Tuesday, August 28, 2007

(28) The Copper Country, Houghton & Hancock Michigan

The Copper Country
Hancock/Houghton Michigan


I’ve arrived in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) where the folks are known at Yoopers. My sister Ann still lives here, but has big plans for a move. She’s planning on moving to Minneapolis to be closer to one of her daughters and to find a better paying job. She has the education and experience in the field of elder care, working in an assisted living facility and I know she’ll be able to find a much better job in a bigger city.

I’m staying again at the Hancock Beach campground, $18 a night for elect. & cable T.V. The campsites aren’t as pretty as last year, as they’ve had virtually no rain all summer and all the grass has died out. Many of the leaves on the trees are wilted from lack of rain and a couple of the maple trees have already turned color from the lack of rain.

This is a time to relax and just hang out. Ann of course has to work so we don’t get a chance to see each other every day as her work schedule changes constantly.

There’s a short walk through the woods lining the Portage lake canal that leads to the swimming beach. I love walking along this old path, listening to the birds and the gentle lapping of the water against the rocky shore line. The trees forming a canopy overhead. Occasionally the wake of a boat will reach shore and I can hear the crashing of waves for a couple of minutes… then back to the quite lapping of water once again.

My home town of Houghton is getting some grant money and a number of downtown building are sprucing up, putting new siding on and renovating a number of the stores. This town has such potential being a University town. It’s nice to see improvements being made. I had lunch at a fairly new chain restaurant called Joey’s Seafood and Grill. It’s Canadian owned and is a pleasant touch of urban upscale in an historical town. The foods pretty good too.

Driving past the Swedish Lutheran Church where I was baptized and went to Sunday school as a young boy, the Lode Theatre where we used to get a summer season pass to see all the great serials like The Lone Ranger or Superman who always ended up in a cliff hanger, (to be solved the next week) cartoons and a movie, and the Carnegie Library where I learned to improve my reading skills and gained a love of books.

I’ve been to the Quincy Mine for tours of the mine and inside some of the buildings, but on Wed. I took a walking tour of the grounds led by a young ranger. A perfect day, sparkling sunny and the temperature hovering around 82 degrees. We walked around some of the abandoned machinery, learning how each piece had a specific purpose for mining copper, peaking into one of the old company homes with it’s layers of wallpaper peeling off. Wallpaper was a real hit back in the early 1900’s. Initials and dates carved on the old wood siding by youngsters just learning reading and writing. Talking about the local history in the shade of the birch trees, seeing the water towers used along the railroad lines for the steam engines and how they had wood or coal heaters to keep the water from freezing in winter. They used steam hoists in the mines and train cars would drive right through the steam hoist buildings to deliver the coal, an operation that ran 24 hours a day.

Watching the local news from Marquette or Escanaba, some of the news broadcasters being very young and inexperienced. Almost embarrassing to watch. The big story in Hancock is the new condo building that has gone up right next to the lift bridge. Although they had gotten approved to build the Condo’s, they didn’t have final plans for connecting water/sewer lines or access to the extra parking needed. Besides that, the builders apparently went over the height restrictions and construction has been halted. No one in the community likes this new building and are upset that it blocks some of the view of the bridge. Progress is difficult up here in the U.P.

Hancock is celebrating Grandmothers by displaying stories of local Grandma’s on old doors artistically painted. Cute but a bit overdone. There are a lot of decorated doors in town.
Ann and I had another outing, going to Ming’s Restaurant up on the hill in Houghton. Excellent Chinese food, perfectly prepared and piping hot. We then went to a Used book store and had fun finding some great books to read. An evening of playing domino’s and eating popcorn with Ann and Jim (Ann won) and we completed a fun day together.

Simple pleasures, small towns, Dollar Bay, Calumet, Laurium, Gay, Eagle Harbor, country drives surrounded by maple, birch and pine forests, views of Portage Lake and Lake Superior, squirrels and chipmunks playing around the campsites.

(27) St Cloud, Duluty Minnesota, Apostle Islands Wisconsin



St Cloud, Minn.

Duluth, Minn.

Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

Lake Superior


A new time zone and a new state. Temp in the mid to high 70’s. This evening it got down to 49 degrees.

When I travel, I try to observe the surroundings and notice small changes especially between states, which in many cases can be quite dramatic. South Dakota, except for the Black Hills and Bad Lands to the West is all prairie. But it changes very subtly from prairie grasses out west, to gradually more cultivated wheat and grain farms going east, to finally corn fields, sunflowers and other rich farm lands nourished by regular rains. Big sky where you can see thunder storms rolling in from miles away.

The changes into Minnesota, it’s western edge ending the prairie landscape, moves into some of the most lush farmlands I’ve seen all year. Finding a jazz station on the radio, far out from any large or even small towns, providing some good music that seems perfect with this pastoral scenery. Small rural communities along hwy 23, some with as few as 114 pop. And right on the final edge of the prairie, with it’s constant winds, I come across a huge Wind Farm. Those massive three bladed windmills producing tons of free electricity for their communities, spread out from the N.W. to the S.E along the tops of gentle rolling farm lands.
Each farm with it’s silos, barns, farmhouse and outbuildings all congregated together, usually all painted or accented in the same colors of straw yellow, powder blues or shades of green and the more typical barn red of course. Trimmed in crisp white or against the brushed weathered aluminum of the silos or the gray concrete. One in particular was done in an historic tan, white trim and the grayish metal of the aluminum and looked striking against the deep rich green trees and fields. These are some of the best maintained and healthy farm lands I’ve seen in three years of travels. I also noticed that virtually all of the homes are well maintained as well, very rarely seeing a mobile home anywhere. Actually there are, but they are manufactured homes with regular siding and all are on permanent foundations, many I’m sure with basements.

Ponds and lakes are dotted evenly throughout the state and I’ve seen many signs for “resorts” along the lake frontage. The entire state is cottage country, where so many folks have a camp next to a lake, many times just 20 miles from their home. But much of my travel through the state has been a bit on the edge, since my truck has been giving me problems again. A slight hesitation, feeling that one or more of the spark plugs are miss firing and a loss of over 1-2 miles per gallon. So I had Settled into St. Cloud MN, in the very center of the state, so that I could bring it in for a check up and repairs. A Chevy dealer in town, Gilleland’s, was able to get me in first thing in the morning. Good thing because stuff like this are the few things that give me sleepless nights. They ended up giving the truck a fuel injection and piston cleaning and I’m pretty sure that did the trick. Something I understand they recommend being done every 15,000 miles and my truck has 86,000 miles on it. Opps.

Heading north north east on the road to Duluth, the farms in this area have not had the good luck of the southern portion of the state, having little rain, most of their crops already lost. The farms are smaller as well, with more woods growing around them as the scenery changes to full northern forest. The type of country I grew up in. Rock outcroppings over much of the land, some rocks with moss growing on them in the shade of the maple trees that will turn those vibrant fall colors in only a little over a months time.

Hwy 23 ends at hwy 35 which will carry me north into Duluth and finally the roads smooth out. Gloriously smooth asphalt. I exit 4 miles before entering Duluth to get to the campground on Spirit Mountain. I’m camping on top of a ski resort. If it weren’t for the trees I’d have a splendid view of Duluth with it’s shipping harbor and Lake Superior. The largest of the great lakes. Containing 10% of the worlds fresh water and at it‘s deepest, 1,333 feet deep. Jump in, the water about 40 degrees on average.

Entering Duluth from the south end on hwy 35, I get an awesome view of the city below. Descending down the gentle curving highway, I’m able to see both Duluth and Superior Wisconsin on the other side. Deep forested hillsides, bridges spanning the busy waterway, with train depots and ship yards surrounding the bay and Lake superior with it’s deep blue waters reaching out to the northern horizon with Canada invisible on the other side.

My new friend, Paulie, who joined the Roving Reports through a mutual friend of mine from work, Nancy, has been forwarding my reports on up to Paulie in Duluth. Paulie and I went on a short tour of Duluth to get me acquainted with the area. I was also to meet Paulie’s daughter, Amanda and her friend Stephanie the next day for brunch at Amazing Grace. A cool diner in the basement of a hip downtown shopping area. Right on the water and their famous lift bridge. We timed it right, and we were able to see one of the massive ore boats coming in off the Lake Superior. They are huge massive ships transporting all the raw materials like coal, iron ore and grain in the fall, vie the inland seas of the Great lakes. Paulie has a relative who worked on the ore freighters and she has actually been on them out at sea. Isn’t that just too cool.

Now you have to watch those Duluth drivers…. Paulie, who actually lives across the river in Superior Wisconsin, went through a red light in the heart of downtown … Actually it was partially my fault, since we were both talking up a storm. Oh, and when I met up with Stephanie and Amanda the following day, did I mention they are both Classical Ballet Dancers! Can you imagine, I was escorted around town by two beautiful, and thin, (how to make someone feel fat), young professionals living an artistic life in this mix of both an industrial town, shipping center, and a cosmopolitan town all rolled into one. Amanda was super kind to treat us to brunch and then we all walked around their wonderful Lake side promenade. Passing more shops and restaurants (Fitger‘s renovated brewery), a rose garden that is very spectacular, a grassy park overlooking the lake where they set up an inflatable movie screen and have free movies at night, past the Leafe Erickson ship (currently shrink wrapped for protection) and a statue of Leafe as well. I even got to see the historic Grain Stock Exchange, where the Ballet Company currently resides.

