Palo Duro Canyon State Park

 

We headed south and west from Kansas, through Oklahoma and into Texas. We saw bill board after bill board advertising a free 72 ounce steak to whomever could eat the whole thing in one sitting. We didn’t give it a try but we did see this Texas sized sign!

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We visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is the second largest canyon, at 129 miles long, in the the country. It’s pretty amazing to drive through miles of flat land and then come upon this big hole in the ground. It’s like it appeared out of nowhere!

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Even though it is much, much smaller than #1 (The Grand Canyon), we loved the color and light of this place. Every hike offered a different view of the red, brown and orange landscape. The energy was big, strong and soothing which served as a perfect antidote for much of the news that we have been reading.

 

 

Down in the canyon, we didn’t get any cell phone service, so we drove up ‘out of the hole’ to keep in touch with family and friends. Most importantly, we needed to hear how Connor was doing on his first week in day care! We think he had fun.

Connor day care

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We also had to keep “leaving the hole” to call our mail service in Livingston, Texas for Larry’s absentee ballot. Ginny, our town clerk back in Brookfield, had to send out a 2nd ballot since the first one did not show up. Some how between our mail forwarding service and the USPS, the ballot was nowhere to be found. To this day Larry has not seen either one. Alas!

Swope Park

Sue and I want to give Swope Park a mention. Swope Park is a fairly good size county park located 5 miles from the entrance to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

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It has 5 RV sites with electricity and water for $15 per day with clean, well maintained showers and bathrooms, multiple fields for baseball, a deluxe Frisbee golf course and a section to honor our veterans.

We have been amazed at the size of the county parks in the midwest and by the amount of community involvement that surrounds them. Everyday there were people in the park. After school, kids were screaming and playing in the playground. In the mornings, Grammys pushed toddlers in strollers. Every evening at dusk, a dad caught softballs pitched by his teenaged daughter. People of various sexual orientation and national origins walked the frisbee golf course. We could hear the occasional ‘ka-chang’ as the frisbee hit the chains.

County employees were in and out often and local law enforcement made regular passes through so we felt very safe. Everybody we encountered was friendly and helpful. We met a retired ranger from Tallgrass Prairie who was working at the park when the buffalo arrived in 2009.  He was very interesting to talk to. He told us how difficult it was to get the buffalo herd started and where the best hikes were at the preserve.

We used Swope Park as are home base as we explored Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

Don’t worry Dick and Winnie, I did not let Susan get any closer to those beasts. 🙂

We also explored the surrounding area. Council Grove, Kansas is home to the Custer Elm which was interesting to me at least. I at first thought “how do they know this” but the retired ranger told me it was true.

Our time at Swope Park was lots of fun and we would definitely come back.

 

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

SignI told Larry, when we were in Iowa City, that I wanted to go the Tallgrass Prairie. I don’t know why. It just called to my imagination. Boy oh boy, did we like this place! Tallgrass Prairie is a gem in our book. This preserve was established in 1996 as a result of much collaboration and compromise between local ranchers and the Forest Service, according to our Ranger and Wikipedia.

“Legislation introduced in 1991 called for the creation of the Preserve, but local interests objected to the condition that the National Park Service would own it all. From 1991-1994, U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum-Baker convened a group of stakeholders, many with opposing views, to seek agreement on the formula for a tallgrass prairie park. The group began work in January 1992, and a different model for a national park emerged; it would be a public/private partnership, managed by the National Park Service, but the land privately owned.” – Wikipedia

It was wonderful to think that people with such opposing views and interests could come together and create such a gift.

Tall grassSo, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is what remains of the original tallgrass prairie, of which less than 4% remains today. The other 96% got tilled into farm lands and now feeds our country. This little parcel of land is intact today thanks to our friend, limestone! This area was saved from the plow due to the large deposits of limestone and flint which made it too difficult to plow. The prairie is in a section of Kansas called Flint Country.

The preserve has miles of walking trails and we enjoyed hiking on terrain that was very different from our home in New England. We had a lot of fun spying the magnificent Bison. We made sure to stay the recommended 100 yards away from them. They are the largest land mammal in North America. I did not know that!

WarningBuffalo musclesField of BuffaloWe highly recommend that you add this Preserve to your bucket list. We greatly enjoyed our stay in Cottonwood Falls, but that, my friends, is another post!

Till next time, stay curious!

Arbor Day – Wyuka Cemetery Nebraska City, Nebraska

 

IMG_0075We stumbled across a unique cemetery and learned about Arbor Day because we failed to follow one of our golden rules. You might be wondering what was the golden rule we broke. It is “never go to a walk-in campground (one where you expect to find first come first serve camping spots) on a Friday or Saturday”. We arrived at Waubonsie State Park on a Friday after leaving a deserted Pine Lake State Park only to find the whole campground taken over by a renaissance reenactment group. So we drove over the flooded Missouri River into Nebraska to find a very clean, modern, and reasonably priced Victorian Acres RV Park which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If we hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have taken the time to go to the cemetery.

