Going Vacation Wild
A peaceful outdoors retreat at Devils Tower KOA
When you work full-time in paradise, where do you go to get away? I’ve been faced with this question for the past 36 years, since I began my career in the resort industry. Most vacations I’ve taken have an element of comparison—I evaluate, critique and gather ideas for my own company.
My most recent getaway turned the tides forever.
My husband, Dick, gets the credit for coming up with the idea to rent an RV and drive until we found some peace and quiet. I suggested we do a little preparation (instead of “winging it”). I posted a request for suggestions on Facebook, and was given the idea to visit Devils Tower KOA. I was easily sold on the promise of wildlife and stars.
We saw wildlife miles before we arrived. Hawks glided and finches flitted among the trees and over the road. I made sure the binoculars were on hand. After a brief check-in, we parked at our pull-through site next to a large tree and an unobstructed view of Devils Tower.
After we set up camp, we took a walk to get the lay of the land. We came across the main fire pit—my Facebook friend had mentioned that the campground often has musicians singing camp songs in the evenings. There was also an outdoor movie screen, a swimming pool and a restaurant. We stopped in and discovered that at Cattle Kate’s Café, they serve one of my favorite treats in the world—ice cream! Dick had a hand-dipped vanilla and chocolate combo, while I indulged in my favorite old-fashioned vanilla on a cone.
That night, we found what we were really looking for—peace and quiet. Nature’s symphony led me into the deepest sleep I remember ever having. I awoke to the sound of a woodpecker knocking on a distant tree. Chirps from various other birds came as the reply. I smiled as I thought about the nature soundtracks we feature in our spa—it doesn’t even come close to the real thing!
First on our totally flexible agenda was a hike around Devils Tower. We spotted animals right away. I heard the rustle and Dick caught sight of the movement. It only took a moment of searching and we saw a fox trotting along in underbrush about 100 yards from us. It looked happy, like it was enjoying the gorgeous weather and clear skies, too. Maybe I was projecting my own feelings.
As we walked along, I saw a young family of rock climbers scaling the side of the tower. I wondered how high they would go—it looked like a lot of “ground” to cover to the top. While I was pondering height and gravity, Dick grabbed my hand to get my attention.
“Look!” he whispered.
A whitetail deer was on the trail. He was close. I’d say about 25 feet away. I don’t know why, but I slowly lifted my binoculars to get an even closer view. I saw a fly land on one of his antlers. He turned his head. The fly vanished from view. I zeroed in on the deer’s eye. Glossy and confident, he stared right at us. I lowered the binoculars. Apparently knowing we weren’t a threat, he simply walked on.
Seats with a view
That evening, after dinner, we opted to take the hayride—a tractor-drawn carriage ride offered seasonally. The tour lasted through an active dusk hour and took us through the historical Campstool Ranch. What’s more, we saw a ton of wildlife. Whitetail deer were the most common sightings, but there were quite a few wild turkeys and horses, too.
The driver pointed out several species of birds including a magpie, a beautiful, sapphire-blue swallow and the state bird, the meadowlark, which has a striking yellow chest with a black ascot, and offers a gentle, melodic chirp. We were also rewarded with a sight of the iconic American bald eagle.
By far, the most unexpected native of the land we saw was a turtle. Even going at our gentle pace, we outran the little half shell hero.
That night, we parked our camp chairs in front of our RV and took in the magnificent sight of the tower as the sun set. We stayed until the light was long gone. Our reward was a vast and twinkling night sky. The unlit campground proved to be an amazing sky-watching site. The stars looked almost cartoonish with their vibrancy. And while I knew there are countless stars out there, I had no idea how many were visible to the naked eye under such perfect conditions. Even so, I pulled out my binoculars to see more. To say the least, it was stunning!
As we pulled out of the campground, it occurred to me that I’d let my resort frame of mind fade into the background. I wasn’t worried about room service being better or worse than my company’s. I didn’t fret over details of amenities. There was no comparison. This experience stood on its own. And I loved it! I’ll say it again: this trip was a game-changer for me. There will be more nature and less racket in my future. Now that’s my kind of paradise.
Find your peace at Devils Tower KOA.