The sunrise comes early in Wyoming. I drove in the dark, and found two other cars in the parking lot at 05:30. As I tied my boot laces a couple slept with their newborn baby in the car beside me.
The Devil’s Tower is a big deal in these parts. Even a baby wouldn’t want to miss a sunrise like this.
The sun took the sky slowly, obscured by the surrounding trees. Wild fires in Western Montana were raging, turning the fiery ball an ominous red. It cast a pinkish hue in the corner of the sky, but that wouldn’t last long. This was the premier hour to be at this special place.
As I set out on the 1.1 mile trail that circumnavigates the 1260′ monolith, I crossed paths with a small family returning to the parking lot. Had they already walked the path in the dark? These were the last people I saw for the next 45 minutes.
When you walk around the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, every five minutes or so a different angle of the outcrop appears through the trees. It looms magnificent in the morning sky, an ever-present king on the central throne. It is impossible to forget the king is present, and reminds us of Mt. Rainier in this way.
According to the Kiowa tribe, seven young girls were playing outdoors when they were spotted by some giant bears. The bears chased them, so the girls prayed to the Great Spirit for protection. The ground beneath them began to rise up, pushing them upward towards the Heavens. The bears tried to climb the side of the stone mountain, which left deep claw marks all around the rock. The rock eventually stretched so high into the sky that the girls were turned into the constellation Pleiades.
The Native tribes in these parts have long had cultural ties to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. The Lakota called it Mato Tapila, or Bear Lodge. A bad translation by the early white settlers referred to it as “Bad God Tower”, which was eventually shortened to the Devil’s Tower.
Theodore Roosevelt designated the geologic marvel the nation’s very first National Monument on September 4th, 1906. It is considered to be an igneous intrusion by scientists, but also referred to as a volcanic neck. Today over 400,000 visitors pay fealty to Bear Lodge with their awe.
One of the morning’s surprises was the abundance of deer feeding along the path. In the 1.5 hours stroll I sighted over a dozen deer.
The first one I saw was a buck sprinting across the landscape. Large and loud, he was gone as fast as he arrived. It was exhilarating to watch. But this was only the beginning.
Several baby deer were feeding on the path thirty yards further. No other deer in sight. After standing and watching them for a couple of minutes, I crept slowly to not disturb them, as this was their land not mine, and I felt intrusive disturbing their breakfast. Still, I wasn’t about to stand there all day waiting for the baby deer to eat those particular blades of grass. Eventually they shied into the forest. I’m a bully.
That was only the beginning, as the creature parade was now underway. Two by two, around every corner a young couple feasted on freshly dewed roughage. Sometimes they barely stepped aside to let me pass. Some would stand a mere 5-10 feet away, watching me as curiously as I watched them.
I like the below-left photo. It is an attractive angle on the tower, and it has a young doe in the corner. The doe’s mouth is open as if she were speaking. High on the tower above are a handful of rock climbers, whose conversations were clear from hundreds of feet away.
First Nation groups will tie colored ribbons, also known as prints, to trees in sacred areas. The ritual is usually performed following a sweat lodge or pipe ceremony, and they customarily leave the prints tied to an Aspen east of the ceremonial site.
Different colored cloths represent the four cardinal directions, as well as earth elements: water, sun, wind, rain, thunder and lightning. The prints are deeply personal and represent the prayers, hopes, and aspirations of the participants. Practitioners of native spirituality are able to decipher the meaning of ribbon trees by observing the array of colors.
All around Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, Ribbon Trees can be found, as they are often placed in remote areas. The ribbons are sacred, and we can honor that by not disturbing them. In time, weather will eventually disintegrate the ribbons as the energy from the prints is sent to the Creator.
The Devil’s Tower, Wyoming is a fantastic place to visit. A full-day would suffice, and you can get away with less. However, there is more than enough here to fill your weekend in the surrounding mountains. We will always recommend you arrive early to beat the crowd. Even in Wyoming the crowd is thriving. By the time I arrived back at the parking lot there were over thirty cars and the trails were stacking with eager tourists.
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