Hello! My name is Kierstan Basey. I’m the Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. In my short time here, I have already learned so much about the park and surrounding area. A big change for this Indiana girl, was the potential for wildfires. Within a few weeks of moving in, there were several wildfires in the area, including one that would potentially cause us to evacuate the park. Fortunately the wonderful Wildland Fire Crews were able to contain the fire before it reached us, but the smoke did make for some interesting views. There are still fires happening in the surrounding areas cause the air to smell like smoke most days, but fortunately they are mostly contained.
One of the things that I really like is that so many different groups view the Tower as significant.There are the American Indians, for whom the Tower is a sacred place where they may conduct ceremonies and rituals. There are the climbers, who may view the Tower as a challenge to be conquered. There are the visitors, from all over the world, who come to see this big rock sticking out of the ground and wonder over how it got there and why it still stands tall. Then there are National Park Service employees, interns, and volunteers who work here to preserve and protect this monument that brings so much wonder and joy to visitors.
One of my favorite moments is seeing a child’s face light up and here them say WOW ITS SO TALL!!!! Many of the visitors love to learn about the height of the Tower and are amazed by the fact that there are actually people out there brave (or crazy!) enough to climb to the top. I learned that the first people to reach the top were two local ranchers. They hammered stakes into a crack on the tower, nailing 2 x 4 boards to the stake ladder to stabilize it. The ranchers made it to the top on July 4th, 1893 with a large crowd of spectators.
Some of the fun stuff I have been involved in has been the Centennial Celebration Series. Every Friday and Saturday night, we host a guest speaker. We have hosted Willie LeClair, an Eastern Shoshone storyteller, dancer, and lecturer. Archaeologist and storyteller Indiana Bones also visited our park, as well as Gib Young as President Theodore Roosevelt.
I also was fortunate enough to be involved in this year’s Bat Festival in the Welcome Booth. I got to talk to all of the visitors and let them know what was happening and pass out the booklets for kids to complete for a really cool frisbee prize that came with a list of bat facts. The festival got some excitement part of the way through when a thunderstorm started rolling in with a predicted 70 MPH wind and golf-ball sized hail. We closed down shop and headed inside to safety for about an hour until the storm had passed. Fortunately for us, the winds and hail weren’t as bad as predicted and none of our tents or equipment was damaged. Once we got the all clear, we were able to open the festival back up for another few hours. All in all, despite the uncooperative weather, we had a good turn out, with about 80 kids and their families at the Information Booths, 60 people at the evening presentations, and 40 people went out on Bat Listening Walks. Our awesome Devils Tower Natural History Association donated several items to be given away as door prizes as well.
So far it has been a fun time learning about the park and the area, meeting new people, making new friends. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of this year holds. Stay tuned for more from Devils Tower!