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America 2009 (Page 3) - The Great RV Adventure


5th August - Sherando Lake, Virginia

We have managed to get everything done with the boat and transferred everything to the RV that we will need for the next eight months or so - we hope - and have managed to get away. We have driven to the Blue Ridge Mountains to Sherando Lake where we tried to get in before but it was full. This time we get in OK. Great place with two lakes  to walk round and also other trails to hike on. On our second day here we do the "Blue Loop" which turns out to be a fairly strenuous hike - much more so that we thought it would be and we both realise we need to get a bit fitter. Really nice stop though.

Julie at an overlook, Sherando Lake Gray Catbird nesting right next to the RV


7th August. Jackson, Ohio.

We have driven 294 miles through West Virginia to Ohio and are parked in a Truck Stop. Our plan is to make miles for a few days so we are saving a bit of money by not going into campsites.

8th August. Morton Near Peoria, Illinois.

430 miles today (through Indiana to Illinois) and we are parked in a Walmart car park. We mentioned before that Walmart allow RV's to park overnight. This time we park in a quiet area and have a great night sleep - free.

9th August. Fort Dodge, Iowa.

334 miles today and another Walmart car park.

10th August. Winner, South Dakota.

341 miles today but no Walmart. South Dakota has very few cities or large towns that warrant a Walmart so we are in the Country Club Motel and RV Park. Believe me it sounds much more highbrow than it actually was. Basically the back yard of a motel. Still we had power and water for once.

11th August. The Badlands, South Dakota.

Only 129 miles today but during this time we saw no houses, farms, towns, villages. South Dakota is definitely remote. We have however made it to the Badlands, an area of South Dakota that has pinnacles and cliffs and not much else. We are in the Cedar Pass Campground which is run by the National Parks authority and only costs us $10 per night. It is HOT here with a capital H. Daytime temperatures are round about the 40 deg C mark though the nighttime temperatures are very comfortable for sleeping. Again we are thankful for the air conditioning. We manage to do a couple of hikes though we do leave fairly early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat. Julies affinity with snakes continues on our first hike when we find a genuine Rattlesnake only three feet away from us. After a few shakes of his rattle he was off down into his hole. Other beasts on these hikes included Ground Squirrels and rabbits. One thing we do find in the nearby "town" of Interior (population 67) is a bar, The Horseshoe Bar, so on our last night we head there for a few cold ones. As usual when we are in a real bar (not a restaurant bar) we meet interesting people including a modern day "cowboy", two teachers from the Lakota Indian Reservation one of whom is a half blood Apache Indian and a couple form California, now living in Alabama who are both "saddle sore" having had a day riding things they are not used to.

Cedar Pass Campground, Badlands

The rolling hills of South Dakota

The Badlands, South Dakota

Hiking in the Badlands

Western Meadowlark - SD state bird The Ground Squirrel

14th August. Middle of Nowhere, Stateline Road, (Black Hills National Forest) South Dakota/Wyoming.

207 miles which took us through the city of Rapid City where we shopped and fuelled up and then to the Mount Rushmore National Monument. From there we were going to find a campsite in the Black Hills but didn't quite manage to do that. We were on gravel roads trying to follow misleading directions so eventually found a nice track which we backed into hoping no one else would want to use it. We are very remote here. However, because of the elevation here, 5,600 feet the temperature has also dropped a little. This morning - 16th - the temperature was 5 deg C and we are now thankful that the RV has a heating system. From 40 to 5 degrees in two days. It is beautiful here though and we will stay here for three or four days until we need to go and top up with fresh water again somewhere. It is now the morning of the 17th and we are going to move on today. This has been a beautiful place to stay: we are actually in a stand of Quaking Aspen trees which shiver whenever they get a breeze on them. Talking of shivering the temperature this morning was 3 yes 3 degrees C - It's the middle of August remember!!! Beasties here have been a bit few and far between but we have seen chipmunks and Red Squirrels which are quite unusual.

Mount Rushmore, Black Hills SD

The Middle of Nowhere!!


17th August. Gillette, Wyoming.

Short journeys now that we are in the west and only 96 miles today. Yet again we are in a Walmart car park for the night. As an indication of how many RV's there are over here in the west we overnight with about ten other RV's in the car park. In the morning we  take the RV to the nearby Visitor Centre who very kindly provide WiFi Internet, a dump station for all our waste water etc and also drinking water to top up our tank.

18th August. Sitting Bull Campground, Bighorn Mountains/National Forest.

