Monday, September 25, 2017

Week 1 in Spearfish, South Dakota

 September 15-22:

 On Friday morning we left the campground in Glenrock, WY heading to Spearfish, South Dakota. We ended up driving most of the way in rain and fog. In places along I-90 we had to slow down to 30 mph due to the thick fog. On our drive up Highway 59 near Wright WY we saw a large herd of bison (several hundred) in a field along the road.

We arrived at the Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort a few miles east of Spearfish SD and were assigned to Site 59. We ended up having some issues with the electrical hookup along with a leaky water faucet, so on Sunday morning we moved to Site 90.

There was a FMCA Jeep 4-Wheeling Rally going on in the park and the majority of the motorhomes with the rally seemed to be Newmars (we counted a least a dozen). There is also a New Horizons Owners Group (5th wheels & bumper pulls) rally that will start on September 20th that our friends, the Potts will be attending.

We spent all day Sunday (after our move) washing and cleaning both the Duchess and our Jeep. After spending several months in campgrounds with unpaved roads/sites and then driving in the rain both were extremely dirty.

On Monday the Potts and us drove down to Mount Rushmore which is about 80 miles south of our campground. We spend a couple of hours at Mount Rushmore seeing the sites and the museum located at the park. We also listened to a ranger talk on the construction process of the creating the heads of the four presidents located here. The original concept by a South Dakota politician was to carve western heroes into the rock to create an attraction to bring tourists to the Black Hills. Once Gutzon Borglum was hired to oversee the project (which started in 1925 with the last work in 1941), money was raised and the decision was made to carve presidents and not western heroes into the mountain. The carvings are impressive and the process used (dynamiting 90% of the rock and then finishing the remaining 10% with jackhammers and chisels) created a truly national monument. The museum and sculptors house do a great job of explaining the construction of the monument and the years spent by over 400 men to complete  project. The project lasted for 14 years but work was only done for about 6 1/2 years of this time period due to the lack of funding.

Part of the models used to by Borglum

Working model used to create carvings. Only the upper part was completed.

We had a great day with clear skies and nice temperatures for our visit. We had seen on CBS Sunday Morning a segment about Luigi Del Bianco who was honored recently as the "Chief Carver" of Mount Rushmore. We asked about Del Bianco's plaque and the rangers told us it was used in the Washington DC ceremony and would be located at Mount Rushmore in the near future.

All of ate a quick picnic lunch near Mount Rushmore and then drove on to the Crazy Horse Memorial. After finding out it costs almost $30 a car to go into the memorial, we decided we could see the carving (it is still a work in process) from the road and did need to pay that much to see it up close and personal.

Tuesday we had rain so we stayed inside the rig.  Connie did finish one of her jigsaw puzzles that had 1,000 pieces (thanks Larriann).

Wednesday we took a walking tour of the commercial district in Spearfish: there are a number of buildings from the 1880-1920 time period still standing and being used today. We also walked several blocks near the downtown area to see some of the older homes in town from the same time period. Spearfish was not a gold mining town like Deadwood, but was considered the place for people to raise children in this part of the state.

After finishing our walk, we drove over to look at Black Hills State University which is home to about 4,500 students during the school-year. From there we went to Crow Peak Brewing Company where sampled several of their brews before getting a couple of glasses of their "Pile O' Dirt Porter" which we really liked. While at the brewery we met Jeff & Barb Fisher from Wisconsin who were staying at Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort with the Jeep 4-Wheeling Rally. They have a new 2017 Dutch Star 4369 which they are very happy with (their 3rd Newmar).

Crow Peak Brewing Company - Spearfish

Crow Peak Brewing Company - Spearfish
On Thursday Connie and I went into Spearfish and walked the Lookout Mountain trail located along the interstate highway. Once we finished the hike, Connie was not feeling well and slept for several hours that afternoon. She was up for dinner, then back to back where she slept all night and felt better in the morning.

