Richard and I love traveling in the western United States. There's just something about the huge landscapes, wide open vistas, and big, very big, blue skies. Literally, you can see for miles and miles.
It's not our first trip. In fact, we've made the drive from Billings to Indianapolis and back several times. The geography is spectacular, unrivaled, breathtakingly beautiful.
This was a special trip. Richard was recovering from bypass surgery and we wanted to take our time to see as much as we were able. Our drive along the way to the Black Hills in South Dakota took us to Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.
Driving up to the visitors' center, there are hundreds of black tailed prairie dogs and burrow holes scattered throughout the large flat field. This prairie dog "town" at Devils Tower is 40 acres large. That's a lot of gophers!
Devils Tower is one big monolith standing 867 feet rising up from the prairie. It was declared America's first national monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, ten years after Yellowstone National Park was designated our first national park.
There are deep vertical grooves along all sides. American Indian folklore tells the story of a group of girls who were being pursued by giant bears. When the girls reached a rock, they prayed to the Great Spirit to save them, and the Great Spirit answered by raising the rock high up out of the ground and became too steep for the bears to climb. When the girls reached the sky, they were turned into the constellation Pleiades.
The grooves are storied to be the bears' clawmarks created in their pursuit. The tower is known to American Indians as the "Bear's Lodge" or "Home of Bears."
I had never visited Devils Tower before. It is pretty spectacular. Even without aliens and flying saucers and Steven Spielberg, I can understand why Roy Neary was mesmerized by it in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.