What is Arbor Day? It’s a day set aside to plant trees and it was officially started in Nebraska City, Nebraska in 1872.  If your interested, you can read about J. Morgan Sterling, the man who is known as the founder of Arbor Day here.

So, now for the segue between Arbor Day and Wyuka Cemetery. After the declaration of Arbor Day, it became popular to have a headstone with an arbor motif. They must have been pretty scandalous at the time.  I think you’ll agree they are unique!

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Those logs and stumps are made from stone!

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IMG_0061There were other headstone that were not a part of the Arbor Day theme but were poignant none the less. It’s always sobering to see the number of children and young people who died.

IMG_0072Larry found this cemetery thanks to a free app and computer program called Roadside America. Here is a link to the program

Lizard Effigy Mounds, Effigy Mounds National Monument and Pikes Peak State Park

Wherever we travel, I am drawn to ancient burial grounds.  I have been very moved by the sites I visited in Ireland and the Orkney Islands of Scotland.

It’s a curious thing. I am not drawn to cemeteries or to mass burial sites. There’s just something about the energy of these old ceremonial sites that really speaks to me. I guess you could say it feels like being in a church or other holy place that has held the good wishes and prayers of many people over the years. Maybe those intentions mark the place – give the place the good feeling. Maybe the ancient ones had a clearer feel for those places on Mother Earth that are energetically clean, that feel good to be around; places that call to us to be our better selves. So, they built the mounds on those places. Maybe. I  sense the generosity of the folks who lived near the mounds long ago. When I am there, I think that they wish me well. I think that they might be dancing and celebrating the fact that their children had children who had children, on and on, and then there was me.  They remind me how short life is and how precious – a gift. I’ll never know if I just make up this whole experience as a figment of my imagination or as a clear receiving. Either way, the message is a great one. Appreciate life. Celebrate each other. Honor the Earth – inhabit her deeply with your whole self.

Larry and I just travelled to some burial mounds in Wisconsin and Iowa. They were beautiful and very moving for me. Photography really isn’t a great medium for capturing the essence of these places but that’s what I’ve got. I hope you can visit them some day!

Lizard Effigy Mounds in Farmington, Wisconsin

Effigy Mounds National Monument. These mounds are in McGregor, Iowa on top of a ridge that overlooks the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers.

the pastPikes Peak State Park was a splendid park with many trails along the mounds.

What sort of places do you consider sacred?

 

Blackhawk Memorial County Park

We’d never been to Wisconsin and the weather was nice so we decided to go north after Iowa City.

Our first stop was a campground called Blackhawk Memorial County Park . It was no doubt one of the more beautiful camping areas we’ve come across.

We’re calling it a Gem despite all the “official” campsites being flooded out and my getting Shiny stuck in a wet area.

Thanks to Coach-Net, a 2 year road side assistance insurance policy which came complimentary with the purchase of Shiny, we were winched out an hour after we called thanks to Al of Al’s Towing and his two trusty helpers.

Tow truck

We spent the first night stuck in the field. After getting winched out we moved to firmer ground right beside the lake.

The place was quiet and peaceful. Fish jumped completely out of the water in search of a bite to eat. There were herons and egrets. Canadian Geese were landing, playing, and taking off in front of us. Ducks casually swam along and turtles lumbered across the pathways.

The park itself is on the site of an 1830’s battle between local militia and Native Americans led by Black Hawk, a Sauk leader. Part of the Blackhawk Wars.

It is hard to believe a battle had been fought here. A small memorial monument and a sign saying ‘Bloody Lake’ reminded us that the European settlement of this area came at such a price.

We stayed 4 days alone here in this quiet, tranquil little corner of Wisconsin.

Finding the Peace Rock might be a little tricky this time. It also might be the last time we hide it since we can’t find it. We’re looking!

Linder Point Campground

Linder Point Campground is in Iowa City, it was our destination so we could visit Sue’s brother Pat and his wife Beth, her nephew Shane, and his wife Julia.

Iowa gang

As it turned out there was a big football game happening between the Hawkeys and the Badgers so we could only get a reservation for 3 days and we were lucky to get that.

Linder Point Campground is part of the Coralville dam complex. There are 5 or 6 separate campgrounds situated around the dam but due to high water some sites were flooded.

Causeway

According to a movie we watched at the visitors center the emergency spillway has only been breached twice since the dam was built in the 50’s. The first time it flooded was in the 1990’s. The overflow wiped out the lower cottonwood campground and so doing uncovered a fossil graveyard. It’s hard to believe that Iowa was actually the floor of an ocean millions of years ago.

We were wined and dined by Pat and Beth and they they gave us a great tour of the city which included the Black Angel tombstone!

Black AngelLarry and I both had bad colds while in Iowa City, so, we are a little shy on photos and, alas, no photo with the Peace Rock hidden! So this is a good opportunity to explain a little bit about said rock.

The rock was given to us by Laurena Will, a fellow Airstreamer, at Fish Creek Pond. Laurena paints these rocks herself and passes them out to friends and leaves them at places as she travels. Here is a close up of our painted rock given to us by Laurena.

