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!

IMG_0068

Those logs and stumps are made from stone!

IMG_0067 (1)

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?

 

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.

IMG_2892

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.

map

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

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! 🙂

IMG_0032

IMG_0034IMG_0036

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

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Larry and I are taking off on an extended road trip in less than a week. When Larry is ready to leave, he is ready to leave. When I am ready to leave, I become like the push me pull me creature from Dr. Dolittle.

jen_061909_a1

Mr. Shakespeare sure had it right when he wrote that parting is a ‘sweet sorrow’. I mean, I feel so lucky to have friends and family who I love so much. I will miss them terribly. And then there is this very strong urge to hit the road and to explore. So, I sit in the middle of this beast with my very sweet sorrow and that is all there is to say.

Happy Trails to you, until we meet again. Some trails are happy ones, others are blue. It’s the way you ride the trail that counts. Here’s a happy one for you!. – Dale Evans

 

Sabao Lake

We had been on the road for an hour already on winding back roads when we finally made it to Route 95 North. The highway sign read, Bangor -130 miles. At that point I was wondering whether this trip to Sabao Lake Campground was going to be worth the drive. Once we hit Bangor, we would have another 45 minutes of travel and then we’d finish the trip with 11 miles on a dirt road to get to the campground.

map revised

I know you can’t stand the suspense, so I’ll answer the question now, “Yes! It was worth it.” As a matter of fact, we are calling it a gem! The campground is managed by a friend of ours, Arthur Tenan, and we are grateful for his warm hospitality. The campground is on land owned by a paper company and is leased by the Tenan family. We were told that the water in front of the camper was deep because they used to run the logs through there in the winter. The logs floating through formed a deep channel.

The camp is situated on a beautiful lake. The sites are big and, for the most part, we were the only people there. In our terminology, it is primitive camping, which means no electric hook up, no septic, no laundry, no water and very little cell service. There are several well maintained outhouses. We watched eagles and kingfishers dive for food, listened to bull frogs croak and loons cry for 4 days.

 

There was one log on the lake that was a favorite hang out for turtles. The woods and beaches had a great variety of wild flowers including a wild orchid, Rose Pogonia, some Shin leaf, water lilies and Pippsissewa.

We took nice hikes on nearby ATV trails and found an old bus that we learned had housed loggers who were working nearby back in the 40’s and 50’s. Given the sign on the bus, I am sure there were some more recent inhabitants as well.

Magic Bus

We had a pretty exciting moment when, after watching storm clouds for 30 minutes or so, I ran to Shiny as the wind picked up suddenly. I turned to see a funnel of water rising off of the lake. We made it into Shiny just in time to get the windows closed as the micro burst blew by, which was no small feat. Alas, Shiny did sustain some cosmetic damage and a tree fell down right near us. Luckily we weren’t hurt.

And, if you think that was terrifying, why, the next morning, we were drinking our coffee and the side table gave way and ALL of our fresh coffee spilled on the ground. We are still recovering from that. Luckily, the guardian angels of Shiny were with with us and we proceeded without harm.

IMG_7905

As usual, we meet very nice people on our travels and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Greg, our campsite host, who made us feel at home and looked after us even though he was on crutches. Thank you for your service to our country, Greg! On our last evening at the camp site, our peace and tranquility were broken by the arrival of some party-ready folks. Imagine our surprise and delight when one of them arrived at our campsite with a few pounds of fresh steamers complete with a can of beer in which to cook them! They were delicious and such a selfless gift from a stranger.

Susie and Larry 2

 

We returned home feeling refreshed and glad for the reminder of life on the road. Now for a few more doctor’s appointments and jury duty and then, if the stars align, we hit the road again.

Sign

For reservations call 207-546-3828. Downeast Wilderness Experiences does have a Facebook page as well. Tell them Shiny sent you!

 

South Llano, San Angelo, and Inks Lake State Parks – Texas

We have slowed way down into Shiny-time and the days have turned into weeks. We aren’t sure what day of the week it is. When one of us is in a hurry, the other will remind about shiny-time. It’s a lot about being in the present. Shiny-time is a great gift that Larry and I have received on this trip and we are grateful for that. Even in these ideal conditions, it’s easy to forget about the gift of shiny-time. I hope that, when I return to a home without wheels, I will still listen to her wisdom!

So, we’ve been to three state parks in the past 2 1/2 weeks or so. Each was beautiful in its own way. All had great hikes and at this time of year, all had lovely spring flowers. We have found that you have to reserve way ahead of time if you want a site during the weekends. Please add this neck of the woods to your bucket list!

Now for the photo tour. Enjoy!

The  South Llano River had pecan trees along its banks.

Larry spied these deer in the morning.

So much to see!

Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow. Does anyone know what kind?

San Pedro was windy and hot

Inks Lake was an incredible combination of hills, water, flowers, hikes and ROCKS!! Shiny had a nice shady place to rest.

Shiny

Did I say, ‘rocks’?

Gneiss Rocks

Then there are the lovely Spring flowers. I must have seen 6 different types of mugworts!

The combo

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend is in the southern part of Texas and is along the border with Mexico. To get there, you have to drive for several hours through uninhabited desert land. When Larry and I drove there, it was about 95 degrees.  Once we entered the park, we still had 40 more miles to go before we would arrive at the campground. As we headed into ever more stark and dry landscape, our moods slowly dropped as we imagined being in Shiny in the full desert sun for four day. We were delightfully surprised when this lovely oasis near the Rio Grande came into sight.

OasisThere was no electricity at the campsite but we were able to generate quite a bit with our solar panels. Alas, on either side of us were two big motor homes and they stayed cool by running their generators constantly. And, one of them had a huge TV screen on the outside of their rig and they watched March Madness basketball games with the volume on. So, needless to say, the feng shui of the site wasn’t the best. We were lucky to be in the shade of a big cottonwood. We had to trust the Fates in the middle of the night when the wind was REALLY BLOWING!

Under the treeThe park was big and raw and beautiful. Some of the rocky landscapes looked like we were on another planet.

We couldn’t help but think about the proposed wall along the border. Many types of animals migrate back and forth on land, air and water. Seemed like the wall would be an ecologic disaster to say the least. We found little walking sticks and wire beaded animals for sale on one of our hikes. Two young men waded across the Rio Grande and up to the items for sale, checked the money box, tidied up the display, and left and waded back across.

On our many hikes, we saw lots of wild life and beautiful spring flowers. It was hard to imagine how such life could exist in such a harsh environment.

We feel so lucky to have these parks in our country and to be able to have so much fun in them!

the wall