Monday, November 16, 2009

the pith of a volcano

40. Wyoming and the tower of the devil

We had a quick break in the coal-mining town of Gillette.

then carried along to the tower.

DT has carried many titles, various tribes have settled on various names. In 1875 Dick Dodge was exploring the area. When his interpreter mistook a native translation, Dodge was told the tower was called Bad Gods Tower. The western explorer's fumble quickly solidified as truth, thus it became and remains devils tower.

Natives had lived the lands about the tower for thousands of years. The vicinity was hearty in hunting. Potable springs flowed from the tower itself and the Belle Fourche river had fashioned a comfortable scene. Tribes spent extended amounts of time at the tower amid their nomadic excursions.

In the 1850s, brand new Americans blotted the natives out. In the late 1800s American paintings and photographs gave fame to its presence. And in 1906, Teddy Roosevelt declared the tower the nations 1st national monument. He based this declaration on the scientific importance of the tower.

Much to the disapproval of American Indians, the tower has become a popular rock climbing spot. The site that had once served a sacred source for worship and comfort is now a touristy beauty spot for the American traveler. In an attempt to appease the disgust of contemporary tribes, the park has allocated the month of June for the Native Americans to continue their cultural practices with minimal tourist interception. Guests are forbidden to climb about the monolith for the full month.

The tower, as geologists explain it, is the center of a long-dead volcano. Over millions of years, the Belle Fourche's eroding waters have swept away the soft sedimentary rock once surrounding the tower. Geologists believe that the cooling and shrinking of molten rock as it hardened created the columar look. As the remaining sedimentary base continues to erode the tower continues to grow.

A native legend explains the story differently--A story of children helped by buffalo, a flat rock, and a tree as they retreat from a bear:

As a group of kids flee from a pursuing bear, they ask a nearby buffalo herd to hinder the bear and facilitate their escape. In the newfound time granted by the friendly buffalo, the children arrive atop a large flat rock. The rock asks that they pace 4 times around its perimeter and then stand on top. The children do as they're told. As the bear approaches, the flat rock rises high from the prairie earth. In a final energetic fury, the bear paws and claws into the rock creating the columnar furrows that can be seen today. In the end, a small tree rooted atop the rock pedestal asks the children to climb onto its perches. The kids obey and the tree grows high into the sky. A nighttime constellation still depicts the event in starry dots.

State Stats:

At around 494,000 peoples, Wyoming is the least populous united state. Its a historical hotbed for dinosaur fossils. The state dino is the triceratops. The mammal is the buffalo and the reptile is the horned lizard.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


39. Montana

A weekend of camp in the The Beaverhead Lodge National Forest, east of Missoula, south of Drummond. We had acres of land, heat & flies. The camp kept pine-topped mountains to the south. A bald grassy ridge spotted with black cattle to the north. A small 4 bunked cabin and two fiberglass privies. A clear cold stream ran behind the cabin and all set their tents below a row of pines.

After the camp days, trip companion #3, Jillian, joined the drive east. With three in the front cab of the little tan we drove through Butte. Out lady of the Rockies stood at 8500 feet atop the continental divide route.

Fortunately, her 90 foot presence extended alltheway down to highway 80. The likeness is that of mother Mary, but is said to be nondenominational, "for mothers everywhere." The piece will culminate when then they complete a tram from the mountaintop down to Butte. The rides will cost around $10 to stand at her feet.

We found hills a of caterpillars.

Then continued east on 90 through the Crow reservation. Keil flew a jetplane from Billings, MT to Indianapolis, IN. Jill and I took highway 212 past the Little Big Horn battlefield, through the Cheyenne reservation, through Custer National Forest and into Wyoming.

State Stats:

The 4th largest state and one of the least populous. After Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, and South Dakota, Montana has around 900,000 humans for its 147,000 square miles. Montanans farm wheat & sugar beets, cattle ranch, mine gold, silver, copper, and coal. There are pockets of oil, lumber and tourism. The highest point is 12,799 feet. The animal is the grizzly B, the state has around 800 of them. The flower is the bitteroot, the tree the Ponderosa P.


