to save them, and the Great Spirit raises the rock to the heavens, as the bear falls down the side, leaving only the scratch marks of his claws. Unrelentless, the bear continues to try to reach the boys circling the high rock but failing to get a solid hold and only leaving his claw marks all around the rock.  The boys are then rescued by an eagle named ‘Wanblee’, and Mato sulks off to Bear Butte, named for him.
The Cheyenne version is much darker: in it, there is a large group of girls, most of whom are killed by the bear. Two escape and solicit the help from two boys, who have the girls lure the bear to the top of Devil's Tower so they can shoot it on the underside of its foot with an arrow, supposedly the bear's only weak spot. As they boys fire arrows at the bear, it leaves scratch marks on the Tower, and in the end, the bear gives up and leaves.  

The strange stories surrounding Devils Tower aren't all Native American legends-- in the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, characters who witness UFOs become oddly obsessed with Devils Tower, and are drawn to the site as aliens land their spaceships near the formation.
The Indian tribes have long held both geographical and cultural attachment to the Tower as a place of spiritual significance and to this day they object to the climbing of the Tower, as a sport. Even during our hike of the Tower Trail (1.3 miles around the base of the Tower) we witnessed the hanging of cloths of the trees there. These are ‘prayer cloths’ that the Indians tie to the trees as offerings and prayers to the Great Spirit.

The Native American tribes had many different names for the site, which included “Aloft on a Rock”, “Grizzly Bear’s Lodge”, “Bear’s Teepee” and “Tree Rock”, among others, mostly descended from their legends of the giant rock formation.
However, the white man’s name "Devils Tower" came from Col. Richard Irving Dodge, who led an expedition to the Black Hills in 1875 and in his book “The Black Hills (1876) Dodge called it “The Devils Tower”, explaining that “The Indians called this shaft Bad God’s Tower, a name adopted with proper modification by our surveyors”. Henry Newton, geological assistant to the Dodge expedition, whose published work on the expedition appeared in 1880, explained that the Indian name, ‘Bear Lodge’ (Mato Tipila) “appears on the earliest map of the region, and though more recently it is said to be known among the Native American tribes as ‘the bad god’s tower’, or in better English, ‘the devil’s tower’”. Although many maps and documents still referred to the formation as “Bear Lodge”, Dodge’s book became immensely popular and the new name “Devils Tower” took root in the public’s mind.  

Today, the national monument is best known perhaps for its challenge to climbers which come from all over the world. From over 400,000 visitors yearly at least 1% are climbers. In 2016, over 6,000 climbers were registered on Devil’s tower and today we witnessed at least 12 of them perched high on the tower’s walls (see photos). There are about 220 popular routes to the top and the fastest recorded climb was only 18 minutes (by Todd Skinner, a Wyoming native who free-soloed… alone and without ropes or gear of any kind) according to the National Park Service, though we have to wonder just HOW they managed that. The average climb though is said to be about 4-6 hours (depending on skill), in which case I would hope that they plan to camp overnight on the top.    

The park service states that the daytime Devils Tower experience is only half the wonder, as so much goes on at night as well. As there are no significant light sources nearby, the skies at night are a dark sky and the star gazing opportunities are said to be awesome, as well. We did not stay for that aspect, enough with having hiked the Tower Trail (around the base of the monolith) a 1.3 mile walk with steep rises and descents… up and down and up and down…

Here are the photos of our day at the Bear Lodge (Devils Tower)… we apologize for the great number of photos but there is so much beauty to see (and show) that it was hard to curtail our photographic collection. It seems that every day we go somewhere we end up with over 800 photos and several videos, so even cutting it back to 100 or so is quite an accomplishment. 

 On the road to Devils Tower...

This is a sample of one of the many styled homes that sits on the top of a hill overlooking the range below with immaculate views, and a wonderful front (or wrap-around) porch to sit an gaze upon it. .

You might remember the movie 'Jeremiah Johnson' (played by Robert Redford). It was based on the real life personage of one John Garrison who later changed his name to Jeremiah Johnston, and was later known as 'Liver Eating Jeremiah Johnston'. He was a tenderfoot from the city that moved West and became a famous Indian fighter and Mountain Main, respected by the Crow Indians as 'a formidable enemy'. Anyway, he told a story about a crazy woman who lived in the mountain, that the Indians left alone because she was crazy and they were afraid of what 'bad medicine' killing her would bring upon them. That story was also recounted in the movie Jeremiah Johnson. As such, the story and name of "Crazy Woman" became a part of Wyoming history and folklore, and now there is a Crazy Woman Canyon, Crazy Woman Creek, Crazy Woman Real Estate (as in photo above), and others. So if you see Crazy Woman (this or that), now you know where it probably comes from.   

