Thursday, June 24 (Devils Tower, Little Bighorn Memorial)

Checkout at the KOA was scheduled for 11, so we had a quick breakfast of the donuts we’d bought at Wall Drug and headed out to the tower to do the mile long walk around the base. Buster stayed in the camper and slept in.


Julia & Elizabeth climbing in the rock field beneath Devils Tower

We started the walk close to 9:15 and didn’t finish until 10:45. First we stopped in the visitor’s center to catch up on the history and geology of the formation. The girls were intrigued by the Sioux legend in which 7 little girls are rescued from a bear when the rock they’re on begins growing and stretching toward the sky – sending them to become the Pleiades star cluster.


We found it interesting all the Native American names for the tower have something to do with bears, but the European settlers changed it to Devils Tower (and not just one devil, but many, because someone who didn’t know how to use an apostrophe left it out on the first submitted documents). The tower is fantastic to see up close because it looks different from every angle. On one side there are huge boulder piles Julia loved climbing on, at another point it is shaded forest, and from other angles it looks alternately smooth and rugged (like French fries, we decided).



Devils Tower binocular station. We could see at least 5 people

climbing the side of the tower. 

At one point we stopped at a binocular station and talked to a woman who was using them to watch her husband and two sons (ages 14 and 16) climb the tower with a guide. Her sons were just reaching the top while her husband had opted to head back down near the halfway mark. She was a lot calmer than I would have been! More amazing was that they were free-climbing without harnesses or anything. Elizabeth declared them crazy while Julia announced she was going to climb the tower someday before she died (apparently our 10 year old is already working on her “bucket list”). Anyway, it was a great walk and just the right length for us to make it back to the KOA to pack up before 11.

Before leaving the area, we drove back into the park about a mile to check out the prairie dog fields. When we first arrived, they were chirping now and then and you could see a few of them. Then we got Buster out to have a look, and the whole field went nuts!



Prairie Dog Freak Out:  Buster out of the car near the prairie dog field

The prairie dogs can really bark up a storm if they think a predator is nearby, and apparently shorthaired pointers fit that description. Buster, true to his nature, was “on point” and straining at the leash the whole time. The girls loved the prairie dog field, but eventually we had to return the car for another hard day of driving.


Everybody loved the prairie dogs

We picked up Highway 90 in Gillette, WY, where we stopped at an Anderson’s to get ice and cookies. Mike made PB&J’s while we were driving and we ate along the way.

Our next stop was the Little Bighorn Memorial in Crow Agency, Montana. We were pressed for time, and this stop was not dog-friendly (no dogs out of cars at all), so it had to be a quick trip. Mike and the girls got out, hit the visitor’s center to see the movie and museum, and then saw the Native American memorial along the hill. Mike was disappointed in the presentation because the movie was less about the importance of the battle itself (to both the Native American effort to retain a way of life and the US effort to remove the Native People from the area) and was heavy on the logistics of the battle which they didn’t understand at all. We were still 2.5 hours from our stop for the night, so Mike did some History Channel recapping along the drive. It was mostly a lost effort; the kids were most impressed by the canteen made from a cow bladder they saw in the museum.

Just past Red Lodge, Montana, we stopped at Parkside Campground, a National Forest Campground, for the night. We had reservations, but someone was already set up on our spot so it took a while to work through our options with the campground host who had just received the reservation printouts for the night. While we were talking with him, the guy who was on our site pulled up and announced they were headed home, so we got our site back. It was gorgeous: right along a creek bed with mountains on both sides — snow at the tops of them.


Setting up at Parkside Campground near Red Lodge, Montana


Our view from the campsite

No water or electric service here, so the only disappointment of the night was that our refrigerator battery wasn’t working, so we wasted a good amount of time moving pop and drinks out of a cooler to make room for the fridge stuff. The LP still worked, though, so I heated up the manicotti that had been thawing in one of the coolers. We put the kids to bed at 10 pm and woke them up at 11 when dinner was ready. Instead of a fancy “candlelight dinner,” this was a more casual “flashlight supper.” Julia managed a, “Thanks, Mom . . . this is great,” while looking like she was going to collapse into her food.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Twitter
  • RSS

Leave a Reply