There are just a ton of touristy things to see and do and I will not begin to be able to get to all of them. They have two Train rides one can take as well as a Train museum, a couple of boat tours, aquariums (don’t waste your time on this one… only lake fish are in the aquariums), a zoo and tons of museums to visit. A couple of historic mansions, including one that has a scandalous death involved with it. Who knew Duluth could have such interesting things to see and do.

I visited the William A Irvin freighter today. A huge 600 ft freighter (the new ones are 1,000 ft) that once hauled coal and ire ore. One of the tourists, a woman who had just had knee surgery a week earlier and was climbing up and down all those ladder steps, was there because her father worked on ships like this for 40 years, working up from cabin boy all the way to becoming the ships captain. Her father also was on the maiden voyage of the Edmond Fitzgerald. The freighter that sank during a violent storm on Lake Superior.

A Hidden Undiscovered place.

My last day in Duluth ended up being cut short, as the campground I was in had my campsite reserved for someone else and they had asked me to move. But when I packed up to move, there was someone on the other campsite as well. So I decided to head out a short distance over into Wisconsin and go to the Apostle Islands area. Most people don’t even realize that Wisconsin has lake shore on both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior and the northern Superior end is a true hidden gem.
The Apostle Islands (20 islands in all) is one of the newest National parks, as of 1970 and an additional island was added in 1986. I think it just popped up out of the lake.
To let you know how undiscovered this area is, Paulie, my guide in Duluth was not even aware that there were tour boats going out to the islands. She thought the only way to get to them was by kayak. And I’ve got to tell you, this is a true boaters paradise. One can kayak through the island chain, camp out on many of the islands and explore sea caves and 6 light houses. I took the scenic narrated cruise which went past the recently renovated Raspberry Island Lighthouse and a fish camp on one of the other islands. It was a two hour cruise, the one I really wanted to go on was a 4 hour sunset cruise that went by a couple more lighthouses and the sea caves. There are cruises that stop on Raspberry Island so you can tour the lighthouse as well as others that leave you on one of the island for a couple of hours of hiking and adventure or overnight for camping. Or you can take a ferry over to the only island that’s inhabited and visit their museum and see what it‘s like to live on an island out in Lake Superior. There are even private sail boats that will take you on a more individualized tour. What fun.

I will definitely come back and explore this area when I have more time. The small towns on the peninsula, Washburn, where I’m staying at one of two city campgrounds and Bayfield where the boats go out to the islands are charming. Bayfield has lots of B&B’s, houses for rent as well as quaint hotels and churches all nestled along the forested hills overlooking the Apostle Islands and the marina. Bayfield in particular looks like an undiscovered seaside village. Well, not exactly undiscovered, we tourist do fill up the town with our cars.

Now this is really something too. In between the two main towns, is The Big Top Chautauqua Tent on Mt. Ashwabay, where they have summer music performances from July through August. Almost every night of the week! Of course a couple of big performers like Willie Nelson and the Garrison Keillor show perform here. I have got to come back. A number of radio stations broadcast the shows and their on the internet as well.

Note to campers, the two city parks in Washburn charge $20 a night for elect. And cable T.V. $15 a night w/ no hookups. Cheaper rates are available for weekly and seasonal stays. Chequamegon Natl. Forest has numerous campgrounds as well. Bayfield also has a couple of campgrounds, one on a cliff overlooking the islands, but I didn’t check them out.

Final note, if you’re a lighthouse lover, you simply must take a circle tour of Lake Superior or all of the great lakes if you have the time.

Whew,,,, I almost burned up the keyboard on this report.

(26) Hot Springs, Mt Rushmore, Blackhills South Dakota

Hot Springs SD
Mt Rushmore SD
Blackhills Forest SD
Custer State Park SD

Howdy Partner from out west. After leaving the Devils Tower area in Wyoming, I crossed over the border into SW corner of South Dakota. I decided to make my camping area around Hot Springs South Dakota because the bike rally is going on up further north in Sturgis SD not far from Mt Rushmore. The rally begins around the 1st of Aug and goes through the 14th. So if you decide to travel out this way, you may wish to avoid that timeframe as there are literally thousands of bikers in the area. And one has to be cautious. I almost had a biker run into me when he swerved into my lane. Fortunately, I was able to swerve on the shoulder as he swerved back into his lane and we avoided what could have been a deadly accident for him.
But getting back to adventures. The Hot Springs SD area has one major attraction, which is the Mammoth Site, besides of course the natural healing springs in the area. If I soak in and drink anymore healings waters as I cross the country, I may become a superman.
The Mammoth site is where large Mammoth got trapped in a sinkhole depression with a natural spring feeding into it 26,000 years ago. The large mammoth would climb down into the sinkhole for water and couldn’t get out. This is the only site “in situ”, meaning the bones have been left in-place. A 20,000 sq ft visitor center covers the entire site for tours and continued digs. How exciting to see an actual dig that is ongoing and to see the discoveries still intact where they were found.

Other finds include camel, giant short-faced bear and antelope. The site was discovered when digging began for a new housing development back in 1974. So this is a very recent discovery.

After spending a couple of days in the area, I drove up early in the morning to get to Mt Rushmore before the bikers descended on the area. My timing was perfect and I had no problem getting to Mt Rushmore. What a spectacular area of the country. I drove through vast prairie land, with grasses so uniform, it looked like someone had come through and trimmed it. Then I traveled west into the Black hills and was met by these ancient hills covered in forest. A wonderful contrast as I descended and rose again through the mountain range and forest before arriving at the small town of Keystone, pop. 311, just outside of Mt Rushmore. I would have liked to have had lunch there after visiting Mt Rushmore, but the town was already completely covered with motorcycles. No place for a big ol truck to park.
I had a neat conversation with one of the history buffs in the Gutzon Borglum studio. We discussed Borglum’s desire to have a Hall of Records built. Mr. Borglum had already started to build the hall of records (behind Lincoln’s head) without telling the backers of the project. When they found out, they had him stop it and complete the statues first. Probably a good idea, because he died right after completing the last statue. His idea was that all great civilizations die out eventually and there should be a record to go with the monument to tell people what it represented. I think we should encourage Congress to fund the completion of the Hall of records and store all the knowledge possible in some form (CD’s, DVD’s or some readable format) of the great knowledge of the world.

Could we have a nuclear disaster, an asteroid that could wipe out most of the population or an epidemic that could kill most of the population (currently at 6 billion people) or a holy war that would destroy this country and much of the knowledge of the world. Who knows. Having the worlds knowledge stored in a safe place, could help a civilization rebuild. Ok, I’ve ready way to many history and sci-fi books. But it’s something to think about. Think about it, what do we know about the Druids, The Anasazi, the Pyramid builders, the Aztec (who had thousands of written books but the Jesuit Priests destroyed all of them) and Mayan cultures. Only what little evidence they left behind.

Oh, his relatives were able to collect enough funds and have installed a small Titanium vault and deposited information on the four Presidents and some history of this country and printed it on porcelain plates. Partially fulfilling his dream.

I decided to take the “scenic” route back to the campground and discovered why the bikers like to ride in this area. Besides all the neat attractions, the Black Hills area has some super great twisty roads to bike on. For a truck like mine, not so much fun, but what the heck, it’s an adventure. Leaving Keystone, I drove through the Black Hills via 16a. A road that is not only curvy twisty, but has corkscrew roads and a half dozen tunnels to go through. Now you’ll have to picture this cause theirs no way I could stop and take a picture. The corkscrew roads area actually tight, really tight, circular roads spiraling upwards, that come around and over themselves, via log bridges, suspended high above the corkscrew below. Then, with bikers now in front and behind me, we travel over one way bridges and into tunnels that can only fit one vehicle at a time. Honk before you enter, to let the vehicles coming from the other direction know your coming through. Occasionally the narrow two lane road splits into single lanes each way, around the Black Hill trees and gullies.

Then as if that wasn’t enough, I enter the Custer State Park and the Wind Cave National Park via the Wildlife Loop Rd. Now with all of the motorcycles making a dearth of noise, I didn’t think I’d see much wildlife. The views expanded back between forest and prairie landscape dotted with evergreens spaced to look like a very well designed and manicured park. Well, lo and behold, wildlife was everywhere. Needless to say, us bigger vehicles and the bikers were constantly stopping, literally right on the road to take pictures. South Dakota’s largest bison herd is here, burro’s, and American Pronghorn Antelope. Wow! It’s like they all came out to say hi. Oh, if anyone is still in contact with Beverly Heroy, let her know that I saw the neat burro’s and I understand why her and her husband have gone into raising them. They are the darndest cute things you’ve ever seen.

Would a tour of South Dakota be complete without visiting the SD Hall of Fame? Tom Brokaw, Vana White (couldn‘t find Vana‘s picture) … and other notable folks…. Well, I wouldn’t go out of my way, lets put it that way.

I did do some off the beaten path touring, looking for Ft Defiance. Couldn’t find it, but did go through a Sioux Tribe Reservation and along the road overlooking the Missouri River (really awesome views), I stopped to take a few pictures. Looking into a gully, I spotted a car! Not sure if an accident just occurred or not. Got closer and closer and it looked like it had been there maybe a couple of months, but still relatively new. Didn’t see any dead bodies so I took some pictures and reported it to the local police. Come to find out, it’s on reservation land, and has been there for at least 4-6 months. No one is in any hurry to recover it. Looked like a fairly decent car. Abandoned after the accident.

