Thursday, September 30, 2010

Off to See Friends--Sept. 26-28, 2010

Our next destination stop was Norwalk, Iowa. We had quite a drive to get there. After leaving Badlands, we stopped at 1880 Town to look around and eat lunch.One thing I like about driving through North and South Dakota is the sunflower fields. This time of year the petals have fallen off and the seeds are waiting to be harvested.We stopped for the night at Cabela's in Mitchell, South Dakota. They offer free parking and there is a dump station and potable water.

The next morning we did some rest area geocaching as we drove toward our destination.We found a geocache at the Minnesota welcome station--only it was so far west in the rest area that is counted as a cache in South Dakota!
Our next stop was Le Mars, Iowa--ice cream capital of the world. Only there was no parking for rvs at the museum. We kept going and I fired off an e-mail to Blue Bunny headquarters letting them know how disappointed we were. Their answer was laughable--there was parking for an rv as long as it wasn't a big one! Let me just say that an rv of more than 25 feet would not be able to get in let alone maneuver in the parking lot!

We kept going until we reached Lewis and Clark State Park in Onowa, Iowa. We found a great waterfront site.Once again there was a beautiful sunset.The visitor center is under construction and the keel boat is out of water until next season.
As we walked along the park road looking for geocaches we came upon these turkeys.
The next afternoon we continued our drive to Norwalk. Not far from Des Moines we stopped at a rest area for another earth cache.We arrived at our campground--Walnut Woods State Park--a day earlier than expected. We called Ed and Doreen and made plans to eat dinner with them the following evening. We spent the next day exploring Madison County, Iowa.

The Badlands--Sept. 24-25, 2010

It was just a short trip from Ellsworth to the Badlands so we made a side trip to Wall Drug in Wall, SD.
From there is was on to Badlands National Park.
Not far from the entrance we saw big horn sheep.The landscape in the park reminded us of Theodore Roosevelt NP, but the layers are different.
Our first night we had a beautiful sunset.Saturday morning we walked Fossil Trail for an earth cache.Then we hiked Saddle Pass Trail to get to Castle and Medicine Root Trails. We had to go over the hills to get to the trail in the grassland.There was a great view from the top of Saddle Pass Trail.This sign marked the halfway point of our loop.Of course there was a sign announcing the possible presence of my least favorite critter.
The camp sites at Badlands were mostly small pullouts, but they were great for solar!We enjoyed our stay at Badlands National Park, but it seemed like time was running out on this trip! We want to be home to vote and we still have people to see and things to do!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On to South Dakota--Sept. 18-23, 2010

As the snow melted at Theodore Roosevelt NP, we started our journey to South Dakota. We originally thought we would head to Ellsworth, AFB in Rapid City, but when we reached Belle Fourche--the geographical center of the U.S. we changed our minds.We stopped at Belle Fourche and toured the museum in the Chamber of Commerce. We also walked around the monument. Flags from all 50 states fly around the compass rose.From Belle Fourche we headed to Custer, SD. We thought Custer would be a better vantage point for touring the area. We stayed at a Passport America Park--Broken Arrow Horse Campground.Since we arrived late in the afternoon, we started touring early the next morning. Our first stop was Custer Skywalk to find a geocache located along the trail.At the halfway point was an overlook for the town of Custer.From Custer we headed west to Jewel Cave. We stopped there 2 years ago, but missed the cave tour by a few minutes. This time we made it for the scenic tour. There were 743 steps in the 1/2 mile tour. It was an interesting cave, but Bob and I both like caves with more varied formations.We walked around Hill City and visited the shops which were open. I have seen so many tourist shops that I am all shopped out--nothing varies except the names on the souvenirs! We also found some geocaches in town.

To get back to our campground, we drove part of the Norbeck Scenic Byway. The byway has some very narrow tunnels.From the Norbeck Overlook we could see 'The Heads.'The next day we went to Custer State Park to find the caches hidden in the park. Our first stop was Lake Bismark just inside the west entrance. We had a great hike up and down the rocks in the area.
Mt. Coolidge is located in the park and there was a geocache hidden among the rocks at the base of the building.We had a great view from Mt. Coolidge!Another day we drove the wildlife loop in Custer. We saw most of the animals advertised--buffalo, coyotes, turkeys, pronghorn antelope, deer (white-tail and mule), and burros.From the wildlife loop we drove south to Wind Cave. Most of the buffalo herd from Custer was located at Wind Cave the day we drove through. We stopped at the visitor center, but did not tour the cave.
We enjoyed the hiking in the area. The day we were going to go to 'The Heads,' we stopped to hike a trail in Black Hills National Forest and Norbeck Wildlife Preserve. There were 3 geocaches along the trail, but we could only find 2. The one we couldn't find was above this waterfall.The evening before we left the area, we drove the wildlife loop again. This time we saw more burros and people feeding them!
When we left Custer and Broken Arrow Campground, we headed to Ellsworth AFB outside of Rapid City. It was time to do laundry, visit the commissary, and get new tires for the front of the rv. With all the rough roads we have driven, the front tires were wearing in a funny pattern and the front end needed an alignment.

Friday morning we packed the rv and headed to the tire place for our new tires. That took about 45 minutes then it was on to the place where we could get the front end aligned. We finally left Rapid City about 1 o'clock. Next stop---THE BADLANDS!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Theodore Roosevelt NP South Unit--Sept. 14 to 18, 2010

From Theodore Roosevelt NP North Unit we took the long way to South Unit. It would have been 68 miles driving south on US 85, but the road construction reminded us of Alaska and we didn't want any part of a long gravel road for our drive. We headed north and then west to 16 to head south. It doubled our miles, but it was a relaxing trip with no road construction!

The weather was great for our drive and when we arrived at the South Unit. We drove to the campground 5 miles into the park, found a site and ate our lunch. Our next activity was to go back to the entrance to tour the visitor center and to drive around the town of Medora.Later that evening we drove the scenic loop and saw some animals as well as great views.

One thing South Unit has is feral horses. These are the descendants of horses that escaped from ranches long ago. They now reside at the national park.Of course there were lots of deer.We drove to one of the overlooks and had a great view in all directions once we climbed the steps.Our first full day in Medora, we decided to geocache our way to Dickinson. That was where the closest Wal-Mart was located. We needed a few supplies and there was no grocery store in any of the closer towns!

On the Thursday we chose to hike to Petrified Forest. It is located in a remote region of the park. We accessed it by driving out of the park through ranch and oil land to the trail head closest to the forest. It would have been an 11 mile hike if we hadn't! It was 4 mile round trip hike by going outside the park!It was a great hike and we had some warm weather--temps in the lower 70s!
The area was filled with petrified wood, bentonite (the grey ground and stuff holding the rocks), and capstones.Friday we planned to hike the Burning Coal Vein Trail, but the weather had different plans for us. When we woke up it was raining and had already hit the high for the day--48 degrees! What happened to our sunny weather?????

We drove into Medora and looked through the shops that were open--some were closed for the season. Then we returned to the rv to get warm and dry. About 3 o'clock the snow started. That's right, snow! It snowed until 6:30 pm and then it stopped! This was the view from our rv.The road looked clear so we took the car and drove the loop again. What a different perspective with snow!

The feral horses weren't bothered by the snow.Neither were the deer.Neither was this buffalo!The views were great--snow and twilight.Saturday morning the snow had started melting so we packed up and headed toward Mt. Rushmore. We weren't sure where we would stay--maybe Ellsworth AFB, maybe a local campground. Only we know for sure!