Numbers 6: 24-26

The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Monday, October 7, 2013

We are done...For Now!

And after spending 6 days in a CRV, crammed full to the ceiling, we arrived home in Dunnellon safe and sound. The whole trip was spectacular, and coming home was a good feeling.

Mileage for the trip home: 2,592
Mileage for entire trip: 8,058

Response to inquiries...Will we do it again?...Yes, we already signed up for August/September 2014! Of course that depends completely on the park being back open, ha!

It closed the day after we left for the NPS shut down and a snow storm dumped several inches on the whole area 2 days later. We stayed ahead of all the bad weather and were so blessed and lucky to make it home when we did.

Unpacking is done, laundry is done, bills caught up, house in good order thanks to some super neighbors (thank you Gary and Jane, Jim and Kim!). And, we're already looking at each other saying "Where should we go next??

This adventure is finished for now, but a new one is right around the corner! Love and Blessings to all!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mount Rushmore

There were a number of interesting things to take pictures of on the way to Mount Rushmore so I've split the last part of Custer State Park from here.

Sooo, we left Custer and drove the 20 miles toward Rushmore. The drive was very cool with 4 tunnels blasted through rock and a surprise view of Mount Rushmore. If we had come from another direction, we would have missed these great tunnels, wonderful curved bridges made with timbers and the early sneak peak of Rushmore.

We followed directions to Rushmore from Custer and were pleasantly surprised to go around these "cork-screw" bridges that were at the end of the rock tunnels. It's hard to see the curve on this bridge and details but they were all made of timbers and super strong. Quite often when you are on a bridge you can feel some sway but on these we didn't even know it was a bridge until the road immediately curved us around underneath. Very cool look and construction!

This was one of the rock tunnels. You would round a turn and 'boom' there it was. There was no height warnings until you actually got to the tunnel. That's a little disconcerting for those hundreds of RV haulers we saw all over the place!

This was a tribute to the man who constructed all the roads in Custer State Park, Peter Norbeck, and was placed half way down the back road toward Rushmore. It was a nice, scenic plaque. At the other side of the parking lot was a scenic overlook too.

Before going through each tunnel, you were instructed to sound the vehicle horn to warn the other traffic you were making a run for it. This was the last tunnel and people were walking around taking pictures. So what's the big deal, it's a nice, one-way at a time, tunnel.

Oh ho! Look what you see as you go through! We totally weren't expecting this. Needless to say we pulled over and joined the other picture takers on the road.

It's still quite a ways off but I don't think you can get more dramatic! As we recovered from this wonderful shock, we traveled on and soon came to the base of the mountain.

 This sweet family of mule deer were on the road up to the monument. Mom was very careful to look both ways and wait for the cars to stop before stepping out. I think she's done this before!
Of course the park was closed so we joined the dozens of cars parked on each side of the road, and the people who were up on the adjacent hillside, snapping pictures furiously. There was even a tour bus with most of the Chinese occupants up on the same hill. A Ranger came down the road slowly, went below all the cars and bus, turned around, put on his lights, got out of the car and waved his arms almost like a salute, got back in the car and drove back up the street. The bus people ran for the bus and it left. The rest of us took our time.

After we did a U-turn in the middle of the road to leave the area we drove to the first town just a few miles down the hill. The town is Keystone and I quickly spotted the public restrooms and had Bob pull over. He was facing a sign for a beautiful hotel while I was gone and we conferred and decided to check it out. We could have gone another hour down the road, but it just felt right.

We got a good, off season, rate at the White House Hotel, had a good meal and got to walk around the town. Several stores and restaurants are closed for the season now, but it looks like a great place to stay and play if you ever pass through. When we left the hotel in the morning, they already had 26 cancellations due to the park closure.

This is the bar in BarLee's restaurant we ate dinner in. It was full of antique looking furniture and wall hangings as well as metal sculptures made by a local father and son team. All in all, it was a very fun day.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lover's Leap or It's All About The Timing

We were in the car for one day before we decided it was time for a hike.

Due to the Feds shutting down all the National parks, and due to the season change out here, we are finding it hard to pay to enter the parks. Instead, when the gates are open, which is not always the case as you see here, we just drive right in...this has saved us up to $50 so far. And we thought the Senior Park pass was a deal!

We wanted to visit Custer State Park in South Dakota since we've never been in this state and it seemed like a nice place to visit, ha! We did the around the park drive (with a quick one mile hike) and an internal, dirt road drive. That is how we saw all the Critters mentioned already.

The buildings were very well built to blend in with the environment and the few we were able to enter were cabiny feeling and nice.

Unfortunately, since we just left 2 months at Yellowstone, this park pales by comparison but we were greeted by some fall leaf folliage. The bison round up which is the big annual deal here is already done.

