It’s a rock thing

When we hit the road in the RV full-time almost three years ago, we weren’t sure what to expect or if we’d have any regrets.  Considering we sold the house and moved into the RV on a whim and all within ninety days of deciding to do so, one can’t help but wonder, “Whatever were we thinking?

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

But it’s those hidden gems, those unexpected discoveries that have Al and me wanting to keep those wheels on the RV rolling.  The first time we pulled into City of Rocks State Park, I was giddy with delight.  This time was no different.  There’s something surreal and unworldly about this place.  It’s all about the rocks… it’s a rock thing.

interesting shapes abound !!!

interesting shapes abound !!!

City of Rocks While hiking around City of Rocks State Park, voices swirled in my head, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!”  I know, I’m dating myself, but I couldn’t help thinking what a fabulous location this would make for a Lost in Space episode.

It really did feel like I had stepped onto another planet.  Around every corner was another fascinating rock formation, another cluster of interesting shapes accompanied by a multitude of color and light.

I’m afraid I could wear out the use of the word unique around here.  How about dazzling, splendid, delightful, superb, appealing, awe-inspiring …… ?

campsites nestled amongst the rocks

campsites nestled amongst the rocks

We are in site #1, first RV on the right. It's the shortest electric site.

We are in site #1, first RV on the right. It’s the shortest electric site.

Since we didn’t have a reservation….. as a matter of fact, we made the decision to overnight at City of Rocks State Park while driving through Las Cruces, New Mexico, only an hour away.  Remember in my last post when I talked about flexibility?  When Al and I are transitioning between locations or reservations, we have a tendency to wing it and find ourselves changing our minds numerous times.  The original plan was to do a quick overnight at a RV Park in Deming, New Mexico, but how boring is that?

Visitor center at City of Rocks State Park

Visitor center at City of Rocks State Park

City of Rocks So at the last minute, we decided to go someplace fun and maybe stay a couple of days, considering we were running ahead of our loosely planned schedule anyway.

But we needed to ask ourselves, what if all the electric sites were taken?  After all, we were driving thirty miles out of our way – 60 miles round trip back to interstate 10 and the town of Deming, NM.  We always have a backup plan and sometimes a backup to the backup.  One of the backup plans was to pick out an awesome dry camping site  – and they are one-of-a-kind, unique, and awesome – but with freezing overnight temperatures predicted, dry camping was our last choice regardless of how distinct and amazing the dry campsites are.  I wanted to run that RV furnace to my heart’s content without worrying about the RV batteries or running the generator like crazy.

The electric loop is in a meadow setting while dry camping sites are dispersed amongst the rocks

The electric loop is in a meadow setting while dry camping sites are dispersed amongst the rocks

One of the dry camping sites. Works well for either tents or RV's

One of the dry camping sites. Works well for either tents or RV’s

We pulled into the loop that offers electric and water hook-ups around 1:00 in the afternoon and snagged the last electric site available.  Site #1 is rather short and required us to unhook the truck from the 5th wheel.  We didn’t mind and were thrilled we procured an electric site.  Although the intention was to stay a couple of nights, I paid for one just in case we changed our minds, a gals prerogative ya know!  And remember, state parks don’t give refunds.

a sweet spot to call home... for a bit, anyway.

a sweet spot to call home… for a bit, anyway.

I absolutely love City of Rocks State Park, and it’s these kinds of discoveries that have me living in the RV full-time with NO regrets.  However, this was February, aka winter, and with daytime temperatures barely reaching 50 degrees Fahrenheit and in the 20’s overnight, we decided to hook up and move on the next morning in search of warmer weather.  Hmm, have we turned into winter wimps?

love this place - my RV is front, left

love this place – my RV is front, left

unique dry camping site

unique dry camping site

a pull-thru dry site on the left.

a pull-thru dry site on the left.

The state of New Mexico never ceases to amaze me with all its splendid landscapes.  There’s so much untapped raw beauty to explore around here, but let’s keep that a secret between us.  After all, we don’t want to share this amazing solitude and gorgeous scenery with hoards of tourists.  So mums, the word 😉

Brought to you by the letter 'd'

Brought to you by the letter ‘d’

By the way…. White Sand Dunes National Park is another unique New Mexico site not to be missed.  However, for those looking for an experience a little less remote, Santa Fe and Taos are definitely worthy of a little exploration.City of Rocks

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Skilled, Adventurous, or Crazy?

Black HillsMy reminiscing didn’t end in the Badlands.  The memories continued as Al and I moved on to South Dakota’s Black Hills and Custer State Park.

Not only did my childhood family of five visit this area umpteen years ago in dad’s new Motorhome, but four years ago my daughter and I visited during a gals road trip.

Mount Rushmore

My daughter, Ashton, and I visit Mount Rushmore

Mount RushmoreAshton was in college at the time and enjoying  a break before heading off to Sydney, Australia, for a semester abroad.   She and I hopped in my little red Toyota Tacoma and made the five-hour drive from Fort Collins, Colorado to Custer, South Dakota.

Ashton and I had such a fabulous time during that visit that I couldn’t wait to return to the Black Hills someday.  And return I did in early September……… with hubby in tow this time.

