Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hop, skip and a jump

Thats how far I moved this morning. But let me back up and catch up my last two days

I spent three nights in the meadow inside Boise National Forest. On my second day there, I packed a snack, tossed Hanna into the car and we headed up FR626 toward Sage Hen Reservoir. We quickly lost cell phone signal and never found it again until we were almost back to our camp. The road was rough gravel, about 1 1/2 lanes wide on the edge of a mountain drop off most of the way, with two way traffic. Thankfully, I only met about half a dozen cars all day, so it was not too bad. There are four or five campgrounds at Sage Hen, and I drove through two of them. They were lovely, near the lake edge and each less than half full. If the road was not so harrowing (and long; about 11 miles) I might have considered camping there for a night or two. I do love forest service campgrounds.

We got back to Minnie in the meadow and hung out the rest of the day. I was debating on whether to pack up and move north the next morning when I heard my neighbors with the ATVs pull out. Glory Hallelujah! I decided to spend an extra day enjoying the peace, quiet and dust free zone. I spent the day reading, walking with Hanna and puttering inside Minnie. All was well until 7:00 in the evening when the big trailer carrying 2 ATVs and the motorcycle pulled back in. Luckily, they did not even unload them, so it was a quiet evening after all.

This morning as I was packing up, I heard a chain saw start up and looked over to see my neighbor chopping down a forest tree! I quickly texted R&D to see if that was legal and Dianna said if the tree was dead, it probably was. The tree was dead. Whew! I don't have to report them to the rangers. 😉

I moved north about 60 miles to a pretty campground along Goose Creek. After picking a site, paying for it and getting set up, I discovered two better spots, nearer the creek (which is really more of a rushing stream in my opinion). But since I'm likely only here for one night, it's not worth the move, and besides I've already registered in this space. I have 1-2 bars of 4G so enough to stay in touch.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Time to move on

I spent the weekend at HiValley RV Park, which is just a couple miles from the Holsinger's. I thoroughly cleaned Minnie's inside, shampooed the carpet with Robin's portable carpet cleaner, and did up all my laundry, including all the bedding. I gave Hanna a bath and trim, and got groceries. I hung out with Robin and went to church with her on Sunday morning.

On Monday morning, I packed up, filled my propane and water tanks and hit the road north toward Cascade and the Boise National Forest. My goal was to check out the dispersed camping areas in the zone of totality for August's eclipse, with plans to come back here for the week or two before the event. I had previously downloaded the MVUMs to my Avenza app and saw many forest roads with designated dispersed camping. I turned at Smith's Ferry and headed into the woods. About 3 mikes in, I found a large enough pullout to unhitch and leave Minnie, while I went scouting some of the roads looking for campsites.

I was disappointed to discover many of the areas marked as campsites on the MVUM were simply pullouts along the forest road. I sure wouldn't want to park with my backend in oncoming traffic. The other thing I was watching for was cell signal. As I drove up and down and around hills and valleys, the reading bounced between "No Signal" to 3 bars of LTE.  I finally turned onto one road and started seeing some small meadows and short spur roads with other campers already in them. I finally settled on a nice large meadow that had 6 other rigs around the outside edge, 2-3 bars LTE, and a nice available spot between a couple of trees.

I went back and got Minnie and drove up to set up my camp. All was well until about 6:00 pm when a new rig towing a trailer with a couple ATVs and a motorcycle pulled in. It didn't take long before they were all three fired up and zipping in and out of the meadow, stirring up dust and adding noise pollution to my evening meal and Netflix movie. It went on until 9:30, when suddenly it got quiet. Ah, peace at last!

I knew it would be a chilly night when my thermometer dropped to 60 before the sun even went down. I wore my flannel pajamas to bed and pulled my double fleece blanket over me in the middle of the night. This morning's thermometer told me the overnight low was 38 degrees.

