Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Bear Lodge

Monday September 12, 2011
Mountain View Campground
Sundance, Wyoming

Today was the day to go to Devil’s Tower.
We set out in the car for the 33 mile drive.
It was a lovely trip but we were still wishing
we were camped right there.

How about this for a camp site?

Devils tower campground

It’s a 50 site campground nestled in an
Oxbow bend of the Belle Fourche River.
They can take RVs up to 35’
YEA Winnona!!!  Next time for sure!
$12 a night, first come first served.
Or $6 if you are an oldie but a goodie!
they have no connections, no showers
and no dump.
That didn’t stop a lot of folks though.
The campground does have drinking water
and flush toilets.

We entered the National Monument
and immediately drove through
a Prairie Dog town and although
the residents were out,
we didn’t stop to visit.

The Visitors Center was closing in an
hour and I was pretty sure the Visitors Center
was all I was going to get to do.

Much of the information here was on
the sacredness of this place to the
Native Americans and of
the mistranslation that became its name.
Several Indian languages refer to the tower
as a bear’s dwelling.
Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 013A

In 1857 it was identified on the first scientific
exploration of the area as
Bear Lodge. 
The name was changed to Devil’s Tower
during a geologic expedition
by Colonel Richard Dodge who reported
that some “unnamed Indian Tribe”
called the site “bad god’s tower”.
The surveyors used his account when
they prepared the first official map of Wyoming in 1879.

Native Peoples object to the negative sounding name and
would like the official name changed.
I say we honor the Native People’s wishes and
change it back.   The Park Ranger agreed but
said it would take an act of congress.
Well they aren’t doing anything else,
why can’t they do this???
New maps come out every year anyway.
Seems doable to me.
But like everything else, I guess,
it’s the will that’s missing.

A view of Bear Lodge from the
Visitors Center parking lot. 
Love the tipi which
serves to show how big
the Lodge really is.

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 023

And look at this picture of the very top
of this rocky butte that my camera took
from the parking lot.
I am amazed!
Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 034

I read that no two sides of the Lodge
are alike and you could see this clearly
as you walk around the base through the
boulder field and the ponderosa pine forest.
Eroded columns on the south,
and smoother on the North.
Fallen broken columns on the west side.
You can see the trail
around the base going off
in the left of this picture of the Tipi.
1.3 miles I’ll have to return to hike.
Would love to be up that close to this
magnificent formation.

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 024 

David’s checking out the signs at the beginning
of the trail, just beyond the tipi.
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Because many Northern Plains Indians view
this area as a Sacred Site, they oppose
climbing on the butte.  Tribal representatives
compare it to dishonoring a place of worship.

In addition to all this information, I also
found many too many books I would
love to read.

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 022 
Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 020A

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 019 

While inside the visitors center, I overheard the ranger
talking about a full moon hike tonight.
I had really wanted to do a full moon hike, perhaps
not range led but it was clear I wasn’t going to do
it either way.   But I did talk David into going.
So when the center closed at 5pm, we had two
hours before the hike began.

It was at that point, we checked out the campground.
And stopped at the picnic area to see the
Circle of Sacred Smoke Sculpture.

 Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 037A
The sculpture by Junkyu Muto honors
the Native American people as a gesture of world peace.
It is designed to help raise visitor awareness
of the importance of the butte
to over twenty affiliated tribes.
It is the third of seven works planned by the sculptor
around the world.
The first two are located at Vatican City and Bodhi, India.
This sculpture represents the first puff of smoke from a newly lit pipe.

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 043
All around the sculpture the Prairie Dogs have moved

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 051

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 053A

It appears the park has been using cyanide bombs
to try to get
the dogs to relocate back to their town
and not expand into these suburbs.
I think the plan isn’t working.
Every hole had a bomb
that had clearly been removed and
placed outside by the dogs.

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 050

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 049

We drove back down the road
to the big Prairie Dog Town
we had passed on the way to
the Visitors Center.
And it was big.

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 058

These were clearly some well fed prairie dogs
prepared for the winter to come.

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 056

And then it was time for dinner before
David’s full moon hike.
We drove up to the Joyner Ridge Trail Head
and this was our dinner view.

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 066

At 7:00 they set off down the trail
notice the sign in the distance.
(that’s David in the maroon shirt
about 4 folks from the end.)

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 070


He took this picture of me waiting as he left.
I’d forgotten that if you aren’t moving and
the sun goes down, it gets chilly.
So I used a beach towel from the back
of the car over my legs.


The red grasses were beautiful as the
sunset colors
began in the sky.

The sky was cloudy and the
moon was partially up before it broke through them.
David’s first view of the moon


and mine

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 082

He heard and then saw this great horned owl.


His final moon shot


And mine

Bear Lodge - Sundance WY 081A

Even though the moon was not behind the butte,
this was a Great Full Moon night at Bear Lodge.


  1. What a lovely place ... at least you had great scenery to enjoy while you waited for David to complete the hike.

  2. Spectacular. What a beautiful evening. I think the prairie dogs are winning the war. Too funny.

  3. I knew you'd find a way to get out, even if it's only a little bit.

    Hope the ankle is doing well. Make sure you check for prarie dog stowaways before you leave! ;c)

  4. Excellent post and I agree, you the Native American's name for this awesome place. Like you, I prefer Bear Lodge.


  5. Dear Brokenankle,

    We felt you needed an Indian name in honor of your visit to Devil's Tower. Seeing you sitting out there by yourself in the moonlight made us realize an Indian name was a must;o))

    What a nice visit even if you couldn't get out and hike. Thanks for sharing and letting David have that wonderful experience. Both of your pictures are great!!

    We have reports that you are behaving and staying off the ankle. Keep up the good work. We know it is so difficult for you to not push it.

    Can't wait to see what else you find on your way east....

  6. 'Fess up. Which of you was the first to hum the five notes from Close Encounters?


  7. Nice pictures. I agree wholeheartedly that it should be called Bear Lodge. It should not take an act of Congress if the Natives want it that way...but, I guess that's not how the world works. Too bad!


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