Just 115 miles today into the mountains. This mountain range is just east of the main Rockies but are still impressive. We go over the main pass at 9,666 feet before going down a little to our selected campground which is at 8,600 feet. We manage to do some hiking every day and get to know our friendly local beasts. There are what we think are Red Deer wandering around and also lots of Red Squirrels. The squirrels are very amusing. They have constant territory squabbles and have no real fear of humans. They come and take peanuts we have dropped and one even comes right up and takes a drink of beer out of Julies can. (And lived to tell the tale). We are still having our cold mornings but the heating works a treat.

Sitting Bull Campsite and lake beyond from our hike

21st August. Deer Park Campground, Bighorn Mountains/National Forest.

A really long trip today of 13 miles just so that we have some different hiking. We actually drive to the end of the road we are on to West Ten Sleep Lake and do a hike there which at 9,500 feet is our highest hiking elevation. Air starts to thin at 6,500 feet so at this level we are both catching our breath and taking a steady pace. Without a doubt though this is the most impressive hiking yet. We then drive back down the road a little to our present campsite at 8,400 feet.

High Altitude Hiking - 9,500 feet

Looking at 13,122 feet

23rd August. Bighorn National Forest.

First thing this morning we did a 5 mile hike from our site to the top of the trail at Ten Sleep Lake and back down the gravel road. After lunch a short trip down the road to a free site and a relaxing afternoon.

24th August. Eagle RV Resort, Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Today is "bite the bullet" day and we are paying for a proper campground. Need the laundry facilities and WiFi internet that is provided here. Thermopolis is known as the "Largest Hot Springs" in the World. In accordance with a treaty between Wyoming State and the Wind River Indians from last century there is a State Park that provides free access to the springs. The pools are at a constant temperature of 105 Deg F. We are going for a dip tomorrow morning before moving on.

Too much swing on the Swing Bridge

The Big Horn River at Thermopolis

Wild Bison (Buffalo)

Not a Safari Park

25th August. Riverton, Wyoming.

Just an easy overnight in the Walmart car park. Bit of shopping and an easy night. Even though this is a Walmart car park we have open countryside to one side of us - this is a very rural area.

26th - 28th August. Sinks Canyon State Park, Wyoming.

An incredible camp site in a marvelous canyon at 6,750 feet. We are parked right on the small river that runs through the site. The hiking is good and we do different hikes each day. On the final day we drive up to the car park about two miles up the road and then do the hike from there to the falls. The actual falls come into view right at the last minute and are quite spectacular. We follow the trail right through to a small pool with a sandy bottom which just cries out for a paddle. Not for long though before our feet start to turn blue and hurt. The water is COLD. The falls are after all at about 7,600 feet. We also go down to the visitor centre which is located where the Canyon gets its name. The river literally sinks into the mountain and disappears. It actually then rises about a quarter of a mile down the road into a trout pool where the trout are huge. They are fed here and no fishing is allowed. Julie also manages to get lots of good pictures here including a bird that has eluded her for some time - the American Dipper.

Mountain Rivers

View from the cab of the RV

29th - 30th August. Brooks Lake, Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming.

This is our highest elevation campsite yet and probably for the rest of the trip. After a five mile drive on a rough gravel road we're shaken not stirred and are camped at 9,200 feet. Ron is having a bit of trouble, probably with the altitude, with migraines and a bleeding nose in the mornings. Still, the intrepid duo battle on and hike round part of the lake and then up further in search of the Jade Lakes which of course we never find. We do go up to about 9,600 feet however. The scenery is as good as it gets. We are running out of superlatives and adjectives to describe Wyoming and we still have what are supposed to be the best parts to come yet.

Brook's Lake at 9,200 feet - Amazing scenery

Real Cowboy Country

More Brooks Lake

Uinta Ground Squirrel The Lesser Chipmunk

31st August - 2nd September. Gros Ventre, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

We have driven down towards Jackson Hole to this campsite and have driven right past the mountain range called the Grand Tetons. These are like high peaks coming out of an already high mountain range. The Teton peaks are at 13,770 feet and still covered in snow and glaciers. The campsite is however down at 6,575 feet. There are wild bison here and we have already had to stop to let a group across the road which included some very small calves. We will spend a few days here and then go into Yellowstone for the weekend.

Mum and Calf crossing the road

Gros Ventre river and campsite

The Teton mountain range

3rd - 6th September. Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park.

Well, after all these miles we have made it to Yellowstone. Within 20 minutes of entering the park we have seen a Coyote a Marmot and an Elk. As a first stop we have gone to Grant Village - Yellowstone has these "villages" set up with campgrounds, lodges, small stores etc in various places around the park. Bear in mind that the park is probably about the size of Yorkshire. It has its own police, garbage collection, maintenance etc etc. Grant village is right on the shore of Yellowstone Lake at 7,800 feet. During our stay at Grant we drive up to West Thumb - a massive 2 miles away to visit the Geyser Basin there and also do a couple of small hikes. Next day we drive another whopping 3 miles south to do a hike to Riddle lake. This is about a 5.5 mile hike but nice and easy. Not much about but we did see Black Bear tracks at the waters edge.

