And yes, it's not a typo. It is officially Devils Tower, no apostrophe! It got accidentally left out of the original proclamation and was never corrected. So it is, to this very day, apostropheless!
The sky cleared at some point and it almost seemed like a different day -
For a rock sicking up out of the ground, it is pretty cool. Even much more than that, there is really something special to this place. As we got closer and closer you could just feel it's presence.
But before we actually entered the national monument, we passed by this and thought it warranted a picture of it's own since it made us laugh! No, we didn't stop.....
Since this was going to be a very short stop, we got busy right away on the Jr. Ranger projects, in the shadow of the tower -
So what IS Devils Tower anyway??
Well, geologically speaking, it's kind of an unknown. There are a few theories out there but no definitive answers. One of those theories is as follows: Many millions of years ago the earth's surface was much higher than it is today. At least here. At that point, magma started to push up from deep below, where magma usually pushes up from of course. As it pushed up through the layers of the earth, trying to form a volcano, it stopped. Suddenly, just like that, before making it to the earth's crust. Having stopped bubbling and pushing up, the magma hardened and stayed as it was, forming this cone deep under the surface of the earth.
More millions of years went by as erosion wiped away layer after layer of the earth's surface, finally reveling this poor attempt at a volcano.
Another explanation is that it was indeed a successful volcano that has lost it's outer shell for some reason. That seems less plausible though as there is non of your typical evidence of an active volcano in the area.
So, there you have it, in a nutshell.
Now, the Native American tradition has an entirely different spin on it of course.
Many legends are told about 'the rock', but the one that seems to be passed along the most tells of a group of seven little girls being chased by a bear. They climbed up onto a rock and prayed to it to save them. The rock heard their prayers and began to rise up out of the ground higher and higher. As it got taller the bear tried to climb it, leaving behind it's claw marks of course, as we can see today. The rock eventually rose up to the sky where the girls became a groups of 7 little stars, the Pleiades, AKA The Seven Sisters.
The traditional name of this place is hence Bear Lodge. Many Native Americans oppose the modern American name since it has such a negative connotation. This place is in fact the exact opposite of what the current name conjures up. The tower was and is sacred. During the month of June many come together here for a large spiritual and social gathering, as they did in days past. There is even a voluntary climbing prohibition in June to honor this event. The area has great religious significance and while hiking around the tower one can see many traditional offerings hanging from the trees (fabrics in culturally significant colors as well as various beadwork).
As we walked around the tower, approx. 1.3 miles, one could most definitely sense something. There was absolutely something in the air besides just a rock. Now, I'm not a big meditator, as much as I try cause I realize full well it's benefits. But believe me when I tell you that I could have sat there all day and meditated. If it weren't for constant distractions and demands from the peanut gallery, not to mention a time table we were trying to stick to, I would have. It just has this pull that's hard to describe.
On our hike we enjoyed many views, of the tower and otherwise, watching wildlife, mountain climbers, and just feeling the earth beneath our feet.
There is a very old wooden ladder going up one side of the tower. That's what we're trying to get a peak of -
And yes, the fastest earned Jr. Ranger Badges ever! They did do all the required work though, not to worry.
Back to the logistics of it all, we had planned to arrive earlier finish up earlier and head on over into South Dakota by evening. However, we were, for a change, running late. By the time we wrapped up our activities at the tower it was nearing 6PM and we had not even had dinner yet. So, before heading out we headed down to the picnic area for a bite. Much monkeying around was had while dinner was being prepped.
Whirlwind was disappointed about one thing after all this. He said: "I wish Devils Tower was not rock so we could go inside it". That would be pretty cool.
We had debated and debated whether or not to stay and camp here for the night instead of pushing on as we had originally planned. The park's campground was about a hundred yards away. The decision was made to push onward, despite mixed feelings about leaving the place so soon after we'd arrived. Was that ever a mistake.
Before we headed out though we made one last stop at the park's newest addition, the "Circle of Sacred Smoke".
The circle represents the first puff of smoke from the pipe the tribes used to pray. It was a sacred pipe given to the Lakota at the tower centuries ago. That pipe still exists today and is in the hands of the 17th generation (!!) "keeper of the sacred pipe".
The statue was designed so that the tower can be seen directly through the circle of smoke.
So, like I said before, we left as darkness was falling. And so began our nightmarish trip into South Dakota....