Sunday, September 27, 2020

Back To Indiana....

We left the Badlands after 10 marvelous days....On our way back to Indiana to get our mail which was being held for us, we stopped at the On-Ur-Way RV Park in Onawa, Iowa, a very nice overnight park which we use each time we travel I-80 to South Dakota and back. Our second overnight stop this time was the Joliet, IL Hollywood Casino for one night because it has a beautiful RV park. Not cheap, about 53.00 a night for the casino RV park stay, (IL has 14% sales tax??-Yikes!) but it was beautiful, and the most spacious, spread out sites we have ever seen. 

The park was empty just about, and Sparky enjoyed taking an early morning walk. A deer came bounding through right while she was walking!

We got to Indiana and stayed one week at the Elkhart Campground. That is like home to us, we've stayed there many times over the years. There have been many improvements to the park, and this year, some of the inside roads have been blacktopped. The kids' playground is really new since we last stayed at the park. We love the owners, and the staff is friendly and helpful. The sites are gravel but level. They have added a TON of new sites as well. Sparky loves the little woods path in the back of the park for walks in the early morning. It's not very long of a walk, but the path circles in and around a small woods, so you can keep walking in different circles and get a nice walk in for exercise. Sparky LOVES woods (unless she gets poison ivy, adds Eldo, which she got the last time she was in the woods.)

No awnings have come in yet, (we lost them to a huge limb back in Alabama in a freak fall) but we stopped over in Indiana anyway to see some of Eldy's family. We plan to head to Pennsylvania at the end of the week if all goes well, to stay at some Thousand Trails parks (that's part of our camping membership plan) and check them out.

But first, apple picking time! If you are in the area, visit Kercher Sunrise Apple Orchards...We had a great time picking a variety of apples ourselves. They don't use ladders anymore, too dangerous and liability issues, so now you use a picker basket tool.

Sparky had fun trying to get the hang of it...

Eldo had no problems, he's two for one!

The cider is fabulous! And the apples were amazing! You forget how fresh they are, the leaves are still attached as they come off the trees.

We didn't get a huge amount...Sparky does not bake, so we got just enough to get our eating apple fix, and we will go back again for another visit before we go. It was so much fun! Sparky wishes she could take her grandson apple picking, but he lives too far away.

After a week at Elkhart Campground, we switched over to a free week's stay (thanks to our membership) at Twin Mills Campground. Sites are a little more treed, and you have to be careful about where they put you. When you are a Thousand Trails member, you don't get to pick where they put you, but you can request a change once you get to your site. We are on site C-59 and it's a pull thru, which Eldy loves. Back ins are more challenging for us right now, because we are still new at pulling the fifth wheel. We've been on the road now for about eight weeks. We are lovin' it!

Twin Mills is getting into the Halloween spirit EARLY! It's not even October yet! The regulars here start decorating the last weekend of September, and then for another weekend,  the first weekend in October. They close October 31st, so we think they keep the celebrating earlier.

The regulars bring in trailers by the boatload, FULL of Halloween inflatables and decorations.

It was AMAZING the degree and extent of the decorating. The entire campground was decorated! This was a real antique truck brought in.

Some have been here every year decorating for kids for over 13 years. WOW! What a treat for the kids! The truck with the lighted skeletons was one of Sparky's faves in the campground. This particular display had about five sites in a row totally decorated like a neighborhood with clever street names and all kinds of skeletons and scenes. It's easy to just bring in a bunch of inflatables, but these people were so creative! Here is another one of Sparky's favorites:

And last but not least...a nod to Florida....
Sparky was thinking about saving this post till very close to Halloween, but wanted to keep the blog close to our real schedule, so here it is early. In Florida, in our area, people did not decorate for Halloween. Sparky LOVES Halloween, and fall, so it's great to see everybody get in the spirit of the season up here. Eldo loves it, too! Sparky's grandson, after seeing all the Halloween photos said,"Grandma, you better start decorating!" But we are only here a week, so Grandma is going to fall decorate a little later. She's got some fall sewing projects in mind, hopefully, she will get them done soon!And some promised felt ornaments for her brother....and baby get the picture!   Until next time....

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Badlands are Really Bad! Part 2

If you don't know much about the Badlands, here is a little information. The park has three units totaling more than 240,000 acres. The north unit is the best known and most easily explored area. It has the Badlands Loop Road with scenic overlooks and hiking trails. The Stronghold and Palmer Creek units are run by the Oglala Lakota and the National Park service. They are not always open, especially during these Covid times.

