July 18th was a beautiful day with magnificent blue skies, puffy white clouds, warm air and the sight of the monolith called by the Souix: Mateo Tepee translated as Bear Lodge.
We call it the Devil's Tower. It is located on the western edge of the Black Hills and rises abruptly from the surrounding terrain. It is also known as the place where the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" had its finale with Richard Dreyfus discovering a back trail leading to the top in order to fulfill his destiny of alien encounters - total science fiction - (there is no back trail to the top....as for the aliens.........I am not sure).
The monolith rises 1,280 feet above the Belle Fourche River and is located about 33 miles from Moorcraft, WY and 27 miles southwest of Sundance, WY on highway 14.....304 miles from Cheyenne or 422 miles from our front door. In other words ....it ain't that "Close to Encounter".
I have always wanted to see the Tower. How the geologic creation came to be is still under discussion. There are four standing theories at first thinking it was an extinct volcano where the soil around had been eroded away. Lately one of the more prevalent theories is that it was created by an Igneous Intrusion.....which means molten lava....magma.....pushed through the crust but didn't penetrate it. Over time the magma cooled and the surrounding landscape eroded away leaving the tower. And...there are other creation ideas too.
I like this version:
"Seven little girls were playing a little too far from their village. Suddenly a group of bears began chasing them. The sisters were terrified. They ran and came to the stump of a great tree. The tree spoke to them to climb upon it and as they did it began to grow. The bears ran to get them but the tree grew beyond the reach of the bears. As the bears clawed at the tree trying to reach the girls the tree grew to the heavens and the sisters became the stars of Pleiades and the claw marks from the bears can be seen today on the side of the hardened tree".
It is still a sacred place.....especially for Native Americans. It is to be respected
There are a number of hiking trails in the area including one where you can encircle the tower. It is about 1.3 miles around the base. I chose to walk part of the Joyner Ridge Loop ....just for the pictures. Additionally according to the Park brochure about 5,000 climbers a year attempt the challenge. There are over 220 routes that have been used......now climbing up the wall WOULD be a "Closer Encounter".
I will leave you with this. Teddy Roosevelt started his thoughtful preservation of land to protect them for generations from unbridled commercial development and exploitation by proclaiming this Tower as the FIRST EVER NATIONAL MONUMENT !!!!!! He did this in 1906 - 34 years after the establishment of Yellowstone as our FIRST NATIONAL PARK. Forethought not afterthought.
Devil's Tower or Mateo Tepee is spectacular. It may not be easy to get to but if you do....may you - someday have your own "Close Encounter for the First Time". It will be unforgettable....especially when you return home and every time you look to the Pleiades you know how they came into being.
This bench is waiting for you:
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.