Sunday, June 5, 2011

Devil’s Tower, Black Hills

Devil’s Tower is a little less than a couple of hours drive away from Rapid City, SD, USA. The route is through the Black Hills National Forest and as picturesque as can be… plain grasslands on either side of the road I-90; something like the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. We left the Interstate at exit 199 for County Road 86 [instead of exit 185 as being suggested by the GPS] which promised to be scenic and longer.

I was behind the wheel here and I simply loved driving all along the way. This time the grasslands were replaced by hills and narrow roads through the mountains with breath-taking sights. We scaled one range of green hills and went down the other side towards the plains where we passed through a couple of villages –Alva, Hulett. The population of these two places were somewhere around 500 as mentioned in the signboard just as we had entered. The streets, houses and shops in Hulett seemed to have not changed for more than five decades probably.
We were greeted with a light drizzle as we reached the Visitor’s Center at the foot of the Devil’s Tower. Having bought our tickets before entering the site we were ready to embark on the easiest and shortest 1.3 mi trail around the Devil’s Tower, but before that a brief write up on the Tower.
About 50 million years ago molten magma was forced into sedimentary rocks above it and cooled underground. As it cooled it contracted and fractured into columns. The Tower rises more than 850 feet from its base with a diameter of about 1000 feet at the base.

So this short paved Tower trail had wayside exhibits which gave us more info about the formation of the Devil’s Tower and the stories of the Indian tribes that regarded the Tower as sacred. There were a few trees which had a ribbon or a cloth tied to them as part of some ritual observed by the Native Americans. All along the way we learnt more and more about the Tower. We also got a panoramic view of the plains far below the Tower. There were a couple of places from were you could see the historic wooden ladder that had been used to climb the Tower more than 100 years ago [we couldn’t find the ladder, by the way]

For the Native Americans including the Lakota Sioux Devil’s Tower is sacred. There are a couple of legends around the Tower. One among them is: Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them. It bade them climb upon it, and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach, it reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the starts of the Big Dipper. [Taken from the Devils Tower information guide, courtesy National Park Service U.S. Dept of the Interior]

Do visit Devil’s Tower if you can. It’s a very unique formation without a double on this earth. The sight of the Tower from the base is just phenomenal. Its one of those creations which is simply timeless.
Our way out was through the scenic route and once again we got to spend some more time enjoying the beauty of the landscape and the Belle Fourche River.

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