Saturday, January 27, 2018

Marking Mount Rushmore

Going to Mount Rushmore wasn't something that was on our long-term itinerary. Then again, neither was anything else we had done so far. But as the summer progressed and we saw more and more sights, we realized that it really didn't take that much to do a little traveling, and that some of the greatest world wonders weren't really that far away. So the weekend we went to Devil's Tower, Jacob also suggested we wander on over to Mount Rushmore, and at this point, why the heck not?!

Even though Mount Rushmore is in an entirely different state, it really didn't take too long to get there; just long enough for me to completely fall in love with South Dakota. And it's not like I even know too much about the state, or saw that much of it, but I deemed every town we went through to be greater than the last and insisted we move there immediately. That most likely won't happen as now I also have dreams of living in Fishtail, Montana and running a donut shop/hiking tours.

We were one of the last to leave our campsite at Devil's Tower, Holden repeatedly discussing the "molcano; the dead molcano." I told him, "We're going to see some heads on a mountain," to which he replied, "And knees and toes?" He slept most of the car ride to Mount Rushmore and when he woke up asked, "Where's the molcano?" And with every new sight we see, if it even remotely resembles Devil's Tower, he'll say, "There's a molcano!" It's easy to take for granted children's reactions - or lack thereof - to the places you take them, but it's nice to know when something really leaves a positive impression. He did talk about the "molcano" throughout the rest of the day but that doesn't mean he didn't appreciate the "heads," as well.

 Montana - gotta represent.

At the ages of six and three, they already know more than our sitting President.

 Learning about the construction of the "heads," which Zoey found incredibly interesting. She even asked to stay and watch the video, which I didn't find the least bit surprising; she has a very engineer-oriented brain; like her father, completely unlike her mother.

 As had become my habit, I saw something labeled "trail" and had to check it out. Like it was meant for me, the trail was called The Presidential Trail. I mean, why didn't they just hang a neon billboard that read, "BREANNE, HIKE HERE!"?

 Taking a break "hiking" the Presidential Trail. It is a trail, even with a warning that it's strenuous, but not because you're traipsing the hills but because the majority of the trail is stairs. There are two places to start the trail but both have their strenuous parts, and lots of benches to make up for it.

 Jacob and the kids at his favorite spot, Theodore Roosevelt, the Father of our National Parks.

 There is a stop along the trail, the Sculptor's Studio, where the scales and tools to make the monument are on display. As inspiring as the monument is, you can't deny how cool it would have been if the full-body idea had actually panned out.

Zoey said that Lincoln was her favorite.

 Like visiting the Grand Canyon (which is on our list), it's fun that Mount Rushmore is a place nestled deep within the Black Hills of South Dakota yet attracts people from all over the globe; the first person I asked to take this family photo didn't understand English. And Holden is looking like that because he loathes looking at strangers (the pictures of him smiling at the camera are either because me or Jacob is behind it, or we set up the camera timer).

The Black Hills, which I fell in love with and insisted on camping in for my birthday (which didn't actually happen), and tragically suffered a fire during this last fall. But no doubt we'll find ourselves in South Dakota again come summer.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Trekking Devil's Tower

By this time in our summer - middle of August - our itch for the outdoors became more insistent. It was fun, a good change of scenery, and always a health benefit, but escaping into the wilderness became just that: when we went camping, or just hiking for the afternoon, life became all about just being in that moment - stepping over that giant rock, focusing on the trail and not on the raging waters below, scanning the forest for a walking stick of the appropriate height and weight. No one was thinking or talking about what was happening back at home - bills that needed to be paid, things that needed to be fixed, work that needed to be gone to. We dealt with more hurt feet than we did hurt feelings, and the only drama was usually me at anything resembling a height. And, as if the Universe knew this was a benefit for our family, we were provided with more random times to hit the trails. For this particular trek, Jacob remembered a place he had heard about as a kid, so we packed up and headed for Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming.

 Learning from our last camping adventure, we left early and arrived at the campsite before sunset (and before the hoards of people with their F950 trucks and 16-wheelers).

 Whew! Settin' up camp is rough work!

 Brownies with animal footprints in them? I mean, how could I not??

 This being our third attempt at camping, things seemed to be going our way. Until we ran into the fire ban that spanned pretty much the entire Western United States. If necessity is the mother of invention, I'd like to introduce you to Hond-Dogs.

 Jacob cleaned the...block, or whatever...before putting on the hot dogs. And they didn't taste any better or worse, but the car did smell like bacon for a little while.

 As we were "cooking" our "dinner," that's when people began filing into the campsite, offering us their perplexed looks at what Jacob was doing. And if anyone actually said something to us, it was, "We brought our stove."

 With our campfire lighter that we were banned from using to light a fire, we charred marshmallows for s'mores. I'm of the burnt marshmallow persuasion while Zoey is of the warm and gooey. And I'll take mine without the graham cracker and chocolate.

 While the elite campers were firing up their stoves, we were lacing up our tennis shoes to head up Devil's Tower. Fun fact: this is known as America's First National Monument, the first area designated under the Antiquities Act.

 With Devil's Tower in front of us, this was the view behind us. And a good time to mention that Louis did not accompany us on this adventure, for one reason in particular that is hard to see in this picture. Aside from it being way too hot of weather and there being no room for him in the car, dogs aren't allowed in this area, and I'm going to assume it's because of the literal field of Prairie Dogs and their corresponding homes, which are ankle-twisting holes in the ground. If Louis had been with us, I can only imagine it being like that groundhog arcade game.

 Mama and her cubs taking in the views halfway up.

 Oh, hello! Just passing through...