I’m crossing the state on hwy 90. Think about it. I’ve started in the southern states going across hwy 10 and now I’m up along the northern states going across the highest federal highway. Wow. In any case, I had to stop in Wall Drug Store. It’s world famous as one of the biggest drugstores and most unique. Actually it has a bunch of kitschy stuff and lots and lots of tourist junk for sale. It reminded me of a haphazard country store that kept expanding into the next strip mall store next to it. Knocking out walls or openings into the next section. Eventually taking up nearly a whole block. Interesting for a state that doesn’t have too much going between one end to the other. A great state to drive through and enjoy the prairie scenery. Farms and ranches that are described in the thousands of acres, not hundreds.

My final big stop was in Mitchell SD. The Corn Palace. This is a must see. Originally built back in 1892 to dispel the Lewis and Clarks assessment that the prairie lands were only suitable for buffalo and that nothing could grow here except grass. The Corn Palace was built to display all of the agricultural products that are grown in South Dakota. This is the third palace, built in 1921. The fa├žade is redone each year at a cost of over $100,000. That’s a lot of corn and grains. It’s a nice town overall as well. I also stopped at a prehistoric Mandan Indian village (1,000 years old) that’s covered by an Archedome for archeological digs and study. Approx 70-80 lodges were built on this site and they are discovering new secrets about the Indian lifestyle with each successive dig.

PS, I’m staying in a small park that’s next to the site where the outlaw Jesse James leaped across Devil’s Gulch with his horse to avoid being captured after robbing a bank in Minn. With his brother Frank.

(25) Billings Montanta, Sheridan, Devils Tower Wyoming




Billings Montana
Sheridan Wyoming
Devils Tower Wyoming

Excerpt from a message to my friend Patrick R.

“Odd you should mention the moon. I almost wrote about the moon the other night, my last night in Yellowstone. I was sitting outside till about 9:30, not really wanting to go inside. The weather was just perfect and the evenings setting sun was … lighting up the mountain ranges opposite my campsite. The mountain ranges on the other side of the valley creating a soft overlapping V shape as the sky continued to turn darker and darker. Then, almost ET like, a light appeared over the top of one of the mountains. It was so bright, I at first thought, it must be some kind of electric light. Within minutes of course, I was able to see a full moon as it appeared over the ridge. The night was so clear and the moon was so bright, I could make out all of the craters and features on the surface of the moon.... I swear, if man were still on the moon, I'm sure I would have been able to see them.”

After leaving Yellowstone (elevation 7,500 ft) and descending down into Montana, I was surprised at how much warmer it is. Like it got up to 102 today! While in Yellowstone, it would get into the mid 80’s most days and as soon as the sun started going down, the temp was just awesome. Cool and refreshing. I’m at a city campground (Lauren) just outside of Billings, next to the Yellowstone River and a refinery on the other side of the road. Yes, an oil refinery that makes gas for folks in Minn. And Wisconsin. Can you imagine. In Montana. Who knew Montana could get so hot.

I was watching the boats come out of the river this evening. They’re called ski boats. Big aluminum hulls. They have the same type of jet propulsion as a jet ski. No propeller and can they move across this fast moving river. They tell me they’re great because when the river gets low, they can travel in about 4 inches of water and not have to worry about all the river rocks. Imagine. Wouldn’t it be great if we had that kind of boat in Florida to save the Manatees. No propellers to cut up the Manatees.

Did you know Montana has less than 1 million people in the whole state? Now that’s space to roam. Also noticed all the buildings have a vestibule. You know, an extra set of doors going into a place before you get into the store proper, to keep the cold out. It must really get cold up here. Like minus 32 in the winter. Yikees!

Odd to see The Yellowstone river next to a refinery, next to a small cattle ranch, next to cornfields, growing right up to the edge of the highway overpass. And you can find a casino on just about every corner, even in the local gas stations. Haven’t gone in one yet, but might before moving on. And what’s Kino?

Heading out from Billings MT, I’ve traveling hwy 90, which curves down into Wyoming and then east. Along the way, is the Little Bighorn Battlefield (formerly Custer’s Last Stand) National Monument. All the way driving there, I had in the back of my mind a little prayer that I would get something out of it, besides American soldiers killing Indians (Lakota and Cheyenne among others) and vice versa… and considering the Indians won in this instance.

As fortune would have it, I joined a historical discussion led by Francis Takes Enemy, a Native American. What was supposed to be a simple discussion on the gear that the Army had to carry, 150 lbs, as they went into battle, ended up being a slice of life at the time this all occurred back in 1876.

Many that had joined the army were immigrants who spoke no English and needed money. It was a way for them to learn English and earn enough to start a new life. However, Army rules were very strict and they had an over 8% suicide rate. It was a lonely existence out on the prairie.

The Lakota and Cheyenne were nomadic Indians that preferred to move from place to place, mostly following and hunting the Bison. A Treaty was signed in 1868 giving the Indians the right too continue their hunting and also setting aside a large portion of eastern Wyoming as a reservation. When gold was discovered in the area, the pioneers could not be kept out. Although the Army tried. In a secret pact, the President signed an order basically revoking the Indians rights to hunt and trap as per the treaty and told them to go to the reservations immediately.
The Lakota and Cheyenne were tired of the white man backing down all of his agreements and continued to hunt. Ignoring the new edict. The pioneers and Army had little knowledge of the Indians way of life, little regard for their hunting grounds nor knowledge of the treaties that had been signed.

Francis Takes Enemy became passionate about telling the story of her people, and near the end said, “Just like the men that made up of the Army’s under Custer and the two other columns, many of us are descendants of German, French, Irish, Dutch and Italian“. As tears came streaming down her round gentle face, she said, “The one thing I want you to get out of this, is that we need to respect each others cultures, learn from them and live in peace”. Silence. As streams of tears were coming down the faces in the audience. Everyone learning and understanding a bit more today than yesterday.

Healing did begin as early as the 1920’s, when a few of the survivors on both sides met to figuratively bury the hatchet. It took until 1991 for George H. W. Bush to sign an act to create an Indian Memorial at the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Finally commemorating the loss to both sides and hopefully the beginning to understanding.

Driving a little further into Wyoming, I land in Sheridan. A truly western town and proud of it. As I drove into town for lunch, I saw 4 young elk with their 3 and 4 point fuzzy antlers walking along the sidewalk in a residential area not more than 3 blocks from town. Trees helping to separate them from the cars slowing down, but continuing to move along the roadway. Now that’s when you know you live in the country!

It’s a very vibrant western town and even though they have a big Wal-Mart on the edge of town, the main street is very active with every store front filled with western clothing stores and just everyday downtown shops and restaurants. I even visited “The Trail End” home of John Benjamin Kendric, built in 1913 in a Flemish Revival style. It took over 5 years to construct and had all the latest electric appliances. Even a built in vacuum cleaner and an elevator. But like many big mansions I‘ve visited, the owners hardly had any time to use it. Actually only one year, since Kendric became Governor and moved his family to Cheyenne and then became a Senator after that. They ended up using it as a “summer home”. Image. His daughter and family eventually lived in it for about 30 years before closing it up.

I’m now traveling through large expanses of rolling prairie land, changing from sage to open grass lands going from horizon to horizon. Erosion wearing away some of the rounded rolling hills creating gullies and deeper valleys.

Wyoming has oil fields dotted among these prairies as well as rich open pit coal mines. The black coal looking shiny against the morning sun.

I was planning on staying in a state park not far from Devils Tower, but ended up missing it and driving with the camper, right to Devils Tower, off the beaten path in the NE corner of Wyoming. My friends Betty and Dave spent a summer hear a couple years ago as camp hosts. Devils Tower is the first National Monument every created. There’s a wonderful mile long trail around the base of the Tower. Perfect, early in the morning before the crowds descend on the place.
Note: I’ve left out a lot of things I toured and took pictures off as they didn’t seem to have a compelling story to be told. Well, maybe the Montana state park that had Indian pictographs in a couple of caves. Unfortunately one can not see 99% of them after they decided to clean them with a sand blaster. Gheeeez.

Ps, ps, I just got back from an evening Ranger talk on climbing the Devils Tower. Interesting, of course I don’t think I would ever climb something like that, but after the talk, and as we are leaving the amphitheatre, looking up at the black silhouette of the Devils Tower, we are able to see climbers lights flickering on the side of the mountain. Can you imagine. It usually takes between 4 and 6 hours on average to climb to the top (taking the easiest route), and a couple of hours coming back down. Many come down in the dark. We were able to see 4 lights flickering as the climbers descended, only their flashlights providing light to see by. Everything else, pitch black.

(24) Grand Teton Wyoming continued.. Yellowstone NP

Grand Teton, Continued….
Yellowstone, South End, Grand Loop, North End

Barely minutes go by, and my adventure continues. Back at the Teton Lodge, I send out my last report and then I find the table and chairs that were used in the signing of an accord between Reagan and Khrushchev. I sit in both chairs, butt to butt where Reagan and Khrushchev sat hoping to pick up a vibe. No vibe today, probably for the better.
I then go outside, and find the path to Lunch Top mountain, where John D Rockefeller the II used to go when he was first introduced to the Grand Tetons. It was his favorite spot to view the mountains and have lunch. The other trails outside of the lodge were all closed due to recent bear sightings. After hiking up the hill, it too had the rest of the trail blocked due to bears in the area. But the views from the top are very inspiring. And probably are what made him decide to buy up so much of the valley for future generations to enjoy.


I then drove over to the Cunningham cabin. One of the original ranch cabins in the Jackson Hole valley. Another one of those places where you walk around the pastures surrounding the cabin, with constant views of the Teton Mountains off in the distance. Prairie dogs peaking their heads out of there dens, or standing on their hind feet, with their front paws just hanging there, looking so darn cute. Solitude and peace fill the air as I silently walk along the dirt paths. Streams gurgling through the pastures. Others come and go, as I walk the paths one more time, not eager to leave this place. I sit on a wooden fence, worn from years of harsh weather and snows. The sun feels warm as I gaze out over those bewitching mountains. What is it about them that makes one constantly want to see them.

