A couple weekends ago some fellow VISTAS and I went to visit Devil’s Tower National Monument. Allison’s friend from High School is serving as VISTA in Colorado. The two of them had wanted to meet up during the year, and they decided to make a large camping trip by each bringing a group of friends and meeting halfway.
Devil’s Tower National Monument is a unique geologic tower formation. The common theory to explain the Tower’s exisitance takes place roughly 50 million years ago, when the Rockies formed. Collision of the Pacific tectonic plate with the North American plate caused the plate to buckle forming the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills. Around the same time a pillar of magma forced it’s way up through many layers of sedimentary rock. Thousands of years later, the surrounding sediment washes away through various floods, leaving behind a tower of harder igneous rock.
As you can imagine, a giant 300 foot tower in the middle of Wyoming is pretty strange. The native tribes in the area have many different beliefs about the origin of the tower. Some believe that there is a spirit trapped in the Mountain. Other stories explain how the Seven Sisters constellation came to be. According to the story a village Shaman took some forbidden bear medicine, and was turned into a giant bear. He than proceeded to kill all of the villagers, with the exception of the sisters who managed to get away. As they were chased by this bear, they asked the great spirit to save them. The great spirit elevated the ground they were standing on to great heights, while the bear clawed at them, raking the sides of the tower in the process. The seven sisters were lifted so high that they escaped into the sky and came to live with the great spirit. In any account, this tower represents a very spiritual place, and many people have their ancestors buried on these grounds. Many Indian peoples come to pray and place prayer bundles. Whenever a gust of wind blows the bundle it sends a prayer up to the Great Spirit.
Besides spiritual significance, the Tower has been the center of a lot of history. Devil’s Tower was the first national landmark created in 1906. Using the Antiquities Act Roosevelt created the first natural area of significance to be protected. This later led to establishing over 50 national parks and monuments across the country including Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, Zion and many others. Many rock climbers also travel from all over to climb the tower. The columnar structure of the tower forms long trains of cracks that rock climbers can use to climb up the tower. In 1875 a geologist named Henry Newton said that the top of Devil’s Tower was inaccessible to anything without wings. Less than 20 years later a pair of local ranchers named Rogers and Ripley created a 350+ foot ladder to climb to the top. In the 1940’s a stuntman parachuted on top of the tower. Unfortunately although he landed on the top of the tower, the rope he needed to repel down didn’t. The poor guy was stuck on the tower for 6 days until they could organize a team to climb up, and assist him down.
Unfortunately for me, this is where the trip went terribly sour for me. A bunch of us were kicking around playing frisbee, and I managed to trip and hyper extend my knee. I ended up getting splinted and sent to the hospital where I found out I injured my ACL. So for now I’m on crutches until they figure out how bad it is. My adventures will be limited for now (I can’t even drive to my own appointments). I had a long road trip planned out at the end of my service, which I’m not sure I can do now, but I will let you guys know what’s up when I know.
Here’s a picture with my new crutches.