Sunday 11 September 2011

Day 161: Devil's Tower National Monument

Devil's Tower or Bear's Tipi or a magma intrusion!

Devil's Tower is another interesting geological feature, this time a much harder one.  It was formed by an intrusion of magma into softer layers of rock millions of years ago.  The softer layers have been washed away leaving the hardened rock exposed.  Most Native American legends are a variation on the theme that the rock pushed out of the soil to protect a group of children from a bear attack.  Since this left the children trapped on top of the rock, they usually turned into a star group.  In 1941, a fool of a parachutist got himself trapped on top of the rock too.  Apparently, he was aiming for the top of Devil's Tower on purpose, just to prove his aim was good, but he hadn't formulated a plan for getting down.  He spent six days stranded on the rock until he was rescued by climbers.  Lots of people climb the tower these days, which is not too popular with the Native Americans.  The tower is a sacred monument for them, and their notion of the sacred doesn't include jamming spikes into the thing and scaling it.  So the National Park Service instituted a voluntary shutdown on climbing in June when religious ceremonies take place.  I think 'voluntary' means that you can climb if you insist, but you're discouraged from doing so.  Somebody took the National Parks to court because the 1st amendment doesn't allow federal services to support or promote a particular religion.  The courts threw it out, though. America is such fun!!

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