| Devils Tower National
If Devils Tower National Monument looks familiar to you but you can't quite place it, perhaps you've seen Steven Spielberg's 1977 film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". It was used as a location for the movie. A massive tapered stone column towering over 1,000 feet above the surrounding countryside, Devils Tower can be seen for miles and would be a perfect geo-beacon for alien spaceships. More likely, you've seen some of the beautiful scenic photographs taken over the years. Either way it is a sight you will not soon forget.
President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower as our first National Monument on September 24, 1906. It is located not far from Sundance, Wyoming in the northeast corner of Wyoming in the Black Hills overlooking the Belle Fourche River Valley. This granite formation stands 1267 feet tall with a diameter at the bottom of 1,000 feet and 275 feet at the top. The top is roughly the size and shape of a football field, covered with scrub grass and actually has small resident rodents that call it home. The elevation at the summit is 5,212 feet.
It has long been considered a
sacred site by many of the northern plains Indian
tribes. Some of those tribes referred to it as the
Bear's Lodge. One of the legends that surround
Devils Tower is that the vertical grooves in the
rock were placed there by a giant bear that was
chasing some Indian maidens. There were six major
tribes that had both cultural and geographic ties to
the area: Arapaho, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa and
Shoshone. The National Park Service says that there
are over 20 tribes that have treated Devils Tower as
Holy Ground. For more information go to the National
Park Service web site.
Besides sightseeing, the major recreational activity at Devils Tower is mountain climbing. The first formal geological study of the monument in 1875 concluded that it was "inaccessible to anything without wings." It was almost another 20 years before two local ranchers - William Rogers and Willard Ripley - became the first to climb it.
They spent weeks pounding wooden pegs into a continuous crack on the southeast face and attaching wooden steps to them. On July 4, 1893 in front of 1,000 spectators, they ascended their makeshift ladder to the top and ran an American flag up a flagpole they had pre-staged there. Mountain climbing at Devils Tower was born. Roughly 5, 000 people climb it each year with only five deaths reported since 1893. Parts of the ladder used by Rogers and Ripley are still visible today.
Climbing is big business with a number of climbing schools, clinics and guides available. There are many different routes to the top of varying difficulty. In keeping with the sanctity of the site, they have sacred names like Rock Suckers and Spank the Monkey.
In 1941, a man named George Hopkins parachuted on to the summit. He then had to wait six days to be rescued and was half-dead from exposure and dehydration when they got to him.
For those who are less adventuresome, there are two trails around the base of the tower. The Red Beds Trail is a three mile hike and there is a shorter 1.25 mile Base Trail. These hikes are worth taking as they bring you close to the tower and give you a different perspective of its majesty. They can be a bit strenuous with altitude and some short but steep grades. Be sure to allow sufficient time and take water with you. There's none on the trails.
There are camp sites available and a visitor's center but other than that, accommodations and creature comforts are pretty sparse. As with most National Parks and Monuments there are no traditional container geocaches on monument grounds. There is however a virtual geocache called "Devils Tower National Monument II". There are numerous geocaches in the surrounding area and nearby Black Hills. The "What A View" geocache takes you to a spectacular view of the monument and surrounding valley.
There are also three letterboxes in the area, part of a series placed there by a former resident. Letterboxes provide a list of clues and directions to follow to a cache instead of GPS coordinates and are a nice alternative to regular geocaching.
So if you are ever in the Black Hills, turn north at Sundance, Wyoming and follow the signs to Devils Tower. You can't miss it.
The GPS coordinates to the Visitor's Center are 44.590371, -104.720043. Click on the coordinates for an interactive Google map.
Enjoy....The Cachemanian Devils