Devil’s Tower, North Dakota Raid, and Drive Home

03-16-2012 Devils Tower Loop

03-16-2012 Devils Tower Loop

We headed out of Sundance (WY), heading West on US-14.  Our destination, Devil’s Tower, is a US National Monument.   Clouds began to occupy the sky even as we made our way there, and caused me to wonder what they were protesting.  Whatever it was, they provoked my annoyance; didn’t they have better things to do than block my Sun?  For instance, I knew the whole area where I live was under High Fire Danger warnings precisely because no rain clouds, or clouds of any kind, had bothered to show up for work.

Edited to Add: Apparently WordPress saw it fit to remove all my links from the photos, as well as remove the captions. I can repair the caption, but not going to try the links again. If you want to see the full size versions of them, the SmugMug Gallery is HERE. It that does not work (thanks WordPress), this is the URL:
http://ejdalise.smugmug.com/Travel/The-Devils-Tower

And yet, here they were, aiming to mess up my photo efforts.  Oh well.

Our first sight of the Devil's Tower

Our first sight of the Devil’s Tower

The Tower itself had quite the history.  As many people know, around 5,000 years ago or so, while giants still roamed the earth, massive trees ruled over the landscape.  Devil’s Tower is one of few remaining stumps, and it’s only with us because its wood was petrified.  It’s estimated the stump was buried for more than 1,000 years, during which time the organic material was completely replaced by minerals in a process called permineralization.

Eventually, probably softened by the waters of the Great Flood, the surrounding terrain eroded, only to leave the stump, measuring about a mile in diameter at the base, and reaching 867 feet into the sky.

You can see the remains of the great tree, its coarse bark frozen into rock.

You can see the remains of the great tree, its coarse bark frozen into rock.

Using equations empirically derived from data for existing trees, including Sequoias, we can estimate the size of the tree based on its one mile base perimeter.  Of course, we cannot be sure because we don’t know exactly what kind of tree it was, but conservative calculations would put its height at close to 2,000 feet.

Now a shadow of its former glory, it is still an impressive reminder of its past greatness.

Now a shadow of its former glory, it is still an impressive reminder of its past greatness.

American Indians, of course, have their own versions of the origins of the Tower.  One of the versions is the Brule Sioux Legend.  I’m going to shorten it for this post, but you can read the full version HERE.  

These two kids get lost, you see, and as they wander the woods they become aware of the giant grizzly bear, Mato, staking them.  Panicking, they run, with the great bear giving chase.  They stumbled, and just as the bear was to pounce upon them, the earth shook, and the very ground itself rose a thousand feet, carrying them to safety.  Angry, the bear tried to scale the sides to get at them, and hence the markings on the side of Devil’s Tower; claw marks.  

Eventually the bear left, and the boys were likely brought down from the top of the tower by Wanblee, the eagle that had befriended The People.

Crazy Indians!  As I said, we know it was a giant tree, probably felled by one of the 36-foot tall giants, swinging an ax taller than six men (or four modern men – regular people were shorter back then), referenced in Genesis . . . I never cease to be surprised at the crazy stories people make up.  

. . . Mato, the giant bear . . . sheesh!

Anyway, as one can see, the sun was shielded by Occupy-The-Sky clouds, but the plus of that was that many of the colors of the petrified giant came through without being washed away by bright sunlight.

This is actually a composite of two photos, capturing the full width of the structure from up close

This is actually a composite of two photos, capturing the full width of the structure from up close

Still, for a while I was shooting with the idea of doing a black and white album of my visit to the Monument.

Black and White treatment of Devil's Tower from its perimeter path

Black and White treatment of Devil’s Tower from its perimeter path

But then the Sun had enough of them pesky clouds, and started to burn them away.

The light started to improve as a few rays of sunlight punched through the shadows

The light started to improve as a few rays of sunlight punched through the shadows

By the way, I am trying a new suggested size and color space for the pictures I insert in the post.  Supposedly it will provide better results (as in showing the pictures closer to what they should look like).  I am not impressed, but don’t care to go back and rework all the photos.  Anyone interested in seeing the photos in all their glory should go to the SmugMug gallery.  Not only are there more photos, but they look much better.

The improved lighting helped me capture a different type of photo, and I was the happier for it.

The improved lighting helped me capture a different type of photo, and I was the happier for it.

The perimeter of the Tower is about one mile.  There is a 1.3 mile paved path around the base, and pretty much I snapped photos of the tower from every angle imaginable while walking it.

Really, I am once again hugely disappointed on WordPress taking my photographs and essentially messing them up.  It makes me look like I don't care, and can't be bothered to take a decent picture.

Really, I am once again hugely disappointed on WordPress taking my photographs and essentially messing them up. It makes me look like I don’t care, and can’t be bothered to take a decent picture.