It Says it all

Not the usual traffic in Yellowstone

7th September. Norris, Yellowstone NP.

We have driven just over 50 miles to a different site really just so that we can start to see a bit more of the park. It is truly amazing. The canyons and valleys - enough to turn Julies stomach driving alongside a sheer drop of about a thousand feet - the wildlife - always coming across Bison, Mule Deer and Elk - no Bears though.

8th - 9th September. Bridge Bay, Yellowstone NP.

We were going to go to a site called Canyon but found out that the campsite had closed for the winter. It really brings it home just how short the season is here at these altitudes. There is apparently snow on the ground for about 8 months of the year. It is getting cold now in the mornings and we wake up on our first morning here with an outside (and inside) temperature of 34 deg F (1 deg C) although it does warm up during the day - at least in the sun.

Coyote in Yellowstone

Old Faithful in full blow

Wyoming and Yellowstone

Both Wyoming generally and Yellowstone deserve a special mention of their own. We have never seen anywhere like it. The scenery, geology, wildlife is incredible. There have not been enough adjectives and superlatives in the English language to describe what we have seen and done here. The only thing we can say is that if ever you get the chance to visit here - TAKE IT!!!!

10th - 11th September. Beaver Creek, Montana.

Yes, at last we have made it to another State - Montana. We have picked this place out of a book because it said the bird watching was good - too much of a magnet for Julie to miss. Having picked it out of a book we could not have done better. The site overlooks Quake Lake at 6,400 feet which formed in the late 50's after Hegben Lake dam burst as a result of an earthquake. Another slide further downstream then blocked the flow and created a new lake. It is a little eerie still to see the lake full of dead trees. A very quiet site with only a few other people here. The plus side is that it was almost warm this morning at 9 deg C. A good thing as Julie was up at 8 o' clock in her pajamas chasing  a squirrel off the roof of the RV - a site to behold.

Quake Lake, Montana

Blue Grouse

12th September. Rexburg, Idaho. 

Another state. This time Idaho, the Potato State. In fact the state slogan is "Famous Potatoes". Not much to report here except that we are back with our friends Walmart and over-nighting in the car park. The one thing of note is that we are below 5,000 feet for the first time in ages.

13th - 15th September. Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho.

This is a unique area in the USA - at least in the "lower 48". 65 miles of volcanic lava flows, volcanoes, cinder mountains etc. Every 2,000 years or so this place bursts apart at a rift that goes through the area and throws out huge quantities of lava. It has created unique wildlife that lives within the lava fields - even its own version of the chipmunk - the Craters Yellow Pine Chipmunk. The weather is also a bit different. It is warmer here and we are back to shorts and T shirts but there is a local phenomena that the wind blows at about 20 mph every afternoon. This is so different from all our forestry campsites we just had to do it. Our hiking has taken on a different aspect as well. Instead of our normal forestry or mountain trails we find ourselves hiking inside volcanic craters and even inside giant lava tubes (without the hot stuff of course). Other notable events are that we are back above 6,000 feet and we have also done over 3,000 miles since leaving Deltaville on this trip alone - not including the Blue Ridge Mountains trip. We have also decided to complete the "Coast to Coast" version of the trip and are going to be heading for the Oregon coast before heading south. Watch the following additions.

Chipmunk in the Lava

The bottom of the Crater

Typical landscape at Craters of the Moon

16th September. Mountain Home, Idaho.

A means to an end again with an overnight in the Walmart car park. We are down at 3,000 feet and it is much warmer. We actually wake up to a temperature of 67 deg F (19 deg C).

17th - 19th September, Unity, Oregon.

Another new state for the two of us. We are in the Yellow Pine campground aptly named for the yellowish bark on the pine trees. These are huge trees and we discover that they are Ponderosa Pines - previously used to build houses, bridges and down mines as prop shafts. The weather is very kind to us and we use the time to catch up on a few maintenance and cleaning jobs. Again this is a forestry campground in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. It's also cheap. One other reason we had come here was that it has a sewage dump - guess what - out of commission.

20th September. John Day, Oregon.

We have gone to the Clyde Holliday State Park here and it is a very well maintained site. Like camping in a garden. They provide electricity and water plus bathrooms with hot showers. They also have a sewage dump - guess what - out of commission.

21st - 22nd September. Prineville Reservoir, Oregon.

