A towering jumble of giant rocks rises out of flat high plains between Cheyenne and Laramie. Known as one of world’s climbing meccas, it reportedly has over 300 routes to the top of crags, with views along the Continental Divide all the way to Long’s Peak in Colorado.
The place is known as Vedauwoo (pronounced vee-da-voo), hallowed ground to many native tribes, who sent aspiring young warriors on vision quests here. The word is believed to come from the Arapaho word bito’o’wu meaning “land of earth-born spirit.” I’ve been hearing about its haunting beauty since arriving in Laramie. After this week’s long days on the lift, I couldn’t resist indulging today in a field trip to restore my equilibrium.
The giant 1.4 billion year old granite outcroppings were sculpted underground by freeze-thaw and groundwater weathering. During mountain-building that gave birth to the Rocky Mountains, cycles of uplift and erosion pushed the ancient granite through younger granite and sedimentar rock, to flop out on the surface. The bizarre wrinkle of boulders has geologic nicknames, such as tors and hoodoos. Some are as big as a house, often stacked on top of each other.
I had a glorious time, happily scampering higher and higher amid the outcroppings, fringed by aspen and evergreens. Then came a change in the weather. The wind picked up velocity and suddenly, sunny skies gave way to a howling storm.
I’m a rock scrambler, not a climber. But I had managed to scramble myself into a place you don’t want to be. At an elevation of 8,000 feet, lighting is no joke at Veedauwoo if you’re perched on exposed outcroppings. Frantic, I crawled between two rocks that formed a teepee-shaped cave, stripped off my windbreaker to squeeze out the water, and waited .. and waited … and waited.
An hour passed, slowly. Wrapped by the rocks, I couldn’t help being aware of a powerful concentration of power. Surely, the radically changeable weather is part of what seems to charge Veedauwoo with its sacred aura. Energy radiates from every rock, tree and crevice.
When the pounding thunder and lightening finally subsided, I slid my sorry butt down the rocks, unwilling to give up questing for another batch of rocks to scramble. Turns out, the lull was merely temporary. Nearly a half-mile from my car, I was drenched, but deliriously heady after soaking up the sublime, mysterious beauty of Vedauwoo.
Veedauwoo, WY, a set on Flickr.