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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

A Dumpster Run and New Friends

~Friday, May 27, 2022~

Day 712

Probably a good thing we aren’t leaving today as the weather’s a changin’ and don’t feel quite like worrying about windy conditions AGAIN while driving. Since our next location is boondocking in the Badlands, with no reservation, there’s no reason to push it, right?

It was our final day at our primo campsite, and nice to just enjoy the scenery from it most of the day.

We were trying to do a hike earlier in the afternoon, but with the trailer temps at 85 degrees, it was just too hot to coop up Sadie there all afternoon. It would have been nice to have her join us, but doggy boundaries in the park are limited to campgrounds, parking lots and picnic areas. By late afternoon/early evening we could finally hit the trail. In the end, it was the ideal time for hiking anyway. If there’s one time of day I like best, it would be that…right around dusk. I just wish it would linger longer than it does.

Hiking the Joyner Trail meant we accomplished everything there was to do at one spot for the first time ever (though there wasn’t a laundry list of things to see anyway). We left directly from our campsite, crossing paths once again, with the adorable prairie dogs. And like last time, we had another trail all to ourselves until the small parking lot about half-way through the hike. This parking lot serves as the trailhead for a shortened version of the hike, but felt it too short to our liking. Dense forests and tall grass prairies make the Joyner Trail one of the most scenic trails in the park and very different from the Red Beds Trail we took the other day. Plus it offers unobstructed views of the Tower giving one a fresh perspective. We were hoping to find a deer or two in this ideal setting, but guess they were having dinner elsewhere.

From the various interpretive signs along the way, we learned that the trail was named after Devils Park “lead” custodian Newell Joyner who ran Devils Tower for 15 years from 1932 to 1947. Within his first year on the job, Joyner was able to secure funds and labor needed for improvements on the Tower after Franklin Roosevelt became U.S. President and implemented various public work programs. Joyner has left a legacy of pride where others follow suit in maintaining such a lovely, pristine park.

Glad we decided to stay an extra day, with such a beautiful evening. We were just about to go over and invite Alec and Denise over for a rip roaring 5-log fire when they beat us to the punch. They were coming by to tell us, however, that they were turning in early and curling up with a loaned DVD they got from the camp host, none other than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. How apropo! But what a good idea! We’ll have to add that one to our Amazon favorites. After I mentioned that it was our last night at Devils Tower, it didn’t take much persuasion to have them change their minds. In 5 minutes they were back with warmer layers and a drink in hand. I was showing Denise the inside of the trailer when Jeff alerted me that something was really wrong with Sadie. She kept thrashing her head around, gagging with her mouth open as if something was stuck in her windpipe. I could see a tinge of blood on her paws, likely due to her trying to get out whatever was agitating her. I opened up her jaw as gently as I could and spotted something the size of a 50-cent piece wedged between her upper teeth and what appeared to be stuck in her gums. I tried to pull it out with my fingers, when Sadie understandably freaked out and slightly bit me in the process (nothing serious). I asked Jeff to get pliers or some small tool to help get a hold of it. That did the trick! It appeared to be a fragment of bone, disc shaped, that she was entertained with while we were busy with our guests. Jeff later found the whole skeleton which appears to have been a coyote kill or remnants of a sick animal. The joys of “prairie life”. With relief from the pain, we got numerous licks and lots of tail wags, ensuring that we were her besties for life. I’m sure Denise and Alec weren’t quite expecting that much excitement.

After things finally calmed down, we got back to our visit….our enjoyable conversation, outlasting the 5-log campfire, was terrific. What a nice couple. It was so great hearing their stories about their professions (both are former teachers…Alec a high school English teacher and Denise a 3rd/4th grade teacher), the joys of retirement, their travels from Vermont, and their summer plans with family once they return. They’ve been on the road since April in their tiny teardrop trailer, and yes….they still love each other! We really enjoyed hearing about Alec’s teaching days and what led him to be an author. Frustrated with the lack of motivated readers in his class, he decided to create a story that he hoped would encourage them to be bookworms. And what better way than to keep the story close to home, Vermonters engaged in a mysterious adventure. They loved it! Alec would later have the book published. It’s called “Otter St. Onge and the Bootleggers” and yes, we can’t wait to get our signed copy! With the sun gone and the fire dwindling to nothing, we said our goodbyes (at least for now), until we meet again in The Badlands.

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