Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The End of A Very Long Western Story: Lodge of the Bear, Old Muddy, and A Palace of Corn

We spent most of our last day in western SD visiting what is known officially in the US as Devils Tower. The igneous monolith, made famous as Richard Dreyfuss' obsession in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is actually known by many other names in the various languages of American Indians. Lakota call it Bear's Lodge Butte. Most of the Indian names have something to do with a bear. The Indian story of the butte's origins involves a bear, a flat rock, and some sisters, if I am not completely mistaken. The bear (which was some kin to the girls turned into a bear, I think), chased the girls. They fled and asked a flat rock to help them. The rock asked the girls to circle the rock several times, and, as they did, the rock rose up to the heavens, forming the butte. As it rose, the bear's claws scratched the characteristic ridges around its perimeter. The girls wound up becoming stars, or something. I don't recall what happened to the bear. At any rate, it's an awesome story (not retold very well...my apologies).

Geologist tell several different stories, but all of them involve magma and cooling and erosion and fractals (or hexagons or something) and millions of years. That story is awesome, too, but, it's a different kind of awesome.

Whatever story you adhere to, Devils Tower is a magnificent site. It towers up out of the gentle hills of eastern Wyoming, creating a spiritual magnet for many. It has been a sacred site to American Indians (understandably) from time untold. Climbers are drawn to the tower, too. The National Park Service is caught in the middle, trying to respect American Indian spiritual beliefs, yet allowing rock climbers to scamper up and down the ridged face of the formation. Honestly, I don't know if that really is a balance, at all, but I do know that the view into the Belle Fourche Valley from the base of the Tower is a glimpse into paradise itself.

We made it back to Hill City, after taking about a hundred pictures of Devils Tower (we circled the entire thing on foot), in time to see the lighting of Mount Rushmore. My inadequate photography skills left us with little in the way of quality proof of the sight, so I'll spare you. Suffice it to say that it gets chilly in the Black Hills in October when the sun goes down, and you haven't eaten since breakfast.

The next morning we made our way back east. Traveling through southern South Dakota this time, we crossed the Missouri River at Oacoma and Chamberlain, where they have an extensive Lewis and Clark exhibit at the I90 rest stop. Needless to say, I have had my fill of L & C, after the last couple of years in Missouri, but this was impressive. They even had a full-size replica keel boat inside the rest stop. That's worth a stop (that and having to go to the bathroom, anyway).

Our last destination in SD was Mitchell. Home of the disappointing Corn Palace. We snapped a few pics, but, while admiring the artistry of the corn murals, we found ourselves underwhelmed by the little corny building next to city hall. The fact that within they were staging some extreme fight club event didn't help to increase my "Wow" meter reading.

The sun set as we passed south down US77, through the Winnebago and Omaha Indian Reservations, through the towns of Oakland (the award-winning Swedish capital of Nebraska), Wahoo, Fremont, and Ceresco, and, finally pulled into the drive of our house. A cursory unpacking, and we were off to bed, looking forward to Saturday and Sunday, so we could rest up from our relaxing 2000 mile drive around the wilds of the old Wild West.


La Fashionista said...

Wow, those pictures are breathtaking!

(Megha, I love your hair!)

Interesting cornucopia of keel n corn n x-fight on your return trip. I sure hope you got your breakfast on as well as all other meals as you were traveling after Devils Tower. I can't imagine you with nothing but breakfast all day.



Ethan said...

...Glad to see your hair grew back :D

Also, what do you think about the question that is currently pressing my mind.

What is it about Western Society that causes us to be more prone to Psychological Disorders.

Also, you could put all of that into your nano wrimo story and be nearly done.