Later as I go back to the campsite, more moose are out and everyone has to stop and watch including me. While at the campsite, reading a book, just enjoying a quiet afternoon, a silver fox walks right through my campsite. His big fluffy tail straight out behind him, making him look twice as long as he really is. Wildlife, it’s everywhere. Thrilling. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this place.

And then it’s time to go. I’ve packed up once again, and I’m heading up the road into Yellowstone. You know, it backs right up to The Grand Teton National Park. All yesterday I was in a bit of a tizzy knowing I would be leaving the next day. The Mountains got me good.
But, the excitement of exploring a new destination awaits as I head out early in the morning. I had already driven into Yellowstone a couple days before just to get a feel for the place. Once there, I decided to go check out the main feature, Old Faithful. It is what it is and the hike around to the other steaming caldrons and geysers made for a full day. On my way back, I stopped at the grand Yellowstone Lodge and bumped into my camping neighbors from Teton who had already moved on. What a pleasant surprise. We chatted about old times… (two days ago). They have a cottage up on Lake Tahoe. Invited me to come on up and stay a while…. Now isn’t that nice.

But back to my trip into Yellowstone…. The road is narrow and crosses the Continental Divide a couple of times, so I wanted to get into Yellowstone before the road traffic got too heavy. And to my great surprise, I saw a black bear cross the road. What a great way to start a day. Do you know what the continental divide refers too??? I had a couple ask me and (smarty me) told them it refers to the land where the rivers to the east of the continental divide go east, many connecting to the Missouri and Mississippi and the rivers to the west of the divide flow west. It’s not a straight line by any means and I’ve crossed it numerous times while out west on this trip. The pioneers travels along the Oregon and Santa Fe trail were eager to get to the Continental Divide, hoping to be able to use the western rivers as a means of transportation. Most of the time, they had no idea they had crossed the divide and besides the rivers were too rugged to use for transportation and they had to walk or ride theirs horses the rest of the way.

So you see, a short drive into Yellowstone becomes an adventure and a part of history. I even stopped at one of the Continental Divide signs at 8,762 ft elevation in Yellowstone. A small lake covered with lily pads had the distinction of feeding rivers to the east and west of the divide. Ok, so I thought it was pretty cool anyway.

Today I drove the lower loop in the park. One really gets the feel of the park taking one of their loop tours. Mine took well over 6 hours. This is a big park. The first leg I traveled along the western edge of the Yellowstone Lake, all misty first thing in the morning. Traveling through the park, I was able to see the devastation of the 1988 fires and the rebirth of a forest. The new growth is anywhere from about 10 feet high to about 20 ft. Where ever the burn occurred, I’m able to see the topography so much easier. It’s rather inspiring to see all the new lodge pole pines growing back and so healthy. Fireweed, a lavender wildflower that easily blooms for a couple of years after a devastating fire are still blooming in the open fields. Maybe natures way of saying it’s going to be ok. Hmm maybe that’s why they have cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. each spring…. Hope for a better future.

Although I wasn’t that overly impressed at seeing the Old Faithful area, once you see the caldrons, mud pots, steaming vents, mud volcano’s and bubbling water coming out of the lakes and streams all around the lake and Caldara, it’s much easier to get inspired and awed by the size of this collapsed volcano. Of course it’s still active and knowing that and seeing the visible results really gives one an odd feeling, knowing your inside of an active volcano. I loved the sounds that were made by the dragons tongue. It sounded like a violent ocean crashing out of the cave, the water roaring and churning from the gasses pushing up against the cave opening. Other hissing and gurgling.

From a part of the old forest, with it’s huge lodge pole pines reaching for the skies, the road suddenly opened into a vast rolling prairie, right in the middle of the park. And as if on queue, bison came running across the plains, down into the valleys and back up over the rolling hills. What a site, hearing their hooves pounding and dust flying all around them. An awesome site that gave me a brief glimpse of what it would have been like a hundred years ago when our pioneers first set eyes on the bison. Of course back then, there were, I’ve been told, millions of buffalo and that it would sometimes take days before they would all thunder by.

I still hadn’t seen a male antelope with it’s big antlers and after almost giving up, now heading south back to the campground, I passed a sign that said “Antelope Meadow” and their was a lone antelope and a coyote. Easy to spot, with all the cars and campers pulled over to the side of the road. Both seemed oblivious to all us tourists watching from the edge of the road. The coyote sniffing out his prey, small squirrels and mice, then smelling their scent or movement, he’d leap up and pounce down on them. Catching his prey most times. The antelope and coyote passing each other in complete disregard for each other.

My last three days, I’ve arrived at the north entrance, Mammoth Springs. It’s where a small Army post was first established to protect this new National Park back in the late 1800‘s. Many of the original buildings are here. Since no funds had yet been assigned by congress to pay for staff and make roads and all those essentials in a new park, there were many poachers taking advantage of the big game in the area. The Army helped bring order to this new park while it grew and became what it is today.

My campsite is on the side of a valley, the old Army post, visitor center, museum above me along with Mammoth Springs on top of a plateau. I have an expansive view of the valley with the road leading north out of the park. Opposite me is a high sparsely treed mountain range. Big sky with rolling white clouds above.

Mammoth Springs was ok, except that many of the springs are currently inactive, making the once shimmering pools created by the lime stone mostly dried up. The hike along the extensive boardwalks certainly gives one plenty of exercise. The smell of the old wooden planks wet from a couple of days of rain. An earthy smell, rich and pure. Sulfur smells drifting from the few active pools along Mammon Springs. Fresh mountain air.

And I took a short ride to Boiling River which flows into the Gardner River. It’s the only place I know of in Yellowstone where you can enjoy the hot springs and a swim. The Boiling River is the super hot water from Mammoth Springs, flowing underground until it reaches an opening in a cave next to Gardner River. The hot water flows over the lime deposits along the river and people have made rock pools to separate the very cold Gardner river. Just enough to mix the hot and cold waters into these wonderfully warm pools all along the rivers edge. It was a blast walking along the very rugged river bottom to these pools. The water rushing past me on it’s way down river. Then dipping into the warm waters and feeling the rush of water like a huge water jet sooth all the muscles. What a great way to spend part of a day. Then a refreshing hike back to the parking lot, about a mile away. Gorgeous scenery along the river the entire way. Chatting with strangers along the path, everyone enjoying an adventure that Disney could never create.

Gosh, I guess I really should have made this into two reports…..

Ps, Can you believe along with all this touring and sight seeing I was able to finish reading the last Installment of Harry Potter. Every time I opened the book it seemed the clouds got darker and it would eventually start to rain…. Was it a part of my opening this enchanting book, or just a couple of rainy days? It sure seemed magical, setting the scene for reading a great book with a super ending. Hope you have a chance to read it.

(23) Jackson Hole, Teton, Wyoming

Jackson Hole Wyoming

Teton National Park, Jenny Lake, Colter Bay and Jackson Lake

Buffalo

What a day it’s been. I was going to drive in real early into Teton National Park, it’s almost across the street from where I’m staying, but I didn’t get up until about 8:00. Ok, call me lazy. It’s soooo wonderfully cool at night, I sleep very well. But I did get to the park, after a quick stop for a cup of coffee and a piece of banana bread on the way, as I headed towards Jenny Lake.
It’s tucked right up against those huge mountain peaks. I got on the little fairy boat to cross the lake, now isn’t that a great way to start a day. The water is so crystal clear, I could see the bottom of the lake, filled with round fist sized river rock. Crossing the lake, the mountains seem to shift as you see them get larger as we approach the other shore. Once on the other side, there are a couple options for hikes, and I took the most scenic trail, up to hidden falls. The hike wound along the roaring crashing stream leading us up to the falls. Mountain peaks and huge spruce and fir trees lined the granite rock canyon which was like a very deep sharp V. The tiniest wild flowers peaking out from between the rocks. Rock climbers were learning their craft on all the boulders, as the park has a professional rock climbing association in the park for teaching and for extensive climbs.

Of course I was one of the slowest hikers, but my gosh, how can you rush along a climbing path with such awesome sights along the way. Oh, they have tons of thimble berry bushes up here, but they are just in bloom and only about half of the bushes have the berries forming. Still green. It won’t be till late summer before they’ll be ready to eat. We had them in Northern Michigan and my sisters and I would pick them along the railroad tracks as young kids. The berries are in the shape of a thimble when you pick them and we used to put one on each finger before devouring them. And the birds were singing from one tree to the next sounding like a concert in quadraphonic sound. I got a couple pictures of a thrasher (I think that’s what it was called), very colorful, all black, bright yellow and red splashes of feathers. And the tiny striped ground squirrels were so cute eating some small red berries. Truly the picture of nature in it’s happiest form.

On my way back and forth to the campsite, was quite a herd of buffalo along our side road grazing in the sage fields. And tonight, as I took my bike for a ride through the campground, two huge, and I mean huge buffalo were right in the park! They ambled on eating shrubs and grasses, in between all the tent campers. Suddenly a dog barked and both of the bison went thundering through all the campsites. Most everyone frozen in disbelief at seeing them running so swiftly. Stopping again in an open grassy area to graze once again. Believe me, they look really dossal munching on grass, but when they want to move, you don’t want to be in their way! Well that was the excitement for the day so far.

