So here's the deal...We haven't had internet access at all and cell phone service very little. I'm playing catch-up. Bear with me please.
They don't serve breakfast in hell. Nor in hell-holes. Not good ones anyway.
I hate to start this entry off on the negative, though, so let me find the silver lining. Hmmm. Leaving earlier than expected (because the advertised continental breakfast consisted of stale, dry, powered doughnuts and waffle mix for a seriously damaged waffle maker that kept more than half of your waffle) meant that we could spend extra time at Devils Tower. Yeah - that's it. And I'm glad we were able to spend the time there.
Before we arrived at Devils Tower we drove through the town of Sundance. The legend is that the Sundance Kid got his nickname because of the time he spent in jail there. They have a statue of him close to the jail so, of course, we had to get pictures. Funny how the town likes to be know for its association with a bandit. Anyway, Devils Tower...Devils Tower is in the northeastern portion of Wyoming. If you've ever seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind it's
the huge rock formation where everyone gathers at the end of the movie. However, only the large landscape shots of it in the movie are true. The part where Richard Dreyfuss and the woman climb up to the top? Well, not accurate. You need full climbing gear and lots of experience. We watched a guy climb the rock while we were climbing the trail. It was really slow going for him. We started watching him around 11:00 and when we left two hours later it didn't appear that he had made much progress. I really doubted that he was going to make it to the top before sundown. But part of me (the wicked part) hoped he wouldn't.)
Devils Tower (nope, no apostrophe - there was a typo in the original documents and they never corrected it) is a great spiritual place for Native Americans. There are several stories in native culture about how it came to be. One story is that seven maidens were walking when they encountered a bear. They climbed a tree to get away and prayed for the fathers to save them. The tree started to rise up in the air as a mountain formed from
the earth. The bear, angry at missing his dinner, clawed at the mountain as he circled it. His claw marks can still be seen today as evidence the story is true. Native Americans come to the mountain to pray. As you climb the trail you see prayer ribbons and bundles tied to the trees. Because of the sanctity of the area for the natives there is a voluntary closure for climbing. You are also asked to stay on the trail and not climb the lower rocks as a sign of respect for the native cultural practices. Which is why the wicked part of me hoped the climber wouldn't make it to the summit. The more compassionate part of me understands that there could be extenuating circumstances as to why he would climb anyway. The boys, though it was really, really hard for them, respected the request to stay on the path.
The tower is really amazing. As you walk the trail that circles it you get a different view every few steps because every face of the rock is different. The trail completely circles the tower but only goes as high as the tree line in some places and the
boulder line in others. But every view is magnificent! When we were still away from the mountain and saw it in the landscape it made me wonder why God would decide to create that structure out in the middle of nowhere. Is it that entertaining to see us sitting around scratching our heads wondering? Or because He knows that our curiosity and quest for knowledge keeps us interested in life? I don't know. Another question to ask someday. Anyway, the boys made their way around much quicker than Steve and I (I still have a busted butt, remember?) and when we made it to the end, guess what they were doing? Striking up conversations with other travelers. They're really gathering alot of information by visiting with everyone they meet.
After leaving Devils Tower we headed on west for our detour to Montana to go to the Battle of the Little Bighorn Site. That was an interesting drive. It started out a beautiful day and then we ran into one heck of a storm. Lightning, thunder, heavy rain complete with hail. It didn't last long but it was pretty ferocious for a while. We drove out of the storm not long
before we got our first view of snow-capped Big Horn mountains. Ohmygosh, how beautiful they were! At our first glimpse they were more of a shadow on the horizon but as we kept drive west they got closer and closer. Jake was very excited because he said it was the first time he had ever seen mountains. Steve, CJ, and I have seen snow-capped mountains before but I'm not sure it will ever dull for us. It was still a breath-taking sight. I was even more excited because I knew that tomorrow we would be driving through them. But first there was the battle site to explore.
The Little Bighorn Battlefield is a very well presented monument. You first visit the Visitor/Education Center where they have a small museum with artifacts from soldiers and natives from that time period. There are also artifacts from the battlefield itself...some things having been recovered many, many years later. Next you can go to a small outdoor presentation area to hear one of two informative talks related to native culture and the battle. We listened to a park staff member speaking about the battle, what historians know happened and what is speculated to have
happened and the reasons why the officers made the decisions they did. The speaker did an excellent job of setting the stage for the battle, giving points of view of both natives and the Americans wanting to settle the land. The rest of the park and battlefield is a drive through setting. (Although we did see a woman walking through. I'm sure she must have been on some kind of pilgrimage or spiritual journey as it was cold, windy, and raining.) There are markers indicating where each of the 200+ soldiers were killed as well as the 30 or so natives. There are also three memorial markers - one for the soldiers, one for the natives, and one (surprisingly) for the cavalry horses killed in the battle. Especially moving for me were some of the quotes from natives who survived the battle or were involved in battles prior to, or following, Little Bighorn. I read them thinking they were still appropriate today. We really should learn from past mistakes but, for such an intelligent species, we're awfully stupid sometimes. The battlefield took us far out of our way but it was worth the extra miles to visit this monument that
tells a story far beyond the re-telling of what actually happened there.
We finally arrived at the hotel a couple of hours later than I had originally planned so we didn't have quite as much time to hang out and relax before it was time to sleep. CJ and Jake did make the most of their time, though. The hotel doesn't have a pool but does have wireless Internet and CJ is pretty excited that he can pick it up on his PSP. The boys spent time playing games online and emailing. Steve just kicked back and watched a little mindless TV. And me? Well, I have blogging to do. Don't know if I can get it uploaded though. We next head to Cody, WY via the Big Horn Mountains. That I'm really looking forward to! Snow...up close and personal. Weatherman says more snow on the way. Yahoo! (Jeez, I hope we brought enough warm clothing!)
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