Day 98: Devils Tower

We spent a leisurely morning at Sharon and Tom’s house in Rapid City today. Sharon had a meeting, but Tom was around for the morning, so we chatted with him a bit and got to work on blog posts and other sundries. As some of you know, I left a faculty position in Colorado before we started this trip. When this trip is all over, I want to go back to work in some capacity that still uses my scientific training. What that will look like, what I’m going to be when I grow up, is a big question to ponder right now. I love doing research and I really enjoyed teaching, so I would like to return to a job more focused on teaching undergraduates and providing great research experiences for that level of student. Last week, I found a job opening that would be a good fit for me at a college in Colorado, so I spent the morning polishing up my CV and application package. I sent that off to the employment office and sent some emails requesting reference letters. Fingers crossed that I hear back from them.

Sharon returned from her meeting at lunchtime with a pizza, so we enjoyed lunch with the Zellers before hitting the road again. It was rather a late start for us, but we didn’t plan on going too far west of Rapid City. The only thing on our agenda for the day was to visit Devils Tower in Wyoming.

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Devils Tower

Devils Tower is spectacular and you can spot it in the landscape from many miles away. It’s a national monument, so there’s a nice visitor center explaining the geologic and cultural significance of the tower. The tower is what is known as an igneous intrusion, in geological terms. Magma from the core of the earth squirted up through the crust and solidified, and then the surrounding crust eroded faster than the intrusion, leaving Devils Tower behind. There are a couple of alternate scenarios for the specifics of its formation, but that’s about it. An easy walking trail takes you completely all around the tower so we could see it from all vantage points. I couldn’t stop taking pictures!

Devils Tower is also a sacred site for Native Americans. Many personal and group rituals are performed here by different tribal member of the western plains. We saw several prayer bundles tied to trees around the base of the tower. There are also many origin stories for the tower in Native lore, many of which center on a great bear chasing little children who end up saved on top of the tower.

We left Devils Tower around dinner time and headed west to the town of Gillette, Wyoming to spend the night at the Crazy Woman Campground. Crazy Woman apparently refers to a creek nearby and not the proprietor, but doesn’t have a whole lot to recommend itself. We’re camping next to a parking deck and most of the ‘campers’ here seem to live here. But it’s quiet and we’re off to Yellowstone tomorrow!

More photos from Devils Tower:

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