Spearfish Canyon

Wednesday June 16, 2021

We had a lot planned for today so we were out early. I wanted to drive spearfish canyon and walk to a couple of waterfalls. The walks were both easy so I don’t think Jim was swearing me. Plus we were out early and it was actually cold.

The Roughlock falls area offered Jim a fly fishing opportunity that he couldn’t resist although he didn’t have any luck this time.

Then we said goodbye to South Dakota and enter Wyoming.

When we arrive at Devil’s Tower National Monument around noon, the line to get in is 6/10ths of a mile long. So Berkley and I make the best of this opportunity. I make us some egg salad sandwiches from some eggs that I cooked up in the instant pot on the drive there and Berkley takes a nap in Jim’s lap.

It is really warm so we only do a quick tour around the tower. Dogs are not allowed on the trail and we didn’t want Berkley to get to hot in the van so we didn’t leave him for long.

On the way out there is another village of prairie dogs. Of course I make Jim pullover.

Custer State Park

Sunday June 13, 2021

We arrive at Game Lodge campground in Custer State Park yesterday and our campsite is directly in the sun. So I am glad we have electric to run the AC it has been really hot in the afternoons.  It was the only campsite available and I bet it was a last minute cancelation.

This campground is beautiful and the bathrooms are super clean. I would definitely stay here again. There are some campsites with shade and a creek running behind it. So if you plan to come here I would try to get one of those.

I am awake early this morning. I am out of the van before 5am for my morning walk. I leave Jim and Berkley in bed. I walk the creekside trail to the next campground. It is a 2 mile walk there. I see a buffalo laying in a grassy field. On my way back he is up having breakfast.

Today we drive the wildlife loop through Custer SP. We see a heard of buffalo, they  cross the road right in front of us. There were many babies in the heard.

There were numerous donkeys and their young and of course a collection of prairie dogs on our scenic drive.

We continue on and see a few deer and a turkey. Then stop at a pullout because for some reason I am super sleepy. I lay down for a short nap and Jim explores the creek we are parked next to. He sees a good sized trout and decides once I wake up he is going to get the fly rod out and see if he can catch it. He doesn’t catch anything large, but he does catch 5 fish.

Monday June 14, 2021

I believe today was our best day as far as weather and campsites go. Sunny skies, 80 degrees with a breeze and a shady campsite at Legion Lake, inside the park.

Today starts with a scenic drive on Needles Hwy with three narrow and low tunnels. I chickened out on them last year, but since Jim is here and he is a much better driver I put it on the intenery. It was great being a passenger  rather than the driver so you can look all around.

We made it through the first tunnel without any issues. The second tunnel had mountain goats inside. There were two moms and two kids. The moms appeared to be licking the tunnel’s rock walls. I am guessing that there is salt in the rock. We wait about 15 minutes hoping they would leave, but after several cars drive through they remain. So we decide to give it a go and take it super slow and we make it through without harming them. That was an awesome experience to see them so close.

By the time we get to the Cathedral Spires trailhead for our hike today it is already pretty warm. The trail is rated as moderate to strenuous with little shade. Berkley gives up pretty early in the hike and I end up carrying him up most of the uphills. I’m sure Jim is silently cursing me.

We slowly make our way to our campsite and relax for the rest of the day.

Mount Rushmore

Saturday June 12, 2021

I peel back the sun shade at 4:30am and I see pink sky. It is already starting to get light.

I get up to go for a morning walk and see the sunrise. Berkley and Jim stay in bed.

We are going to see Mount Rushmore today. On the way we stop at a car wash and clean off the van. The rain/ windstorm from two nights ago really made a mess of the van.

We arrive at Mount Rushmore around 9:30 on a Saturday. It is already hot and crowded. We are back at the van a half hour later with drinks in hand. There are so many people traveling this summer.

We drive Iron Mountain Road toward Custer SP. I highly recommend it. It’s very scenic and fun to drive.

I managed to get us a campsite in Custer SP for the next two nights with electric so we can run the AC.

Badlands

Thursday June 10, 2021

It’s hot! Blazing HOT!

We are up early this morning and headed into the Badlands to hike three short trails and to see prairie dog town as well as drive the scenic loop road before it gets to hot.

My favorite hike today is the Door trail. You are actually walking on and through the rock formations looking for the next numbered marker to find your way. Plus we really beat the crowds on this one.

Friday June 11 2021

We had one hell of a storm come through last night. Winds 30+ mph, lightening and heavy rain.. I love storms, but this one had me nervous. I thought the winds were going to blow the van over. Upon inspection the van looks fine, but man is it filthy. It is covered in sand and dirt blown around by the winds.