Here is a stand of port-a-potty's on the crest of a hill...really? What genius thought this position up? When the wind is blowing, which way will they fall!

We drove to the end and did the Lover's Leap hike. It gave us about 5 miles for a nice loop, some exercise and vistas at the top. Oh, and nobody leaped while we were there, yea!

Bob did the high points, climbing around like he had good sense while I stayed below with the camera.

He finally convinced me to come up and another guy came along and took this picture. It is hard to tell how high we were but looking down made it hard to imagine how anyone would have the nerve to throw themselves off the ledge. The first blow on the rocks would not be nice!!

This little bird almost looks like a parakeet but I believe its a female blue bird. She posed very nicely for Bob to snap this picture. Her mate was not so cooperative.

We had fun walking in and around the rock outcroppings and then got back on the trail to make it back to the car. In the 4th mile it began to get worrisome that we were going the right way and would actually be able to find the car again without having to hitch hike half way around the park. But find it we did. A nice park, a pleasant day, a fun stretch of our legs. Thank you to Custer State Park.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More Critters

Well, it appears Custer State Park isn't lacking for it's own plethora of animals and ground dwellers. Here is a quick update of the ones we saw on the various drives around the park.

Here, finally is a red squirrel! While Bob climbed up and down a bunch of large rocks, this critter ran all around this nearby tree and scolded me for staying too long in his territory. These little guys are very elusive to capture on camera.

This was a new critter for us on this trip. It was a small herd of burros. They were not shy and I remarked to Bob that someone has been hand feeding them. About that time, a car drove up and a lady jumped out with nuts in her hand and started hand feeding. So much for being 'in the wild!'

We turned them down, not petting them but did roll down the window for this picture. 

Yep, more Pronghorn. This is a good example of the male and female. Aside from the horns, if you look closely you can see the black 'side burns' on the one on the right. It is the streak they are born with. They are rather shy but pretty to look at! We had to be careful as they were all over the road.

 Here is the Prairie Dog Referee. He was directing traffic on the mounds and keeping the action going.
And, once again, I attracted another snake. This is a garter snake that decided to slither out onto the path right where I was about to step. Another dance step or two and I landed up the trail with Bob. Of course, he had to come and inspect and measure and here he is. Sweet, ha!

One Adventure Ends, Another Begins!

The weather in Yellowstone has turned nasty! Well, at least for Floridians. The last three days have been sideways rain, not cold enough to create snow and be pretty but seriously irritating, and clouds hovering over the mountains that are enough to make you want to pull out your hair. It's time to leave.

We can take a hint too. As we left at 8:30am this rainbow appeared. It was just what we needed to encourage us to leave such a 'cherry' job and area. As a matter of fact, we saw no less than 5 rainbows as we drove across Montana this day. Yep, it was time to move on.

Our first stop was to Little Big Horn, the site of Custer's Last Stand. The weather had turned pretty nice as we drove and we were really bouyed until we got out of the car. The wind was so strong (was it following us??) that I almost fell over. Then rain started. Wow, really?

Here is the actual field where Custer and his troops fell. The gravestones mark the area where each man  was killed and their names. At the time, they were all buried where they lay.

Years later, This memorial was erected and all the remains of the men were dug up and reburied together in a very deep hole surrounding this memorial. Only Custer was removed and he is buried in Arlington. Bob's 1st Cavalry Unit in Viet Nam was the continuation of Custer's Division.

Well, we didn't hang around here too long, we saw the museum than hopped back in the car and drove to Devil's Tower in the northeast corner of Wyoming.

We arrived at 6:30pm knowing we had less than an hour to get pictures and explore the area. We decided to do the 1.5 mile walk around the base of the Tower and the rest of these pictures are taken as we walked. The walk and different views of the Tower, fallen rock and surrounding areas were spectacular.

The sun was setting as we rounded the back of the Tower and we took several pictures in the different vantages of light. As most of the sites you see like this, the pictures don't do it justice, however, we tried!

This is a valley off the south face of Devil's Tower faces. It was very scenic.

 Okay, it's starting to get dark and we just passed a sign that said we were only half way around. Enough with the pictures, let's walk!

Here was a handsome boy, watching us walk by. He is a mule deer.

And finally, here is more fierce Wildlife :) There must be 1,000 prairie dogs at the entrance which is a series of fields. They chirped, ran, wagged their cute little tails and dove in and out of the mounds looking like there was a special game they were playing which only they had the rules to. It was the perfect way to end a great day of site seeing.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Newsy Updates

Interestingly enough, due to the frigid weather we are in, which is apparently early this year (lucky us, ha!) the Elk carcass hasn't been touched yet by predators. The bears are, we guess, fat from berries and other downed animals and have already gone into hibernation mode. The coyotes and wolves traditionally live on the other side of the mountain from us in the park so haven't picked up the scent yet. We saw magpies on it yesterday but the birds aren't strong enough to break skin so have to wait for the dogs and bears to start the break down process.