Luckily the ATVs didn't start back up until close to 10:00 this morning and they seem to have gone on a longer journey today. I see the trailer still parked in the corner of the meadow, though so I suspect they'll be back before nightfall. I hate to sound like RVSue, but I sure wish those things didn't have to zoom around my campsite. I plan to go scouting the woods a little more today, and if I find another spot, I'll come back and move Minnie.

One more thing; I'm going to confess another mistake I made. I mentioned I had my propane tank filled yesterday morning. This morning, I woke up, but was still snuggling in bed when I had the sudden realization I had neglected to turn my refrigerator back on! Good thing it was so cold overnight. Things seem to be okay. Frozen stuff is still frozen, although the ice cream is not as hard as it should be. But I don't think anything spoiled. The same cannot be said about the catastrophe at home that Daryl discovered when he stopped by to check on things.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The end of our journey

When we went through Yellowstone last week, the boys asked if we could come home through there again. They really enjoyed the geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and all the wildlife we saw on our quick tour of the park earlier in our trip. I enjoyed it too, and thought maybe the week after July 4th, it would be less crowded and we might also be able to find availability in a campground in Grand Teton National Park.

We drove back down the hill outside Gardiner on Wednesday morning and right into Yellowstone National Park. Since we had the motor home this time, I knew we would be able to leave Hanna in there with the AC running if necessary and that way we all could enjoy the visitor's centers and some of the boardwalk tours of the geyser basins. We stopped at Midway Geyser Basin (since we had toured Norris Basin the week before) and left Hanna in Minnie and took the boardwalk around the pools.
We journeyed on to Old Faithful and found a full parking lot again. I have a small rant here. I got really steamed because there are very few long spaces marked Buses or RV, and yet a lot of cars pull in and use them as end to end parking spaces. They could drive around or wait 15 minutes and find a single spot, but if I have to find a double car space, I might drive around all day and never find one. I lucked out in discovering a few open Bus/RV spots near the Ranger Station and pulled into one of them. By the time we came out an hour and a half later, cars had filled up the remaining available ones there, too. That's when I'd like to be a cop and have a ticket book. Rant over.

Anyway, we were there just 20 minutes before Old Faithful went off again, this time beating the estimated time. We watched in awe again, enjoying the cooler day than we had the previous week. We perused the Visitor's Education Center, and stopped in the Gift Shop so Steven could buy his mom a gift. Then we headed south toward Teton.

We pulled into Colter Bay Campground around 3:00 and were tickled to find they had plenty of availability. They assign spaces at the entrance based on your size and whether you want generator or non-generator loop. We selected non-generator. This spot was not as nice as the one I got last year, which was on the end of a loop, and quite private. This one was the first space off the main road, so we did get some road noise, but it was a pretty spot and the boys got to build their fire. (That was always a priority every night. They got really expert at roasting marshmallows and making delicious gooey S'mores.)

Thursday was a long driving day, with Pioneer Campground outside Fairfield, ID as our destination. It was just a half mile past a ski area, and we drove up there. The ski area was just a big dirt parking lot with a couple buildings (all closed for the season) and the ski lift. As we drove past, we noticed several trailers and motorhomes camped in the parking lot. I slowed down and asked a man standing near one if he knew if there was space in the campground up the road. He responded it was closed due to flooding. I asked if that was why so many were parked there at the ski area, and he said no, they were part of an archery club and had a meet this weekend. I said I thought we would pull in and camp there for the night and since we were leaving in the morning, probably wouldn't be in anyone's way. He said, help yourself. There's plenty of space! So we did just that. The biggest drawback was the boys couldn't make a fire on their last night camping, and we didn't have cell signal, but we entertained ourselves with games and DVDs and before we knew it, it was bedtime.