I’ve been going into Jackson Hole regularly, it’s about 6 miles from the campground. Interesting town with the ski hill trails leading right to the edge of town. This must be one great place for people who love skiing. Oh and you know the property must be outrageous, since they have no less than 4 Sotheby’s International Realty locations. Two are in the Teton Village, which is mostly very expensive condo’s next to the ski lifts. I wasn’t impressed with Teton Village, and the gondola ride ($18) wasn’t worth the trip up the side of the mountain. There are tons of major art dealers in town, so one can see the best nature sculptors and painters in the whole U.S. Sorry, I wasn’t permitted to take any pictures, but you could check on one of the art studio’s web sites: http://www.mtntrails.net/ to view some of the local art work. Very expensive, starting in the mid teens on up to the $30 and $60 thousand dollar range. Of course they have some great bars like the Silver Dollar Bar and the Million Dollar Bar, lots of shops and some of the best eateries anywhere. It’s called Fine Dining you know. All the buildings are very well maintained, many with a log cabin feel, large pole construction and carved bears climbing them. Very western looking. The antler arches and huge spruce trees add to the look. Even the local K-Mart and Albertsons look like expensive lodges.

For campers there are plenty of campgrounds in the National parks, forests and Jackson even has two or three campground right in town. Pricey to be sure, but if you want to be close to the night life, it would be worth it.
So I could buy more T-shirts, I went through my collection and donated about 6-8 to the local charity, the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration . When you live in a camper, you absolutely have to get rid of something before you buy something new.

Remember how I’d read the book on the Oregon Trail. Well in their local western museum in town, they had a beaver skin, beaver skin hats and the trinkets that the trappers used to buy the skins from the Indians until they began trapping themselves. You know the west was really first explored by the trappers, who basically decimated the beaver population between 1810 and 1840. Of course that was because everyone in western Europe had to have those beaver skin hats. By then the trappers had explored about every inch of the north west and when the trapping dwindled down to nothing, they started guiding all the wagon trains across the west into California and Oregon. It’s really neat to have read about the western movement and then see articles that relate to it.

Oh and a bit of local history, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Miller purchased a homestead from a horse thief (there was a lot of that going on back then). Mr. Miller then became the first banker in Jackson and back in 1923 both Grace and her husband ran for Mayor. She won. The west especially Wyoming had strong women who were able to do things like that, including being able to vote way before the rest of the country caught on.

Back in Teton National Park, I’m staying in Colter Bay Campground. The campsites are old with an interesting format. Each campsite is a pull-thru, on one way loops. The pull-thru’s are right next to the road itself, but if you get a campsite on the outside loop, your patio side faces the woods. Which I might add are the healthiest and thickest forest I’m see in a long time. Lots of lodge pole pines (those are the ones the Indians used to make their TP’s), fir trees and the prettiest Christmas trees I’ve ever seen.

Took a boat tour on Lake Jackson, the largest lake hugging the Grand Tetons. It’s over 450 ft deep. We had a Park Ranger onboard who gave us lots of information on the link between the geology of the region, what plants and animals live in the area etc. Pretty cool. Lots better than just boating around the lake, between the islands and viewing bald eagles and ohhing and awhing over the mountains and glaciers.

I drove over to the Grand Teton Lodge to check e-mails and the sites. The lodge has the most awesome huge windows overlooking the Tetons, huge comfy lounge area with cushy chairs and couches. Funny to see all of us intently working on our lap-tops (it’s a wi-fi hot spot), occasionally feeling guilty and looking out though those huge windows at a scene one seldom sees in life. The grand lobby is where Reagan and Khrushchev signed the ending of the Cold War Treaty. Yup, right between the women’s and men’s bathrooms. An Indian guide shared that with me.

Later in the day, I visited the American Indian Art Museum here at Colter Bay. The Indian guide shared some stories about their art forms, keying in on the porcupine quill decorations and bead work, bring us into today’s Indian art work. A collection of peace pipes and highly decorated moccasins were really awesome. One of the things he’s hoping for if they every build a new museum is a retrospective of Indian art from the past into present day Indian arts. He says it’s disheartening to hear people look at the Indian artifacts and say things like that’s what it was like back when the Indians were around. Relating only to the past. Forgetting that they are here today and continuing to expand their culture and art forms.

There’s something completely magical about this place. I don’t know what it is. I wish I could put it in words for you. I know, I know, after writing over 1,500 words. I guess the pictures will have to do for now.

(22) Blackfoot Res. Grand Teton, Jackson Hole Wyoming

Blackfoot Reservoir, BLM campground, Idaho, Last day
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Jackson Hole Wyoming

IDAHO

It’s my last week here at the Blackfoot Reservoir. All of my campers have left and only a few fisherman come by to try their luck fishing. It’s my first time being at a campsite, without anyone else around and it’s a unique experience. You’ve heard the expression, “just watching the grass grow”. Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I never thought I’d have that kind of experience. Actually, I’m watching the hay fields turn from green to a wonderful dry hay color, all golden yellow/tan against the light blue skies.

I’ve been here for about three weeks now and I’ve seen those fields change in color, rolling waves of grasses in the wind and watched the changing scenery as the clouds slowly roll by, creating dark shadows on the low mountain ranges, or watching as the sun streaks across the mountain ranges highlighting the creases and valleys one by one. I’ve seen a white hazy smoke fill the distant mountain ranges, then hours later, clear up. Fires far off in the distance.

I’m continuing to read my book on the Oregon Trail and find it fascinating to read about the pioneers as they crossed the land I’m currently living in. They walked the entire distance, using their mules, oxen and horses to carry their supplies. Rarely riding their horses. A lot different from my travels, driving my truck, towing my home along behind me.

But my journey awaits me and I’m eager to explore my next destination. I’m heading towards Jackson Hole Wyoming and the Grand Teton Mountains. It’s only 100 miles from Blackfoot and maybe another 6 miles to my next campsite. I can’t wait, as I’ve heard and seen pictures my whole life of this mountain range with it’s lakes reflecting the white capped mountain range, each view more spectacular than the previous. As I travel into Wyoming, I see a Bald Eagle sitting on the edge of a ravine. What a welcoming into a new state.

WYOMING.

Destination. I’ve made it to the end of my trail for this year. I’ll be here for at least three weeks. Although I’ll be reporting on other places on my return trip (which you know will take months!), I’ve arrived at my farthest destination which is the Grand Teton National Park and of course Yellowstone National Park just up the street so to speak. I’m currently staying outside the National Parks at a National Forest campground called Gros Ventre. $17 a night, no hookups. Thank goodness for the National Parks Pass, as the entry into Teton is $25.00. Next week I’ll move into the Grand Teton National park for two weeks. And campsites in the park with electric hookups are $47.00. Yikkees! I’ll get a primitive site thank you.

A couple interesting tid-bits. John D Rockefeller secretly acquired much of the valley land adjoining the Teton National Park system to protect it. 35,000 acres. He later offered it to the National and the first time the Government refused the offer. Roosevelt did accept it and a year later, congress tried to rescind the offer. Our politicians do dumb things sometimes.

The locals also fought the concept at first, then realized protecting the area was what they wanted as well, as long as it preserved the wildlife as well as their way of life. It’s worked for everyone so far.

It’s one of the few National Parks that permits hunting of elk during special seasons. The herds are that well established. To hunt, the hunters temporarily become park rangers, as they are the only ones permitted to carry a gun in National Parks.

The Grand Teton is the only National park with a man made dam in the park as well as it’s own airport. Fortunately they stopped at one dam. Much compromise was made to create this park and it’s unique environment. Compromise, something we need more of for larger issues that just aren’t always black and white.

Can you believe my first day out, I saw wild buffalo roaming the sage brush prairies. Not confined in a zoo or “special park” that could barely hold these wonderful true animals of our west, but true open spaces where they live and roam freely. An awesome sight. I’m actually surrounded by an Elk refuge and hope to see some within the next couple of days.
Down at the Chapel of Transfiguration, (and no I wasn’t transfigured… that I know of) I was within 15 feet of a gray wolf! Now that’s getting close to nature. And this evening, coming back from dinner, Florentine Ravioli and an Alaskan Ale, I saw a couple of bull moose with their big antlers and mama moose’s next to the Snake River. Fishermen out on the river, fly fishing, us gawkers, taking pictures, watching wildlife and a setting sun scenery to die for.

Oh and this is a harsh environment. Hard to believe, with sunny skies and temps in the mid to high 80’s and cool evenings in the high 50’s, or low 60’s. But, the Jackson Hole valley has only 60 days a year that are frost free at night! That’s one of the shortest growing seasons anywhere. Imagine.

More to come in the following weeks….
From Jackson Hole Wyoming….

(21) Henry, Soda Springs, Misc. stuff IDAHO

Henry Idaho
Soda Springs, 4th of July
Misc. stuff.

Now I know I told you I wasn’t going to send anything out while I was just sitting here at the Blackfoot Reservoir, but you should know me, and know that I like to write. So here are a few misc. adventures while acting Camp Host.

I decided to take a drive around the lake, via the Reservoir dirt road, which is the only way to get around the lake. By the way, the reservoir is owned by an Indian Tribe out this way and they are selling the water perhaps a bit too fast, as the lake is going down quickly. More so than in past years. Getting back to the drive, I’m trying to hunt down to elusive hot springs in the area and ended up just having a nice ride through a country dirt road. The views of the lake were great and I saw quite a few herds of cows and sheep.