The three-day Labor Day weekend was nearing and since we were traveling via Plan B, without reservations, we had concerns about a place to stay.  After an exhaustive search, we ended up finding a place to park at the Elks Lodge in Rapid City.  The lodge offers ten RV sites on a first come, first serve basis and had an open spot for us.  It wasn’t the picturesque setting I usually crave, but the lodge was really nice and even located on a golf course.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn – Custer State Park, South Dakota

With the RV parked, Al and I ventured off exploring Custer State Park.  Shortly after entering the state park, we needed to stop for pedestrians bison in the cross walk…. smart guys, huh!

Bison, Custer State Park

A managed herd of about 1,300 bison roam freely throughout Custer State Park.  The herd is one of the largest publically owned herds in the world.  Bison are huge and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms).  During the third week of September the park holds a Buffalo Roundup.  This is an event I’d love to attend someday.

Black Hills, South DakotaDuring this recent visit, we spent a great deal of time in the truck taking in the sights by driving the scenic byways.  The first was the 18 mile Wildlife Loop Road that twists and turns through rolling prairie and ponderosa pines.

As the name implies, we saw plenty of wildlife on this scenic loop during this visit as well as previous visits.  From buffalo…..Wildlife Loopto Pronghorn, and prairie dogs, to free-loading burros.  You know how you’re never suppose to approach wildlife or feed them?  Well such is not the case with these entertaining burros.Burros

Custer State Park

During my visit with Ashton, we shared an apple with this cutie

Burros Custer State ParkIt’s ok to bring them goodies.  Keep it healthy though.  I forgot to bring the bag of carrots that I purchased especially for these guys.  Once this burro realized I had no treats to offer, he was on to the next car.

Unlike other wildlife, the burros hang around one particular area in Custer State Park and a ranger at the visitor center is more than happy to brief you on that location and the do’s and don’ts.

After our successful wildlife viewing, we stopped at Stockade Lake for a picnic lunch.  It’s a beautiful lake that allows boating and has a wooded campground.   As pristine as Stockade Lake was I couldn’t wait to show hubby Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake, South Dakota

As a fourteen year old gal from Illinois, I thought Sylvan Lake was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen.  My brother and I hiked and explored all around this little mountain lake.  We were intrigued with the granite rock and boulders and the clean, clear, cool water.Black Hills

We even rented one of those paddle boats.  While my brother and I exercised our legs, my dad sat on the back with a fishing line in the water.  Yep, dad brought his fishing gear. Nothing like trolling via sustainable energy;  as long as brother’s legs and my legs held up that is.  Dad was great in giving directions on where he wanted us to paddle and gave no thought to our weakening leg muscles.

Needles HighwayOn my recent trip to Illinois, dad and I shared some laughs as we reminisced about this trip.

After giving hubby the tour of Sylvan Lake and sharing some of my childhood memories with him, I had one more memorable item on my list that I had to show him for Al to fully comprehend.

We ventured over to scenic Needles Highway; named after the needle-like granite formation located just past Sylvan Lake.  There are two one-lane tunnels along this stretch of road.  Tunnel #5 is 8 feet 4 inches wide and 12 feet high.  My dad drove his brand new motorhome through this tunnel back in the early 1970’s.  I remember my mom begging dad not to go through the tunnel and covering her eyes in fear.  As children, we thought dad could do no wrong and found humor in mom’s dramatic behavior. Needles Highway

As Al and I waited for on coming traffic to clear the tunnel, we pulled in the side mirrors on the F-250.  When it was our turn, I slowly drove through the tunnel all the while I kept repeating, “I can’t believe my dad drove the motorhome through this tunnel”.   I now understand why mom freaked out.  I asked myself, was dad a skilled driver?   Did his sense of adventure push him?  Or was he just plain crazy?

In dad’s defense I must add, dad did do his homework before driving through this tunnel.  He spoke with a ranger.  He jotted down all the dimensions on both tunnels and verified the Motorhome’s size.  He also discovered a tour bus once a week would travel this route.  I guess with that tidbit of information, that sealed the deal for dad and through we went with inches to spare.

Needles Highway

If a tour bus could fit, so could dad’s motorhome.

As Al and I exited the tunnel, we were greeted with stunning views.  Needles Highway traverses through rugged granite mountains, a diverse forest, and mountain prairie.  This is a beautiful drive not to be missed, but a lot less stressful and much more fun in a small vehicle!

Needles Highway

another view of Tunnel #5 as a vehicle enters

Needles HighwayThe next day hubby and I explored Iron Mountain Road.  This scenic drive connects Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  “Experience the road that engineers once said couldn’t be built.”  This road was built in the 1930’s and considered an engineering marvel at the time.Iron Mountain

There are three tunnels to pass through and each one frames Mount Rushmore in the distance when entering from Custer State Park.Mount Rushmore

Iron Mountain Road is another very fun and scenic drive not to be missed.  For anyone interested in engineering, construction, or design, this is a captivating road.  I loved all the log bridges, the tunnels, and the views.

