Cactus Lesson at Devil’s Backbone

As long as there are bugs, plants, and critter noises scattered about, young children will be entertained by the wild. On Saturday July 24, 2010, we just looked out the window at breakfast and decided it was such a beautiful day that we had to do something! We hit the trail for Devil’s Backbone near Loveland at about 9:45.

IMG 5324 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils Backbone

Being a short hike, we thought the baby could handle it without a kid carrier backpack. I’m certain that he’s plenty strong. That 17mo body already wears size 2T. But we quickly ran into problems with his mood; he just didn’t want to hike that day. As a result, our arms got a bit more workout than expected! Here we are starting roughly northward.

My other two kids, however, were fascinated by ants, dragonflies, beetles, and the like. I spotted many scrunchy little cacti clumps in the grass and asked Melody if she knew what a cactus looks like. She thought she did, you know, tall with a couple of fat monkey-arms out the sides. I said not all cacti look like that and challenged her to find some along the trail. I gave her clues about size, shape, and color and we passed many clumps before she recognized it. After that, she pointed it out at every turn, so proud of her new knowledge of “cacti” which was a new word to be proud of too.

The trail is very easy in the lower half, being well worn and relatively free of tripping hazards. There is a bridge or two to cross and some actual steps to ascend. The kids did better climbing up along the side because they kept tripping on the steps. The trail is shared by mountain bikes and horses; some sections are designated for foot travel only. The foot travel portions get a bit more rocky and uneven.

IMG 5343 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneWe reached the Keyhole and were rewarded with a nice view of the valley to the west of the ridge. There is a little room to walk down through the keyhole and explore the rocks, being mindful of course of the posted dangers of rock instability. Behind the south edge of the keyhole is a well-worn rock face begging to be climbed by small children, and mine was no exception! There’s a sort of hollow “nest” at the top.

IMG 5348 225x300 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneMelody starts up the rocks

IMG 5349 225x300 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneGetting higher and eyeing the “nest”

IMG 5352 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackbonePersistence pays off

IMG 5345 c 252x300 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneWhen she got back down (with a little help) we took a few more pictures on the rocks and headed back.

IMG 5347 150x150 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneThe views were pretty, though not spectacular as the farmland in the valley is inhabited. The best part of the view is that it’s a break from looking at the side of the rocky ridge through most of the hike, and you can see the skyline of the Rocky Mountain range. Many major peaks are named on an info sign at an earlier viewpoint. (Okay, yes there are also views to the east of the trail but those are mostly hills, and also inhabited. There is a clear view of Mariana Butte to the south as well.)

IMG 5331 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneI was pleased to see this sign at an observation point as I had searched unsuccessfully for just such a map on the internet a few days prior. I took several close-up photos so I can try to learn the peaks at home.

IMG 5353 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneHere you can see more of the ridge on our way back to the trailhead. Daddy’s taking a turn hauling the little muffin. He really did hike some, but was just having an off day. We sure wished we’d brought the baby backpack!

It was lunch time and since the whole trip was spontaneous, we hadn’t packed a meal. We decided on the way down to stop at a Chinese buffet in Loveland.

IMG 5354 300x225 Cactus Lesson at Devils BackboneBy now the kids were hungry, which slowed them down. We kept promising that the faster they could get to the car, the faster we could go out to eat. They love restaurants, so that proved to be good motivation. Here’s a final shot looking down the south end of the Devil’s Backbone. They did great and love talking about our summer hikes this year.

As for me, I got a little emotional on the way down thinking how blessed I am to finally be enjoying frequent nature outings with my family, a dream I’ve held for several years. This summer has been a turning point, now that we are done having children and nobody is pregnant or age two. One more summer of “age two” next year and we’re out of the woods! Or more likely, headed into the woods more often.

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