Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Devil's Tower and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks

We left the Black Hills on Friday morning and drove to Devil's Tower, because Ben had never been there and the kids had never been to Wyoming.  Our first stop inside the park was the prairie dog town, where we got to see the prairie dogs very close up.

 Then we went to the visitor's center to pick up the Junior Ranger pamphlets; Nathaniel got a head start on the trail while the girls started filling out their books.

Megan liked learning about the Native American legend that said a huge bear had trapped a group of hunters on top of the tower, and the bear scratched at the rock trying to climb up the tower, which made the scratches on the side.  She still likes to ask how tall that bear must have been.

The kids really wanted to climb on all the rocks, but there were a lot of signs saying that climbing on rocks above the trails was illegal and that violators would be prosecuted, so we only let them climb on a few rocks right on the trail.  Exploring on those rocks was one of my favorite memories from our trips out west, and it is so disappointing that a few careless people ruined it for everyone.  Anyway, all the kids loved climbing on the rocks and jumping off of them.

We didn't have time to walk around the entire tower because we planned to drive through Montana, stopping at a state park so that the kids and Ben could count that as a new state, before driving on to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and exploring there.  So we finished up the Junior Ranger pamphlet, turned it in to get the girls' badges, and headed out.

As it turned out, there was road construction, and Ben's phone directed him the wrong way, so we didn't get to go through Montana.  But it worked out for the best, because we wouldn't have had really any time at Teddy Roosevelt if we'd taken that detour.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park was great, and a perfect place to explore in North Dakota.  (Hey, did you notice?  Ben and the kids have now been in North Dakota!)  As we started off on the loop road, the first thing we came across was a prairie dog town.  We were having a good time watching the prairie dogs when Megan spotted a coyote!  The coyote was looking for some tasty prairie dogs to eat; he would stick his snout down into a prairie dog burrow, come up empty, then move along to the next one.  The prairie dogs had sentries stationed at the mounds nearby keeping an eye on the coyote, but I was surprised by how close they would let him get before they would duck down into their burrows.  After watching this coyote for a while, Megan noticed that there was a second one following along behind him.  The girls were devastated thinking about a coyote wanting to eat a cute prairie dog, but we didn't see him catch any.

As the girls were laying down on the ground listening to the sounds of prairie dogs, we noticed that a herd of bison nearby was on the move.  We got the kids back in the car, drove down a short ways, and had to stop:

Some of the bison were crossing the road, but the biggest guy decided to stand still in the middle of the road, and then the herd decided to walk down the road in the direction that we were going.

We followed along for a while, enjoying the rare opportunity to be so close to these huge creatures while remaining in the safety of our car.  Although, I did stick my head pretty far out of the window to get some photos.

We did a short trail to an overlook of the Little Missouri River; it was hazy but we did manage to spot another herd of bison in the distance.

I took a photo of these tiny liatrus for Mom:

On the way back to our car, the girls were thrilled to spot a Hawaii license plate!  We ended up seeing license plates from 48 states, all except West Virginia and Rhode Island.

Dad spotted part of the herd of wild horses a little further on our drive:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park was a great place to stop, with the best wildlife that we saw the whole trip.  It was definitely worth the long and very boring drive to North Dakota.  We could have spent an entire day there, I think.

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