Black Hills

We had just driven through the above road and tunnel before looping underneath

Next up, more Black Hills adventures!             Custer State Park Map

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Our Boomerang Trip – Badlands

South Dakota, BadlandsFrom Mitchell, South Dakota, we continued our westerly trek.  I couldn’t wait to get to Badlands National Park.

South Dakota’s Badlands holds a special place in my heart.  I was a mere 14 years old the first time this gal from Illinois laid eyes on this incredible land.

It was the first family excursion in my dad’s new pride and joy; a brand new motorhome.

South Dakota Badlands

Badlands, South Dakota

That was an exciting adventure for our family of five, because this was a trip that didn’t entail fishing in Wisconsin, my dad’s favorite pastime.  Family vacations ALWAYS centered around camping near fishing action.  No fishing involved during this trip!South Dakota, Badlands

My brother was eighteen at the time and getting ready to head off to college.  Dad put him in charge of navigating, which was a much better choice than my mother, who could get turned around in the blink of an eye; directionally challenged one might say.  While the guys were up front driving and navigating my little sister, mom, and myself sat at the dinette table taking in the sights out of the motorhome’s big windows.Badlands, South Dakota

The barren, rugged land made mom quite uncomfortable. While the rest of us were oohing and aahing, she sat in silence.  You see, mom and dad grew up in Germany, even my brother was born in Germany and this kind of vast desolation doesn’t exist in her homeland.  This was like nothing she’d ever seen before and it made her feel uneasy.

South Dakota, BadlandsWe stopped at various pull-outs and scenic overlooks before it was time to decide where to camp for the night.  Dad was definitely feeling adventurous during this trip and decided to take the twelve mile rutted and rough gravel-dirt road to the primitive campground.  It wasn’t a campground, but merely a designated parcel of land allowing overnight camping.   I don’t even remember there being a pit toilet, just raw open land.  Ah yes, this is what us RVer’s now refer to as boondocking.South Dakota, Badlandsprairie dogsThis was definitely not mom’s idea of a relaxing vacation and I remember her freaking out as my brother and I took off exploring.

I wanted to see buffalo and maybe even a rattlesnake.  I saw neither during that trip but wasn’t disappointed because the adorable Prairie Dogs captivated my attention.South Dakota

So here I am, umpteen years later and oohing and aahing every bit as much, if not more, as I did years ago.  I really wanted to camp at that same primitive campground from the family trip, but with temperatures in the 90 degree plus range, we opted to stay at the Cedar Pass Campground with electric hook-up so we could run our air-conditioning during the heat of the day. camping in Badlands

Cedar Pass

Loved my view! Cedar Pass Campground – Badlands National Park

However, a trip to the primitive Sage Creek Campground was in order.  I had to refresh my memory.  Unlike my last visit, this time I saw plenty of buffalo aka bison.

camping in the Badlands

We pass herds of bison on the way to the Sage Creek Campground

We turned off the main paved road onto a well maintained gravel road.  The road was in much better condition than all those years ago.  We continued the twelve miles down the road passing herds of buffalo in the distance.  The sky was hazy with smoke drifting down from the Pacific Northwest wildfires.South Dakota Badlands

Not only was the road very well maintained, the campground turned out to be a little more developed than all those years ago.  There were picnic tables and pit toilets…. no water.  The campground is used predominantly by tents, but is also accessible to RV’s.

camping in the Badlands

Sage Creek Campground, Badlands National Park

Bison routinely meander through this campground causing a need to watch where you step…. fresh Bison droppings wouldn’t be fun to step in.

Buffalo in the Badlands

The cars give perspective showing how large Bison are.

I assure you, on our next visit to the Badlands National Park we WILL definitely be Badlands National Park, South Dakotastaying at this campground.  I’ll admit though, I did have an uneasy moment with one Buffalo.

I was sitting in the truck taking his photograph when he started to approach me; heading straight toward me and the driver’s side door.   As his pace quickened in my direction, I dropped my camera and put the truck in drive, not waiting around to see what his intentions, if any, were.  Perhaps we made eye contact a little longer than he liked or perhaps he just wanted me to scratch behind his ears horns.  Didn’t matter, I was outta there!

Bison have been known to attack, so ample distance, a wide berth, and good judgment should always be heeded.

Badlands National Park

Check out the wounds on this guy!

After my fun moment of reminiscing and communing with buffalo, we continued on the scenic drive to the town of Wall, located near the Badlands National Park western entrance.  This is definitely a tourist attraction complete with plenty of souvenir and T-shirt shops.

Wall Drug, South Dakota

Wall Drug, South Dakota

Wall Drug is the focus of this tourist draw and although Al and I usually shy away from such venues, we found ourselves entertained.  The story of the Hustead family is one of tenacity and the pioneer spirit.  You can read their fascinating story here.  We were also surprised to find a place where you can still get a cup of coffee for 5¢.  Granted, we’re not talking designer coffee (aka Starbucks), but for a nickel it was a tasty cup of Joe.

Wall Drug

The corridors at Wall Drug were filled with old photos and newspaper clippings. History buff hubby loved it and even non history buff me, found it enlightening and interesting.

