Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 21 Devils Tower National Monument, Vore Buffalo Jump, Evening Ranger Program Belle Fourche Campground, Wyoming

Captain’s Blog
June 23, 2009

Today we chose to take the hike around the base of Devils Tower – no climbing for us!
Devil’s Tower is America’s first National Monument designated as such by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. His action made Wyoming the home of both our first national park – Yellowstone in 1872 and first national monument.

There are two theories about how Devils Tower came to be. There are several American Indian versions of the mythical circumstances surrounding the tower. One is that eight children were at play- one boy and seven girls. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb and began to run on his hands and feet. Through metamorphosis he changed into a huge bear. The girls became terrified and ran with the bear chasing them. The girls came to large rock and jumped on and begged the rock to save them. The rock grew into the sky preventing the bear form getting the girls. The seven sisters rose to the heavens and became the stars of the big dipper. r0n NOTE: ya sure?

Scientists believe that about 60 million years ago molten magma was forced into sedimentary rocks above it and cooled underground. As it cooled it contracted and caused fractures into columns. Over millions of years, erosion of the sedimentary rock exposed Devils Tower and accentuated the formations on the tower walls. The tower rises 867 feet from its base and stands 1,267 feet above the river and 5,112 feet above sea level. The area of its tear dropped shaped top is 1.5 acres. The diameter of its base is 1,000 feet. I keep looking out the RV window expecting to see a space ship to hovering over it as it did in Close Encounters of a Third Kind. The Ranger stated that right after that movie tourism to the Tower was up by 75%.

Up close the Tower is magnificent and the boulder field below the Tower facing the parking lot was buzzing with kids climbing all over them. This is a no-no without a permit but I guess a school brought the 100 kids here to view the Tower. Of course the boulder field was too much of a temptation for them. The Ranger was surprised at the number of people at the Tower. He chose not to turn in all the kids climbing on the boulder field without permits. They sure were having fun. As we hiked the trail around the Tower every angle of the Tower seemed to change making it appear mystical just as the Indians believe. The last known bolder to fall from the Tower was 10,000 years ago.

Along the route there were prayer clothes and ribbons tied to the trees with small bundles of tobacco or sage attached. As part of the American Indian religious ceremonies the winds were to take the fragrances and blow them to the spirits

The first climb of the Tower was on July 4, 1893 by William Rogers and Willard Ripley. They used a wooden ladder they had built that spring for the first 350 feet.The remnants of a similar ladder that was built years later is visible from the base of the tower. Records of Tower climbs have been kept since 1937. Approximately 5000 climbers ascend the tower annually and more then 220 routes have been used in climbing the Tower.

Later we took the 85 - mile scenic loop around Devils Tower. The ride was long but the scenery made up for that. We stopped at the Vore Buffalo Jump discovered when I-90 was being constructed. It is said that when the Indians were preparing for the long winter they would herd the buffalo over a rise into a huge sinkhole. The buffalo that did not die immediately were killed with arrows. They were then skinned and the skins, meat and bones that could be used were salvaged and brought back to the reservations. There are thousands of bones at the site being excavated.

We then headed back to the campground to enjoy the rest of the day sitting in the shade looking at Devils’ Tower from our campsite.
We ended the day with a talk on the landscape of Devils Tower held at the amphitheatre under the shadow of the Tower. This is a beautiful place to stay and to contemplate what the important things in life – Health, Family, Friends, Love and the Beauty of Nature. N. Scott Momaday wrote,” There are things that engender an awful quiet in man; Devils Tower is one of them.”

No comments:

Post a Comment