This was it. After many years of wanting to see it for myself, I was finally able to get out to Crook County, Wyoming to visit with Devil’s Tower.
Considered sacred to the Lakota and other tribes with both cultural and geological ties to it, Devil’s Tower (Matȟó Thípila / Ptehé Ǧí / Wox Niiinon) is a stone monolith that looms over the surrounding landscape. Along the drive out on US-14 W, the moment the monument comes into view, it’s almost startling and unmistakable for anything else. An enormous pillar that rises up out of a flared stone base, flush with fallen rock peppered throughout with trees and bushes, Devil’s Tower seems to beckon. I actually felt pulled to the site almost the entire way there.
The immediate feeling of seeing the tower wasn’t as emotionally overwhelming as I expected (I had rather high expectations on my own reaction, for some reason), but I find that now when recalling first seeing it – and the slow, winding drive up to the Visitor’s Center near the base, I am filled with strong emotion.
Being the US Park Passport geek I’ve become, my first order of business was collecting my visitor’s stamp before the offices closed. I also picked up a keychain and decorative hat pin, which I’ve been doing for every major site that I’ve visited throughout the US. I have a rather large and noisy collection of keychains now, and the hat pins are being placed around the walls of Matilda’s cabin – with a small, fuzzy jackelope that I picked up in Wall, SD to keep careful watch over them as he perches on the dashboard beside them.
Once the ritual ‘Marking The Occasion With Tacky Plastic/Metal Crap That I Adore’ portion of the journey had been completed, I had plenty of sunlight left to actually take the Tower Trail around the tower itself. It takes about an hour, and there are easily discernable, easy to walk paths that wind around it – which surprised me. For some odd reason, in my head I’d figured that I’d be hiking for at least an hour or two before actually reaching the tower, and that I’d be fending off amorously bitey rattlesnakes the entire way with a large stick.
It seems that almost everybody I’d spoken with about visiting Devil’s Tower beforehand warned me to wear heavy boots and pants, stating that the snakes were everywhere. I arrived in knee length shorts and flip-flops, but had boots and long pants in the car, in case I needed them. The park ranger assured me that I should be ok with what I was currently wearing, as long as I stayed on the path – and indeed, most of the other visitors seemed to be dressed the same – sandals and shorts. It was a fairly warm day, so off I ventured down the path.
The trail hugs along fields of large chunks of fallen rock that surround the base, and visions of the tower itself would poke through the trees here and there – before presenting wonderful, unobstructed views of it. At various points along the trail I spotted ribbons and colorful bundles tied to trees, here and there. A sign indicated that these were offerings/prayers to the tower, and were not to be disturbed.
As I made my way along the trail, I meditated and just let myself BE with the presence of the tower. A reassuring resonance echoed out from it, from what I could feel – I don’t know if it hits others differently, but I would imagine it does. At one point on my walk around the tower, I spotted nine golden eagles flying around its summit, swooping and floating on the air currents.
The entire walk is gorgeous, offering wonderful panoramic vistas of the areas below the tower, as well as fantastic views of the tower.
If you ever find yourself in this part of the country – DO visit. You won’t be disappointed.