Saturday, April 19, 2014

Devils Tower

On Tuesday, April 15th, we left Montana and drove into Wyoming, following portions of the historic Bozeman Trail along the way.  The Bozeman Trail was an overland pass that connected the goldrush area of the upper Midwest to the already-established Oregon Trail.

We arrived at the Devil's Tower National Monument in the afternoon, finding the KOA Kampground at its base.

Devil's Tower is an unique landform in the plains area of the northeastern corner of Wyoming.  It is the remnant of molten magma that was forced into the sedimentary rock above it.  As it cooled, it contracted and fragmented into columns.  Erosion over the years caused the columns to become exposed as the sedimentary rock eroded away.  Today the tower rises 867 feet from its base and has a base diameter of 1000 feet.

We didn't waste any time when we arrived.  Immediately we set to hiking around the base of Devil's Tower because we knew a storm was being predicted for the following day.  Even though the visitor center was already closed for the day, we took our family, armed with umbrellas, on the 1.3 mile hike around the base on the Tower Trail.

Along the way we encountered many whitetail deer, and to our surprise, a flock of wild turkeys!  We also stopped to watch the prairie dog town.

The next morning, we woke up and went to the visitor center.  Since we were among the first visitors of the day, the park ranger gave the honor of raising our country's flag to our Eagle Scouts.  We spent about an hour at the visitor center while working on the Junior Ranger workbook.

The Native Americans held - and still do hold - this area as sacred.  Apparently prayer bundles are placed around the base of the tower - different colors according to the map direction - which hold the prayers of the people.

The Kiowa legend is as follows:

"Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother.  Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet.  His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur.  Directly there was a bear where the boy had been.  The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them.  They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them.  It bade them climb upon it, and as they did so it began to rise into the air.  The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach.  It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws.  The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of the Big Dipper."

We left Devil's Tower by 10:00 in the morning, trying to stay ahead of the impending snow storm.  We were successful!  We reached the Black Hills of South Dakota with only an hour to spare before the snow started falling.  And fall it did!  By the next morning, we received nearly 4" of snow.  No wonder we had the entire campground to ourselves!