Our final journey to Boise was without incident and we pulled up in front of the Holsinger's house before noon. Steven's dog Lucy was a very happy girl to see her favorite boy. Nathan's flight took off for Phoenix the next day.
Photo by Robin
Photo by Brian
It was a wonderful journey! I thoroughly enjoyed having the boys and showing them such wonderful places in our big beautiful country. I think they were the perfect age to do this trip. They were extremely good travelers, and very good friends. They never fought once with each other. They were a big help to me ... most of the time. Toward the end, I did lose my patience one evening, and then they scrambled around cleaning up everything inside and out. 😁 I'll miss my traveling buddies, but I won't miss their stinky feet and other stinky things. 😉

I'm in Boise for a couple days recouping, and then will head north toward Glacier National Park and northern Idaho until the solar eclipse on August 21. By that time, I may be ready to turn my rig toward home.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Homeward Bound

We checked out of Echo Valley RV Campground on Monday morning and started making our way west toward Boise. I wanted to avoid the high mountain pass through eastern Wyoming we had come over earlier in the week (dropping my MPG to 5.6), so decided to take I-90 north through Billings and Livingston, where we would turn south to cut through Yellowstone again. But first, where to camp in between?

I used my Allstays app to again look for campgrounds about 275 miles from our starting point. It looked like there was a Forest Service campground near Ft. Smith, on a river. I turned at Lodge Grass toward the spot indicated on my app, and found a very bumpy road. After about 20 miles of that, I missed the turn for the campground, but fortunately it was a loop road and there was another one just a half mile down the road. We took that turn, and traveled over an even bumpier road down to the river and the campground. There were 3 trucks with boats there, but no campers and no real designated spaces. It was not very appealing, and Steven was getting nervous, so we beat a hasty retreat, and headed on up the road to Hardin. A storm rolled in during the last few miles, and we took refuge at a truck stop until it passed. As soon as it cleared, we drove on down the interstate to Billings, where we found a welcoming Cracker Barrel. We had dinner in the restaurant, and slept soundly in our little RV in the back lot next to a park full of grass and trees. It was quiet and lovely, and there were two other rigs there with us.
On Tuesday, we drove on to Livingston, turned south toward Gardiner, and then 2 miles NE to Eagle Creek Campground. It was a nice little campground, and by arriving early, we had our choice of about 8 open spots. They all filled by evening, so I was glad we had gotten there when we did.

The camp host came around to give us the "Bear Aware" speech, and also to tell us there was a buffalo who regularly wandered through the campground. She reminded us to give him space because he is a wild animal. Sure enough, by the time we finished our dinner, he was making his way into the campground. We watched him for quite a while, then he wandered up the road, and we went about our evening activities.
The next morning, while I was making breakfast, I looked out the screen door to find him eating our front yard. We stayed inside, and watched him from the safety of our rig, but another camper came over with his camera and tried to get a little too close. "Buford" lowered his head and charged the guy. The camper scrambled out of the way and back to his own space, and the buffalo went back to eating. Eventually, he wandered away and we got things packed up to move on south.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jewel Cave

In researching the Black Hills area before my trip, one of the places I wanted to take the boys was to Wind Cave. I checked online and found they did several different tours, and they took reservations. It was still a bit far out from the schedule, so I decided to wait. Guess what? I waited too long and by the time I called for reservations, they were full with a waiting list. I checked Jewel Cave, and they do not do reservations, but rather sell tour tickets on the morning of on a first come first served basis. We decided to get up early and try to get to the site by 9:00 and try to get on one of the cave tours.

We arrived on Sunday just after 9:00 and were able to buy tickets for the 11:20 Scenic Tour. (Steven was voting for the Historic Lantern Tour, which was termed strenuous and included over 600 steep steps up and several crawl spaces, but I thought the Scenic tour with ~700 stair steps up and down, all standing upright, was better for this old gal.)

