Devil's Tower

The tourist center, just inside of Wyoming. We stopped off here for information on Yellowstone Park, and decided that it might be worthwhile to see Devil's Tower, which is a short detour to the north of here. 
A view of the monument, with some of the local flora in the foreground. This was a nice, peaceful spot to camp. 
An unobstructed view of the tower, from within the monument. There is a public camp ground here, with the usual facilities, though a more elaborate, and expensive, private campground sits just outside the entrance. The Park Service offers the usual camp fire talks, and interpretive displays, along with hikes, and educational programs.
Devil's Tower, and surrounding environs. This is high prairie, and a fairly arid place, though it is not desert dry. There are some cattleman, and even some sheep farmers, in the area. 
Devil's Tower was the first national monument and was so designated by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. The 1267 foot elevation attracts multitudes of daring climbers, every year. I greatly admire the courage of these people, though I do this with both feet planted safely on the flat ground. 
A ridge consisting of the sandstone which underlies most of this area. This is the "redrock" of the west, and gets it's color from iron oxides. Despite the geographic location in Wyoming, geologically, this is still a part of the Black Hills, though there is little resemblance. 
A close up of some of the granite blocks which form Devil's Tower. 
There is some argument, among geologists, as to just exactly how this structure was formed. There is agreement on one thing though. This is a plug of igneous rock, which intruded into the bedded layers of sandstone, which make up the majority of the rock in this area. The igneous rock, being much tougher than the surrounding sandstones, wore away at a much more gradual rate. It can be assumed that, in eons to come, this feature will tower oven higher over the plain, as the wearing away of the sandstone continues. 
The squared off profile of the monolithic columns, making up Devil's tower, is clearly shown in this photo. This is the result of a crystalline structure, which formed as the rocks cooled. This type of structure would indicate a rather slow period of cooling, quite in accordance with the theory that the lava of which this rock was formed, never reached the surface, and certainly never flowed. Most geologist believe that this was the result of a lacolith, a lava tube which intruded into layers of older rock, but never reached the surface to form a volcano. There are some who put forth the idea that a volcano actually did exist here, but there is no sign of a cinder cone, and there is no supporting evidence of ash in the rock record. 
The concluding scenes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, were filmed here. On my first trip out west, I had considered visiting this place, but had not the time, resources, or energy. The movie had been released, shortly before I had left on that trip. The place looks quite ominous, and inaccessible in this shot, as it did in that movie, so long ago. 
The classic picture postcard view of Devil's Tower. 
The entire structure has a rather squarish look to it, from this angle. It is almost as if it were a larger scale version of the posts which make up it's structure. The whole structure can almost be thought of, in the light of this, as a single large, though much worn, crystal. 
The tower seems quite stark, and sterile in this shot. There is actually life at the top though. It's elevation has the interesting effect of providing a different climate, and supporting a somewhat different ecology, than the lands at it's base. There is a fairly large population of snakes at the top, though how they managed to slither up there, I could not say. The human climbers slither up by grasping and wedging at the fissures between the rock columns. Pitons, and other such climbing gear, is not allowed, though wedges are permitted, adding to the challenge of ascending to the top. Many gaps may be seen, where the cleaved columns fell from the structure. This happens from time to time. It can be seen that the upper portions of the tower are much more weathered than the lower portions. This is a consequence of the upper portions being exposed to the surface earlier than the lower portions. 
These huge rocks, and bits of crumbled, and fallen stone, are the closest things to foothills that you will find around Devil's Tower. Some intrepid pines take root on the beginnings of the lower slopes of the main formation, and give somewhat of a sense of scale to the photo. The climb up the scattered rock, to the base of the tower itself , is quite an exertion in itself, but for many, this is only the beginning. Devil's Tower is a rallying point, and a sort of rite of passage for many climbers. It's continuos near vertical faces are a challenge, the call of which is irresistible. Climbers have been flocking to this place for decades.
Looking at the ascent, it occurs to me that there are large numbers of very brave, or very foolish people in the world. Who would climb something like this? There is no amount of money that would convince me to give it a try. Perhaps if something very vicious, power full, and terrifying were chasing me, I might be moved to start up. It would have to be a very frightening creature indeed, to get me up the slopes of this structure. 
The columns of granite, which make this place up, are said by the Indians to have been the result of a giant bear. The old legend says that an Indian girl ran up the side of a mountain to escape the fearsome beast, and he clawed his way up behind her. The spaces between Th. columns are supposed to have been furrows put their by the sharp claws of this monster, as he attempted to catch the girl. Though the markings go all the way to the top, which would seem to indicate that the great bear got her, the legend says otherwise. 
A somewhat warmer view of the tower, in the early morning light. The tower tapers somewhat towards the top, and widens considerably at the base, a result of it's slow exposure to the surface. 
Morning arrives, and the Sun is coming up behind the tower. 
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