The last stop of the day—before getting to our relatively creepy hotel in Gillette, WY—was Devil's Tower. You might recognize it from such films as Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
It's a pretty striking land formation. It's actually the core of a volcano—the rest of the volcano has been eroded away but the core was made of igneous rock instead of sedimentary rock so it's taken a lot longer to erode. Thus it still stands at a staggering 1200 ft (or so) above the surrounding landscape.
Legend has it that seven girls were out playing when a giant bear started chasing them. So they ran around looking for safety. Eventually they climbed onto a rock and began begging the rock to take them to safety. The rock heard their pleas and roze up into the sky. The bear angrily clawed at the rock, trying to reach the girls, but the rock was too high to climb. You can still see the claw marks today; and the girls can be seen in a formation of seven stars above the rock.
It was impressive the whole way around. We hiked the entire trail again—it's only 1.3 miles long but it took us forever, mostly because Miriam insisted on walking the whole way by herself, leaving Andrew to (once again) haul the empty stroller.
Our girls sure were happy to be out hiking, though!
We told Rachel that she had to stay on the trail—that is such a hard rule for children. Another hard rule? Don't pick up any rocks, pine cones, flowers, what have you. The boulders on the side of the trail were so tempting to climb; I had to keep reminding Rachel that we were only allowed to walk on the trail. Eventually we came to a boulder that was clearly on the trail...the pavement surrounded about half of it.
Rachel declared it part of the trail and quickly climbed aboard.
"I'm still on the trail!" she sang, "You can't stop me!"
That's good enough for me because technically she was on the trail. It's not her fault that big ol' rock got in the way of her feet, right? This quickly became the theme of our hike. Anytime a boulder was touching the pavement it was "part of the trail."
"Look! That rock is on the trail! I'm going to go climb it!"
And, yes, she's wearing a pioneer bonnet.
The girls walked beside each other for a little while, but Miriam was going too slow even for Rachel and she was soon left in the dust. Grandma and I ended up keeping her company for the last half of the hike.
After we were so far behind that we had no hope of catching up with everyone else because they'd all made it back to the van already, I encouraged Miriam to go faster by telling her we needed to "catch up."
She started singing, "Catch you, catch you, catch you!" and running with her arms up in the air.
This either meant I was supposed to chase her or she wanted me to catch her like I do in the pool. I never figured out which, but boy was she having fun!
Right at the very end of the trail there was a lookout point. Miriam ran up to it, turned around, said, "Picture!" and gave her very best fake smile.
Then she dragged Grandma in for a shot.
When we first got out of the visitor's center, Miriam pointed to Devil's Tower and said, "Volcano!"
She had apparently been listening to us reading the signs aloud inside the building.
"Did you just say volcano?" I asked her.
"No," she shrugged. "Rock. Big 'un!"
She's so silly.
It really was a stunning hike. Not only was the tower, itself, magnificent, but the surrounding landscape was gorgeous, as well.
We saw a deer grazing in the forest, as well as a couple of chipmunks and squirrels. As far as we know, nothing really lives at the top of the tower except for birds—big ones. They never swooped down low enough for us to tell what they were but they were huge so probably some kind of eagle or hawk.
Devil's Tower is sacred to many different tribes and during the month of June they hold ceremonies around the rock; as we were hiking we saw various prayer cloths tied to tree branches.
Here are a few parting shots for you. I think I've run out of things to say about it, other than "Mashed potatoes, anyone?"