Three T-shirts later (yeah, I have a thing for T-shirts), we headed back to camp.  I spent the next couple of days close to camp observing natures beauty.

Badlands South Dakota

Beauty near and far!

Upon first glance, the buttes, spires, and pinnacles of this steeply eroded land may look desolate.  But if one looks closely, diverse and beautiful signs of life can be discovered.Badlands

There’s an abundance of rich and varied vegetation, including one of the largest mixed-grass prairies in the country.

Badlands National Park

 

 

And then there’s the bountiful wildlife.  A watchful eye and a silent slow pace will reward onlookers.

This land of extremes, evokes a sense of mystery.  While living in my RV surrounded by the Badlands, I immersed myself in this surreal landscape.

South Dakota, Badlands

I share the amazing scenery with my friend perched on the picnic table.

Badlands National Park

these little blue birds offered a sharp contrast to all the unique colors seen in the Badlands

South Dakota, Badlands

Mountain Sheep abound in this harsh environment

Badlands National ParkThe weather can be extreme but when approached with a preparedness, the Badlands can offer an endless supply of pleasure and fascination.Badlands National Park

Due to the smoke-filled, hazy skies and extreme heat during our visit, our explorations at Badlands National Park may have been minimal, but the visit was equally as memorable and special as my childhood experience.Badlands National Park

I’m so glad we changed up the trip and added this stop to the itinerary.  I know….. I’ll be back! (she said in a heavy Austrian accent)Badlands National Park

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Our Boomerang Trip – Part I

I can’t believe it’s September already.  It seems like just yesterday when I was in the planning stages for our Midwestern excursion.  And here we are, it’s the middle of September and I’m back in Colorado where we started six weeks ago.  It was pretty much an out and back trip….  Kind of like mimicking a boomerang one might say.

Let’s do a quick recap of the first part of our trip…..  We pulled out of Cherry Creek State Park (Denver) at the end of July and after a quick overnight in a Cabela’s parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, (forgot to add this stop on the above map – oops) we arrived at Starved Rock State Park.  We took in a couple of days exploring this interesting Illinois State Park before driving up to the Paul Wolff Endangered CranesCampground.  I loved the location of this county park.  It was an easy 20 minute drive to my dad’s place which allowed us to visit with him often, and if we had wanted to take the train into Chicago, the train station was only 5 minutes away.

From our Elgin location, we moved over to Rockton, Illinois, where we stayed at Al’s sister’s place for a wonderful ten-day visit.  After Rockton, our next destination was Baraboo, Wisconsin.  I was thrilled with the hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park, but the highlight of this stop was my visit to the International Crane Foundation.

Green Bay PackersAfter communing with cranes it was time to commune with friends in Marshfield, Wisconsin, where I was challenged to wear a Packers Jersey.

After my momentary lapse, we moved over to Algoma, Wisconsin, along the shores of Lake Michigan.  This is where I discovered Door County and its magnetic personality.  Quite frankly, I fell in love with the area and could’ve stayed a month.  I can imagine the fall colors around here to be stunning and worth sticking around for.

Algoma, WI

Camped in Algoma, WI. The marina on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. Loved camping on this peninsula with water on 3 sides. Sunrise Cove Marina and Campground was basically a gravel lot with electric hook-up and thus merely ok, but the location was great; waterfront & walking distance to town.

As much as we considered hanging around Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a little leaf peeping, we decided to turn the RV around and head back west to assist our daughter with a project.

Foggy morning

Early morning fog as we drive through Wisconsin

So with Plan B in mind…. It was time to say good-bye to the Midwest and mosey in a westerly direction.  The morning of August 27th started off foggy as we began our journey west.  We put in an eight-hour travel day (360 miles – 574 km) that first day, crossing the entire state of Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.

Wisconsin

We enjoyed driving some back country roads but sure hoped this bridge was high enough. No height was specified and an RV crew cut was NOT part of our plans. Fortunately, we did see a tall truck pass under first.

We stopped frequently and even enjoyed a road side picnic near Necedah, Wisconsin.Ship Rock Wisconsin

By dinner time that first day, we checked into a campsite at Myre-Big Island State Park, near Albert Lea, Minnesota.  This is a heavily wooded state park and even though they market the White Fox Campground loop as the prairie loop, it is in no way situated in a prairie.

Albert Lea Minnesota

Myre-Big Island State Park. We’re camped in site 55 White Fox CG loop.

Albert Lea Lake

After an eight-hour day in the truck, it felt good to stretch the legs and check out the trails

Albert Lea Lake

Albert Lea Lake – it was disappointing that there were no trails with access to the water’s edge.

We originally intended to relax and spend two nights at this state park, but it was raining when we set up.  It continued to rain all night and was expected to not let up for another day.  So we hit the road early the next morning, wearing rain gear as we broke camp, and drove through the rest of Minnesota in a consistent and steady stream of rain.Minnesota

A few miles into South Dakota, the rain stopped.  We encountered sunny skies with a hint of haze caused by the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.  Just in time for a late lunch, we set up camp in the Cabela’s parking lot in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Cabela's

We’re parked in the distance at the Cabela’s in Mitchell, South Dakota

Cabela’s had a HUGE area for RV’s.  The semi-trucks seemed to be parked off in another lot and there was even a separate area for equestrians complete with horse corrals.  This turned out to be a great place to overnight, complete with pond.