On my way back, I was stuck on the road with about a thousand head of sheep being moved to another pasture. Dusty white fur balls, many with green dye markings on their backs. Hugging the sides of the truck, looking up at me with skittish looks in their eyes. Hoping, jumping over each other in an agitated dance with no rhythm. Fortunately, one of the Peruvian ranch hands cleared a path with his horse (Ye-Hah!) and two sheep dogs, so I could wind my way through the sheep. Of course the sheep were bahhing, and baying all around the truck as I slowly drove past them. Now tell me, that’s an experience one doesn’t have too often.

I stopped into the China Hat wayside store on my way back to the campground (only about a mile from the campground) and found I could get a great cell signal for my laptop/Verizon Air card, so stopped in and had a soda and talked to one of the owners while checking on my e-mails. Had a real nice chat with the gal about life in these parts. She won’t stay open this winter. Way too lonely, cold and costly.

Bob and Shirley are staying in a camper across from mine and Bob offered to take me out on a boat ride. He tried a little fishing with no luck. I on the other hand got the catch of the day, by hearing what life is like to live in these parts. Bob is 5th generation family living here. His Great Grandfather being one of the first Western Union mail delivery men. Riding his horse between Wyoming and Idaho along the Oregon Trail. He told me two of the areas worst natural disasters. The first around 1884 when the Big volcano in Asia blew darkening the skies around the world for over a year. The ranchers in the area with their cattle and sheep and the native animals like the dear and moose were all killed off within a year because of a lack of food. Nothing could grow with those darkened skies. Up until then, the ranchers hadn’t stored away any hay or grain for drought or a disaster like the one that occurred with the volcano. It was estimated that over 90% of all wild animals died from lack of food. In Bob’s own time, 1949, he was a lad in the 4th grade, he remembers the blizzards that lasted most of the winter. Temperatures as low as 40 below. Huge snow drifts. The only way the trains were able to get through this area, bringing food and supplies, was by hiring all the able bodied men in the area to shovel snow off of the train tracks all winter long. Houses were buried to their eves in snow and he was let out most of the winter from having to go to school. Again many of the ranchers lost their livestock. He remembers his mom and dad collecting the hides off of the dead sheep as they thawed out from the snows in the springtime. They haven’t seen such severe weather since and he believes the climate has gradually gotten warmer. Oh, and his grandfather once owned farmland that is now under water, below where we are today gliding across the Blackfoot Lake. His grandfather then bought more land south of Soda Springs, and once again was bought out when they decided to build another reservoir. Says his grandpa made out pretty well and was able to retire.
Before the reservoir was completed, a local Indian tribe used to make summer camp along the river, now under water, and fish, hunt and farm all summer long. A couple years back when the lake dried up, folks wondered along the former river banks and collected lots of arrow heads and other artifacts.

Also along the shore line are some peninsula’s and an island that are natural bird rookeries. Pelicans, seagulls and cormorants all have nests along this area.

On Wednesday Bob is going to his 50th high school reunion in town. There should be about 12 members in attendance.

Of course I had to go into Soda Springs for the 4th of July Parade. A bit disappointing. Lots of people in the parade, no real floats, but tons of candy being thrown to the spectators. Oh and I had a great breakfast in the park for $5.00. After the parade and breakfast, I checked out a few vendors around the park and bought a used book “Westward Vision, The Story of the Oregon Trail”. I’ve started reading it and it really gives a full history of the discovery of the West. What a great find. If I hadn’t mentioned it before, the Oregon Trail goes right through Soda Springs. I’ll be exploring more of the Oregon Trail in the next week or so, both in the book and seeing the physical trail on a trek I’m planning to Montpelier Idaho where they have the National Oregon/Calif. Trail Center.

TIP FOR MEETING PEOPLE:

A final note for this report, as camp host, I’m able to interact with more people. Even though the park is not very busy, the few campers that come through and many of the boaters and locals, stop by to talk and get a little information about the park.

So for anyone who is thinking of solo traveling like myself (and yes I’d love to have a companion but things don’t always turn out the way you’d like them too) being a camp host gives you much more opportunity to meet and interact with other campers and even the staff of the park your in.

As an example, I was given a bag of Idaho potatoes by one camper. I then went around to the other campers and shared the potatoes with them and in the offing, I met a few more folks. Pretty cool huh.

Biggest problem. Telling the 4 wheelers, they love their 4 wheelers out here, to slow down when going through the park. But it’s just a matter of educating them. And telling them to have a great time, just at a slower speed through the park.

(20) Soda Springs, Idaho

Soda Springs
Blackhawk Reservoir
Ice Cave
Last Chance Canal

I’ve settled in for a couple of weeks so this will be the last Roving report until I move on to my next destination, which will be a doozy. So this would probably be a good time for you to take the time to write to me and fill me in on all the stuff that’s been going on in your life. You know as a full time camper, when I’m on the road, your messages to me are the only real contact I have with friends and family. Fortunately, I have some regular correspondence from friends, so I don’t feel all alone on the road. Even though I have a cell phone, getting an e-mail message from family and friends, I’m able to read it over a couple of times and really absorb even the simplest message. And I thank you for all of them. If you have any questions about full-timing, let me know and I’ll address it in my next roving report.

Well I only traveled about 65 miles from the last site in Downey Id to get to the Blackfoot Reservoir (also known as Dike Lake). It’s on BLM land and I cross over an earthen dike to get to the campground. The campground has about a dozen sites which are all new and for now, they are free! The park has started work on another camping loop and the sites are spaced far apart from each other. Much better than the city park is was just in, where all the sites were right on top of each other.
There isn’t a lot to do in this area, but the campsite has pretty amazing views, big sky, and the lake even though it is down quiet a bit, still looks great. It’s mostly dry farming out this way but the fields are all filled with rich green waves of grain. And they really do wave. I was sitting outside the other day and as the breeze picked up, I looked up over the rolling hills and all the grasses were rolling across the land like giant waves. What an inspiring scene. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it for a long time. Remember, I’m basically a city boy, so seeing stuff like this on such a grand scale is breath taking. And those big big skies overhead give you the feeling the world isn’t as crowded as it really is.

I’ve already toured many of the geological sites in the area and I’m really getting a sense of how our country and world were created over millions of years. Like going to the Ice cave the other day. It was right in the middle of a field outside the town of Grace (now wouldn’t you like to live in a town named Grace? Make you feel like you’d be blessed your whole life if you lived there).

Next to an old weathered sign was the entrance to the cave. Come to find out, it was created fairly recently, history wise, as a volcanic tube from all the volcanic activity in the area. Which even changed the flow of one of the rivers in the area. Small sparrows were flying in and out of the entrance and no they weren’t bats. I entered, thinking of course there will be enough light, but after walking a short distance in the cold dark cave, I went back to the truck for a small flashlight. Sure wish I had a bigger one with me. I went as far as I could without bumping into anything in the pitch black and decided my adventure here was pretty much finished. On my way out, I was able to see by the light of the entrance, the black volcanic rock that created this tube. They tell me it goes on for over a mile getting narrower and narrower as you go in. Amazing how barely a few feet into the cave the temperature drops from the mid 80’s outside, to about 50 degrees or colder in the cave.

The area just outside of Soda Springs is where the Oregon trail split, one going west to California and the other heading towards Oregon. Portions of the old trail are still visible.
I also saw the original and later versions of the Last chance canal. A manmade water way traveling over the deep gorge of the river below like a modern highways concrete beltway crossing over each other. The canal is used for mining and is now used to irrigate the rich lava soil farm fields in the area.
This is also mining country. Phosphate and bauxite. Monsanto and a number of other mining companies operate in the area.

Oh, I just signed up to be the camp host for this BLM campground for a couple more weeks. They even gave me couple T-shirts and baseball cap. I also get a site with full hookups so I’m all set. I’ll be spending the 4th of July and my Birthday here as well. Maybe I’ll get a potato cake with spud candles. Sounds like I’ll even get a check for $15 a day for being the camp host. Image, I’m a working stiff again. Actually the duties are very light, basically just keeping an eye on the place and reporting any unsavory activity in the area.

Wishing everyone a Happy and safe 4th of July.

Caution: It is illegal to have or use fireworks on BLM land. A fine of $150 and a $25 processing fee will be charged to anyone using or harboring fireworks on BLM land. Just doing my job man….

(19) Idaho, Downey, Lava Hot Springs, Soda Springs




IDAHO



Downey (City park, $10.00 per night)
Downata Hot Springs (Passport America, $11.00 per night)
Lava Hot Springs
Chesterfield (Mormon Ghost Town)
Soda Springs
Pocatello Idaho

Well I crossed over…. Another border that is. I’m in the south east corner of Idaho. Lots of Mormon influence here as well as in Utah. Interesting, I heard the other day that the Mormon faith is now the 4th or 5th largest religion in the U.S. I can see why as well, as their members do missionary work both in this country and all over the world before starting a career or starting a family. I’ve seen many of the men, always in pairs, dressed in their dark pants, white crisp shirt and tie, walking the streets, talking to anyone who will listen. The women do missionary work as well, but if just every male member does missionary work for a year or two before going to work and having a family, that’s a lot of missionaries traveling around spreading the word. Oh, did you know that the reason they do genealogy is so they can baptize the deceased members of each family back in history. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

The town of Downey (pop. 613) has a grocery store, lumber yard, post office and a city campground, which I’ll stay at for a couple days, waiting for my mail to be delivered. How do these people make a living? I guess it’s the farms in the area. The campground is part of their city park and county fair grounds.

