Sunday, September 11, 2016

Struck by the sheer polarity of Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower is dramatic, bold and puzzling.  

As I was driving from South Dakota, through Montana and dipping down into the northwest corner of Wyoming, I look up across the Black Hills and boom- this massive 1,267ft skyscraper of rock reveals itself. Nothing, nothing, nothing around or in the anywhere distant area mimics this. Devils Tower’s appearance triggers endless questions. Its height is hypnotizing. I constantly kept staring up at it. A bluebird Wyoming sky paints that perfect background for this monolith rising from the surrounding Ponderosa pine forest at its base.
How’d this happen? Why is it so tall? Well geologists have numerous ideas and theories ranging from the’ intrusion of volcanic magma into the rocky surface’…. or maybe it’s an ‘eroded remnant of a laccolith or mushroom—shaped mass of igneous rock which intrudes between layers of sedimentary rock yet fails to reach the surface’… or maybe it’s a ‘volcanic plug or maybe even the neck of a once-active volcano’. 

The easiest explanation according to the National Park Service is that ‘Devil’s Tower is a stock, or intrusive body of magma which chilled underground and was later exposed by erosion.’ Sorta confusing, eh? See this whole place is a mystery. For an in-depth, worthy read of the theories on how Devil’s Tower formed, you should check out this piece from the National Park Service. 

With his curiously sparked, then-President Teddy Roosevelt made Devils Tower our country’s first National Monument in 1906. And I’m glad he did cause this place rules. When I arrived, I had a quick lunch out the back of the station wagon, laced up my hiking boots and hit the Red Beds trail. 

Now, there are a few options of walking around the base, but please, please, please, if you visit Devils Tower National Monument, spend your time hiking this 2.8-mile trail. It took me about 90 minutes, maybe a bit longer as this was one of those trails where I really wanted to take my time and absorb  in all the tranquility. 

There’s a decent amount of elevation gain but you’ll be striding through a thick canopy of pines, see winning views of the Belle Fourche River running below you, the encompassing Black Hills and what I found really sweet- walls of red clay and sand (hence the name of the trail). More importantly, you’ll get tons of solid, over-the-top beautiful views of Devils Tower from all 360 degree vantage points. 

When I was done with my nature-high from the hike, I headed back to the base of the tower to get an up-close look. Wow! Now I just need to come back next time and climb it, especially as one side of it looks all slabby, my favorite type of rock climbing.