I might as well show nothing but B&W shots

I might as well show nothing but B&W shots

OK, OK . . . I’ll quit bitching.

Anyway, for as long as there have been people (6,000 years or so, according to some), there has been someone like me . . . most of them were likely burned alive, but others were successful in following through on their urge to climb this Tower.  There were no climbers making the attempt while we were there, but there are remnants from less modern times indicating people made their way up there.  You can see the Pole Ladders that had been used to scale the petrified tree.  I don’t know why only Poles scaled the tower.  I would have thought at least a few Italians would have tried.

Can't see them?

Can’t see them?

Here's a better view.

Here’s a better view.

Oh, OK.  Here is a close-up

Oh, OK. Here is a close-up

Honest, as an engineer I would be very reluctant to avail myself of those particular climbing aids.

Lest anyone thinks the sole attraction is the Tower, impressive as it is, the surrounding countryside is also a thing to note.

Panorama shot that WordPress took and made look like a wet rag smeared my lens.

Panorama shot that WordPress took and made look like a wet rag smeared my lens.

And the forest surrounding us offered up many sights.

I liked the interplay of sun and shadow on the pine-needles-covered forest floor.

I liked the interplay of sun and shadow on the pine-needles-covered forest floor.

And the foot path snaking its way through the same

And the foot path snaking its way through the same

We even saw a miniature tower, stunted and forever relegated to wannabe status.

Poor thing . . . it never reached the size of its relative in whose shadow it now sits.

Poor thing . . . it never reached the size of its relative in whose shadow it now sits.

And of course, the obligatory ant shot . . .

Reaching for the heavens . . . don't know why, really.  No air, radiation, deadly particles, bitterly cold . . . they would not survive long.

Reaching for the heavens . . . don’t know why, really. No air, radiation, deadly particles, bitterly cold . . . they would not survive long.

Here is another shot of the forest floor drawing my camera toward it.

It took me a few hours to arrange everything so . . .

It took me a few hours to arrange everything so . . .

Here are a few more interesting shots . . .

The antique look.

The antique look.

The enhanced colors shot.

The enhanced colors shot.

The artsy B&W shot

The artsy B&W shot

Eventually we made it all the way around.  These two guys were heading up in between the boulders.  They did not look like climbers, and likely just wanted to do what I wanted to do . . . act like mountain goats.  What they did do, is offer me an opportunity to lend some scale to the scenery.

Zoomed in to show them among the boulders

Zoomed in to show them among the boulders

Zoomed out a bit to show more of the Tower

Zoomed out a bit to show more of the Tower

Can you still see them?

Can you still see them?

This next shot was the last shot from the visitor center . . .

Should have positioned the flag away from the center, but the area to shoot from that did not have overhanging branches was very limited.

Should have positioned the flag away from the center, but the area to shoot from that did not have overhanging branches was very limited.

On the way out we stopped at a little picnic place to grab a bite to eat and mentally prepare for our raid into North Dakota.  There I snapped a few pictures of a sculpture commemorating Indian beliefs.

The sacred smoke sculpture

The sacred smoke sculpture

Me being cute with the Sacred Smoke

Me being cute with the Sacred Smoke

Circle Wind 2008  --  Circle of Sacred Smoke  -- Junkyu Muto

Circle Wind 2008 — Circle of Sacred Smoke — Junkyu Muto

After eating some, we kept going along the loop back to Belle Fourche, and north toward North Dakota.

When the road did not look like this:

Heading North on 85

Heading North on 85

. . . it had pickups heading south, all toting empty trailers.  We theorized these were people who made supply runs to Costco in support of the people catering to the oil boom going on in North Dakota.  Unfortunately I had misread the map . . . what I thought to be a two hours round-trip was more along the lines of three and a half hours round-trip, but we eventually reached our goal.

Our destination . . . actually, we drove about a half mile past the sign just in case they were not that accurate in its placement

Our destination . . . actually, we drove about a half mile past the sign just in case they were not that accurate in its placement

Our way back to Belle Fourche. . .

Our way back to Belle Fourche. . .

. . . occasionally there was a slight curve to the road, so I had to keep alert.

. . . occasionally there was a slight curve to the road, so I had to keep alert.

But otherwise it was pretty easy driving.

But otherwise it was pretty easy driving.

Belle Fourche is designated as the geographic center of the United States (because of the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii).  We did not know that until the day after, or would have stopped to snap a picture of the sign.

Our goal for the night was Lusk, Wyoming, specifically the Best Western there.  This time we drove straight South on US-14 Scenic Highway.  Once again we were in a race with darkness, and once again we lost, arriving in Lusk well after dark.

But there was a reason.  It’s a scenic highway, you see . . . 

 . . . so I stopped to take pictures.

. . . so I stopped to take pictures.

. . . even as I tried to ignore the pull of the photogenic spots.

