Thursday, May 21, 2009

Devils Tower National Monument

Visiting Devils Tower National Monument was part of a Roadtrip that ran from Glacier National Park to the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument to Badlands to Yellowstone to homebase.

The day that we made it to Devils Tower had begun in Sheridan, Wyoming with freezing temperatures and snow arriving overnight. By mid-morning we got ahead of the storm, but it would catch up again by the next morning in Rapid City, South Dakota, with about 6 inches of snow.

Devils Tower was made a National Monument by Teddy Roosevelt on September 24, 1906. I imagine Teddy likely visited Devils Tower during his time of working a ranch in the Dakotas.

There are a lot of theories as to what made Devils Tower, most involving some sort of volcanic action. But I like the Sioux theory best. Six Sioux girls were picking flowers when big bad bears started chasing them. The Great Spirit was looking after the girls, so he raised the ground beneath them. The bears tried to climb the rock, scratching to climb, then falling off the ever higher tower, leaving giant scratch marks visible to this day.

I had never seen a Prairie Dog Town til I saw the one near the entry to Devils Tower. Prairie Dogs are cute. They look like they'd make a fun pet, but, apparently that is not doable.

You can walk all around the perimeter of Devils Tower on 1.3 mile long Tower Trail. There use to be a ladder you could climb to the top, you still see signs of the ladder, but there is no ladder to the top anymore. Had there been, I believe my acrophobia would have made climbing it a no go for me.

The way to the top of Devils Tower in these ladder-free days is to climb it. Nowadays 1% of Devils Tower's 400,000 annual visitors are climbers. Many of them free climb the tower. That means no pitons, just your hands and feet. I can't imagine wanting to do this. I was equally perplexed watching climbers on El Capitan in Yosemite.

Devils Tower is sacred ground to many of the Plains Tribes, like the Kiowa, Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux. Because Indian Chiefs objected to the climbing, a voluntary ban takes place in June, when the tribes conduct annual rites at Devils Tower. Most climbers respect the ban.

After Devils Tower it's time to hit the road again and head towards South Dakota.

1 comment:

Edwin said...

I have traveled that area many times, and the story I have always been told, is there are 7 sisters that after the bear chase, escape into the heavens forming the constellation of the Pleiades, the stars often referred to as "The Seven Sisters"