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We’re new to the painted rock phenomenon but basically people paint rocks then hide them at campgrounds. Other people find them, pick them up, leave them alone or rehide them somewhere else. There is even a Facebook group devoted to painted rocks called RVers Rock! Not all campgrounds want painted rocks deposited on there grounds so getting permission is important.

We are participating in this game but giving it a different twist by hiding our rock in pictures along our journey. See Fish Creek Pond and Wabash.

We came across our first painted rock at a campground in Wisconsin. It’s hard to see in this picture but it was a pretty butterfly.

painted rock

Wabash and Erie Canal Park

After we left Jackson Center, Ohio we headed west alongside miles and miles of soy bean and corn fields. It was very hot and humid.

Field and fenceLarry discovered  Canal Park park in Delphi, Indiana using freecampsites.net and it was very sweet. It was a small campground that was in an historic area. We shared the space with other RV’ers and tenters. There was a group of folks with kids with a mishmash of cars and tents and baby strollers. I think that I categorized them as riff raff. You could see that they were smoking cigarettes around the kids. They had an altercation with the camp host which involved loud yelling on both sides. When the contingent left on Sunday, they exited with the loud blaring of horns and racing of the Ford Taurus and Dodge Caravan engines showing the host who was going to have the last word. Yet, throughout the weekend, the posse of 9 or 10 kids all played peacefully. The older kids pushed the younger ones in strollers. There were stroller races, seated pow wows on the grass and boo-boos were quickly soothed with kisses and hugs.

Here is the machine they use to scoop clean the canal.

Water cleaner

The park was along side the Wabash and Erie Canal which was dug with hand tools in the 1830’s. Water ways were the only way to transport materials at that time. It was kind of heart breaking to learn that after all of the work to build the canals, they were rendered obsolete only 30 years later by the railroads.

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Sunflowers and CanalWe were lucky to be able to catch up with old friends from Wakefield and the Wolfeboro Post Office, Rick and Margie Fogelin.

Rick and Margy

We enjoyed being out of doors, despite the heat and it was great to see the birds! Don’t forget to look for the peace rock somewhere in this post.:)

Take Off

Finding Places for Shiny to Stay

I’m asked, quite often, how we find all the neat places we stay at.  I do most of the campsite research and the first thing I’ll say is that it does take a little time. I usually get up in the morning first to get the coffee going and that’s when I do the “finding”. I enjoy the hunt while Susan doesn’t so much, so the system works out good.

First we discuss the general direction we want to go in then the hunt begins. As a rule we do not make reservations ahead. Even so, we seldom have to scramble to find a site. If we do have trouble it’s usually on Friday or Saturday and it’s almost always at State Parks or government run campgrounds like National Parks or US Army Corps Of Engineers campgrounds. Spring Break can be a problem time.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we like to camp as inexpensively as possible. This means it galls us to have to pay for a private campground. Basically we only use private campgrounds when we have to do laundry or dump our tanks. Last winter we were traveling from January to May and averaged less then $15 per day in camping fees. I aim to do better than that this time out!

There are many more but these are my favorite sites, some have phone apps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Creek Pond, LaGrange & The Mothership

And….they’re…off!!! We left home in NH as scheduled for our 6 hour drive to Fish Creek Pond Campground in Saranac, NY. We did leave a piece of our hearts with this little codger.

Connor 4 months

Fish Creek Pond is a beautiful campground with primitive camping. The campground was built in the 1920’s and several folks who we met, shared memories of staying there as kids in the 1960’s.  We got to hang out with Airstream friends and watch part of a 90 mile canoe race.

Canoe raceWeanie roast

As always, nature did her best to wow us.

We have a new addition to the blog! It’s a ‘find the peace rock’ game. Can you find it? Maybe we will have prizes for people who find them. I’ll have to work on that!

Susie peace rock

From the Adirondacks, we headed west on I-90 and stopped east of Buffalo at a truck stop for the night. We were pretty cozy all in all considering that we were protected only by a few sheets of aluminum from passing trucks and cars.

Flying J

The next day we drove to LaGrange, OH where we stayed in Lou and Larry Woodruff’s driveway thanks to a connection we made through the Wally Byam Airstream Club Courtesy Parking program. They were beyond gracious and we even got to sing Happy Birthday and have cake with their 3 year old granddaughter. Before we left, Lou gave us a hand made Minion hat for Connor which Larry is proudly modeling!

 

On the way to the Woodruff’s we encountered a hair raising experience. Towing Shiny through the middle of Cleveland we were bearing left a a split in the highway and we had to dodge pieces of an aluminum ladder and the ladder itself. We made it through the gauntlet unscathed but others were not so lucky. Cars were pulled over to the side with flat tires.

We took advantage of our proximity to Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was great fun but we were pretty confused about why there were so many old people there! 🙂

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Next stop was Airstream in Jackson Center, Ohio where Shiny got a little spa treatment at the Mothership.

I love the various foods that we see and sometimes try on our travels. Alas, we will not be grilling bologna unless it’s at a Mike Jarboe Memorial Cookout!

Balogna