Saturday, 10 October 2009
Having spent the night in the rather unwelcoming town of Sundance in northeastern Wyoming – although, it has to be pointed out that our motel room-cum-kitchenette had an oven, meaning we were finally able to use up our pizza ingredients – we made the drive towards Devils Tower and figured out that the correct jumping off town is Hulett, not Sundance.
The national monument was a bit of a detour, so we were glad to see a shock of rock shooting out from the horizon, assuring us that a stop was merited.
Although there are several theories as to how Devils Tower came about, scientists agree that it is an igneous intrusion, meaning that it’s basically magma that formed below Earth’s surface, later becoming exposed when softer surrounding rock eroded. Hope that’s right.
Devils Tower will continue appear to grow in height, but only because the ground around it will erode further.
The Native American explanation for the formation, which they call Bear’s Lodge, is a bit more fun. There are lots of variations to the story, but the crux of it is that a bear chased a group of young people up a big tree, which then transformed into a rock rising higher and higher out of the earth, enabling their escape. The bear’s effort was futile but left deep claw marks. The young people then rose up to the skies, where they now make up the Big Dipper, which is known as Mato Tipi La Paha
For everyone else, it’s a really big rock (1,267 feet tall) composed of hundreds if not thousands of column-like structures.
There’s an easy, mile-long paved trail around the Tower, allowing visitors to see it from all angles, while appreciating the Ponderosa pine forest as well as the massive boulders that have crumbled off through the millennia. It’s also a great opportunity to watch birds, chipmunks and the kamikaze climbers mounting the tower.