Well onto other subjects of potato’s and hot springs. The campsite I’m staying at is Downata Hot Springs. It’s a capped hot springs that is then fed into a large recreational swimming pool, hot tub and they have lots of tube slides to go down. Pretty cool especially for the younger kids. And yes, I went down the biggest of the water slides, the Dragon Slide. Wheeee, what fun!
I drove over to Lava Hot springs the other day. The town is quaint with both an old fashioned hot springs and a newer jazzier hot springs with the big swimming pools and rides for kids. The water was pretty hot and I only stayed in it for about 15 minutes at a time. Neat to see the bubbles coming up through a well manicured pebble bottom. Lots of benches to sit or lay back on. Oh, you can also rent inner tubes and ride down the rushing river between the hot springs. A fast and swirling ride for sure.

While I was in Lava Hot Springs, I saw a huge Weeping Willow tree. It reminded me of a vacation my family took when I was about 7 or 8. We always stayed at these small wood cabins usually on a lake in Northern Michigan far away from any towns or cities. I remember seeing a weeping willow for the first time at this small mom and pop camp ground. I’ve always loved the look of a weeping willow tree. I remember the cabin with it’s really old fashioned fridge with the round cooling element on top, a real water pump in the kitchen and the charm of the cabin. And I remember our Mom taking us three kids out for a paddle in a row boat. Mom did all the paddling and was having a hard time. It wasn’t until we got out into the middle of the lake that we realized not only was she paddling against the flat back end of the boat, but that the anchor was still down! Needless to say, it was hard not to laugh, but with our Mom really pissed, we tried our best not too. Memories. Crisp fresh air at night, Mom and Dad going out for a while and we kids staring out into the dark and seeing a skunk! Ekk! Wonder if my sisters remember those trips?

Just about a mile south of the campground I’m staying at is the Red Rock pass. About 15,000 years ago this natural dam broke loose and released a 300 foot wave of water out of Lake Bonneville which originally covered most of Utah and Nevada. All that’s left of it is The Great Salt Lake in Utah. So basically I’m at the bottom of an ancient sea bed, pretty cool when you think about it.
The next day, I drove back towards Lava Springs and continued over a mountain pass into a lush valley. At the bottom of the valley, I turned left onto a small county road. Traveling past acres of ranches and farm land. A couple of tractors off in the distance were tilling the dry fields not yet planted or having just been harvested recently. Clouds of ocher dust hung in the air above each tractor, suspended on the hot heavy air. Occasionally swirling as a light breeze blew by. I continued for miles down this undulating road as it followed the natural contours of the land. At the end of the valley, with my tummy feeling light each time I went over the next rise, with no where else to go, the ghost town of Chester appeared. First an old abandoned wood framed house, then the scattered homes and a couple of stores appeared on the rise overlooking the entire valley. Many of the homes were built of locally made bricks, others in the traditional log cabin style. The original Oregon Trail passing nearby.

I had a private tour by Anne, who’s family had owned one of the houses going back to it’s beginnings in 1881. The association that now runs the town is being aided by many of the descendants, who come back each year and provide funds and labor to restore their family’s ancestral homes. Most of the families were large, with 8-12 children each, living in relatively small homes with usually only two bedrooms and maybe an attic/loft for all the kids to sleep in. They still have a number of outdoor privy’s and yes, I used one of them. How rustic.

Anne telling stories about the young 2 yr old Indian girl and her 5 yr old brother, who were offered to one of the white settlers for a sack of grain. The white family had many mouths to feed so did not give the sack of grain, but did end up adopting the to children, rather than have the Indians kill the children. The young girl grew up to become a well respected mid-wife in the community, helping birth over 1,000 babies. Or the story about Dr Kacley who was abducted in the middle of the night by a gang. When he arrived at Butch Cassidy’s hideout, Butch said he was sorry to have had to hijack the Doctor, but one of his men needed patching up real bad. The doc told Butch Cassidy, he’d better decide whether he had been kidnapped or brought there of his own free will, because the Doc wouldn’t work on anyone while he was abducted. Butch took a while to think it over and decided the Doc had come of his own free will. Later, Butch had him escorted back to his hide out a couple more times in the dead of night to help his wounded men.
The tour began at the Nathan Barlow log store. Everything currently sold in the store today, could have been purchased back in 1989-1903 when it was in operation. Lots of good home preserves, Hershey’s chocolate bars, candy and toys. Even having tags indicating the date the item came out on the market.

The one house that I was completely taken by, was the Denmark Jensen Log home. It’s a classic salt-box style and the interior is whitewashed with wonderful Scandinavian accent colors of rich blue and even pink trim in the bedroom. Being of Finish/Swedish decent, I completely fell in love with the house. I learned about the Mormon Tithing Office and how each member gave as they could each year. The food and such would then be distributed to those in need. And still is to this day.

Of course the other more prestigious homes made of brick (3-5 bricks thick), the Tithing Office, the first Church and Amusement Hall all added to my learning experience about our pioneers who settled the west.

Well after such a fun tour, I drove a bit further into Soda Springs and had a good lunch in an historic hotel and witnessed the hourly geyser. It’s the only captive geyser. It was found by drilling about 350 feet down. When it broke loose and became a geyser. The Gov requested that it be capped after a short while, since it was disrupting the flow of Old Faithful. So it was capped and put on a timer and now goes off via timer every hour…. How disneyesk.
Near the end of this tour, I went into Pocatello Idaho. A small town in the heart of Idaho surrounded by huge mountain ranges, going off in every direction. I stopped into their historic museum (which wasn’t all that much to look at), but the gal behind the desk told me about some of the history of the area. About interviewing an older lady of 90, who remembered the Shawnee Indians who camped out near the river, where the current high school now sits. The woman recalled how the Indians were intrigued by the smell of her mother baking home made bread. And how the first couple of times, they just walked into her home, unannounced. Her Mom was frightened at first, but realized that it was the bread baking that had gotten their interest. The Indians were not beggars and after looking at the white woman’s children with their battered or bare feet, quickly began to barter moccasins and other Indian crafts in exchange for some of the bread. To think that the museum attendant (formerly a school teacher) had interviewed this elderly woman about 15 years ago and these stories were about life in Pocatello, not that far in the past really brings history to life.

(18) Bryce Canyon, Meadow Hot Springs, Payson Utah











Utah
Beaver
Bryce Canyon
Meadow Hot Springs
Payson, Uinta National Forest

I left Las Vegas and headed NE on hwy 15. It’ll take me through Utah. I was hoping to stop at a small Rv park in Kanarraville, but when I called, they told me they were booked up, so I headed further north to the small town of Beaver. Kind of bummed that I couldn’t get in the campground in Kannarraville since I had had such a nice time the last time I was there.

On my way up, I stayed in the north west corner of AZ at a BLM land campground. $8.00 a site. The only facility was a restroom. The temp got up into the high 90’s, surrounded by bare rock mountains on all sides. A small river flowed at the bottom of a canyon. I set up and just hung around in the shade reading all day. A large extended family with about 5 tents was next to my site. Kid enjoying the hike down to the cool river for splashing and laughter echoing off the canyon walls…. One young married couple fighting over the young man drinking all the time... It finally cooled off enough in the evening to sleep, fan blowing all night.
Next stop…

I’m at the Beaver Canyon Campground. A campground that is nearly filled with seasonals, getting away from there hotter winter residences. Temp is 85 during the day and as low as 48 at night. I was lucky to be able to get into the park. What’s really nice is that they have an authentic Mexican restaurant, right on the premises. Most of the campsites have the oddest little shacks. Some open sided with built in picnic tables, other are enclosed on one, two or three sides. Very rustic looking built of rough pine timber with the bark still on the timbers. Many sites have small vegetable gardens.

Beaver town, as small as it is, has two LDS churches. A number of new homes are being built. Each home has beautiful fine green grass, watered every day. A small irrigation channel flows through town. Many homes right in town have fenced in areas for their horses and small hay fields. Trout fishing is popular in lakes that are up in the national forests surrounding the area.
On the edges of town larger farms have cultivated fields all being irrigated by those irrigation canals and huge water sprinklers. Elevation is around 6,500 ft.

Although it was about a 70+ mile drive from the campground, I drove over to Bryce Canyon National Park. My friends Betty and Dave consider it one of their favorite parks. The drive over was cool. Over mountain ranges, the Sevier Plateau, and into wonderful green valleys before jogging over to hwy 89 and 12. Bryce Canyon has been worn away creating hoodoo’s and windows through the pillar rocks in shades of white, red, and choral. Glad I had my park pass, the entrance fee per car is $25.00!

I hooked up with the park shuttle to all the best overviews. Nice having someone else drive. Starting at Bryce Point, I had a super nice hike along the edge of the canyon to Inspiration Point. Gusty breezes along the ridge, Juniper and Pinion Pine trees along the hiking trail and awesome views around every corner. Snippets of conversations with other hikers along the way. I ended up at the lodge and had a mediocre lunch, but at least it filled that empty void before I headed back to camp.

I checked online to find if there were any hot springs in the area and two were relatively close. So I drove up hwy 15 to Meadow (just south of Fillmore). Even though it was about a 50 mile drive, being able to drive 75 (without the camper) it didn’t hardly take any time at all. The natural hot springs are in the middle of a farm field, with cows grazing nearby. The owner permits folks to use the hot springs as long as we all keep it clean.

The Meadow hot springs was a perfect 100 degrees and crystal clear. What a fantastic way to spend part of a day. I could see way down into the cavern and there were good ledges to rest on, or just float in the center of the super warm hot springs. I met a very young couple moving from Tenn. To Oregon. Starting a new adventure all the way across country.

