Junior Ranger Bender … Part 4, Devils Tower

Max relieves himself on the Red Beds trail at Devils Tower.

With Devils Tower rising behind him, Max takes a break from hiking to relieve himself.

Spearfish, S.D. – We did laundry this morning.
Tuesday, June 18.
It was our first laundry expedition since we spent a pleasing Monday afternoon in May with Ben Davis at his Treme Laundry in New Orleans.
That was the 20th of March. Twenty-nine days and 2,200 miles ago.
Yeah we washed a lot of dirty laundry, just about the entirety of our collective wardrobe.
We hide all the dirty laundry in the Behemoth’s restroom. Mostly it gets piled in the shower atop our excess shoes and mixed in with our haphazard collection of toilet items.
Simply, we don’t use the bathroom for its intended purpose. We don’t use it because we are a simple people who embrace simple technologies.
We are not a family of nuclear physicists. Perhaps Max might change that some day, but for now the toilet is off-limits except in the direst emergency. Movable plumbing is an affront to clean living.
Ever since I read “Sunday Money,” Jeff MacGregor’s captivating account of a season on the NASCAR circuit, which includes a harrowing anecdote about a feces-dumping accident, I have been terrified of the RV-dumping experience. And so we decided the execrable hassle of dumping our sewage with the aid of a plastic hose is more trouble than any excretory convenience could possibly be worth.
You want to  hear about convenience? Becky will cringe at this disclosure, but I am here to report the truth of our singular expedition across America.
Ask Max, he’ll tell you about the wonder that is the pee cup*. We have two, to be precise. One is an old plastic peanut jar. The other is a plastic container which used to house sanitary wipes.
It may sound tawdry and unsanitary, but the pee cup is a wondrously simple solution to an all-too-human conundrum. Call us Neanderthals if you must. Mock on, mock on, Thomas Crapper. You didn’t even invent the flush toilet, you old fraud.
Old Homo Erectus didn’t have a pee cup. We are right in time with modernity.
Unless you have an isolated stump to urinate from in America’s first national monument (and said stump would not provide any relief to the distaff member of our family), the pee cup is handy Why, it’s not much different than the plastic vessels medical practitioners employ in hospitals and nursing facilities across the land.
And we use loads of hand sanitizer.
Scoff if you will. I believe firmly in the simple efficacy of the pee cup.
Sorry. I didn’t sleep much last night. I’ve become a trifle giddy.

We left Spearfish in the afternoon and wound our way north and west into Wyoming before a sign advertising a 110-year-old general store caught my eye.
We hung around and in short order were walking the rising, dipping, swerving wooden floors at the Aladdin General Store.
Literature inside says the store was born in 1890, which would mean its celebrating its 123rd birthday this year.
I chatted up the woman behind the register, who has been around here for a while. She’s a bit taciturn, but she looks like a modern woman.
Her husband came to Aladdin when he was 4, long about 1936. She’s been here 40 years. For a time there was a booming coal mine nearby, which was the reason for Aladdin .They stopped hauling coal by train into the 1920s, she said. By the early ’40s, the whole thing had fizzled out. Now the population of Aladdin is 15. At least that’s what they say. What they don’t have is a flush toilet for customers.
Instead, there’s an outhouse out back. Flush toilets are so 20th century. And they’re an egregious waste of precious water.
Not long after leaving Aladdin, we rolled into to Devils Tower. What more can you say? What looks from a distance like a mammoth stump looms as a marvelous geological anomaly up close. The hulking mass of igneous intrusions towers over the valley of the humble Bell Fourche River. It was the country’s first national monument.
You would’ve thought it might have graduated to a national park by now.
Of course, there was another junior ranger badge to chase. This one carried fewer demands than any previous one.

Those two specks on the face of Devils Tower were part of the bingo search that netted Max junior ranger certificate No. 15.

Those two specks on the massive face of Devils Tower were part of the bingo search that netted Max junior ranger certificate No. 15.

The junior ranger quest was stress-free. There was no writing, only an I-spy bingo search. We hiked the 2.8-mile Red Beds trail, and Max required precious little cajoling or browbeating on the stroll. When we’d finished and collected his fourth junior ranger badge in the past four days, we decided to do some bouldering in the sprawling field at the base of the tower.
Max was back to his fearless self, while we quivered here and there with the fear he might slip and shatter an ankle or bust open his head. He didn’t. It was great fun. So much fun we would do it again the next day.

The four-day junior ranger marathon: from the Badlands to Devils Tower.

The four-day junior ranger marathon: from the Badlands to Devils Tower.

Well, this is a sad state of affairs. Seems the Junior Ranger Bender plum wore me out.  Perhaps there’ll be more on Devils Tower later. Maybe we’ll talk about our latest foray into clandestine hiking in America’s national parks.
Perhaps we’ll talk about the sardonic ranger who came knocking in the morning. He scoffed at Becky’s excuses and informed her it is illegal to camp in a national park outside a sanctioned campground.
Maybe we’ll talk about that. Maybe we won’t.
Maybe there’ll be discussion of Max’s second trip up the boulder field. Maybe our hike on the Joyner Ridge trail.
Then again, maybe not.

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