We have gone 130 miles or so closer to the coast and are going to have a couple of days here. Julie spotted in the write up - good bird-watching - so here we are. Actually a really nice site on the shores of the reservoir with electricity, water and yes at last sewage dump.

Great-Horned Owl

Prineville Reservoir

23rd September. Redmond/Bend, Oregon.

We have headed off to the nearest Walmart both to do some shopping and overnight. According to the book this is in a small town called Redmond. Unfortunately Walmart have taken the decision (without telling us!!) to close this particular branch down so we move on to the next Walmart which is in the bigger city of Bend. We find Walmart, do our shopping and notice the signs that say "No Overnight Parking". The first Walmart we have ever seen this at. So - we move on to a nearby State Park - Tumalo - not too far north of Bend which happens to be the direction we need.

24th - 26th September, Santiam Flats, Detroit, Oregon.

We are back to our favourite Forestry Service campgrounds, this time in the Willamette National Forest near the very small town of Detroit. No not the one they make cars in. This is a really nice site on the river just as it enters Detroit Lake. The river runs right past our "bedroom". The weather is magnificent and much warmer now that we are back at lower elevations - about 2,000 feet here.

Mount Jefferson near Santiam Flats, Detroit

The Santiam River near the campsite

27th September, Salem, Oregon.

Yet another Walmart. Again our elevation continues to come down - 154 feet!!!

28th September - 1st October. Cape Lookout State Park, Tillamook, Oregon.

We have now done the "Coast to Coast" bit of our trip. We are at a campsite almost on the beach. Our elevation is now about 4 feet and we cant get much lower without getting the tires wet. Actually we get them wet anyway as it doesn't stop raining from the time we arrive. On our second day there is a Tsunami Warning Poster put up in the campground for that evening. As a result of the earthquake in Samoa there is a Tsunami raging through the Pacific and it is expected to get to us though no one can say what height of waves we will get. The next morning we haven't floated away so assume that it passed us by. We are also doing our tourist bit here and have visited the local Air Museum which used to be a Naval Air Station and also the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Julie gets to buy cheese but I don't get to buy a plane!!!!

Cape Lookout

Welcome to the Pacific??

Our last full day at this site sees us doing a 5 mile hike out to the Cape through what is termed "Coastal Rain Forest". It not only makes for a very interesting hike but also explains why we have had rain every day we have been here!! The trees here are apparently quite special and are termed as Ancient Forest. They basically comprise Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock.

Sitka Spruce

Netarts Bay from the Cape

2nd - 4th October. Devils Lake, Oregon.

About 50 miles down the coast and near to Lincoln City this campground is near Devils Lake and also what is termed as "The Shortest River in America" the D River. Yes just 'D'. This place is a bit different. Although we walk on the beach our "hikes" actually take us to pubs for a change so we down a few pints each day. The last time we went to a proper bar was way back in South Dakota at the Badlands and it actually makes a very pleasant change. Especially as the beer is cheap.

Seal on the beach It's a seals life!

5th - 7th October. South Beach, Newport, Oregon.

We've had a few days at this site as they are the only State Park on the coast with a Wi-Fi system. Also a great beach for walking and guess what - we managed to find a Micro Brewery that had an inbuilt Pub and Restaurant. Rogue Nation is the company and all their beers are under the Rogue brand. 45 different drafts on tap. Heaven!!!

8th - 10th October. Carl Washburn State Park, Oregon.

Yes we are still in Oregon having moved just a little down the coast as much for a change of scenery as for anything else. A nice site near the beach has had us doing some fairly serious hiking (for us anyway). A 6.5 mile hike to Heceta Lighthouse meant some serious elevation changes so was a bit strenuous and then a 4 mile hike to Hobbit Beach the following day. We will have another few days in Oregon and then start our move through California. Hopefully we will get a little warmer weather as it has started to get decidedly chilly here. About 45 deg F (6 deg C) in the mornings and not rising above 54 deg F (12 deg C) at all during the day. Gone are the days of shorts and T shirts.

View from Heceta Lighthouse

11th October. Edson Creek, Sixes River, Oregon.

Just for a change found a site off the coast - also a cheap alternative. This was a site owned by the Bureau of Land Management which is one of the many organisations that run forestry, wildlife, fisheries etc and include campsites in some of their locations.

12th - 14th October, Harris Beach, Brookings, Oregon.

Another State Park, this time the most southerly one in Oregon. We plan to sit here for a few days to see out what promises to be a very wet and windy time with a huge storm approaching from the south. At least in this site we have "all mod cons" including Cable TV, WiFi and mains electricity. Not bad for a State Park.



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