. . . even as I tried to ignore the pull of the photogenic spots.

But, honestly . . . it's not likely we would be back this way anytime soon, if at all.

But, honestly . . . it’s not likely we would be back this way anytime soon, if at all.

This looked a lot more scenic in person.

This looked a lot more scenic in person.

This lent itself to different processing (lots of them in SmugMug)

This lent itself to different processing (lots of them in SmugMug)

A different sort of B&W

A different sort of B&W

As is this

As is this

The next day saw us in a four and a half hour drive back through Cheyenne, through a congested Denver, and home.  I did not snap any pictures, as nothing of note jumped out at me.

Plus, there were some hellacious cross-winds, and in many places they were kicking up quite the dust storms.  It felt like it was prudent to head home.

Home, to a water heater that would burst not 30 minutes after we got home.  But, that’s another story.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for reading my stuff.

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Black & White, Devil's Tower, Photography, Photography Stuff, Scenery, Wyoming and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Devil’s Tower, North Dakota Raid, and Drive Home

  1. Shannon says:

    There’s a picture of my Mom holding be as a baby in front of the Devil’s Tower. So, technically I’ve been there. But I usually say I haven’t because I have no memory of it. Anyway, it looks like a cool place. I love the shots you took of it, especially the detail shots and the black and white one. I also love those photos of the road in front of the car. There’s so majestic about a plain ribbon of roadway stretching out in front of you.

    Like

  2. Emily Heath says:

    I didn’t know a tree stump like that existed, it’s mind blowing. Thanks for the pics.

    Like

  3. chefcrsh says:

    This is one of my most fond places from the Round the US in a year trip my folks took me on in the early 80’s. You did a good job of trying to capture the enormity of the thing. When I was there there were climbers and having the correct perspective kind of blew my mind. We only stayed at the tower overnight if I remember corrcetly. I never got to take any of the long trails, only some small stuff at the base.

    Like

  4. Shannon says:

    I also had no idea of the history of Devil’s Tower — and that it’s actually a tree and not a rock. Knowing that, now I MUST go there myself!! I’m a hopeless tree-lover.

    I spent a good deal of time flipping through the entire SmugMug album. Those are some beautiful photos. The Air Show Museum now pales to this one as my favorite album. The “ant shot” (I love to lay on the ground and look up at tree tops), the “trails” of the surrounding wooded area, and the black-and-white artistics are my favorites. You spent a lot of time putting all of that together. Thank you!

    Like

  5. margie says:

    emilio, did you feel like lewis and clark?

    Like

  6. Thank you thank you thank you!!! First, once again your photos are amazing, you have brought back memories that I had forgotten, literally, for decades. You photo journey was a journey back in time.

    Like

  7. disperser says:

    Wow . . . I did not realize so many people had a connection to this monument. We had passed by it twice before, but both times opted to continue to our destination without visiting it. Now I’m glad we did.

    The dedicated visit allowed for more exploration than I would have otherwise done. It is an impressive structure, to be sure, and I’m glad my own journey rekindled other people’s memories of the place.

    Like

  8. Sarah says:

    I can only imagine how incredible this place must be in person. I’m dying to go there sometime soon. It’s surprising how colorful the rock really is (I know some of your shots are enhanced, but still). Incredible landscape, too — what a mix of rock and Ponderosa pine and agricultural land.

    It’s funny, I always think the pictures on WordPress look fine and that maybe the photographer doth protest too much, but then I click on the SmugMug links and they just really — and here is the technical term — pop.

    Also, all of North Dakota takes umbrage at your brief dalliance with their state.

    Like

  9. I wanted to stop at Devil’s Tower on a drive from Minnesota to Idaho but didn’t have time. Do you have a link to your smug mug gallery? I couldn’t find it. Thanks.

    Like

  10. AnnMarie says:

    I’ve been reading that Devil’s Tower is a natural rock formation that looks like a petrified tree trunk, so . . . which is it?

    That said (or asked) I took a tour of the SmugMug album and was impressed by how you captured its grandeur and the surrounding flora. Love the shots with the pine-needle covered ground. There are too many great shots for me to list them all but one really stands out and that is the one of the “photogenic” stream/river right under the waterfall photo. Excellent! Your commentary, as usual, was entertaining and informative. Overall, a great album and post!

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Well Ann . . . on April first it’s a tree trunk. The rest of the time it’s a volcanic cone that never made it to the surface, cooled, and then the surrounding ground did erode a way and leave it for us as inspiration for made-up stories.

      Like

  11. AnnMarie says:

    Darn it, forgot about April Fools Day. You had me for a while until my reasoning kicked in and I decided to do some research. Didn’t think to check the date . . . nevertheless, it’s a good piece.

    Like

  12. Pingback: Still Reflecting | Disperser Tracks

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