With just about every national park, there is a wildlife or scenic loop drive. We always drive it several times because there is always something new in the area, the animals move around, that's for sure! First, there's the scenery....

We passed through an area called the "Yellow Mounds"....When the Black Hills were formed in South Dakota, the ancient sea drained away, and the black ocean mud weathered into yellow soil.
Here we are, enjoying the scenery...
Sparky clambered around a bit on some little stuff, getting ready for the bigger stuff later...The hills and "mountains" are looser material than what you would think. The park cautions people to be careful when hiking. Also, there are definitely rattlesnakes there. Signs everywhere warning about rattlesnakes but we didn't see any. Whew! (Sparky really wanted to see one, but was ok if she didn't.)
Here's Eldy being a little silly...Sparky told him to pretend he was going to fly off the ledge but he's facing the wrong way, lol. Probably better that he was, as it was quite the drop off!

And now...the animals....Quite a few bighorn sheep....Up close and personal...

A little baby bighorn sheep!

And even smaller...(Sparky loves tiny things on flowers, her world is both big and small)

After checking out the wildlife, Sparky decided to try a hike on the second day of our visit. We were only going to be there two days, so it was now or never. There are lots of hikes you can do, of course. Most are out in the open, and it's hot and dry this time of year. (September). Here are some of them: (designations are the park service)

1. Door Trail- .75 miles, 20 min. Easy, 1/4 mile boardwalk
2.Window Trail- .25 miles 20 min. Easy
3. Notch Trail-1.5 miles, 1-2 hours Mod.-strenuous (Sparky likes this one) climb a ladder, follow a ledge. watch for drop offs.
4.Castle Trail-10miles, 5 hours, moderate-relatively level
5. Cliff Shelf-.5 miles, moderate-boardwalks and climbing stairs
6. Saddle Pass-.25 miles, 1/2-1 hr. strenuous (next time, Sparky!)
7. Medicine Root-4 miles, 2 hrs., moderate, rolling spur trail
8. Fossil Exhibit Trail-.25miles, 20 min. Easy..fossil replaces and exhibits

OK, Sparky heard "ladder" and she's in! Off we go! A beautiful start, walking thru a canyon...

It gets a little steeper, piece of cake so far....

 We are climbing now....still easy hike so far....
Sparky was following a couple in front of her. She asked if they would mind if she kept right behind them and Chris and Chris (cute, hunh?) said, of course not! They were so nice, and kept checking to see how Sparky was doing, especially after hearing a little slip and slide now and then. "Are you ok?" Nice of them to check, as Sparky got a little nervous once the steeper parts of the hike came into view. "DANGEROUS CLIFF--KEEP RIGHT".
OK, here comes the fun part...climbing up the ladder. The rungs were round logs, and the sides were metal twisted rope. Here, the hikers are coming down. Notice the two ways to do it, backing down one step at a time, or butt first. Sparky did the backing down method on the way back.
Finally, the summit appears!
If you do the Notch hike, the view at the top is of a dramatic view of the White River Valley below.
Despite this being a moderate to strenuous hike, and warnings about "watch for drop offs" and "not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights" and "treacherous during or after heavy rains" was a busy trail with lots of hikers today, some with surprisingly younger children. Sparky recommends going early in the day for best temps and less people. It was thrill to do it, and oh, boy, great exercise for old legs. Sparky was so sore the next day, even with biking and hiking regularly back in Florida before we left!

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Badlands. It's remote, poor to non-existent cell phone service (extremely poor AT&T service the whole stay) but, wow, it's a different kind of view and experience!
Our next stay is back to Indiana for a week...getting our forwarded mail, checking in with family, and planning for our next stay...Until next time....

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The Badlands are Really Bad! Part 1 KOA

When we say bad, we mean good! As in cool, as in interesting, as in formidable, as in amazing! But it IS a barren landscape, and Sparky can't even imagine what it must have been like trying to exist as a landowner and settler way back when. It's harsh, it's dry, it's barren soil, and lots of dust and rock debris blowing around on a windy day. But here we nature's natural beauty once again....We chose the KOA Badlands Campground because it's shady, in a river valley, (the river was all dried up) and it was going to be HOT! Like 100 degrees one day, and it was. Nice corner site, HUGE area to relax next to the rig, we loved it. Nice KOA, but very picky about how you park your truck or car, and 5 mph. on the paths around the campground.

