Day Sixty (Part Two): Misty Water Colored Memories: Wyoming (Devil’s Tower)

Continuing events of Thursday May 14th, blogged Tuesday July 21st

As I mentioned in the last entry, I wanted to save writing about my evening hike around the base of the tower for a later time. So, with that being said, we now resume our story already in progress. . .

Devil’s Tower really had an effect on me, in a way I can’t quite describe. I mentioned it was sacred to the Plains Indians, and the different tribes invented varying legends to account for this otherworldly rock formation. As one of the more common tales tells it, a group of young maidens had gone out to play when they were spotted by a pack of giant bears who began to chase them. The girls ran and rand and finally collapsed atop a large rock, praying to the Great Spirit to save them. In answer to their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock rise up toward the heavens so that the bears could not reach them. As the bears struggled in vain to climb the steep tower, they left deep claw marks all along the sides. At last, the maidens were able to escape into the sky where they transformed into the constellation Pleiades. (Interestingly, I heard a different origin story for Pleiades at Death Valley-but that one was about a bunch of stupid dudes who disobeyed their parents, so I like the BAWOTD version better 🙂 )

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I arrived at the Tower at my favorite time of day, the gloaming, when the light is low and soft and there seems to be a magical quality to the air. There was a hint of flowers on the breeze and it smelled like spring. Unfortunately, Annie was once again denied the pleasure of accompanying me, but in this instance I’ll go along with it as the Tower and surrounding woods is still considered a sacred space by several Native American tribes. In fact, as you traverse the paths you can see small colorful prayer bags tied to some of the trees encircling the base.

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It’s difficult to capture in pictures, but every angle presented a new viewpoint, and in some lights, the greenish gold moss coating the stone seemed to glow from within.

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As I was rounding the back side, and marveling at the quiet (there was not a soul to be seen), and admiring the huge boulder-like chunks at the base that had fallen off of the Tower over time, out of nowhere a deer bounded out from amid the rubble and came to a stop no more than five feet from me. She looked me straight in the eye, unwavering, holding my gaze for a good thirty seconds and showing no fear at all. Again, I can’t properly put it into words, but I was left with the feeling that something very poweful had transpired.

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As I rounded another side, suddenly the trees enclosing me opened up and I was treated to breathtakingly expansive views of the surrounding countryside.

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Now I may have been alone on the trail, but I wasn’t alone at the Tower – there were actually a handful of climbers scaling the 1,300 foot edifice (see the tiny red speck in photo below). Devil’s Tower was first climbed in 1893 by a pair of local ranchers who drove wooden pegs into the rock face to form a ladder. Some of the pegs remain today and can be viewed through a little telescopey thing. In 1941 a dude named George Hopkins lost a bet and was forced to parachute onto the top of the tower as a publicity stunt. He had planned to have a rope dropped down to use for his descent, but . . . ooopsie . . . it missed the tower and so he was stuck up there for six days exposed to the cold, rain, and 50mph winds before he could be rescued. Do I need to start a DADOTD feature?

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As you can imagine, the native Indians didn’t take to kindly to their spiritual site being clambered all over by every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a rope. Many of the leaders objected to this practice, deeming it a desecration. In response, the kindly old white dudes of the federal government instituted a VOLUNTARY climbing ban for the month of June when many tribal ceremonies are held at the Tower. Of course some dumbasses do it anyway. Because . . . reasons.

I hated to leave the Tower as it really enchanted me, but the sun was setting and the wind was picking up, and it was time to head back to the toasty confines of Marigold and the puppy snuggles to be found within. Annie seemed to have made a complete recovery, and her BARKBARK was back to full effect. We feasted on beans over the camp stove and had just settled our heads for a long spring’s nap when a heavy rain began to fall and thunder rumbles and lightning flashes moved toward us from the distance. Annie has never been a fan of the kaboomies, so she quickly got into the sleeping bag with me and cuddled up close. Thanks to the migraine that the dropping barometer heralded for me, we both spent a rather fitful night.