We perused the visitor's center, and had a nice protein and fruit snack before our tour time, then joined the Ranger for the descent into the cave. He explained that Jewel Cave is a water carved cave of mostly sedimentary limestone. It is currently the third longest cave in the world, and second longest in the US (after Mammoth Cave in KY). They believe it may join Wind Cave, but they haven't discovered that spot yet.
The boys got to help the Ranger demonstrate Boxwork, a layer process that makes up much of the cave formations.
We saw stalactites, draperies, popcorn, flowstone and many other formations. 
This one below is called cave bacon, and it did look just like a large slice of bacon running up the wall.
When we were done, we came back to our campsite, where I took a nap and the boys gathered wood for their evening fire and S'mores. We thought about driving up to Crazy Horse and watching the laser show, but since it didn't start until 10:00 p.m., we all decided to pass. Our last evening at Echo Valley was drawing to a close, and we would head west back toward Boise the next morning.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Badlands, Minutemen and Wall Drug

We had a full day on Saturday, putting 175 miles on the Fit. We started out from our campsite before 9:00 and headed toward Rapid City and I-90, which took us east to the Minutemen Missile National Historic Site. This was the thing Steven was most looking forward to after Mt. Rushmore, so we had to make it a priority. We spent about an hour at the Visitor's Center, and the boys even attended a movie called "The Greatest Weapon Ever Used". I slipped out early to attend to Hanna, who was waiting in the car.

This site tells about the nuclear ballistic missile system and its role in the Cold War. Most people didn't even know the missiles existed right along the highway. After we left the main site, we drove into the Badlands National Park.

We made a couple of stops at viewing overlooks and took short hikes to capture some awesome photos and listen to several rattlesnakes in the bushes, and then went on to the Visitor's Center. On the way, we were stopped by two bighorn sheep strolling down the shoulder of the road.
photo by Nathan
The Visitor's Center was not one of the most interesting NPS sites for any of us, and we felt like we had seen enough of what the landscape was going to look like, and we made the decision not to drive any farther through the park, but to turn around and go back to I-90, so Steven could visit two more missile sites. These photos were taken at the missile silo.
Steven is listening to the audio tour on his phone.

photo by Nathan 
On our way back toward Rapid City, we drove through Wall, SD. We had counted over 60 signs along the freeway for Wall Drug and decided to stop and see it. We read the story of the pharmacist and his wife who had started the store back in 1931, and by using signs along the road advertising "Free Ice Water", built their little drug store into a multi-million dollar business that now includes a small village of shops and attractions, but still offers Free Ice Water and a five cent cup of coffee. Plus they are dog friendly! Hanna enjoyed walking around the stores and got lots of attention from everyone. We had lunch and a treat before getting back on the road home.
photo by Nathan
photo by Nathan
As we neared our campground, we pulled into Crazy Horse entrance to see what the cost would be. We decided we might go up there on our final evening in the Black Hills and see the museum and laser show.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mt. Rushmore!

We've been calling this our Mt. Rushmore RV trip, and we made it to our destination on Friday! It was as awesome as I remembered, and the boys were as impressed as I hoped they would be. 

photo by Steven

We spent time in the Visitor's Center, and watched a movie on the carving of the mountain, then took the trail to the viewing areas and the Sculptor's Studio.
Taken from inside a small crevasse near the trail, you can just see Washington's head.

This 1/12 size scale model was sculpted before work on the mountain began.
You can see the ranger in the foreground as a size comparison.
You will notice the original plan was to carve full busts of the 4 men,
but the sculptor Gutzon Borglum died before it was finished, and his son
Lincoln, wrapped up the project.
Sample Face Masks
We spent about half a day there, then went back to Minnie for lunch before we drove down to Custer State Park. They wanted $20 just to drive through, and we decided we had seen enough bison and deer (the main attraction) without paying to see more. There is also a museum, but instead, we went back to the town of Custer and walked around. There are lots of shops and also a great Visitor's Center run by the Chamber of Commerce. The docent there was extremely friendly and informative, and we picked up several brochures and suggestions from her.
There are model buffalo all up and down Main Street, each painted with a unique design.
This one had Bighorn sheep climbing on it.