Friday morning we got up early and drove back into Wyoming to visit the Devil's Tower National Monument. The monument is the magma remains of an old volcano that rise 867 feet from it's base. The Indians called this the Bear's Lodge and most of the local tribes had stories about how the tower was formed. Here is the Kiowa legend about the rock:

Before the Kiowa came south they were camped on a stream in the far north where there were a great many bears, many of them. One day, seven little girls were playing at a distance from the village and were chased by some bears. The girls ran toward the village and the bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock, about three feet high. One of the girls prayed to the rock, "Rock take pity on us, rock save us!" The rock heard them and began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they scratched the rock, broke their claws, and fell on the ground. The rock rose higher and higher, the bears still jumped at the girls until they were pushed up into the sky, where they now are, seven little stars in a group (The Pleiades). In the winter, in the middle of the night, the seven stars are right over this high rock. When the people came to look, they found the bears' claws, turned to stone, all around the base. No Kiowa living has ever seen this rock, but the old men have told about it - it is very far north where the Kiowa used to live. It is a single rock with scratched sides, the marks of the bears' claws are there yet, rising straight up, very high. There is no other like it in the whole country, there are no trees on it, only grass on top. The Kiowa call this rock "Tso-aa", a tree rock, possibly because it grew tall like a tree.

Devil's Tower was the first National Monument designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. So Wyoming is home to the first national park (Yellowstone in 1872) and the first national monument. The tower is impressive and is a place we are glad we visited. We walked the trail around the base of the tower to view it from all four sides. We saw several people climbing the tower while we were there (there are a couple of thousand individuals who climb it each year - no spikes allowed - all done with hands and feet using the crevices in the tower).

We drove back to Spearfish to complete our first week here in South Dakota.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Glenrock, Wyoming

September 1 to September 15:

On Friday, September 1st, we headed north from Riverside WY for 200 miles to Glenrock WY. Glenrock is a small town with a population of 2,500 located on the North Platte River 25 east of Casper. We are staying for two weeks at the Platte River RV Park and Campground which is located on the river. The campground has RV sites on a rise above the river while the lower part is used for tent camping. During the solar eclipse in August they had over 2,000 people in the campground which was on the 100% total solar eclipse path across the USA. The park had musical groups and on-site food vendors for the campers enjoying the eclipse. The park is owned by Rod and Jean who winter in Florida at the same RV Resort as the Potts.

We were guided to our site, got set up and then drove around the town. The Potts, David and Cindy, joined us the next day driving up from Rawlins WY.

On Labor Day the Potts joined us as we drove over to the Ayres Natural Bridge Park which is located a few miles east of Glenrock. The natural bridge was a scenic stop close to the Oregon Trail. The natural bridge was formed by erosion by LaPrele Creek over thousands of years. On Labor Day the park was filled with people have family picnics and enjoying the cool water of the creek.

Later in the week we joined the Potts, Rod & Jean along with their daughter Terri, for a kayak trip down the North Platte River. Rod has a trailer we were able to put all of the kayaks in for the trip upstream from the campground to a place where we could enter the river. We floated 6.5 miles back to the campground enjoying the scenery along the river. We saw several eagles diving for fish as we paddled along.

On Thursday we joined the Potts for a bicycle ride along the Platte River Trail which is a 10 mile paved trail that follows the North Platte River in Casper. We parked our vehicles at one end of the trail planning to stop along the way to eat our lunch and then finish up the entire 20 mile up and back trip. We stopped for lunch at the Trail Information Center and then after lunch Cindy had a flat on her Trek electric bike (which the other three of us struggled to keep up) near the end of the trail. Dave and I rode our bike back to our vehicles (we ended up riding the entire 20 miles) and then drove back to pick up Cindy and Connie. Unfortunately Dave ended up backing into a post and breaking his bike rack on the back of his truck as we were leaving the parking area so it was a bad day for the Potts. They went to a bike shop to have the tube replaced on Cindy's bike and it took the lady in the shop three tries to get the tube replaced and the tire back on the wheel.

