Friday, August 15, 2014

Out West 2014: Devils Tower

Matt and I have been to Devils Tower before, over a decade ago on a summer road trip after we were married but before we had kids (on that trip, actually, we stopped to visit a friend from college who'd just had a baby. They lived on a lavender farm in Washington, and their little farm baby was soooo cute, and, um... two months later I got pregnant with Will). We only saw the tower from a distance, though, because by that point in our trip we were so broke that we were sleeping in the car and didn't want to pay the entrance fee.

So I was STOKED to go back to Devils Tower and actually go in this time!

We saw our best prairie dog town here at Devils Tower:
I caught this prairie dog in the act of sounding an alarm call!

Honestly, we probably would have made the detour just for that prairie dog town, but Devils Tower called to us--

--and although we didn't sketch it or make mashed potato sculptures of it, heed that call we did:

We hiked completely around the base of the tower--I hadn't expected the hike to take that long, as it's only a couple of miles, but I also hadn't banked on the base of the tower being almost completely surrounded by a glorious boulder field, suitable for climbing and hiding and jumping and sliding and exploring:

The kids had an absolutely glorious time, especially Syd, and managed to make our two-mile hike last approximately five hours.

Check out the Native American prayer flags:

On the far side of the tower, we also managed to spot some rock climbers, and hung out to watch them summit:
Can you see him on the right? That's the maximum reach of my telephoto lens. He's almost at the top of Devils Tower!
 And, of course, the kids spent plenty of time working on their Junior Ranger badges:

Other hikers kept giving us the side-eye, taking our kids out to the beautiful wilderness and then making them work on workbooks like that--shame on us! But I can't imagine what you would have to go through if you tried to tear these books away from these kids, and they learned a ton about geology and history and Native American culture earning this badge. Side note: check out the curriculum resources for Devils Tower. I haven't looked through them myself, yet, but I will be revisiting Devils Tower in our geography study this fall, so I'll take a look prior to that.

The wow factor of Yellowstone geysers aside, Devils Tower is probably the kids' favorite national park/memorial/monument. Jumping about on those boulders, they were happy as clams, absolutely in the flow of their activity, enjoying their bodies and exercising their imaginations. If we lived near here, I'd take them every single day.

But our reality is the opposite: we actually had a looooooooong drive ahead of us, over the mountains of the moon and across Wyoming and into Montana. Thank goodness we had happily exhausted kiddos in the back of the van!

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