Day 4 started waking up (for me) at dawn and watching the sun cast a gorgeous glow onto the land and Devils Tower. After showers we drove up to the visitor center and made our way to the loop trail around the base of the tower. Devils Tower is actually sacred to many plains tribes of the area, and was actually called Bear Lodge or Bear's Tipi by some. The current name was derived by a misinterpretation of "Bad God's Tower" and then renamed Devil's Tower, but to most tribes the tower was created to save children being chased by a giant bear god. The children prayed to the gods to save them, and the land underneath rose, lifting them up into the sky. The giant bear clawed at the tower trying to reach the children yet was unsuccessful and only left his claw marks. Devil's Tower is suggested that it is the petrified inside of an ancient volcano, also called a volcanic plug, and over time the land around it has eroded. No matter what it was originally it is petrified lave, when the lava cooled and solidified it created hexagonal columns that over time pull apart, similar to Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. Over time snow, wind, rain, and the Belle Fourche River has eroded the land around the tower. The tower itself was also larger, and columns have fallen from it, geologists think the last column fell around 10,000 years ago.
It is truly a beautiful place, I have been there I think 3 times and every time its more magnificent. Actually the tower has a shade of green that isn't captured in the photos, from a algae like plant growing on the rocks. While we walked around the tower we counted 7 climbers, and as we left there were more going up saying it took about 4 hours to climb... Insane!!! I'm content in just climbing the rock rubble at the base!
After our morning at Devil's Tower and oohing at the prairie dog village, Lee and I were back on the road heading towards Montana and the Bear Tooth Highway. Of course my dad mapped us out the most difficult roadway to the northwest entrance of Yellowstone.... but it is also the most incredible sights. I've been on the Bear Tooth Pass before, once in a motorcycles sidecar, but nothing compares to actually driving it. I had callouses on my hands from gripping the tire. The Bear Tooth is a narrow highway inching it's way up a mountain side, over the tree line in a series of hair pin turns and switchbacks. It's 69 miles and takes hours to complete because of the 5-25mph limit and the elevation rise of 10,947 at the peak. The most increase is from 5,200ft to 8,000ft in 12 miles. You can imagine my fully packed car slowly trucking it up the side... oh yeah and there really wasn't any guard rails. Luckily this is a scenic pass and no one is in a hurry. Everyone driving was very cautious and enjoying the views. The sky was a bit hazy because of a forest fire nearby, but still the views were awesome and scary. At the top we breathed the cool air and marveled at the snow. Lee and I decided at that point that we were in fact in the Lord of the Rings books and headed toward Mordor.
We got to West Yellowstone very late after tears being shed (by me) from stress of an arduous journey including the bear tooth, bison blocking roads, driving in pitch black nights, and no cell phone service for over 5 hours. But we made it and Lee was extremely patient with my stress flip out. hahah...
Next day we spent in Yellowstone, and I will be dividing up that into two posts!
Till the next day
photos by me and lee