Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Devils Tower (June 22, a guest post by Benjamin)

The time that we arrived at the monument was just perfect it was approximately two hours before all off the people and tourists started to arrive. We could just park literally anywhere, so we chose a parking spot a little walk away from the visitors center (we did not go in it; we took the booklets from a news stand outside, and mom took the badges from a box that said Junior Ranger Supplies (Mom edit: Hey, if they didn't want us to take them, then they wouldn't have left them out in public like that (and I made sure the kids did the work))).

One interesting thing is that more than twenty tribes in the area want to rename the monument because the tower which they call Bear Lodge is a sacred place for them so the word devil in the name is offensive to them. A misinterpretation made the name Bear Lodge into Bad Gods Tower, which was made into Devils Tower by some dumb interpreter.

After we got the books we realized that there were no pencils so we decided to do them in the car after we were done at the monument. 

At 865 feet tall it is a behemoth but people still climb it! Wow! 

It does not take days to climb but if you are adventures and like climbing and have a few spare hours on your bucket list then do it with the help of a ranger. 

Another cool thing to see in June is all of the healing prayer cloths. 

I know they are pretty  but do not take pictures with them; it is disrespectful. The National Park Service even put signs down so that people will not do that in June, which I think is like prayer month or something (see above for a picture of one of the signs). 

Another thing you can do is try to see the aliens (which Grandpa joked about a lot).


The following is by Mom, not Ben

Contrary to Benjamin's account, I would say the park was actually rather busy when we arrived—we had to park in the overflow parking even though we'd arrived early. That said, the park was certainly much busier by the time we finished our hike, so it's a good thing we arrived when we did.

I was initially a little worried we wouldn't get a good view of the tower—which Benjamin pointed out is Devils Tower (being poorly translated as Bad Gods Tower) and not Devil's Tower, which I used to think it was; that said it seems we should all be calling it Bear Lodge Butte—because our initial views of it were a little cloudy. The cloud cover soon burned off, however, and we had spectacular weather while we were there.

We learned that Devils Tower (or Bear Lodge Butte) is an excellent example of a butte because it is certainly taller than it is wide (whereas a mesa is typically wider than it is tall).

Here's a view of Miss Phoebe, who was out of sorts. We'd had a rough night, she and I, and then we made an early start in the morning and she wasn't pleased about being out and about, but tried to make the best of things, anyway.

Someone saw us taking pictures and asked if they could take a group photo of us, which was kind:

Near the parking lot we saw a tree stump that was worn down, very similar to the one Benjamin is sitting on here (though it was not this particular stump). Benjamin remarked that the tree itself looked an awfully lot alike Devils Tower...just on a smaller scale.

As if on cue, Grandpa, Rachel, and I all said, "Demons Tower!"

Because what is a demon if not a step below a devil?

And then we decided that we'd been together too long and could probably stop telling jokes altogether. Rather we could just look at each other and start laughing...because we were probably all about to make the same joke, anyway.

Here's everybody reading a sign:

Andrew and I visited Devils Tower in 2011 with Grandma (and Morgan and Emily, though that pair had sped through the trail around the tower and then sat by the locked car while the rest of us took our sweet we don't have any pictures of them in our post about that trip). Anyway, while on our little hike around the tower, I captured one of my favourite series of pictures of baby Miriam—running along with her arms up in the air, having the time of her life:

I have one of these pictures up on my fridge. I think it's the one below:

So all along the trail everyone kept wondering whether this was the spot where we'd taken those pictures. Or perhaps it was here. Maybe this was the place! Miriam was a great sport and played along the whole way...

It's good to know that even a dozen years later, Miriam hasn't lost her zest for life! When Andrew got a good signal on his cell phone we stopped to pull up our blog post from 2011 so that we could review some poses and we found that (1) the arms-up pose was popular between both Miriam and Rachel, so you'll start to see it popping into our posing below, and (2) I was a very strict mother and kept insisting to Rachel that she stay on the trail. I only half-heartedly attempted enforcing that rule that this time mothering has changed a lot in the past twelve years. That's not to say I didn't tell my children to keep to the trail (I did! And I pointed out poison ivy! And steep drop offs! And delicate trailside biomes we are striving to preserve!), but I also know that keeping children from climbing on rocks is...a mathematical impossibility. So I permitted way more scrambling this time.

Anyway, little-Rachel came to a place in the pavement that went around a rock—surrounding the rock by pavement, turning it to a natural island in the midst of a manmade trail. She climbed on top of the rock and declared, "I'm still on the trail! You can't stop me!"

Here's everyone laughing about that story (Rachel was shocked by how saucy she was as an almost-four-year-old...but for real...she was a saucy little thing!):

And guess what the little kids sang for the entire rest of our hike (most especially Alexander)? 

"I'm still on the trail! You can't stop me! I'm still on the trail! You can't stop me! I'm still on the trail! You can't stop me!"

Here's Rachel mimicking her childhood pose:

Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander wanted their picture taken on every single boulder they could climb. Phoebe wanted to pick up every boulder she could find. 

