Day 8: Bear Lodge
8 June 2015
The warm morning sun got us up and I believe we rode North to Deadwood because I know we came to Devil's Tower via 24, which basically takes you in from the North (even though we had started from the South of it). We just wanted to see Deadwood, because, well, it's Deadwood! It wasn't too exciting and a drive through was enough for us. Now, I didn't know quite what to expect with Devil's Tower, so when we were rolling through some lulling hills and this fluted shark fin rose out of the ground miles away, I was pretty taken aback. This thing is insane.
I really prefer to call the formation Bear Lodge, as that's the most common name given it by Indigenous Peoples. All kinds of geological formations all over the country are called Devil's Whatever, which is very metal and all that, but kind of removes the context and real value from these places. It also works to exonorate the settlers/invaders, and places their perspective as our own, which I can't help but fight against.
According to the NPS glossy, The Kiowa People's origin story for Bear Lodge goes something like this: "Eight children were at play, seven sisters and one brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them. It bade them climb upon it, and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach. It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of [what westerners call] the Pleiades."
Many more names and stories from Indigenous Peoples are documented on the NPS site here. The notes on Dream Houses of the Crow and the intense spiritual connections the Lakota have to the place are especially interesting.
It's a really astonishing place, full of a different kind of wonder. It's got that prehistoric feel, and definitely the pre-european feel. It's a rogue wave of the land, a growing fungi of molten rock, a looming castle of solid stone. I really couldn't get enough. Each face is completely unique, and I could tell you, even now, which face is the Southern, which the Eastern, etc. I guess it really has the same mystical power over me that Zion has, but we'll get there… in a while…
We hiked the outer trail, dubbed Red Beds, which slung us under and then way away from the behemoth, sending us to the outer badlands of rusty orange erosion, like John Carter's alien home. The trail gave us fine views on our return, with the shark fin seeming to move among the lodgepole pines.
Once we got back to the Lodge, we began to take note of climbers on the pillars.
Some families scrambled among the scree, just for fun.
Returning to where we began, we took the other trail, walking the inner loop, called simply "Tower", craning to look up the flutes of the spire.
We eventually broke away, spent a little time in the gift shop to use the internet to plan ahead/find our campsite for the evening, then headed off, deeper into Wyoming.
Near sunset, we stopped at a McDonald's to use some coupons I'd been holding onto for some reason. I hadn't eaten from any fast food joint in years, but the salad wasn't bad, and the local wildlife was worth watching from our outdoor table.
We drove off into the gathering twilight, Teysia's computer screen reflecting the sunset's pink right back at it with the type she was making (see the final product here).
We ended up driving for longer than we'd thought (again), finally rumbling down a gravel road in a gorge with a river gushing with rapids so loud that we couldn't hear one another when setting up the tent. This was Teysia's favorite campsite for that reason, and mine for the scenery. You'll see a little bit in the next post.