Tag Archive | Camping

Circus Trip 2018: Split Rock Creek State Park

Day 14, Sunday, July 29, 2018 – Day 16, Tuesday, July 31, 2018

After the Corn Palace and lunch at a Taco John’s (this was on the recommendation of a friend – I wasn’t that impressed), I stopped at a rest area.  I did some Googling and found a small state park in the middle of nowhere, not far across the border in Minnesota, and near my next destination of Pipestone National Monument.  A call to the state park reservation line revealed that they had a site for the next two nights.  Score!  I was going to decompress and just relax for a bit!  Instantly, I started to feel better, knowing the pressure was off.

Minnesota! My 5th State!

I made my way there, driving down back roads by farm fields, and heading off on a gravel road to the park.  I was a little unsure, thinking there surely couldn’t be a state park here.  But soon enough, I arrived.

Split Rock Creek State Park is on a man-made reservoir that was created in 1938, when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) dammed the creek in order to provide a lake and recreational area to fish during the Great Depression.  It was small, and beautiful.  My little tent site was right on the lake, with a dock that I could walk out on, and lay on to enjoy the sunshine.  The fish there were so plentiful that they were just jumping out of the water.

I took a nap when I got there, to shake off the fatigue that I had been feeling all day.  Then I set up camp and checked out my surroundings.

Split Rock Creek State Park is small, as state parks go.  There was an RV area and a tent area and a total of 55 sites; the tent area had no more than 10 sites.  I liked my site a lot, as it was just steps away from the lake and that little dock.  The lake had a little trail that followed the lake for a while, and there was a swimming area that was completely deserted the entire time I was there.  In fact, there was very little going on here; there was only one other tent camping family for the first night of my stay.  I never saw the camp hosts the entire time.  The busiest creatures there were the muskrats, which seemed to be plentiful. I saw at least four during my stay.

The dam is made from Sioux Quartzite, a red rock that is local to the area.  The dam and a nearby bridge made from the same Sioux Quartzite are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I spent two quiet and relaxing days there.  I didn’t say much more than hello to a soul there at the park.  I set up my tent to have a respite from the mosquitoes and the periodic rain showers, but slept in my car.  I wrote in my journal, relaxed on the dock, and took walks by Prairie Lake.

I enjoyed watching the muskrats working on their lakeside homes, cutting down reeds to build.  I loved seeing the fish jumping out of the water to catch bugs, even though I was never able to catch that with my camera.  I watched a snapping turtle checking me out from the middle of the lake, even though I couldn’t see what he was until I blew up the photos from home.  Deer ran in front of me while I was walking, I saw lots of bunnies, a woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Mourning Doves, and a Great Blue Heron.  It was peaceful and quiet, a true oasis tucked in among the farm fields.

I watched the sunsets each evening from the little dam over the creek.  Those sunsets were stunning!

Watching the sun sink lower in the sky, shooting rays in every direction, reminded me of the purpose of the trip.  To let go of the hard parts in my past, to be renewed, and to find joy.  And I did find joy there, tucked away in that tiny little oasis in a corner of Minnesota.  More than I possibly could have ever known.

 

The Build

I have never really been a hippie, or free spirit, so the idea of road-tripping by myself around the U.S. for three months takes me far out of my comfort zone.  But here I am, giving it a try…

My original plan was to fold up the seats, put a bed in the back end, and get a Thule roof box for the top of the car.  But the departure date moved up by about 6 weeks after I first got the bee in my bonnet, so to speak, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to get a Thule roof box without buying it new.  And lo and behold, those are expensive!

Around the same time, a friend sent me a YouTube video, where a guy built a raised platform bed in the back of his CR-V, and I thought, BINGO!  My dad is a hobby woodworker, and that thing didn’t look like it would be too tough to rig up – and much cheaper than the close to $1000 price tag to buy a roof box, buy roof racks, and have them installed.

Dad and I spent parts of four weekend days putting this baby together.  It is level and sits up off the floor of the back end of the CR-V, stretching from just behind the front seats all the way to the back of the hatch space.  It gives about a foot of clearance in back and about 18 inches in front.  It sits up on the wheel wells for support, and I can partially sit up, but obviously, it is primarily for sleeping.

Seats-Out

 

We built two pull-out tables into the back of it, in case I’m somewhere with no picnic table; they have support posts extending down to the bumper so that the table doesn’t collapse when you put weight on it.  The legs holding up the bed are on hinges to make it easier to get things underneath.  The whole contraption is in two pieces, so I can remove it if needed to get to the under floor storage, where the spare tire, jumper cables and other car paraphernalia are.

I went down to the Storables store one day to get totes of various sizes to fit underneath and make the best use of the nooks and crannies.  There is still plenty of other unaccounted for space.  These areas hold my camp chair, Coleman stove, tent and tools.

