Jan 12, 2015

Bear Tipi

After we had (reluctantly) left the mystical landscapes of Yellowstone and the Tetons, it was time to push on through the wild and weird landscapes of Wyoming.

Devils Tower was to be our next stop, but since it was such a long distance, we found a stopping point in the North-Central portion of Wyoming. A ‘resort,’ or so it was called.

Undrinkable water due to fracking and drilling in the region, non-working showers and facilities, and awkward layouts nearly drove us away, in spite of the fact that we had already paid for a couple of nights. Lucky for us, a friendly (albeit eccentric) neighbor offered us fresh drinking water. We ended up sticking it out, although it certainly wasn’t our preferred course of action.

The sunsets were always pretty though.

And so, when the weekend was upon us, we moved forward toward Devils Tower. Approaching the tower is almost dream-like. Such an amazing and rare example of columnar jointing (similar to that of Devil’s Postpile in CA) leaves little room for trite description.
...approaching from the south, about 5 miles away

The view from our campsite

The Circle of Sacred Smoke. The tower was the location where White Buffalo Calf Woman delivered the first sacred pipe to the Lakota people. To get this nicely framed view, you must bow down slightly. I imagine the placement was entirely deliberate, prompting a bit of reverence for the tower which is considered sacred by over 20 tribes.

"May peace prevail on earth"

For an idea of scale, there is a tiny climber standing on top of the column in the middle/top of the picture,

The natives of the area (the Lakota, Arapaho, and several other tribes) referred to this structure, not as the ‘conventional’ name that we decided to give it, but rather as Bear Lodge, Bear Tipi, Bear Butte, or Tree Rock.

Native legend tells that there were once 8 siblings playing in the forest – a brother and seven sisters. The brother had been dabbling in the ways of magic, and accidentally turned himself into a huge bear. Terrified, the sisters ran away from the bear that was once their brother.
The sisters came to a tree stump, and prayed that the tree would save them from the evil bear. The tree spoke to the sisters and offered to save them. And so the tree stump grew and grew, taking the sisters to safety, while the bear jumped and scratched all around the tree stump to get to the sisters – to no avail.
The sisters finally jumped from the tree stump into the heavens and became the Pleiades constellation. And the bear was eventually able to jump after them, and became the Ursa Major (big bear) constellation. But the sisters are eternally out of the bear’s reach.

The first evening we were there, we did a short night-hike and got to see the Ursa Major constellation directly above the tower’s silhouette, and the Pleiades off in the distance. Truly a wonder to behold!
We hiked nearly all of the trails in the park, including two concentric circles around the tower itself – allowing us to survey its majesty from every angle.

View along the Red Beds Trail

The prairie dog villages around the tower gave the experience a touch of adorable splendor. The trail from the campground to the tower took us straight through a village, these cuties were all over, barking their cute squeak-barks at us.

Silent reverence, with a touch of cuteness, made our experience at Devils Tower (or Bear Butte) one that we will not soon forget.
Next up: the Badlands of South Dakota.