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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Close Encounter with the Devil's Tower

On the way to Devil's Tower, we spotted this genuine albino 'Push-me, Pull-you', seen on the left
When we checked out of our quaint & comfy motel in Hulette, we were rearing to go on our visit to Devil's Tower National Monument. Unlike yesterday evening's wet & dank weather, it was a under a bright and sunny sky we drove to the monument. Soon we were there, and before we could even reach it, we got to watch some good old fashioned Wyoming cattle wranglin', in the shadow of Devil's Tower.

Soon we were driving through the Devil's Tower Monument gates...

And staring up in awe at the massive pile of igneous rock that was once, and for all I know, still is, a sacred spot for the Lakota Sioux. There is no way to get a bad shot of this awesome bit of geology.

Many northern plain tribes call the structure 'Bears Lodge'
Close view of the tall granite structure

Geologic columnar form or bear scratches?.
Crow legend says the long striations were caused by a massive Grizzly bear. It had chased a pair of young & frightened Indian maidens. Devil's Tower shot up out of the flat ground, rising to hold the girls safely at its top. The angry giant bear jumped up to get at the rising girls, scratching as it slid down, in vain, to reach and kill the girls. Legend holds the maidens are still atop the mesa to this day.  I will have to take the legend's word on that, cause I sure didn't want to climb that slippery rock to find them.

There is  a little cabin, the Visitor's Center at the base of the tower.

Inside the Center - on the right you can see a portrait
of the monster bear, attempting to climb the Tower.
Now truthfully, before I even got out of the car for a visit at the Center, I was distracted by birdsong emanating from the trees in the center of the parking lot. There was a lovely spring Yellow Warbler male, singing his heart out. Myself, and another birder chased it around, our cameras in hand. Must have taken a zillion shots of the little bugger - here are a pair of them.

Yellow Warbler

A little morning birdsong
 I was so thrilled to see the Tower! In my mind, as in the minds of most director Spielberg fans, the tower will always be connected to 1977 hit movie,  Close Encounters of the Third Kind. While I know I would have sought out the tower without the movie, that it is connected to it, is the big, fat, extra-terrestrial cherry on my site visit. And the theme music to the movie? That was on my mind every second I was within eyeshot of Devil's Tower.

There was one other cool feature at the Monument; namely a field-full of Prairie Dogs.

Only thing missing from this Prairie Dog village are marauding Black-footed Ferrets and a few bison

Is that Alex over there? 
Talk about being photogenic.
Our morning visit drew to a close as we headed out of the Monument, our thoughts on our first visit ever to the little heralded state of South Dakota, and the even littler town of Keystone South Dakota. 
After a short - short considering the rest of our marathon drives, 3 hour drive we arrived in Keystone South Dakota and checked into our motel. Then, not quite done in for the day, we took off again, to drive the few miles necessary to reach that other unforgettable pile of granite - Mount Rushmore. More on that tomorrow; but for now, some parting words from our little friend at Prairie Dog Flats.

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