We were wondering if this is what the Indian Campground 
(that we would stay at in Buffalo) would look like. LOL!

Scenes from the road on Hwy 14.

A snow fence.

Entry to a ranch...

A cute ranch entryway (with wooden bears on it).

First view of Devils Tower from Hwy 14.
The motorcyclist in the blue Harley (from Wyoming) was a real A**hole. There was barely 5 feet between our car and the car in front of us, as we stood in a line 1/2 a mile long to get into the park, when this jerk off comes riding over and forces himself into that space in front of us without even asking if he could.  We have cyclist friends so we know that this is not normal behavior of cyclists. Therefore this guy and his *#-! were just a--holes. 

We missed the night view, but it is said to be spectacular with the
surrounding darkness and all the stars out on a cloudless night sky.

Mary at the Devils Tower.

This says it all; yet people just ignore it.


 The valley below the Tower

The Devils Tower Trading Post (with Devils Tower behind it). The KOA is just across the street. However, if you plan on coming you need to know that there is no gasoline or diesel available here. The closest fuel is either  at the towns of Hulett, on Hwy 24, and Moorcroft or Sundance at either end of Hwy 14 with I-90. 
The KOA Campground at the base of the Devils Tower. 

Ranger Station at the Devils Tower National Monument Entrance.

The Belle Fourche River on the way in.

Reaching the summit...

... and close up. Can you tell it's a girl.

 This guy was on the way down...

 With tent in the backpack, going up about 3pm, for an overnight camping stay on top.

 The KOA campground below, nect to the Tower entrance.
'Mama June' and 'Honey Boo Boo' (look alikes) in the background, behind Mary. That little girl was so obnoxious blowing a whistle for no good reason, and the big lady kept looking in the holes under all the rock (who knows what for) until finally she fell off a rock.
This pretty bird was one of many flying around in the area. Unfortunately, due to the large number of people in the area, other wildlife was hard to be seen, other than round a few ground squirrels.

The Tower Trail, which circles the Tower is 1.3 miles long, but seems more like 3 miles as it is constant steep ascents and descents. By this time (1/2 way) we were ready for it to be over. 

 Other views of the tower, which constantly changes depending on where one views it from.

At the end of the trail we saw this guy (one of the climbers)
taking a well deserved rest in a hammock.

 A Park Ranger giving a presentation of the New Rangers Program.
The Belle Fourche River in the valley below the Tower.

On the way back, another sample of one of the many ranch homes found
in this area, sitting on top of a hill with a view of the range below it.

At the 'T' junction of Hwy. 24 (to the Tower) and Hwy 14 (to Moorcroft or Sundance) there were these signs of the campground we were going to be going to in Buffalo (above) and the one we were staying at in Sundance (below).

 Remnants of an old homestead. This country was full
of 160-acre homesteads, surrounding major towns.
 Scenes of the beautiful countryside...



The different names given to Devils Tower by the different tribes in their native language..
 Bill's 1st visit to the Devils Tower, standing in front of the Visitor Center.
 From the base of the Tower looking down to the Belle Fourche River Valley below.
As stated earlier, the Bear's Lodge (or Devils Tower) is a sacred place for many Indian tribes and it is a place they come to to place these colored 'prayer cloths' on the trees as they have roots that are buried in the rock (that the Great Spirit lifted to the heavens), according to their legends, and therefore have a direct link to the Great Spirit.
Trump Tower... Er, we mean Devils Tower.
Wow! The Devils Tower is as BIG as I am...
 View of the TOP
... and Bottom
Bill looking at some climbers and wishing that was him up there... NOT!
 Different views of the Tower, from different sides of it.

At the "T" of Hwy 24 (Devils Tower Rd) and Hwy 14, signs for the campground we would go to next in Buffalo WY (above) and for the one we were at in Sundance (below).

 This was the remnant of an old homestead.

 We had been told of the dreadful condition of this road (WY Hwy 14) from Devils Tower to Sundance, yet when we got there it was not bad at all, though they were paving it real good. Just had to wait for the Pilot Truck to guide us as they stopped traffic one way to work on the other side of the road.

Rodeo aftermath

As we drove ut in the morning we had seen a lot of people lined u with chairs along the Main Street, so we figured we were going to miss a parade. Coming back into Sundance they had a Rodeo (apparently just missed it when we came back) so that must have been what the parade was for.

Tomorrow we head for the Indian Campground in Buffalo (near Sheridan) Wyoming. See you on the next post.

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