Friday, August 23, 2013

Grand Teton National Park

We were in Colter Bay campground in Grand Teton National Park last week. A fantastic location on Jackson Lake but no internet or cellphone in the park, so I'm a little behind in posting. 

Here are some pics of Mount Moran reflected in the river that I took one morning.

The campground is on Jackson Lake. This beach was a short walk from our RV.

What makes this place so special is that the mountains rise straight up without any foothills to get in the way of the view. It's not easy to capture on film but seeing Grand Teton (13,770 ft) rising 7,000 feet above the valley is striking. 

We took several hikes here and just missed seeing a bear one day along Leigh Lake. There were several people on the trail coming the other way. They had just seen a bear cub with the mother nearby and turned around when we ran into them. Needless to say, we didn't investigate (although I was tempted). There were a couple of attacks in Yellowstone last week so we'll have to be careful and keep our distance if we do see one. 

We did see a moose but it was too far away to get any pictures. There are lots of beautiful lakes here where the moose apparently hang out, so we always kept our eyes open. Here is Swan Lake which we visited to on a hike. 

We took a side trip one day to Jackson WY. Nice tourist town, lots of fancy shops and restaurants next to the ski resort.

Next stop Yellowstone. 

There's no place like home

Before leaving South Dakota we visited our mailing address, a non-descript building in Box Elder SD. It's just a couple of miles from Rapid City, off I-90 and right next to the Flying J truck stop.

We use "Americas Mailbox" to collect our mail and forward it to our various mobile locations. The funniest thing is when you walk into the place, the first thing you see is this:

I guess this is our new home so we had to check out the neighborhood. We had breakfast at the Flying J, went to Cabelas nearby and picked up our mail. There's no place like home. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Raging Bison

Denise is really getting into bison. We found a back road in Wind Cave National Park with a large herd. She shot this video which shows some the males asserting themselves. Interesting to watch with the sound on. I have to say it was a bit intimidating and I definitely had no desire to get out of the car! 

Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of South Dakota

No Rocky Raccoon here but lots of nice places to visit - Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State park, Wind Cave National Park and more. Lots of wildlife too. Here are some pics we snapped of the monuments:

Both Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse are very impressive monuments, and both are within 20 minutes drive of where we are staying. The story of how these monuments were created is pretty interesting. Mt Rushmore was federally-funded and was completed by a crew led by Gutzon Borglum from 1927 to 1941. It's one of the most popular places in America and deservedly so.

The sculpting of Crazy Horse is a bit different. Standing Bear was a Lakota elder who initiated the project by writing to one of the Rushmore sculptors named Korczak Ziolkowski. In 1948, Korczak started the sculpture and worked alone for many years with no funding, climbing up and down the mountain and planting explosives by himself. He worked from his heart until he died in 1982. His wife and family continued with the project and completed the face of Crazy Horse in 1998. The work continues, funded entirely from visitor fees and donations. It's an amazing reminder of what can be done when one is truly committed to something. 

We also went to Custer State Park, the most impressive state park that I've ever visited. 

Sylvan Lake 
One of 3 vehicle tunnels in the park
Pronghorn (commonly called Antelope)
Saw a lot more bison, deer and bighorn sheep in this park. I would highly recommend a visit.

Heading to some big ones tomorrow... Grand Teton followed by Yellowstone and then Glacier.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

They love mobile home and RV parks

Tornadoes. We just pulled into a nice campground in the Black Hills and set up our coach when Denise's phone started beeping. She has a tornado app which was telling us that a big thunderstorm capable of spawning tornadoes was located in Hill City 4 miles away. The weather seemed ok, but 30 seconds later it hit - tons of rain, swirling wind and quarter-sized hail. Pretty scary sitting in a box with no where to turn. The app said that nobody should stay in campers or mobile homes so we ran through the rain into our car and waited it out. Is that any safer? 

Anyway we survived the storm and had a bit of excitement but the power is out. Fortunately we have a generator, cellphone, MiFi and beer so life is good.