Sunday afternoon Connie and I drove into Casper to visit the Frontier Tap Room. We arrived a few minutes before it opened so we walked around downtown Casper. Most of the shops and businesses were closed since it was a Sunday but we did not see any unoccupied spaces along the several blocks we walked (even some new construction). Casper is a oil industry city that has experienced many booms and busts over the years, but seems to be doing well these days. Frontier Tap Room has only been open for a few weeks and they will have their own beers next month. We tasted a selection of beers from other Wyoming, Colorado and Montana micro-breweries. They give you a "pour card" that you use to pour your own beer. The beer is sold by the ounce and you see how much you owe after each pour. So you can try a couple of ounces or pour a full glass depending on what you want. Several of the brews we liked and we had a small glass of two of the beers while we were there. The tap room has several large screen TV's along with board games for people to play while drinking beer.

One day we decided to make the 100 mile drive east to Fort Laramie National Historic Site and the Oregon Trail Ruts Site. We stopped along the road to see the Old Army Bridge that was built in 1875 over the Platte River near the fort.

We later learned that the Platte River could be 200 feet wide and 10 feet deep during the spring from the snow melt.

We then drove on to Fort Laramie and went to the Visitor's Center to watch a short film about the history of the fort. Fort Laramie was the third fort to be built in the area: the first two forts, Fort John and Fort William were trading posts for the Indians and early trappers/hunters in the region during the 1810-1840 time period. The American Fur Company owned the second fort and sold it to the US Government. During the 1841 to 1869 time period Fort Laramie was an important stop along the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. It provided a place for a few days rest and supplies for the people traveling along the trails. It is estimated that between 350,000 and 500,000 individuals passed through Fort Laramie on their way west. About 20,000 died along the trails: most from illness, drownings during the many river crossings along the trails or accidents. Only 2% of those who died were the results of Indian attacks.

Fort Laramie was the site of two treaties between the Indian tribes in the area and the US Government: one in 1851 and another in 1868. Both of these treaties were broken by the US after the lands set aside for the Indians because of gold miners, farmers and ranchers and other emigrants who came west to settle or find their fortune.

The fort was the home for both cavalry and infantry companies of the US Army. It was also a stop along the Pony Express route during the 1860-1861 life of this mail delivery service. The fort was closed in 1890 and sold for about $1,500. It was bought back from private ownership in the 1930's and made into a historic site. Some of the original buildings remained but a lot of the original lumber had been taken away to be used in local buildings.

We ate our lunch under some nice cottonwood trees near the fort parking lot before driving 25 miles to Guernsey to see the Oregon Trail Ruts site. This site is located a few miles outside of town along the river in some limestone rock. It is one of the few places were the ruts from the trails going west still can be seen.

Our final trip in Casper was made to visit the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center located overlooking the town. The interpretive center is one of several located across the west along the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. It does a great job of exploring the history of the trails and the experiences of individuals who made the trek west. There are several short films and interactive exhibits in the interpretive center. We were impressed with the center and what we learned during our visit there.

From the interpretive center we went to one of the local parks in Casper to eat our picnic lunch. Then we drove south to the base of the Casper Mountains where we saw the Garden Creek Falls inside the Rotary Park. The Rotary Park has about 5 miles of hiking trails up the base of the mountains but since it the temperatures were near 90 we only walked up to the base of the falls. The water drops over 100 feet but this time of year there is not a lot of water going over the falls.

During our stay here we met several other couples in the campground including Roy and Ann Brody who own a New Horizons 5th wheel and were headed to the New Horizons Owners Group Rally in Spearfish SD.

On Thursday (9/14) the Potts left for Spearfish and we started the process of getting the Duchess ready to leave tomorrow morning for South Dakota.