Cabela's

The smoke from the wildfires gave the sky an interesting hue at sunrise.

Cabela's

Although overnighting at a Cabela’s is free – we always manage to find something to buy.

Next stop; South Dakota’s Badlands and Black HillsBadlands
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Death’s Door

Every now and then hubby and I come across a place that’s so picturesque, it calms the body and clears the mind.  Perhaps for some, it even stirs the soul.  A place that’s home to quaint villages and distinct agriculture.  A place that could easily become an addiction and for many it has.  Door County, Wisconsin has a way of luring folks in causing them to return time and again.Door County, Wisconsin

The land may be one addiction but the water is another.   Most of Door County’s shoreline is surrounded by shallow, rocky ledges.  Delightful islands both large and small add to the splendid scenery.Door County, Wisconsin

Whether it’s sailing, power boating, or paddling; boating of any kind is a beloved sport around here.

Algoma, Wisconsin

home for the week was in a marina in the town of Algoma surrounded by water – RV center rear

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, lighthouses assisted sailors in navigating the lake and bay waters of the Door Peninsula and surrounding islands.  Many of the lighthouses are still operational to this day and are open to the public.  There are eleven historic Door County Lighthouses.  I was able to visit the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse which I found charming and interesting.  My mother was a huge fan of lighthouses, and I always think of her when photographing one of these delightful landmarks.

Lake Michigan Lighthouses

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse built in 1868 located in Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin

So where did the name “Door” County come from?Door County

In a dangerous and unpredictable confluence of currents is Death’s Door.  Historians have long blamed these waters for more shipwrecks than any other body of fresh water in the world.  It’s here, where the waters of Green Bay meet the waters of Lake Michigan with sudden, unpredictable squalls, erratic wave patterns, and shallow shoals resulting in many a fine ship being dragged to a watery grave.Door County, Wisconsin

The Door Peninsula got its name from the dangerous straits that pass between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island.  213 identified wrecked vessels in the waters of Door County have been listed.   The Door County Maritime Museum in the town of Sturgeon Bay, is a must see for any nautical buff.scenic sights in WisconsinDoor County, WI

Door County agriculture

Sharing the road

Since our RV was parked in the little town of Algoma, south of Sturgeon Bay, we were able to not only explore Door County’s scenic towns and shoreline, we ventured inland Door County Cherriesnavigating some off the beaten path roads.

It was here we discovered the agricultural side of Door County.  We passed vineyards, cheery orchards, berry orchards, and apple orchards.  During our end of August visit, cherry and berry seasons were pretty much over, but apple season was just around the corner.  There’s something so appealing about a crisp juicy apple that I personally picked from a

apples

In another month, these beauties will be ripe for the picking

tree, or enjoying a cup of fresh milled cider directly from the orchard’s store that captivates my attention.  The thought evokes cool days and stunning fall colors. The inland peninsula is dotted with farm stands, wineries, and small shops selling local goods; homemade pies, jams, fudge, and local honey, just to name a few.

The fall colors of Door County easily rival those found in the northeast, and although our original plans were to stay in this part of the country to enjoy the fall festivities, we ended up changing directions.  More on that to come.Door County Orchards

Door County fishing

The fishing gang

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fine people that call Wisconsin home.  No matter where we went, we felt welcomed and valued as a visitor.

And then there’s Al’s buddies… the guys had a great time fishing out on Lake Michigan and although the fish stories were plenty, the guys did all agree they had hoped for a little more action (as in more fish).

Door County

And while the guys were out fishing, I was off connecting with a fellow blogger.  When I made mention in one of my blog posts several months ago that I’d be visiting Wisconsin, I received an email from Kathlin of The Badger and the Whooping Crane inviting me out to lunch should I be near her neck of the woods.

Well, she didn’t have to twist my arm.  Thanks Kathlin.  It was a joy and a pleasure spending the day with you.  Next time, I’ll definitely hang around a little longer for those great fall colors.Barns of Door County

Our time in the Midwest has come to an end and although we had a fabulous time, we’re ready to have the wheels on the RV rolling again.Maritime Museum

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir

Door County 330

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A Momentary Lapse

We truly enjoyed our visit to Devil’s Lake, but had commitments necessitating we pull up jacks and start rolling north toward Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Baraboo Wisconsin

Baraboo, WI Farmer’s Market

Between the hiking, the crane foundation, and the Baraboo farmer’s market, we had a wonderful stay at Devil’s Lake State Park and wouldn’t mind returning some day.