The campground has a yurt (dome shaped, air conditioned deluxe tent type), nice cabins, an electric vehicle charging station, and there were all kinds of RVs at this campground that were cute and interesting. If you haven't seen the latest RVs out there, here are some.There was a new model airstream, kind of weird looking, but the owner was very happy with it. 

There was a travel trailer or fifth wheel, (fifth wheel has the truck towing the RV with the front of the RV overhanging the truck bed) with a SIDE PORCH! There are so many styles to RV in, you really have to do your homework to find out what kind you would be happy living in. And there are always tradeoffs, you can't get it all in one RV, at least we don't think that's possible. Let us know if you got what you wanted with no complaints! We'd love to hear!

There was an I LOVE LUCY travel trailer, it looked so cute! Sparky had to take photos of all the sides of it, they were all so adorable!
Here's another one. This one would be challenging for full timing, lol. But we've seen people living full time in one this size...

One last shot of our corner site at the KOA in the Badlands. We were happy for the shade. We had extremes from 28 degrees low o night to 100 degrees for a high. Tomorrow, we visit and look for wildlife, our favorite thing to do, and Sparky goes for an exhilarating hike!  Bye for now....

Friday, September 18, 2020

Three Hikes in Spearfish Canyon

Sparky LOVES hiking...any kind of trail, pretty much! Sparky LOVES Spearfish Canyon, and to her delight, found three hikes in the area, TWO with waterfalls! Actually, they are more like nature walks, but the ground can be uneven, so these are classified as "easy" hikes or nature walks.

1. Roughlock Falls Trail-- this is a heavily trafficked trail, depending on the time of year and time of day you go. A beautiful 2. mile out and back trail heavily shaded that flows down a chasm and then tumbles over a limestone ledge. There are multiple cascading streams of water and it's just beautiful!

Sparky saw this fly fisherman while walking to the falls. Isn't it just the classic South Dakota scene?
We loved this falls walk/hike....

#2. Spearfish Falls--another easy hike...1.4 total miles...a little steep the beginning, some people say...not paved, but firm footing, nonetheless. The hike starts behind the Spearfish Canyon Lodge restaurant. It's heavily trafficked but still a beautiful hike/walk. An 80 foot waterfall awaits at the end.

#3. Savoy Trail--it has waterfalls and can be up to a 7.3 mile hike.

Sparky went the simple way today, just followed the trail along the Spearfish Canyon Creek--about a mile and a half one way. This was the third hike in the same day, so it was a nice addition to the previous two. Sparky saw a woodpecker, a very different one. She got a photo, but here's one from the internet the shows very clearly and much better the colorings. She thinks it's a black backed woodpecker that she saw.

There are quite a few more hikes in the canyon area and surrounding areas. It's a fabulous place to get some exercise, that's for sure. We loved our time in Spearfish, SD, and would seriously consider spending a lot more time next time than the 10 days we spent this month. If you are a fisherman, you would love it even more.....Until next time....stay tuned for the Mickelson Bike Trail Saga!

The Mickelson Bike Trail Saga

Sparky decided to try the Mickelson Bike Trail one more time. This time, further south, where the snow was NOT still on the ground. Sparky got a map, which seemed like a good one. She wanted a little bit of a challenge...a little bit of a climb. On the map, it looks like a little climb, in reality it was a steady big climb for about 4-6 miles. Sparky started in Edgemont, and decided to go all the way to the Mystic trailhead.  #4 is Edgemont Trailhead, and Mystic is #7.

Here's the problem...actually, there were a couple of problems. 1. There is no cellphone coverage on 98% of the trail. (Sparky's estimate but it's pretty accurate) 2. The map is accurate for hikers. For drivers supporting the hikers or bikers, the map sucks. (Ask me how I know, says a disgruntled Eldo). We decided that Sparky would get through the rough elevation first, and see how she felt, (not knowing it was 4-5miles steep climb at the time.) Eldo would meet her at the next trailhead in the truck and we would decide if Sparky would continue on or not. Eldo was waiting at the parking lot at #5. Sparky had cellphone coverage thru that far and was appraising Eldo how she felt. (EXHAUSTED,  but exhilarated.) Just when she thought, well, the elevation was a bit too much, she hit the downhill portion of the trail. PIECE OF CAKE! It was decided that she would keep going. After all, it was downhill just about the entire rest of the way.
There was discussion about meeting at the Rochford OR the Mystic trailhead just to be sure that she was comfortable going the rest of the way, about twenty-five plus miles total. But after getting back on the trail, Sparky kinda forgot whether she said she would stop at Rochford trail head, or keep going. (Key point, pay attention, readers!)
In the meantime, unbeknownst to Sparky, Eldo proceeded to try and follow the sketchy map provided to try and get to the Rochford Trailhead. That was supposed to be the first meetup after a long period of radio/cellphone silence. Eldo started having problems. Now, he has a fantastic sense of direction, but the map was NOT CORRECT. While Sparky was whizzing downhill, Eldo was encountering gravel road after washboardy gravel roads. At one point, cattle were blocking his ability to move forward! (South Dakota is a free range state in many places. If you get off the beaten path, you are going to encounter cattle right in front of you). If Sparky remembers right, from her last travels, if you hit and kill or maim a steer or cow, you are responsible for reimbursing the rancher any and all FUTURE breeding costs!

