Have you ever seen that 1970s movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind? You know, the one where the guy built the mountain out of mashed potatoes, and then out of clay in his living room? Did you ever think that place really existed? I certainly didn’t!
Not until we were planning our route from Fargo, North Dakota to Yellowstone National Park a few years ago. On the map we spotted the name Devils Tower (no apostrophe). And a quick internet search revealed that we absolutely HAD to go there.
My first glimpse of Devils Tower gave me goose bumps. A circular cliff, 1,267 feet high and about 800 feet in diameter at its base, standing proud of the rolling, snow-covered hills like a giant tree stump made of rock.
The body of the tower actually formed underground. Magma most likely pushed (or ‘intruded’) its way into pre-existing layers of sedimentary rocks, although some scientists believe the rocks of the tower originally formed a plug within the neck of a volcano. In either case, as the crystalline rock (phonolite porphyry) of the magma slowly cooled, it arranged itself into regular columns, with anywhere from four to seven sides. Then, as the surrounding material gradually eroded away over millions of years, the much harder magma wore away a lot more slowly, and Devils Tower gradually rose into the sky.
President Theodore Roosevelt was so impressed that, in 1906, he made Devils Tower the United States’ first National Monument. And climbers flock from far and wide to scale the parallel joints between the columns.
We pulled into the empty parking lot at the base of the tower. Clearly we were the first visitors of the day. Hardly surprising, as it was the middle of February.
We set off to hike the 1.3 miles around the tower. In front of us was virgin snow, which we left broken by our tracks as we passed. On more than one occasion, we took a wrong turn in the boulder field at the base of the tower and had to backtrack slightly, brushing away the snow with our feet in order to find the trail.
The hour and a half it took us to circumnavigate the tower was out of this world. We ploughed forwards through the deep winter snow, the jointed cliff face of Devils Tower always looming hundreds of feet into the snow-laden skies to our left.
We returned to the parking lot, our faces glowing red from the cold, to find our car still standing alone. As we drove gingerly back down the hill towards the Visitors’ Centre, a lone vehicle was making its way up to the parking lot. I guess it was their turn to have the spectacular and eerie Devils Tower all to themselves.
This post was inspired by two of Cee’s (from Cee’s Photography) challenges this week. Firstly, the current theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is Joints and/or Things You Enjoy. Secondly, this post also fits well with Cee’s Which Way Challenge.
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