June 17, 2002

Playing the Tourist Yesterday,

Playing the Tourist

Yesterday, Holli and I visited Devil's Tower National Monument, about an hour's drive from here. Understandably, this 800 foot monolith is sacred to several Indian tribes, as it appears from the plains, dark and massive, as if by magic.

It was the FIRST national monument in the national system. Over 5000 people climb this sucker every year, and there were a couple of gals about half way up the south face when we were there. Made me dizzy to watch'em.

I had assumed the Tower was a volcanic dike. Apparently however, it is an igneous intrusion into surrounding sedimentary rock, which has been eroded only in the past million years by the Belle Fourche River that meanders through this area of red rock canyons.

Neatest thing we saw, other than the tower, was the very active prairie dog town just inside the park boundaries. They are smaller than I had imagined, ranging from 1 to 3 pounds, and are shaped like fat bellied earless squirrels, without the tail. At one time, one prairie dog 'town' covered 25,000 square miles with an estimated 400 million residents! These were exterminated by poisoning in the 1800s, and the only remaining towns now are in protected areas.

Additional recommendation: Never hug at tumbleweed. You see these rounded tufts of dry plantstuff rolling across the prairie on all the old westerns. They look soft like vegetable dustbunnies. They're not. The plant that forms them is very spiny and tough when it dies and breaks off at the roots. They tend to aggregate as their spines entangle and they do tend to pile up along the fences.

Oh well. Another misconception shattered.

Posted by fred1st at June 17, 2002 09:02 AM
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