Today we were heading into the town of Wall, population 818, to visit the famous Wall Drug. It is a tourist trap, but when you start to see billboards about 160 miles from the town it is hard not to check it out. We only buy 2 donuts. They are pretty famous for them.

While we are in town we also do laundry. At the laundry mat we meet another couple that were camped in the same area as us last night. The wife admitted to being pretty scared also. Then in comes a younger kid that was also in the same area camping in a tent! His outcome was not as good. He decided to ride out the storm in his tent since a couple a nights prior a storm came through and things were fine. Well this storm broke 2 of his tent poles making his tent unusable. So his mission for today was to get that tent replaced.

Ruby Falls

Monday June 7, 2021

Ruby Falls

It’s day 2 and Jim is still with me after spending the night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot!

Today we interrupt our travels with a stop atop Lookout Mountain to view Ruby Falls. Although, Ruby Falls is far below the mountain. Yup! An underground waterfall. It is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall in the United States. You descend 26-stories by elevator into a cavern and it is less than a half mile walk to the falls. The walk to the Falls is scenic and well lit taking you 1120 feet below the earth’s surface. It is a guided hike and you have to remain with your group, which is a bummer for those that like to break the rules or those that don’t like kids! We had a couple of kids in our group that were climbing and touching everything. The cavern has a no touch rule because the oil from our hands alters the growth of the rock formations.

News Flash

Sunday June 6, 2021

I am traveling again this summer, but that is not the news flash. The news flash is that Jim is with me! He decided to join me for about 8 weeks. It will be tight in the van, but with enough alcohol he should be able to make it.

Please text him with good vibes and best wishes that he makes it.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2020I wanted to send out Merry Chistmas wishes to all my friends and family and I think it is about time for an update on…well, what I have been up to lately. But first we woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland for Christmas morning. This is a first for me.Currently I am back doing what I love…hiking. I am in North Carolina spending time with my Mom for the holidays, but more on that later.

Mooney Falls

If you don’t already know, I spent the summer traveling out west. It was amazing and you can read all about it in the previous blog posts. As my trip was coming to an end I realized that I would need to go back to work. On the last day of my 4.5 month trip, at the end of October, I sent in a resume for a temporary dental hygiene position. Why temporary…, because I really don’t want to have the commitment of having to go to work 52 weeks a year. I would like to do some substantial travel in the coming years. Anyway, after submitting the resume they called me less than a half hour later and sent up an interview. I was shocked to get a call so soon after sending in the resume. The interview was scheduled for a few days after I got home and a few days after that I was back to work again. It all happened so fast, and the best part is the office is awesome and it is only temporary!Mom and I have been spending the our time together enjoying the outdoors. We have been driving back roads and hiking trails. We set out on our first adventure and of course it involved a dirt road, it seems that most trailheads are deep in the woods. But this dirt road had an added twist. There was a ford involved with some quick moving water flowing over it. As we approached it I thought I would just hop out and make sure it wasn’t to deep and looked ok to cross it in Mom’s truck. But Mom was just chatting away non stop like she usually does (I can assure you it is so hard to get your own words in when she gets going) and before I know it, I realize she is not going to stop. She just barrels right through it like she does this every day!?!? Meanwhile I am sitting next to her with my eyes about to pop out of my head in shock! And she is still chatting away like you can do anything in a truck! Luckly we made it through with out any problems. The dirt road was well graded and the few ice filled pot holes were easily avoided with Mom’s confident truck driving skills.We arrive at the trailhead around 1pm with blue skies and the temperatures in the mid 40’s. It is a beautiful day, although upon enter the woods with the thick rhododendron trees covering the trail, it seemed really cold and the trail is lined with ice. We carefully make our way down the trail to our destination Big Laural Falls.

Big Laural Falls

Ranger Falls

While on trail we meet another hiker and she tells us about Mooney Falls, another waterfall just a short ways up the road from the trailhead we are parked at. The waterfall is practally road side so we decide to go see that since we are so close.

Snowman on top of Wayah Bald

We spend the whole week getting outside and enjoying nature until Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve came with all day rain which turned into evening snow.Wishing everyone the best for a Happy New Year.“The only thing that stands between you and what you want from life is simply will to pursue it and the faith to believe it is possible.”-unknown author

Follow Your Dreams

Monday November 2, 2020

I am back home now after 4.5 months of travel. It was the trip of a life time. Something I will never forget just like my Appalachain Trail thru hike. I logged over 10,000 miles in the van and have no idea how many miles I hiked. I explored about a dozen national parks, several national monuments and a few state parks. I am so blessed to have been able to do and see so much, but it was also a choice that I made. I chose to make it happen. So get out there people and follow your dreams you won’t reget it!