It is however Wisconsin’s busiest state park and even though I booked our reservation five months in advance, I was still unable to secure a site over a weekend.  During the week, there did appear to be plenty of open sites available for drop-ins.  (We stayed here during the middle of August)

friendship

driveway camping at a friend’s home

Al’s best friend from college and best man in our wedding was eager for our arrival.  We fit comfortably in Roger’s driveway and set up house within minutes.  Even though we only stayed in Marshfield the weekend, we managed to get in plenty of catching up.  That Sunday was preseason football and the Green Bay Packers were playing.  This is serious Packer Land and Cheese Land.

cheese head

Oh no, this Bronco’s fan has been turned into a ‘cheese head’

Roger planned a tailgate party at his house which included a bunch of people we hadn’t seen in years.  Even though the Packers lost, it was a super fun day.  We loved visiting with everyone and the weekend flew by.  I may have worn Packer green that day and been turned into a cheese head, but I assure you, it was a momentary lapse and I’m back to wearing the orange and blue of the Denver Bronco’s.

Lambeau FieldBut there was more impending fun with the guys to be had …. for hubby;  a fishing trip on Lake Michigan.

The day after the football game, we packed up the RV and headed to Algoma, Wisconsin.  But first, a stop at Cabela’s to empty the holding tanks was necessary and a cruise by Lambeau Field (home of the Packers) was in order, for posterity.  After all, we were Green Bay Packer fans for a day.

PepeLePewPulling into the Green Bay Cabela’s was easy.  Quite a few Cabela stores offer a dump station free of charge. Not this one. (for all you non-RVer’s, this talk is about the not so fun and stinky part of RVing. Our holding tanks contain our waste water, including potty waste and when we’re not staying in an RV Park with full hook-ups we need to find a place to clean out our tanks before they fill up).

There was a $5.00 charge to access the dump station or free if we bought something.  Hmm!  We stepped inside the store and quickly purchased some chocolate walnut fudge.  We took our receipt to the customer service counter and were given a number that would unlock the dump cover.  Let’s see – they gave us fudge and we gave them shit …. literally!  Sounds like we got the better end of the deal 🙂Wisconsin

With clean tanks and plenty of fresh water on board, we continued the drive from Green Bay to the little town of Algoma, Wisconsin.  The rest of the fishing gang wouldn’t be showing up until late the next day allowing Al and I to have a day to explore Door County.

Door County

Door County, Wisconsin

Door County is a popular tourist destination especially for residents of Wisconsin and Illinois, boasting 300 miles of scenic shoreline, 5 state parks, and 19 charming communities.

With our RV comfortably parked in Algoma, we set off on a scenic drive that had us skirting up County Road B, along the waters of Green Bay.  It didn’t take long for Al and I to realize why this is such a popular place for vacation homes.  Homes of varying architectural styles are nestled in the woods along the shores of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.  Most homes enjoy their own private dock for easy watercraft access.  As we approached the quaint town of Egg Harbor, we were greeted by plenty of old fashion charm.  This would be merely the first of several such communities we explored that day.

Door County, Wisconsin

quaint shops offering locally grown and handcrafted products.

We saw plenty of unique shops, eateries, brew pubs, wineries, art gallery’s, and marina’s, but what stuck out to me the most were the beautiful gardens.Door CountyEach business seemed to take the extra effort in the gardening arena, adding more character and ambiance to an already lovely place.

Door County

How could I resist stopping here? That sidewalk going through all those flowers was irresistible.

Considering this is Wisconsin, I shouldn’t have been surprised with all the lush and beautiful vegetation.  The rich, black soil makes it easy to grow just about anything.  All those flowers did continually captivate my attention to the point hubby asked jokingly, “How many more Black Eyed Susan’s do you have to look at?”

And then there’s the orchards…. apples, cherries, and berries oh my!   Up next.

Green Bay

An overcast day along the shores of Green Bay

Door County Outdoors: A Guide to the Best Hiking, Biking, Paddling, Beaches, and Natural Places
Door County Coffee Single Serve Cups for Keurig Brewers (Almond Toffee, 12 Count)

Everyone’s Favorite Mountain Town

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like Telluride, Colorado.  If I had to recommend one Colorado mountain town to visit, it would definitely be Telluride.  There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy and how could anyone resist a place where there’s usually a herd of elk in a meadow on the edge of town welcoming visitors to the area?Telluride, Colorado

Telluride, ColoradoWe’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past three years and each visit was truly a joy.  First off, Telluride is beautiful.  It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs with the stunning 365 foot Bridal Veil Falls seen at the far end of the canyon.

Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining settlement.  By the 1970’s, the extensive mining in the area was replaced by ski tourism.  By the mid 1990’s, Colorado’s best kept secret was discovered by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and Oliver Stone.

Although Telluride is well-known for outstanding ski slopes, the summer months have actually become more popular with tourists as the town hosts a variety of festivals (including film festivals) and endurance events all summer long.  The outdoor recreation is fantastic and even offers extreme hiking: Via Ferrata.

Via Ferrata

Via Ferrate in Telluride. Photo courtesy of Wiki

Telluride, CO

Newer home styles seem to blend in well with the surroundings.

The architecture is a beautiful
blend of old and new that always
captivates my attention.

There’s a hiking trail that allows one to wander from town all the way out toward Bridal Veil Falls.

The houses passed along the way are unique and delightful.

Telluride, CO

love these 1800’s restored homes

 

Tidbit:  The famous bank robber, Butch Cassidy, committed his first recorded major crime in Telluride by robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 and exiting the bank with over $24,000.Telluride, Colorado

This charming Rocky Mountain town located in southwestern Colorado is most definitely worth a visit and goes to the top of my list;  Top 5 Colorado mountain towns.  The town boasts a population of less than 3,000 and sits at an elevation of 8,750 feet.