The following day, I’ve headed north on 15 toward Salt Lake City and Provo Utah. The drive was breathtaking as I climbed to the summit of each mountain (in the 6,500 ft range), then descended into a patchwork of shimmering green, celadon and yellow valleys that stretched to the horizon and yet another mountain range shrouded in mist or perhaps smog as I am getting closer to Salt Lake City. (I later learned it is smog from Salt Lake City) I’m staying in a National forest campground. It was a little tough getting into the campsite. ($14 a night, no services). A little high priced for a campsite without any water or elect. But I’m back in a real forest of maples, pine trees and poplar. The temps are perfect. In the mid 80’s but cool under the canopy of trees. I’m going to enjoy the solitude and yet close to a small town for supplies and an oil change. The camper is in some shade, but I think I’ll get enough sunlight on the solar panels to keep them charged while I’m here.

Oh, back in Beaver, I went to their local Pioneer Historical Museum. It was pretty cool. Beaver is the town that Philo Farnsworth was born and lived during his younger years. You all know who Philo was don’t you? He was the inventor of the TV! And a number of other inventions. He didn’t get credit until many years later due to RCA wanting to take all the credit. But there you are. The museum (in the old jail and courthouse) had one of his first TV’s on display and a few other inventions like the first radio with headphones. It’s been over 75 years since his historic invention.

I also went to a local LDS church to see if they could add anything to a wonderful family genealogy book my cousin created. They were very impressed with his work and we did find a few minor errors/omissions that I’ll write to him about. Of course they do almost all of their research on the computer now and for a fee one could do their own searches as well. The gal told me over 90% of people who can track their relations back to the 1500’s are probably related to royalty. That’s because back then, only royalty owned property and had it recorded in the county’s ledgers. Hmmmm could I be descended of Finish royalty?? At the Pioneer Museum they had a lot of paintings and pictures of Anderson family members. My Mom was an Anderson before getting married and though there are a ton of Anderson’s wouldn’t it be something if she were related to some of these Anderson’s out west…

It’s been nice taking the short hike around Payson lake each morning. I’m sleeping very well thank you. I’m sure it’s due to all the fresh air and cooler temperatures at night. The birds are very happy up here too. They are singing from dawn till dusk.

Side Note: Three kids, about 16-18 years old. One a fairly ordinary looking thin girl, one of the boys was wearing a black do-rag and fatigues and the other was also slim and wearing a black do-rag that came over his face with only a slit for his eyes. He was wearing camouflage pants and a dark T-shirt. They each carried a long bag that maybe a folding camp chair would fit in. A middle aged couple were ahead of them about ten minutes earlier. Later, they all came back, fairly close behind each other without their bags. They stopped and waited on the road leading to my campsite. Looked over, and I looked at them before going into the camper. Very odd. Creepy.

I’ll be heading out early Monday morning and will no doubt hit the horrid Salt Lake City rush-hour traffic . I had thought about touring the city, but it’s hot down in the valley, near 100, and with the smog and a forest fire near by, it doesn’t sound that appealing.

(17) Hoover Dam, Las Vegas Nevada







Hoover Dam
Las Vegas



My trek from Kingman Az took me the loop route to Boulder City Nv, via California! Afterwards, I found out that my camper could have made it down the switchback road leading to the Hoover Dam. And it could have saved me about a hundred miles. Route 93 is more direct, so for all you Rv’ers, you can take it on your way to Las Vegas from Arizona.

After settling in in Boulder City, I of course toured the Hoover Dam. It creates Lake Mead which has over 550 miles of shoreline. Our tour guide said the dam was built of solid concrete, without any rebar or metal inside and it’s estimated to last 2,000 years. Of course at the rate the water is going down behind the dam, approx. 10 feet each year over the past 5 years, it may not be needed in the future. It’s actually gone down 45 feet in those 5 years. They say at this rate, Lake Mead could be dry within 15 years. My friends Betty and Dave told me Las Vegas is building a large pipeline to carry more water to Vegas to handle this extended drought.

But I have to wonder, after seeing all the Indian Cliff Dwellings and pueblo’s that were abandoned so many years ago due to droughts and lack of water sources, could this happen again in modern day? Or will mans ingenuity figure out a solution. Water from the polar ice caps???

Although I enjoyed touring the Hoover Dam, I was not impressed by the 1.5 million dollars spent on the visitors center and tour. The film was short and grainy and the tour consisted of going down 50+ stories into the heart of the dam (which was cool) to see a portion of the diversion tunnels and the hydro-generators. That’s it. The tour I took two years ago at the Glen Canyon Dam was much more extensive and educational. But I did learn that the locals (the tour guide In particular) is very concerned about the shortage of water and the explosive growth in the Las Vegas area. Demanding more and more water every day. Oh and the new bridge, which will be a spectacular height over the Colorado River will be completed in 2008. It will be used to bypass having to cross over the Hoover dam. (See the pillars on the side of the mountain)
Las Vegas. I’m staying on the Nellis Air Force Base’s Fam Camp. My friends Betty and Dave are camp host here and have been in the area off and on for over 3 years. Betty and Dave live in a “well lived in” motor home. Vegas is a little too hot for my taste. The last couple of days have been in the 100-105 range. Today we are having a dust storm, which I gather they have fairly frequently. Expected wind gusts of 55-65 mph and lots of dust to obscure the views. Speaking of dust and wind, I’m on the north side of town, lots of industrial type buildings and vacant lots. The thing I noticed the most on this side of town are the chain link fences with lots of litter and paper trash blown up against them. Makes the city look really dirty.

Of course, one can see the bright city center from just about anywhere in this flat bowl shaped city surrounded by bare brown mountain ranges. It’s a gorgeous view at night.

Dave and Betty had me over for dinner the first night and a couple days later, I was invited to a BBQ at their neighbors. Met a lot of really nice folks from the area. Another evening, Dave drove us downtown so I could see the sights at night without my having to drive. Thanks Dave! Oh and just before we got onto the main strip in Las Vegas, Betty pointed out a couple of blocks of homeless people with blankets hung from fences in a lean-two style. Right there on the main drag! Kind of sad, so close to all the glitz and glamour of the Vegas strip.


Celine Dion. There was an article on Celine Dion in the local paper out here. Including a recent picture of her and her son on a magazine cover. The son is 7 years old and has really long blond hair, below the shoulder. Not a pretty site, unless he wants to look like a girl…. Which he does. Celine has him home schooled, so he has almost no contact with other children. And Renee, her husband, has been reported as continuing to have a major gambling problem to the tune of about a million dollars a week. Looks like most of the money she’s earning, working out here in Vegas, is going to his gambling addiction. Oh and he’s teaching his son how to play poker… Hmmm let’s see, a looser teaching his son how to play the game. I think they are all living in a fantasy world and Celine is going to be the big looser in the end. I know my Canadian friends won’t be happy to here this… I’m just the reporter guys….



Mid week Betty, Dave and I went to visit with a former co-worker, Bob Havens. Bob has moved from Orlando to Vegas and has bought a nice small two bedroom condo on the west side of town. The condo is in a more upscale area, with lots of trees and water hungry lawns. Bob’s condo complex has stopped (or slowed down) building, as many of the units are unsold. After an extensive tour of his condo (currently unfurnished after a year) (how one can have an extensive tour of an empty condo is beyond me) and pool/clubhouse, we were off to see the Red Rock Canyon State Park.

Now here’s a great park for viewing and hiking the many mountain ranges of Nevada. Did you know that Nevada has the most mountain ranges of all 50 states! We didn’t do any of the hikes, as Dave is still under Doctor’s care, but the car ride and views were just wonderful. And it’s literally just minutes outside of the edge of town. Which of course keeps expanding. The desert in this region has very little vegetation. Little to no cactus grows here. Just some dried up sage brush. They tell me the extreme temperatures, from the 120’s down to freezing doesn’t permit plants to survive well here.

The following day I finally did the Las Vegas strip crawl. Now even though I walked up and down the strip for about 6 hours, I only saw about half of the really large casino’s. I did have lunch at Bellagio’s (a high class buffet for $20.00) (including lake trout, fresh haddock, curried duck, pasta and many other goodies) and I gambled at Cesar’s, The Mirage, Billy’s Gamblin’ Hall (where I did real well) (I.e. I didn’t loose money) and finished my tour by seeing The Wynn of Las Vegas, which I personally think, of all of them, is the most elegant. The best exterior goes to Paris Las Vegas. I was surprised at how tightly they are all crammed together. I would even go back to the Wynn as I noted that a couple of their restaurants were very affordable. In the $18-$20 range for dinner.

Now as a full time camper my impression of going in so many of the big hotel/casino’s was this.
Watching all the visitors waiting in lines to check in, towing luggage, waiting for rides to the airport, I couldn’t help but think, I am so lucky to have a camper that has everything in it. I just pull up, set up, and I’m ready to explore a new destination. No packing, unpacking or waiting for someone to check me in and out of a hotel. And the cost of camping sure is considerably less than a room out here. I understand the basic rooms are now going for $200 a night. Yikees. My $18 a night at this campground sure seems a lot better.

Odd note. Las Vegas tries to hide their cell phone towers. They’re disguised as big pine trees which of course looks completely out of place, as this is a desert and there are no trees that tall anywhere in the state, just desert, rocks and mountains.

For those interested, here are my camping and gas expenses for the past couple of months:

CAMPGROUNDS DAILY GAS AVG MPG

MARCH $339.07 11.30 $750.65 9.02

APRIL $584.30 19.48 $636.85 9.7

MAY $431.47 14.38 $700.96 not available

Of course just double that amount for other expenses (food and entertainment) and you have a basic idea of my travel expenses and unexpected things like $900 repair bills.