50 - Devils Tower KOA , Devils Tower Wyoming

Wednesday 9/14 we arrived at the campground right outside of Devils Towers. Literally there is the campground check-in, store and cafe and then across the street is another store. That's it and then there is the entrace to the National Monument, the first National Monument in the US.

The 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind used the formation as a plot element and as the location of its climactic scenes.

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On Thursday Mike and I went up to Devils Tower and walked the path around it. We saw about 6 - 8 climbers on the tower. I had no idea that people climbed this on a regular. At one point there were two climbers going up and to the right were 2 climbers going down. It was obvious one of the climbers was very experienced climbing in general but also Devils Tower as he was talking to the ones going up giving them pointers. It was crazy we could hear them clearly from below. When we were walking back to the car we saw the two that were coming down and talked to them for a few minutes. I said to Mike that I can understand why we heard him so clearly as he had a voice that definitely projects. We did not see the two going up get to the top as that takes a lot longer than going up.

I tried to get pictures of them climbing but they might just look like dots.

Facts about Devils Tower

Devils Tower is a butte, composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Ranger District of the Black Hills, northeastern Wyoming. 

It rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, standing 867 feet from summit to base. The summit is 5,112 ft above sea level.

Devils Tower was the first United States national monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt.

About 1.5% of the half million visitors per year climb the tower mostly using traditional climbing techniques.

The first known ascent of Devils Tower by any method occurred on July 4, 1893, and is credited to William Rogers and Willard Ripley, local ranchers in the area. They completed this first ascent after constructing a ladder of wooden pegs driven into cracks in the rock face. A few of these wooden pegs are still intact and are visible on the tower when hiking along the 1.3-mile Tower Trail. Over the following 30 years, many climbs were made using this method before the ladder fell into disrepair.

The first ascent using modern climbing techniques was made by Fritz Wiessner with William P. House and Lawrence Coveney in 1937. Wiessner led almost the entire climb free, placing only a single piece of fixed gear, a piton.

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Stories about Devils Tower

There are numerous stories about the Tower passed down through American Indian culture. Each tribe had their own oral history, and in many cases multiple histories exist from the same tribe. Many of the stories contain similar elements.

Here is just one of those stories ....

Once when some Crows were camped at "Bear's House," two little girls were playing around some big rocks there. There were lots of bears living around the big rock, and one big bear, seeing the girls alone, was going to eat them. The big bear was just about to catch the girls when they saw him. The girls were scared and the only place they could get was on top of the rocks around which they had been playing.

The girls climbed the rock but still the bear could catch them. The Great Spirit, seeing the bear was about to catch the girls, caused the rock to grow up out of the ground. The bear kept trying to jump to the top of the rock, but he just scratched the rock and fell down on the ground. The claw marks are on the rock now. The rock kept growing until it was so high that the bear could not get the girls. The two girls are still on top of the rock.

During a celebration in 1932 on the Crow Agency in Montana, Max Big Man was questioned about the Tower. He explained: "The Indians called the Devils Tower "Bear's Tipi" or "Bear Lodge," because so many bears lived there. They believed it was put there by the Great Spirit for a special reason, because it was different from the other rocks, rising high up in the air, instead of being on the ground. For this reason, it was looked upon as a holy place, and the Indians went there to worship and fast."

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