38. into mountain time

From 80, we followed highway 95 toward council Idaho where Karl lives. Karl runs a septic and porta-toilet service, his dad was a rodeo man. The toilet company is called ASAP. Karl plays a banjolin. This is Karl:

The small town was lively and full of 4th of July celebration preparation.

In the night, the people of council will climb into the forested hills with steel trash cans in their hands. They will bring back porcupines.

On the 4th, the pines will race along the street. Their captors will chase after with clanking and banging trash cans. This sends the pines running. Bets are placed and most of the winnings will contribute to community building.

Leaving Council, we followed the Weiser river to the Salmon river to the Lochsa river. Through the Payette, the Nez Perce, the Clearwater and the Bitterroot national forests. The deer and elk flooded the narrow plains in the deep river valleys. We secured a road-dead deer skull and the sun settled as we made our way over Lolo pass into Montana.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

the Columbia

37. the Columbia River

The 1200 mile flow manifests its winding start in the southern Rockies of British Columbia. it runs south into northeastern Washington, then southwest down to Oregon where it continues west forming 309 miles of Washington/Oregon border. It cuts through the cascade range, forms the C.R. gorge, and ultimately spits its fresh waters to the sea. Allhewhile its powerful flow feeds 14 hydroelectric dams along the path.

We enjoyed the merriment of woody G on both the Oregon and Washington stretches of highway. Falls and bridges, blasted tunnels, trains and sunshine.

Well the world has seven wonders, the travelers always tell:
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well.
But the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam's fair land.
It's that King Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee Dam.

She heads up the Canadian Rockies where the rippling waters glide,
Comes a-rumbling down the canyon to meet that salty tide
Of the wide Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the west,
And the big Grand Coulee country in the land I love the best.

In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and windward spray,
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave.
She tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream
Of the day the Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream.

Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of '33
For the farmer and the factory and all of you and me.
He said, "Roll along Columbia. You can ramble to the sea,
But river while you're ramblin' you can do some work for me."

Now in Washington and Oregon you hear the factories hum,
Making chrome and making manganese and light aluminum.
And there roars a mighty furnace now to fight for Uncle Sam,
Spawned upon the King Columbia by the big Grand Coulee Dam.

The grand coulee was far off so we stopped in on the Bonneville dam & Fish Hatchery. Guthrie is said to have written Roll on Columbia at the Bonnevile plot.

The U.S. dept of the interior paid Guthrie $266.66 to travel the great river and write some songs to promote dam creations along the river. Once he understood these dams would help the farmers and common folks, he agreed. He had a driver, a 1941 Hudson and his guitar. He wrote 26 songs in a month. Neither Guthrie or the Gov. forsaw the troubles of spawning salmon.

Today the Bonneville Dam has a fish ladder system to allow the fishes a clear passage against the current. In the lower level, people sit benches watching the fishes pass.

The Bonneville Hatchery hatches fingerlings, loads them into fish hauling water trucks then shoots them from a hose into various water bodies. They squirt 70 million fish into waterways each year.

They also have the touristy draw of a giant 90 year old sturgeon, and a few display ponds of splashing hungry rainbow trout with fish food vending pellets.

And like so many other spots, Lewis and Clark had spent a night in these whereabouts in 1806. The present site of the dam had been an island burial ground for native peoples.

Along the Washington side of the river, we passed through the many man holes in the canyon and watched the double stacked trained containers rolling east on the south side of the river.

Highway 80 carried away from the Columbia in the northeastern corner of Oregon. A winding night drive east of Baker City brought us to camp in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Oregon state stats:

Oregon is the 9th largest state and the 28th most populous, around 3.5 million peoples. Its the 33rd state and became so in 1859. The state flag is the only two sided U.S. state flag. It is blue. A beaver perches on one side, on the other, a British ship departs while an American ship arrives. The state animal is the American beaver, the fish the chinook salmon, the bird the western meadowlark, the state beverage is milk.