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday October 25, 2020I picked up my friend, Pat from the Asheville airport on Friday and we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway(BRP) to Crabtree Falls. The falls were beautiful with lots of water flow and the fall color. The hike to the falls was a very slow trudge behind a long line of slow people. It was really pretty annoying and not enjoyable at all. I felt like I was at Disney World waiting in line for a ride. Luckly it was a loop trail and the trail past the falls was very steep so most of the people were going back the way they came. I made Pat take the steep route so we could escape the crowds. The trip on the way back was much more enjoyable although the steep section was unbelivebly steep. We were grabbing anything we could get our hands on to pull ourselves up. We looked like Spiderman scaling a wall. We both made it up safely and Burkley seemed to have no trouble at all.

Crabtree Falls

I was hoping to grab a first come first serve campsite at Crabtree Meadows Campground but it was closed. So I treated Pat to a parking lot site at Cracker Barrel in Asheville and her first shower in a tiny wetbath.

Blue Ridge Parkway

On Saturday we continued our way down the BRP to Mt. Pisgah campground and were able to get a site for the next couple of nights. We started a 7+ mile hike to the top of Mt Pisgah. I told Pat we could turn around anytime she wanted to. But she decided she wanted to do the whole thing. Little did we know that it would involve climbing about a mile of stone steps to the top of the mountain. Again the trail was crowded and there were dozens of people at the top, but the view was filled with beautiful fall color.As I am laying in bed last night I hear something out side. I think to myself that is sounds like a bear getting into someone’s food. When I take Berkley out the next morning the guy in the camp across from me tells me that a bear dragged his cooler off into the woods. He had some food in it and left it outside all night. Everyone of the sites here has a bear box to store your food in it. People are so careless. Pat talked to some other campers and they told her that the bear had also gotten food from other campsites on previous nights. Most likely the bear will have to be killed now because of careless people.This is all a new experience for Pat. She has never done any hiking before so she is pretty sore today (Sunday). It looks like it is going to be rainy for much of the day so she is going to get a rest day today before I drag her back out on the trails tomorrow.

Monday October 26, 2020

Skinny Dip Falls

It rained almost all day yesterday. I got out for a few short walks with Berkley, but that was it. There was no hiking. It was still raining this morning at 4 am when he woke me up to take him outside. It was a quick pit stop then we both climbed back in bed until it was light out.

Today we got to see a couple of very nice waterfalls. I have seen them both before and would view them regularly if I could. The first was a short hike to Skinny Dip Falls. It is located at MM417 on the BRP. You also have a view of Looking Glass Rock from the same parking area.We also saw Looking Glass Falls. A waterfall located about 10 miles off the BRP on 276. It is a roadside waterfall, with a massive amount of water flow.

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Rock

Back in the east

Tuesday October 13, 2020

I had a couple more days of rain and now I am starting to dry out. I am in North Carolina now. The color is just starting to show and leaves are falling from the trees. I will be meeting up with my Mom tomorrow and Jim will be there the day after. I can’t wait to see everyone.

I tried to hike to a waterfall this morning, but didn’t make it. There was a creek crossing that looked more like a river after all this rain. So I turned around. It was good just to be on a non-dusty trail. Althought there were plenty of roots and rocks…something I haven’t seen in a while.

I am back in the Eastern time zone with the humidity reaching 80%. It is terrible for my hair. I am having bad hair day after bad hair day. Out west I would just wake up run my fingers through it and be done.

Thursday October 22, 2020

Mom’s rental.

I have spent a few wonderful days with Jim and more than a week with Mom. It was a major treat to eat Jim’s cooking again rather than my own. I made some quesadillas for Mom and I after Jim left. I accidentally burnt the last couple. Mom being a mom offered to eat the one that was burnt the worst. She did make a comment about needing a skillsaw to cut through it and used double the amount of salsa that she normally would but she made it through it. Mom’s are the best.

Dry Falls

We spent our time hiking, talking and a whole lot of relaxing. The place she rented this year has a fabulous mountain view.

Tomorrow I am headed up to Asheville to pick up a friend that lives in my home town. She will travel with me on the return trip home.

Rufus Morgan Falls

The sweetest!