VIDEO: Devil’s Tower

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Devil’s Tower is a national monument located in the northeastern corner of Wyoming. It’s one of those road trip icons of the all-natural variety. If you are driving into the state from South Dakota (say, from visits to Wall Drug and Mt. Rushmore) it beckons. It’s located about a half hour off the main interstate highway. It merits the detour.

If you have ever watched Steven Speilberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you probably recognize Devil’s Tower. In the movie it served as a meeting place for aliens. It was a brilliant choice of location, because there’s something truly otherworldly about this place. It’s a mountain of rock that looks like no mountain you’ve ever seen.

Native Americans had their own theories about the origins of this geological oddity. Their folklore tells of a time when giant bears were chasing a handful of Indian maidens. The Great Spirit himself raised the Tower from the earth in order to save the damsels in distress. Giant bear claws thus created the deep vertical grooves around the outside of the tower.

Science has its own theories. But interestingly, even amongst the slide-rule & calculator set there’s not a clear consensus. Park Service signs outside the tower reference three different theories as to its formation. Sadly, none of these includes giant bears. The most likely is that Devil’s Tower is the remainder of an ancient volcano.

When Kristy and I visited, we took a little time to stop and hike around this base of the Tower. This was time well spent. It was not a particularly challenging or lengthy hike, but it was memorable. The majority of tourists in our national parks and monument rarely venture beyond the most obvious photo opportunities. Sometimes you will get a greatly enhanced perspective on a place by simply traveling a little further than everyone else.

We enjoyed a nice and mostly quiet hike. We spotted a few deer. And we watched a few humans attempt to scale the tower. Wherever there is a large rock, there will be people wanting to climb said rock.

We learned that Devil’s Tower is a special place amongst the native Indian tribes. For centuries, Devil’s Tower was not called Devil’s Tower. Due to its sacred nature, it was revered by Native Americans as something holy. Then in the 1800s it was taken away from those people by the U.S. government and turned into a Satanic-themed recreational area.

The Indians weren’t too thrilled when people began climbing the Tower for fun. So the Park Service now asks people to refrain from climbing the Tower during the month of June, when Indian tribes hold ceremonies outside the tower. They say that 85% of people honor the request; so I guess (according to my 7th grade mathematics) that means that 15% ignore it. The scientific term for those people is “buttocks area.” While one can understand the desire to climb the tower, I think out of simple respect and decency people could take the month of June off. That’s not asking much.


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