Here's Phoebe trying to lift the rock:

Grandpa, meanwhile, was kept busy helping the kids get down from tricky situations. I don't know how many times we repeated the phrase "Remember—what goes up must come down!" to the kids. They know that phrase by heart and yet...still managed to climb higher than they wanted to climb down from more times than I can count. I guess it's easy to keep going up when you're not looking down; it's only when you turn around that you realize...yikes!

Here's Grandpa just waiting around for Zoë to chicken out:

This lookout area seemed especially beautiful this visit. I find that a grey sky often brings out the green of the world. 

Here's Benjamin trying to spot an old ladder that was left on the butte decades ago:

And here's Zoë trying to do the same (with a little bit of help):

And here are Miriam and Rachel taking pictures of things (though it almost looks like they're just trying to get a good signal on their phones):

Here's a picture of Phoebe running down the trail on her own two legs (so that in another dozen years we can go back to Devils Tower and make her take a million pictures running down the trail just like this (we just won't talk about how old we'll all be in 12 years because...I'll be fifty?! What?!):

Andrew hates when I start talking about ages and aging. I don't know why it bothers him so badly. Perhaps it's because he thinks that I think that we're just zooming toward the finish line. And in a way we are because that's our inevitable path—and time really is flying. But mostly it's because I think time—and aging—is fascinating.

Like, twelve years ago (when we first visited Devils Tower), I was 26 years old. I still felt rather young  (because I was young) and I didn't even know to imagine returning to Devils Tower 12 years later (and probably thought in my heart of hearts that 38 was relatively old). But 12 years later we did return to Devils Tower and I was feeling very 38 (since it was my birthday and all). 

38 feels at once still relatively young and also somewhat old. I mean, I still don't exactly feel like I have a handle on how to live life (but have mostly accepted that I will feel like I'm improvising everything for the rest of my life), but I'm almost middle aged! You'd think I would have something figured out. 

And in another 12 years...I'll be 50?! Fifty!

I realize that 12 years is a considerable amount of time. I realize that...and yet...I also know that 12 years can pass rather quickly (consider exhibits R, M, B, Z, A, and P—that is, my children, who seem to get older every time I turn around even though they were only born yesterday). 

I mean, look at them!

Rachel, June 2011


Rachel, June 2023

What even gives them the right to get so big?!

Anyway...we had a wonderful little hike, enjoying the majesty of this mysterious little land formation (that's not really such a mystery since the science behind its formation is pretty clear, but it's still so shockingly tall compared to everything around it that it feels mysterious).

Oh, I should mention that while we were hiking around with our sashes proudly resting on our shoulders (for those of us who wore our sashes), we encountered a girl (probably a couple years older than any of my sash-wearers) who was also wearing a sash, but her sash was covered in badges front and back. She certainly jangled while she walked and the kids all stopped and stared at her in amazement.

One day, perhaps, these kids will be as noisy as she was on the trail!

I'm running out of words but I still have so many pictures to get through. We're about at the halfway point though, so let's keep going...

Phoebe picked up a couple of rocks and she really wanted to show them to me, but was stuck in Daddy's arms (he carried her most of the way for this hike; we'd learned with our experience on this trail with little-Miriam that the stroller would be fairly useless, so we left that in the van):

Here are the Alexander and Zoë posing on a rock. For some reason Alexander thought it was a joke of sorts to pose backwards, so he kept turning around in pictures and then giggling (I can't remember why; nor am I completely sure that I was "in" on it while it was happening):

Here's Phoebe stopping to touch a rock (this was a Very Important Thing that had to happen every few feet along the trail):

Here's Phoebe trying to communicate that she's about at her wit's end and could really use a nap or something (but at least she's got some rocks to hold):

And here she is happily running down a hill:

And here are more pictures of my kids climbing on every single rock they saw:

Here are some pictures of people posing with their arms up:

Here's Andrew smiling very enthusiastically for the camera (for Phoebe's benefit, I'm sure):

And Rachel giving him a little (loving) side-eye for it:

And here are a few pictures of Phoebe peeking over Daddy's shoulder (while chewing on the strings of his hoodie):

And here's Phoebe deciding that she's really, truly had enough of being Daddy's hiking buddy. She would like her mom and some milk and a nap, thank you very much!

And here we are, having arrived back at the parking lot, having a nursing break before loading up to head to Mount Rushmore:

I believe Zoë was walking around taking pictures with the camera while I was busy with Phoebe, so these photo credits go to her:

She and Alexander thought it was hilarious that this ambulance had "ambulance" written on it backwards (or mirrored, really): ƎƆИA⅃UMA. 

I'm not quite sure I ever got around to explaining to them that this is by design so that when the ambulance is driving around and a car in front of them looks in their rearview mirror, they'll see "AMBULANCE" spelled out correctly in the mirror.

We didn't want to sit around too long because people were driving around trying to find parking spots (even though we had to park in the overflow parking we really had shown up before the bulk of the crowd for the day, it seems), so when Phoebe was ready (more or less) we got back into our vehicles and started heading out of the park.

We made a quick stop to admire the prairie dogs:

And then we left Devils Tower in the distance:

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