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Day 210 – Devils Tower Loop, July 14, 2011

After a slow start to the morning, VANilla, Petey, and I
drove past miles of prairies and pasture lands before eventually arriving at
Devils Tower National Monument.  The
towering rock formation stands 1,265 feet above the river level and dwarfs
everything around it including ponderosa pines that surround its base.

According to scientists, the tower was formed when a mass of
molten rock welled up within the earth’s crust, then cooled, and was later
exposed by erosion.  The mass looks as
though it is made up of several columns.

The Kiowa Indians, however, explain its creation in a
different way.  Legend has it that
several maidens were out picking flowers when they were approached by a large
bear.  The bear chased them to a huge
tree stump where they cowered and prayed for help.  Their god, heeding their call, struck the
stump with a lightning bolt causing it to rise toward heaven with them atop
it.  The bear unsuccessfully clawed at
the stump creating the large grooves around it.

While some consider Devils Tower sacred, others consider it
a daunting task to climb.  It was
initially scaled in 1893 with the help of wooden ladders.  Now climbers have 200 routes to choose from
to reach the summit.  Beneath the bright
sun, I took just over a one mile hike around the base of the tower and even
completed a virtual cache in the process.

Just before exiting the park, we stopped by the prairie dog colony
and watched them dart into holes and quietly pose on their hind end as they
carefully spied visitors.

The next portion of our drive took us through Black Hills
National Forest.  During the summer of
1874, General Custer led the first official government expedition to the Black
Hills which the Sioux Indians claimed as their territory.  The expedition’s discovery of gold drew
miners to the area ultimately opening northeast Wyoming Territory to
settlement.  The encroachment of settlers
on Native American territory broke the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of
1868.  In June, 1876, the Sioux defended their land by defeating General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana only to surrender four months later to General Terry.  In 1877, the United States confiscated the
Black Hills, an action of which the legality is still being disputed in court

On the eastern side of Black Hills National Forest lies
Aladdin, a town with the population of 15 and a general store erected in
1890.  According to my book, the sleepy
town comes alive in August for the Bronc Match and Horseshow.  I suppose I arrived a month too soon!  After a quick stop in the store, I spent the
next three hours driving to Medora, ND.
My route took me through South Dakota, so now I can officially say I
have been to the Dakotas.  ETB

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