My daughter and I turned around, to the tune of over 100 miles in the opposite direction of where we were headed, to visit Devil’s Tower, located at the very eastern edge of Wyoming, very close to the border of South Dakota.
Was it worth it?
It rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River and was proclaimed the nation’s first national monument in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
My husband stopped there years ago while on a solo Harley trip and was impressed with the place.
My daughter and I knew it had been a significant gathering place with deep spiritual meaning to Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, Lakota and Shoshone people.
And geographically speaking – it’s an awesome wonder. We awoke early in the morning and drove for miles and miles off the interstate, through grasslands until suddenly, boom! – there it was! And at this first view of the tower – it was still about 30 miles away. Does that give you more of a feel for how large it is?
There’s a paved path that encircles the bottom of the tower, meandering peacefully in the wooded areas at its base, through large boulders that have fallen over the years from the tower, and open to vistas of the rich valley below on another side.
Although the scenery is beautiful, the sounds on the north side of the tower, away from the visitors center where cars and people make for a busy buzz, were lovely. The wind whistles through the pines, birds call out and chipmunks and squirrels chatter.
On the flip side, however, the visitor’s center is certainly worth entering to learn more about the history, the wildlife, the flora and fauna, the tower itself and the Native American traditions and stories surrounding the Tower.
There were climbers the day we were there. Can you see them in the shot below? What do they find if and when they reach the top? It’s apparently a grassy area about the size of a football field. Climbers must obtain special permits to be able to make the ascent. I’d have to be of a completely different mindset to be able to do it. Well, that and be in a whole lot better physical condition. I mean, wow!
Many of the trees in the wooded area were tied in colorful, traditional prayer cloths when we were there. We visited in September and were told that many American Indian ceremonies are conducted year-round at the tower, at significant spiritual times for them. Cultural and spiritual connections with the Tower are handed down from one generation to the next. It made for a hushed, reverential walk.
How grateful I am for these out of the way places, deeply tied to the earth and spiritual traditions, that have been preserved, that can be so inspiring and memorable and that are always, in my mind and heart, worth the detour.
We could have kept driving, keeping to our schedule and directional travel – but look what we’d have missed. Detours and getting sidetracked and following an impulse to get off the beaten track? Take them! Listen to that impulse, that intuitive pull – listen and turn the wheel.