Bridal Veil Falls

At the base of Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls in the far distance

We’ve enjoyed hikes to Bridal Veil Falls, shopped the Friday morning Farmer’s Market, and loved the free Gondola rides; a bonus not to be missed. Previously we’ve taken a back country 4×4 road to get to Telluride.  You can read about that excursion here.  We’ve eaten at several tasty restaurants, met fellow blog followers for a brew, and generally savored the vibe and beauty that is quintessential Telluride.  I can’t wait to return!Telluride, Colorado

Camping:  Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we’ve camped at Ridgway State Park, about an hours drive away.  The park offers sites accommodating tents and large RV’s alike.  Ridgway State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds.  I did a post on the area a while ago and you can find it here.

Tee PeeMuch closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground;  Sunshine Campground.  We would love to stay here due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride.  It’s super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.  Unfortunately, we might only fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than our comfort level allows.

Further down the road is the Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground and this place can accommodate just about anyone.

For those traveling with tents, vans, or small RV’s, the perfect place to camp to really immerse oneself into the Telluride lifestyle is the Telluride Town Park Campground.  Nestled in a grove of pine trees along a creek, it’s within walking distance to festival venues, restaurants, and shops.  Obviously where there are trees, there are low branches and tight turning radius’.  Thus, not an option for us.  Once again, small RV’s have the advantage.  Note; during festivals this campground is jam-packed making it difficult for even a Honda Civic to navigate.

And when it comes to other types of lodging, Telluride has it all.  Click here for more info and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise, you won’t be disappointed 🙂

Telluride Trails: Hiking Passes, Loops, and Summits of Southwest Colorado (The Pruett Series)
Sony WX350 18 MP Digital Camera (Black)

Mission San Xavier

Today’s WordPress photo challenge is the “Rule of Thirds”. Arizona Missions

We arrived in Tucson, Arizona, a couple of days ago and my first ‘must see’ stop was Mission San Xavier del Bac.  The stunning Spanish architecture and beautifully landscaped grounds made for a fun and interesting photographic opportunity.Mission San Xavier del BacMission San Xavier del Bac is a historic Spanish Catholic mission located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson.  The church was built between 1783 and 1797 and is the oldest European structure in Arizona.Mission San Xavier del Bac

The mission was originally founded by an Italian Jesuit, Padre Eusebio Kino.  San Xavier is still actively run by Franciscans and continues to serve the local community.Mission San Xavier del BacOver 200,000 visitors come here each year from around the world to view what is considered some of the finest Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.Mission San XavierThere was so much to explore and take in at the mission…. more than I expected. So if you do visit, plan on spending at least an hour versus the 20 minutes we scheduled.  I guess that means, I’ll just have to revisit.RoadrunnerAnd since Jen over at WordPress challenged us to experiment with the Rule of Thirds with a little bokeh (blur), I thought I’d end the post with this photo of an unusual cactus bloom located near the entrance to San Xavier.Spanish missions

The Spanish Missions of Arizona (True Books)
Moon Arizona & the Grand Canyon (Moon Handbooks)

Quacking Carolers

I think its obvious based on my last few posts that hubby and I enjoyed our month on Galveston Island immensely.  Hopefully I’ve done the island justice by sharing our discoveries and adventures.seagull

photographing birdsThe one thing left for me to share is where we stayed.  Galveston Island offers everything from high end accommodations like the San Luis Resort, to vacation home rentals, to a State Park, and everything in between.

Al and I knew we wanted to spend a month on the island therefore a RV Park would be our best option.  After a bit of research, we booked a reservation at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort located 10 miles south of the town of Galveston and only 3 miles from the state park.

Texas RV Parks

checking in at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort, Galveston Island, Texas

Jamaica Beach RV Resort

Once we arrived and were all hooked-up, I realized this was the first time in 6 months that we had full hook-ups.  Talk about luxury!  However, there are always tradeoffs.   I may not have had the need to worry about water usage, but I no longer had any fabulous views out my RV windows.  I will say the RV Park was lovely and the sites were nicely spaced in comparison to other RV parks.RV Parks in Texas

TurtlesThe Jamaica Beach RV Resort had plenty of amenities as well as an onsite Pirate themed mini golf course complete with Dora, the turtle.

Just across the road was the beach access. With its close proximity to the state park and the beach, this turned out to be a great place to call home for the month.  However, the wildlife was a problem…. wink, wink.

A problem instigated by moi, I might add.  It all started accidentally.  Al and I were reorganizing the basement and the corner of a small bag of bird seed tore spilling some seed onto the pavement.  Not interested in continuing to store this bag, I spread the rest of the bird seed into the grassy area.  Huey, Dewey, and Louie loved it and thought this would become a regular event.Serenade

From that day on, every morning I could hear them singing (in a rather quacky way) as they waddled down the street.  The serenade would continue at our door.  “Oh, how cute… Quacking Carolers”.