Unaware of all this, Sparky gets to Rochford trailhead. Eldo. Sparky waits 20 minutes. Still no Eldo. Did he say he would meet her at Rochford or Mystic? Then she decides to ask a rider heading to the next trailhead, Mystic, if he would look for a Dodge Ram 3500 truck with a baldheaded driver and tell him, Sparky is at Rochford Trailhead, waiting. At this point, Sparky is going to be like a lost child, and sit still. (SPARKY, SIT STILL????   HAHAHAHAHA, laughs Eldo.) She didn't. After another five minutes, Sparky decides to head to Mystic. Wait a second! If she doesn't catch the guy she told to watch for Eldo, she will be riding to Mystic, and Eldo will pass by going the other way, headed back to Rochford Trailhead. Better pedal fast, Sparky! So she did. Dangerously fast, flying downhill at 16-17 mph. (That's fast on a gravel packed trail.) She didn't even notice the scenery.
Up ahead, she spots a guy on a bike. Could that be.....the guy she told to tell Eldo to meet her back at Rochford?? YES!!!!!! She says, "Are you the guy I told to look for the Dodge Ram 3500?"  He says, "Yes. I guess you are not back there, then." Haha...nope! And, WHEW! and on she rode, as fast as she could. Because if she didn't, maybe Eldo had beat her there, didn't see her, and thought he should drive back to Rochford. Are you still with us? 

Sparky gets to Mystic, a total of 23.8 miles bike ride. No Eldo...oh, no! Did he go back to Rochford? Where is he? (You don't want to know, mutters Eldo.) Sparky contemplated riding back to Rochford trailhead. Nope, uphill all 7.9. miles. What if she left to go back to the last trailhead, and Eldo had just left there to come to where she was now? She will stay put. Fifteen minutes later, in rolls Eldo, and he is madder than a hornet. Not at Sparky, but at the map. He asked three people for directions how to get back to the trail the best way, because the map was NOT accurate, and got three different sets of directions. But he made it! He had been driving for almost four hours straight, in and out of three counties, just to be able to get Sparky on the trail and let her ride to her heart's content, which she did, and then some! He was so frustrated with the map, frustrated that we could't communicate by way of cellphone, and a little scared that he would not be able to find Sparky! Truth be told, Sparky was a little nervous about Eldo not being able to connect back with her, too! But it all worked out. What a guy, eh?
And what a ride! Beautiful mountain stream along the way, forest after forest, farms, tunnels, bridges, and scenery to take your breath away....

Until next time....we head to the Badlands!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Day5 Custer State Park Final Day

 Well, you'd think we have seen it all at Custer State Park, and we thought we had, too! But nope! Here comes the wildlife again...

You can see bison far away, or closer if you are patient....and not the worrying type....Yikes!
We saw pronghorn antelope (South Dakota antelope).....One was a bachelor....But the women are around this handsome fellow. The females numbered about eight in his company. They are around, believe you me!
And then, a beautiful little bluebird...(they always look a little mad to Sparky)...

The bluebirds were flying all around the prairie dog mounds. If you look for little grayish, whiteish mounds in a grassy area, and there are many such mounds/areas in the park, you can find the prairie dogs. Here are a cute couple grooming each other....

We had a wonderful time on our last day in Custer State Park. Always something to see...Sparky and Eldo love these wildlife nature drives. We've seen many people just rush right through the drive, not paying attention to what's happening right under their noses!  Twenty bucks entry fee for one day up to seven days...a bargain! See you next time on some beautiful hikes in Spearfish Canyon...

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