July 27, 2014

7/24/14 - Devils Tower NM

Devils Tower was the FIRST National Monument, declared so in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt.  In the signed proclamation, the apostrophe in "Devil's" was mistakenly left out, and nobody ever went back to correct it.  So it's official name really is (ungrammatically) Devils Tower National Monument. No apostrophe.  Drives me nuts.

We stayed at a campground barely outside the park.  See that green patch of grass on the right in the picture below?  That's the campground. See that car? That's the entrance station!
Then it's a short drive past Prairie Dog Town to the Visitor Center.  A prairie dog town looks like most fields until you look close enough to see the holes and mounds where their burrows are.  Sometimes you can see little brown heads sticking up, or one of them playing sentry.  There are signs saying not to feed them.  We didn't.
Obviously some people do.  This little guy kept coming closer, offering his begging routine, telling me he knows how cute he is.  I still didn't feed him.  
It's just 3 miles to the Visitor Center, and although we got there at 9:00 am, there were already lots of cars in the parking lot.  From there, the monolith is even more impressive than on the drive up.  
The Tower Trail is an easy 1.3 miles around the base of the Tower.
There's a huge boulder field at the base of the tower, chunks of columns that used to be part of the Tower.  Think how much bigger the thing would be if all this rubble were still attached.
Devils Tower is actually considered a columnar monolith.  The geologists can't seem to agree on how it was formed.  They have various possible interpretations.  Maybe it was from (a) an igneous intrusion or stock.  Maybe it was (b) a laccolith.  Or maybe it was (c) a volcanic plug.  If you're into geology, you won't need my interpretation of these terms.  If you're not, what I could tell you wouldn't help anyway because I've read the descriptions three times and still can't follow it.  (Google it.)  I figure if the experts don't know, it doesn't matter if I don't either.
Northern Plains Indians consider it a spiritual place, and different tribes have different legends about how it was created, all of them relating to a bear.  NPS has collected some of them on their website:  NPS First Stories - DevilsTower  They still consider it sacred, and often leave prayer cloths.  It's rude to photograph them.

The original name was noted as "Bear Lodge" on maps, but apparently a translation error in 1875 caused Col. Richard Dodge to think the Indians called it "Bad God's Tower", so he changed it to "Devil's Tower".  Please note:  even if Col. Dodge didn't get the name right, at least he put the apostrophe where it belonged.  (BTW, I have no idea whether my Dodge guy is related to that Dodge guy, so don't ask.)  

There are over 200 different climbing routes to the top, and about 5,000 people climb it every year.  We saw two, and then later a larger group even higher.  It's really high, and I couldn't find the second set in my photos, but this might give you an idea of what the first ones looked like.  In the first one, look for the broken, bent column in the lower left.  In the second, one guy is the little dot on top of the angled block, and the speck at the first crack about 1/3 of the way up is the other climber.  Ain't no way...
Every time we looked at the mountain as we walked around it, it looked slightly different.
Halfway Around
And you couldn't beat the view we had from the RV as the sun began to set.

More pictures:  Devils Tower NM

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  1. Crikey that sure is beautiful. I kept looking at the pictures and kept thinking I'd seen that place somewhere before. Is that where the movie Close Encounters of the third kind was filmed?? What a beautiful place. That's a prairie dog??????? Doesn't look like a dog to me!!


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