My mom made curtains I can string up around the space for privacy – luckily she is a genius seamstress.  I fitted out my home on the road with a 4” thick memory foam mattress topper. It was a little too long and I didn’t really want to cut it, so I folded it under and my mom made a band to secure it.  I decorated my car-home with some girl power inspiration, and a few mementoes from past travels and friends.

Although it isn’t luxury, I hope it will be comfortable, and I don’t have to worry about setting up a tent every night as I move around the country.  I can just park and crawl in back. I’m secure with locked doors and am out of the rain.  And, for better or worse, it will be home…

The total price was about $60 for fabric, S hooks, and carabiners for the curtain rigging, and about $120 for storage containers to puzzle piece under the bed.  The entire bed itself was free for me, made with scrap wood and leftover hinges that my dad already had hanging around in his shop.  All in all a very reasonable investment!

Tonight will be my first night trying it out!

The Circus Trip: Revealed

I have said before that this blog has been my happy place for the last several years.  I love travel, history, and wine, and I love sharing my adventures with all of you.  Yet they say change is the one constant, and that holds true in my own life too.

As a result of recent life changes, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection, and a lot of way-finding.  As this directional adjustment is going to include travel, and likely quite a bit of wine, it only makes sense to me that I include you on my journey here.  It is guaranteed to be a lot bumpier and more raw than some of my other journeys, but the rest is basically unknown territory.

As is to be expected, I have felt a bit lost after my divorce.  I know a lot of people do.  My divorce wasn’t easy or amicable and I found that the man I thought I had married wasn’t at all the man I had thought he was.  I don’t want to dwell on this or relive it, but it certainly contributed to my feelings of loss recently, as have some other events.  They have damaged my ability to trust, and I am still healing.  It’s pretty amazing how a few people and their actions can make you question your self-worth so thoroughly, even when you are a confident, intelligent, capable person.

As one of my employees is fond of saying, “What fresh fuckery is this?”  I feel like I have experienced more than my fair share of fuckery lately, and I need to let it go.  There are a whole lot of circus animals out there that just aren’t mine to care about anymore…  And therein lies the title of this post…

Often though, in the face of adversity, there is opportunity.  I have decided to do something huge, just for me; I am quitting my job to travel the U.S. for a few months.  Just me and my car, whom I have named Viaje.   I need to find myself again.

I never thought that I would be a person who would just hit the road without much of an itinerary or a timeline; that world is for hippier, more free-spirited people than me.  But I think something more extreme is what I need to get out of the rut I find myself stuck in.  I need to figure out again that I am strong and capable, and that I am enough.  I need to relearn that there is purpose in this life.  I need to know that there are kind people in this world, even if I know I will run into some unkind ones too.  Hopefully the kind ones will outnumber the jerks.  I need to figure out how to make it alone.  I need to see and feel peace again.  I need to heal.

I am on a budget, unless one of you wants to be my anonymous benefactor, so I’ll be doing it with a combination of car camping and couch-surfing, with perhaps the occasional hotel night thrown in if I am really itching for a good, hot shower and some TV (I can’t let that happen too often though – darned budget).  If any friends and family, both well-known and little known, are interested in sharing some time, or inviting me for a brief stay to connect or reconnect and find some laughter and human connection, I would welcome that!

I won’t be going everywhere, but if you would like to get together, and/or are willing to put up with me for a night or two (or more, but that would be completely up to you and my itinerary), let me know here and we’ll see if I will be in your area.

The next few months of blog posts are likely to deal more with my emotional experience than I have revealed here in the past, but I decided that my process of healing needs to include that level of openness.  Maybe someone else can benefit from my trials.  Other antics may include freezing my butt off, sweating to death, not being able to get the camp stove working, singeing my hair in a campfire, spraying bug spray in my eye, turning into one giant, itchy mosquito welt (they love me) and being bitten by (hopefully not) ticks.  The trip is also bound to include some gorgeous sunsets, great hikes, fantastic historical sites, and wine consumed from either a mug or a melamine cup…  There might even be smores!

They say what doesn’t kill you…??? To that end, I will still be posting here, and as I still have a ton of previous trip stuff to catch up on (including a trip to London that I arrived home from early this morning!!!), this blog will be a combination of past and present posts.  I will likely be posting less frequently though, as I will have to find a place for the night each night…  Priorities…  You will be more likely to find current updates on Instagram or Twitter (my username on both platforms is @wineandhistory), so I hope you will follow along there as well.

I hope you will follow along on this crazy adventure of mine!