Donald Ducks nephewsHowever, I don’t think they were quacking “Deck the halls” as much as they were saying “Feed us more, Miss Ingrid“.

They looked under fed, don’t they?  Gosh, I could practically see their ribs.  That’s exactly what these three little beggars would have us think.

They do know how to endear themselves and made their rounds throughout the RV Park regularly.

Since we no longer have a dog, I found myself quickly bonding with Huey, Dewey, and Louie… they’re rather cute, I’d say.quacking ducks

I’ll admit, it was kind of nice being greeted by these three entertaining chaps upon our return from a day of explorations.  Numerous times, we found the green headed characters napping under our RV.  A regular washing down of the RV site quickly became a necessity 😉

Mallard Duck

The Duck whisperer…. How to train your duck!

photography birdingThe three Amigos did add some enjoyment to our stay at the RV Park and made up for any lack of views. I guess I’m easily entertained these days.

We would stay at the Jamaica Beach RV Resort again and feel comfortable recommending it.

With the state park just 5 minutes away, I did spend a fair amount of time strolling around that park.  I think if we were to camp at the Galveston Island State Park, we would stay at the campground on the bay side.  It seems a little more protected from the winds than the ocean side plus the birding is better.

bird photography

Will sing AND dance for food …. coochie, coochie!

We also checked out Dellanera RV Park and Tiki Tom’s.  Tiki Tom’s seems to be geared more towards anglers and kayakers while Dellanera RV Park is geared towards beach goers.

All and all, our month on Galveston Island was a great experience. We’d return 🙂

Jamaica Beach RV Resort

I’m outta here ….. That lady scares the crap out of me!

 

 

 

Huffing and Puffing to Bierstadt Lake

Rocky Mountain National ParkAfter yesterday’s easy hike and experiencing no problems with the altitude, I was ready to tackle a lengthier hike.  The trailhead to Bierstadt Lake wasn’t far from our campground and seemed ‘on paper’ to look very doable.  From the Park and Ride (shuttle) parking lot to the lake was 1.6 miles one way.

Rocky Mountain National ParkFYI….. This eastside area of Rocky Mountain National Park is the most popular with the Bear Lake trailhead that we visited yesterday being the most popular trail in the entire park. 

To alleviate traffic and congestion the park offers free shuttle service from a parking lot not far from our campground to the Bear Lake trailhead with stops in between.

The shuttle is also great to use to be dropped off at a trailhead and then hike back to your vehicle.  Very convenient.

So back to my 1.6 mile hike one-way which will be less than 3 miles round trip.  Piece of cake, right?  Well, what I failed to research was the 566 foot elevation gain that would take us up over 10,000 feet in elevation or the fact that this was the ‘unimproved’ trail …. oops!Rocky Mountain National ParkWe picked up the trail from the shuttle parking lot and immediately started uphill.  It was about 9:00 in the morning on a Sunday and for the time being we seemed to have the trail to ourselves.  Yep, we were liking the solitude and fresh scent of pine.Rocky Mountain National ParkBierstadt LakeAt several points the trail did seem to level off giving us a nice reprieve from the steady climb up as well as a clear wide path, but that was short-lived.

After about 45 minutes of hiking (mostly uphill), we passed another couple coming down the trail warning us that the steepest climb was yet to come.  Oh, joy!

We took a rest before tackling this part of the trail.  Not only was the trail steep, it was like walking up an old river bed with loose rock under foot.  We proceeded slowly.

I’ll admit, we were huffing and puffing on the hike to Bierstadt Lake and numerous rests were necessary to catch our breath.

Rocky Mountain National ParkAnd to think, I thought this was going to be a relatively easy hike and briefed hubby thusly  😉

Once at the top when the lay of the land seemed to finally level off, we had a decision to make; left or right?  We went right and when I saw a path through the tall grass I veered left urgently in search of the lake.  Al tried to stop me to discuss ‘our’ plan, but I was down the path and out of sight long before he could finish his sentence.  My vigilant protector quickly followed.Bierstadt Lake

The trail TO the lake was not marked but somehow I sensed a body of water was “that a way”.Rocky Mountain National Park

Could it get any prettier?  All that huffing and puffing was sooooo worth it.Bierstadt LakeThe air was crisp and clean with the hint of scented pine.  It would be a sin to not sit and savor the surrounding beauty.  Thus, sit we did.  We drank our water, munched on a power bar and just sat in awe taking in the scenery.Bierstadt LakeBierstadt LakeWe were roused out of our meditative state by a rather large, loud group of college kids who looked ill prepared for the hike.

Ah, yes…. the University of Colorado in Boulder would be back in session in less than 2 weeks.

Their presence was our queue to head back down the mountain and exit the trails before the masses took over.

we spot our campsite in the distance

we spot our campsite in the distance

Our hike down obviously went much quicker without the need to stop and catch our breath.  We still found ourselves taking our time on the loose rock and boulder filled trail.  I had more hikes planned and twisting an ankle wasn’t part of that plan.Rocky Mountain National ParkHmm, which trail shall we hike tomorrow?  😉
Memory Challenge: Na
8″ Elk Plush Stuffed Animal Toy