 This was at the "top," where the general trail ends. You can climb on the sea of boulders, and I know people climb to the very top but I'm pretty sure you need harnesses for that. We also happened to be there a week early, just missing the yearly convention of UFO and Alien-seekers.

 The views around the base of the tower.

Mom's repeated shouting of, "We're almost there!" pays off sometimes.

 With the weather being so toasty, our twilight trekking was definitely enjoyable, not having to deal with the sun on top of the heat. And even though it also meant longer daylight, that still didn't stop us from winding up on the trail in the close-to-dark-but-not-really, hard-to-see dusk. I'll be honest - thank God for the cellphone flashlight.

 Once we got back to the campsite, Holden downed three Hond-Dogs, we tried to remember the rules of Old Maid, then went to bed.

 Good morning from the Tower!

The view from our campsite, just to the right of the Tower. We weren't in any big hurry to pack up the next morning, and, surprisingly, everyone who had entered the campsite after us had also left before we even woke up. And Devil's Tower left such a big impression on Holden that he still talks about it to this day; "the dead volcano." But our Clipboard of Fun for this particular weekend wasn't over just yet...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Where in the World is Woodbine Falls?

Our feelings about hiking after our Mystic Lake adventure could have gone one of two ways: totally hooked, or, holy fuck I am never doing that again. Lucky for me, though not necessarily for my family, we (I) fell into the latter. Though with every hike I worry it will never match up to the glory that is Mystic Lake, it usually always does, first proven to me on our next hike to Woodbine Falls.

Not-so-much-the-novices anymore, Jacob picked this particular hike, which is just under one mile. We packed a decent lunch, the now-standard dog blanket, and set out in search of spectacular sights. If nature does one thing, it's that it does not disappoint.

 I saw this log, being repeatedly beaten down by the water, and was like, I feel you, homie.

 Someone who I don't know on Instagram posted a photo of a trail with the quote, "Don't look back, you're not going that way," and I could not disagree more. If you don't look back, you can't capture views like these. And those yellow dots are some hard-core kayakers, of whom I took their picture and cheered because 1) they're awesome; and b) to keep me focused off the fact that where they were was a straight drop off one side of the trail.

 If nothing else, our hiking attire is on-point.

 The end of July, it was a very warm day, so during a calm part of the creek (yes, those raging waters are part of a creek; Woodbine Creek), we cooled off.

 No childhood is complete without playing in river (creek) water.

 Holden hearts hiking.

 If you're not singing Climb Every Mountain right now, we can't be friends.

 In spite of the effort, we didn't actually make it to the falls. Some Patagonia-wannabe we passed on the trail asked us if we had our Bad Weather Gear, poking a hole in our otherwise semi-confidence. Taking into account that we don't, in fact, have anything resembling bad-weather gear - on the trail or at home - and the time it takes to hike back to the car (which usually ends up being a lot faster), we decided to set up our picnic lunch in some grass beside a calm, not-so-deep portion of the creek.

 So, this is how we greet nature now.

 Enjoying a cold one.

 Every hike should end with jewelry.

 The views heading back down, which can be even more awesome because you don't have to concentrate as much on the trail.

 And, of course, because everyone had lunch, and the sun is noticeably more absent.

 In the woods, take a seat wherever you can find it!

I'll admit, while a very enjoyable and beautiful hike, I felt a little unfulfilled not having seen the actual falls. And - thanks a lot, Patagonia Jerk - it didn't actually do any kind of storming or "bad weather," so we could have kept going but didn't. It will probably be one of the first hikes I insist on doing come late-Spring, but we did go back to the area in early December. I wanted to see how far we could get down the trail before we would inevitably hit too much snow, but we drove up a mountain road behind the Stillwater Mine and wound up doing another trail - Rabbit Gulch Trail - instead.

 That swimming-pool-looking circle is part of the Mine.

 This was on a one-lane dirt road with more mountain on one side and thin air on the other.

 Louis wasn't part of our first Woodbine Falls hike for the same reason he wasn't part of the Mystic Lake hike - too old and crotchety. But with the snow and chilly, late-fall weather, we knew us humans wouldn't be able to go very far so we knew it wouldn't be too difficult for Loony Louis to conquer. He is a good sport, and sticks with us out of pure loyalty, but on this particular hike, once we decided to turn around and head for the car, he high-tailed it down the trail and was waiting for us at the car.

 Much to my family's chagrin, I'm usually the one shouting, "Onward and upward!" The look on Zoey's face pretty much says it all...

 Us Colorado/Montanans aren't going to let a little snow stop us! A lot of snow, now that's a different story. The trail we happened upon - Rabbit Gulch Trail - is 8-miles long and turned steep and snowy at the precise moment we decided to turn around and head back (Louis' pack-a-day-smokers-cough was also a big deciding factor), so once we got back to the car, we continued on our mountain-road drive.

 These two mountains - this and the picture above - are so littered with caves that I dubbed it Bear Condo.

 Somehow we all turn into models in the mountains.

This picture and the one below are from the exact spot, just facing different directions. We drove the one-lane mountain road until we couldn't anymore; and by "couldn't anymore," I mean that literally. With the icy creek and rocks on one side, and rocky mountainside on the other, the car hit what can only be described as a comforter of ice. With absolutely zero control over the trajectory of the car, it slowly slid back down the small road until Jesus took the wheel and it stopped just short of rolling down into the water.

Pretty? No question. Scary? Without a doubt.

Given that it wasn't summer anymore, I wasn't counting on seeing the falls, but our literal backslide happened with the falls within ear shot so once again I was foiled. But we saw some great sights, had an adventure, and added another hike to do come warmer weather (oh, you better believe I will attempt the 8-mile Rabbit Gulch Trail hike; maybe while listening to Eminem).