Mako Sica

Badlands National Park is a beautiful haunting place, almost like another planet. I can see why the Dakota Indians called this place Mako Sica (mako, land; sica, bad).  It doesn't look like an easy place to live when you have to live off the land, but it's a wonderful place to drive and hike through.

We saw took a hike called "Notch" and encountered an 80 foot ladder to climb. Pretty easy up, not so easy coming down! 

I climbed up and looked down and snapped a pic of Denise. She thought about it for a sec and followed.

Another group climbing up behind us 
We made it down and took another small hike later in flatter lands.

Lots of wildlife here - bison, pronghorn and bighorn sheep. We took a ride in the evening when they were out near the road.

We had a wonderful time in the Badlands - we are now headed to the Black Hills a couple of hours away in the southwest corner of South Dakota. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

We were in Rapid City today and took a side trip to Sturgis to check it out. Quite a scene - tons of bikers, scantily clad women, people hanging out in bars and leather shops. The bikers were mostly middle-aged city folk trying to look cool and detached (but not succeeding). The rally is winding down, although you wouldn't know it from these pictures.

We spent about a half hour cruising through town in our Ford Edge and trying not to look too much like tourists (but not succeeding).  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

One month on the road!

Well we left Downingtown on July 8 and here it is August 8. It went pretty fast. But it also seems like months ago when we took to the PA turnpike and made our first stop in Streetsboro Ohio. 

We are off to a good start. The road is treating us and the motorhome well (over 2600 smooth miles so far) and we have met lots of nice people. There was the couple from California that we met in Petoskey who told us about a good campground to stay in when we get to CA. We met a nice couple in North Dakota from Apex NC who invited us back to their campsite. They are on their 12th cross-country trip and we compared bucket lists. We met a very nice couple from Mountain Top PA with a coach very similar to ours. They have owned 15 motorhomes since 1973 - we got lots of pointers and ideas for upgrades (this will cost me).

One month in the bag, how many more to come?  

Theodore Roosevelt National Park ND

This is a very under-appreciated National Park named after a man who did much to preserve the American wilderness. The North Dakota Badlands are here - greener and more rolling than the South Dakota version.

We took a hike down into the canyon to get a different perspective. The hike is called "Painted Canyon" for obvious reasons.

There are wild horses in the park and we saw a group munching on the grass.

I learned a little about Theodore Roosevelt and his passion for the outdoors and conservation. He came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt bison and fell in love with the place. He returned to New York where tragedy struck. Just hours apart, Theodore's mother and wife passed away. This prompted him to returned to North Dakota and establish Elkhorn Ranch. He developed a love of the outdoors, and later when he was president, Roosevelt played a seminal role in conserving American land and establishing the National Park system.

One of our goals is to visit all 59 parks, and we owed it to Teddy to drop in on his namesake park. This makes 25 parks visited and counting. 

Next stop, Badlands NP in South Dakota. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Badlands of North Dakota

We settled into Medora in the western part of North Dakota to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is beautiful country. We got here at about 4 in the afternoon and went into the park for a short drive in the evening and saw a herd of bison:

Bison grazing at Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Denise took a short video while we were driving through the traffic jam caused by the bison on the road. This was pretty cool, never seen so many Bison at once. A small version of what it must have been like in the 1800's across the American Plains.  

Tomorrow we plan to do some hiking into the Badlands canyons.

From the middle of nowhere in North Dakota

I always thought Nebraska was the biggest flattest state to drive across but ND is giving it a run for it's money.

Straight and flat for miles
We found a remote campsite near Valley City ND and shoe-horned our motorhome into a spot for an overnight stop. Had a nice fire - the only thing to do because there was no internet, no cellphone, no TV and no water. This is roughing it. 
Barely got our slides out
There was a small beach we found on a walk (who said ND was landlocked). 

On to the Badlands of ND and more interesting vistas.