We are all cleaned up in the cabin and the car is packed for an early start tomorrow. We plan to hike in Custer State Park if the weather is better there and do a drive by Mount Rushmore on our way to Kansas. Estimated date to reach Dunnellon is Friday.

I asked Bob to look online yesterday while I was cleaning the cabin to see what the travel home temps were supposed to be so we could pack appropriately and I vacuum sealed the rest of the clothes. I packed like I saw him packing, warm clothes for cold weather mostly with one pair of shorts for when we reach Florida. So I looked at the cities myself this morning and after we leave Yellowstone, everywhere else is in the 70's or higher for the whole drive. Hmmm. Guess we're repacking today :)

We hope to attend church this morning but the wind is gusting up to 50mph and it sounds like the roof is going to fly off! It has already rained and cleared and cloudy again and it's only 10am. A last walk in the park would be perfect except not if we're going to blow away! Barbara Snow and we are packed and on GO!

Here is a shot of the Yellowstone Association store in Gardiner. All of us 'insiders' refer to it as YA. :)

Here is the famous Roosevelt Arch, erected in 1903, in honor of then President Roosevelt who signed the legislation to make Yellowstone the first National Park.

Here is the Gardiner River that runs along the entry road from the north entrance (from Gardiner). It looks rather tame here but has many pretty rapids all the way in. The Elk and Big Horn Sheep like to wade through different areas for refreshing drinks, especially in the warmer months.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!! :)

So the forecast according to our iPhones (we have zero tv hook up here so can't even remember what live tv is) the Weather Channel said we had a good chance of snow and ice this week from Tuesday night to Thursday late...up to 18 to 20." "Bring it on" we said. Instead the clouds made a nice circuitas route around our area and we got nothin!

So imagine our wonderful surprise when we got up this morning to snow in the valleys, on the mountains, trees and bushes, roof tops, etc. all around us.

Here is the view off our back deck. There are a number of mountains the clouds.

Bob and I waited for the folks in the cabins to leave for their respective courses and we set off on foot to travel up the road to take pictures.

This is the view from the front porch.

 Yep, that's me bundled up in front of the Caretaker's cabin. Hey, we do live in Florida and it was 32 with a cool breeze.

 More mountains with the clouds hanging around.

 Eventually, the clouds broke up some and we even saw some blue sky peek through. When the sun actually came out in short spurts, we unzipped our coats. That is until the wind blew again, ha!


Oh look, I found my Christmas tree for this year. Do you think I could put one of these 30' beauties on the top of our car and get it home?? Hmmm.

 Our favorite little shack/cabin with snow on the roof and walkway. I took a plastic bag and gloves up a few weeks ago and 'policed' the area. It appears to be a summer hang out for teens. It is still clean now so we can leave it smiling.

 Okay, here's the last one. I've heard they get more beautiful as winter really moves in, but we had fun on our walk breathing in the cool, clean air and reveling in the beauty of the nature around us.

BREAKING NEWS...Yesterday, across the Yellowstone River, right below the cabins, we watched a large bull elk...well let me just say he was playing with the females in his little harem. To the side there was another bull, obviously younger, with a lot less rack of antlers, but he was hanging around. After our walk this morning, I saw a bull elk with a large female and a yearling and calf, probably both hers. They walked down the hill toward the river but the bull disappeared. As I went back to watch the progress of the elk, the female and youngins were walking away from the river to the east but all 3 looked very nervous and antsy and they eventually disappeared from view. Later Barbara Snow and Bob saw a Ranger through our spotting scope walking down the path toward the river and then back up to the parking area, about a 2 mile walk. After a short while I spotted this same Ranger walking back in the same direction and this time I watched him all the way. He was carrying what appeared to be a pair of large clippers and walked to a little stand of trees  and there was the large male elk, dead.

Our consensus is the younger male gored the older with his antlers in a fight last night and the older went down to the trees to rest and died. The Ranger actually had a saw and he removed the elks antlers and it looked like he pulled a tooth and took blood samples. For the Rangers to have found this male so quickly, I surmise he must have had a tracking collar on.

 Sooo, life ends for one but that aids others to continue on. My bet is we'll see a Grizzly bear on him first. Bob thinks Coyotes. The coolest part is we have a 'front row seat' until we leave in a few days to see the action. More pictures and drama will be reported! By the way, the purpose of removing the antlers is to keep poachers away.

He is the white spot between the two closest little trees.