 

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: World Center for Birds of Prey

Day 2, Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We woke up in Farewell Bend State Park on a cooler, but still hot, and still breezy morning.  I took a shower – the water took a long time to warm up so most of it was cold… Then we had omelettes and chocolate muffins for breakfast.  We live such a rough camping life! Tear down and packing the car took a bit of time, as it was our first attempt at re-Tetrising on the road.  I had my stuff packed and ready to go long before the kids, so I helped their parents try to wrangle them and we got on the road at 9:30.

Our next stop was at the World Center for Birds of Prey.  I had been there once before, in 2013 and loved it! The World Center for Birds of Prey was founded by the Peregrine Fund, as a conservation and education center. They are a group dedicated to the ancient sport of falconry.  Peregrines have been used in falconry for over 3,000 years, and the group wanted to save them for the sport.  Peregrines are the fastest animal on earth, diving at speeds more than 200 mph while hunting.

Peregrine Falcon

Their first conservation mission began in 1970, to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction – the Peregrines and other birds of prey had become threatened due to the agricultural pesticide DDT, which causes birds to lay eggs with thin shells.  The breeding program and legislation to ban DDT were so successful that the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1999.  They are doing so well now that the Center no longer breeds them for release into the wild; they are focusing their efforts on other, still endangered, species.

While we were there, we saw a demonstration on a Lanner Falcon, which is native to the Mediterranean area.  He was beautiful, and we all loved seeing him up close.  We learned about the malar stripes, which reduce glare on the bird’s eyes as they hunt.  It’s where football players got the idea.

Lanner Falcon

We watched the movie on the work of the center, and I also loved seeing the success story of the Peregrine Falcon (removed from the endangered species list in 1999), as well as the California Condor, which in great part is due to the efforts of the World Center for Birds of Prey has gone from only 22 individuals remaining in the world to 446 in captivity and in the wild as of the end of 2016.  We also checked out the birds on display inside.

When we went back outside after touring the indoor exhibits, we split up and I was lucky enough to find two bird handlers with a male and female American Kestrel.  They look so different from each other – it was very cool to see them up close!  They are very small falcons, and the females are larger than the males, which is common among birds of prey.  Also very interesting is that Kestrels can hover, in order to ambush and swoop down on their prey!

American Kestrel Male

 

American Kestrel Female

The center also has several birds on exhibit outdoors, including a Bald Eagle, a Turkey Vulture, a Peregrine and my favorites, the Bataleur Eagles.  These eagles were 45 and 47 years old when I visited in 2013, so now they are 50 and 52 years old!  They were hatched in 1966 and 1968.  The birds here are not able to be released in the wild, either due to the fact that they were imprinted on humans when they were young or due to an injury they suffered previously.  The Center uses them as education birds, teaching students and community members about the species and their conservation efforts.

 

I was sure they wouldn’t be interested, but after we told them about it, the kids really wanted to do the tour of the archive.  The archive, of course has books and information on the history of falconry, but it also has exhibits and artifacts related to falconry.  There are falconry hoods and perches, radio and early GPS tracking systems, and artwork related to falconry.  There is also a 20 x 12 foot traditional goat-hair hunting tent from Syria.  The archive was made possible in large part from a donation from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, son of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding President of the United Arab Emirates and a falconer himself.  I guess it goes to show that it pays to know people…  I was surprised to see how much the kids enjoyed seeing it, especially the hunting tent, and they listened attentively to the guide during the tour.

 

After the archive, we had a snack and got on the road again.  Our plan had been to head over to Craters of the Moon National Monument, not thinking we were going to be at the World Center for Birds of Prey for so long.  What an issue to have!  So sadly, by the time we got to Craters, there weren’t any campsites available – they are first-come first-served.  After a bit of discussion, we decided that we would do Craters on the way home.  So that evening we really just breezed through…

At this point, it was getting late and starting to get dark and we still didn’t have a campsite…  A call to a KOA RV Park in Arco, Idaho and we had a site!  We got checked in and my brother took the kids over to the pool while Susanna and I got tents up and dinners started.  Cooking dinner over a camp stove in the dark with a headlamp is always interesting!  We had noodle pasta with hamburger and salad.  Not gourmet, but it hit the spot!  We had picked up a bottle of wine on our travels that day, and Susanna and I enjoyed some wine while cooking and during dinner too.

After dinner, and after booting the kids to bed, Michael, Susanna and I stayed up talking and enjoying our bevvies – wine for the girls and a bit of whisky for my brother, before turning in for the night.  Another great day…

 

Distance for the Day: 4 hours, 58 minutes; 282 miles
World Center for Birds of Prey: $10.00 adults, $8 seniors, $5  youth ages 4 to 16. 
Craters of the Moon KOA, Arco, Idaho: $30 for a tent site (if I remember correctly)