Devils Tower

On our last full day of our recent sojourn in South Dakota last week, our hosts took the lovely Robin and me to Devils* Tower, in Wyoming. Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River in northeastern Wyoming. When we arrived on the grounds of the national monument (America's first, designated as such by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906), we stopped to visit with some of the year-round residents of the place, in a sprawling prairie dog village. When we got out of the car, they came running to see us (though it's harmful to the critters when people feed them, people obviously do). We also resisted the temptation to take one or two home with us, partly since they carry plague-causing fleas and partly because they wouldn't fit in our luggage.
Devils Tower itself--or Bear Lodge, which is what the tribes in the region have called this place for centuries--is amazing to see. A sacred spot to the Lakota and other tribes of the area and an enticement to rock climbers from around the world, it dominates the beautiful landscape for miles around. A Kiowa legend tells the story of seven little girls who while playing some distance from their village were chased by some bears. The bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock. One girl prayed to the rock, "Take pity on us!" The rock began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they scratched the rock, digging their claws into the sides. The rock rose higher and higher until the girls were pushed up into the sky, where they are still, seven little stars in a group (The Pleiades). In the winter, in the middle of the night, the seven stars are right over this high rock. The Kiowa call this rock "Tso-aa," "tree rock."
After a brief visit to the visitor center, we took the 2.7 mile Red Beds Trail, that took us through the countryside, showing us some breathtaking vistas and occasionally winding out of sight of the tower. We kept our eye out for rattlesnakes, and happened upon a docile rabbit but otherwise saw only birds and squirrels.
What a great hike. No elevation to speak of, and clearly marked all the way. I tried to talk my companions into giving a shove to the balancing rock (above) at one of the turns, but they had no adventure in them at all. 
We encountered a number of native American prayer cloths and prayer bundles tied to branches or outcroppings, a reminder of the sacredness of the place to more than twenty tribes.

I'm so glad we went, and so grateful to Randy and Kathy for taking us. 

*Note to my writer (and OCD) friends: When Devils Tower became a national monument, the official paperwork contained no apostrophe. So the official name is not Devil's Tower or Devils' Tower but Devils Tower. So there. Since numerous tribes and Wyoming legislators have backed an effort to rename it, it may soon become, officially, Mato Tipila, "Bear Lodge." Serves it right.  

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