If you want to see more photos of our visit to this area of Wyoming CLICK HERE.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Riverside Wyoming for a week

August 24 to September 1:

On Thursday (8/24) we finished packing up the Duchess, paid our electric bill for the month we were at the Red Mountain RV Park, and drove north 110 miles to Riverside, Wyoming. We checked into the Lazy Acres RV Park and were guided to Site 4. This is a small (36 sites) family owned park located on the Encampment River. There are only a couple of sites with river frontage and ours is not one of them. It is a very nice park with trees, grass and full hook-ups. We got set up and walked around the town of Riverside. Since the town has population of 52 this did not take that long. The town has a nice city park with a 9 hole disc golf course, a well stocked general store and two bars/restaurants.

2000 Sign relocated to campground

Site 4
 On Friday we drove over to Laramie, Wyoming by way of WY Hwy 130 which is a scenic byway that goes through the Medicine Bow National Forest and the Snowy Range Mountains. Laramie is located 80 miles east of Riverside and it was a very scenic drive through the national forest. We got out at the pass through the mountains but since the temperature was 52 degrees with a strong wind we did stay out long.

While in Laramie we stopped by the Walmart to pick up a few items for motor home and then ate a quick lunch at Taco Bell near the University of Wyoming. We looked on line and found a local museum that we visited called the Laramie Plains Museum and Invinson Mansion. There was a guided tour of the house that lasted over an hour with an excellent guide who knew a great deal about the family and the town of Laramie. Mr. Invinson was a banker and investor who a one point was the richest man in Wyoming. He and his wife traveled all over the world and brought back many items to the house they built. The house was became a girls bordering house for many years after it was donated by Mr. Invinson to the Episcopal Church. Most of the girls who stayed here were from area ranchers and they came to the bordering house to go to school in Laramie. The local Women's Club bought the house in 1972 after it was almost sold to the Alberson's Grocery Store chain to be torn down for a grocery store location. They have spend many years and almost a $1 million dollars restoring the mansion and turning it into a great place to visit.

Bottom right picture is snowshoes for horses.

We then drove to the University of Wyoming where we walked around the campus for a while. Since classes had not started for the fall semester we saw very few people. We did visit the Geology Museum before we left which has a great collection of dinosaur bones.

On Saturday we visited the Grand Encampment Museum which in Encampment, Wyoming. Encampment is located next to Riverside (you can walk between the two towns) and was a mining & logging town during it's heyday in the late 19th and early 20th century. The museum traces the history of the area along with being the site of several old historic buildings that have been moved to the museum site. It has a number of exhibits along with wonderful old photographs from the days of mining and logging. Copper was discovered 16 miles west of Encampment and a tramway system was used to move the copper ore from the mine to the copper smelter located in Riverside on the Encampment River. The smelter burned down twice and was not rebuilt after the second fire due to the falling price of copper. The engineer who built the tramway system went on to design and built a number of ski lifts in the western US.

On Sunday we decided to do some hiking in the national forest located west of Encampment. We found the parking space for the beginning of the logging road that lead of the Green Mtn. Falls Trail. After looking at the logging road and talking to some people who were coming down from the logging trail we decided to walk the two miles up the road to the trail (we were glad we did not try and drive it). We hiked up the beginning of the trail and then decided to turn around and hike back down. It was nice walk up and back along a following creek.

We then drove up to Battle Pass to see the Continental Divide in this part of Wyoming. The air was hazy from the fires in Montana and this limited how far we could see. I'm sure on a clear day you could see over 100 miles from the pass.

Monday we took the day off and stayed around the campground. We did ride our bikes around Riverside and Encampment.

The Willis House

Tuesday we drove up the Snowy Range to walk the trail between several of the glacier lakes located in the mountains. We walked from Lake Marie (named after the first woman to hold elective office in Wyoming) to Mirror Lake and then to Lost Lake. As we walked along the trail we could hear the rocks on the mountain cracking off and falling. It sounded like someone was shooting off fireworks. The hike is a beautiful walk with the lakes and the Snowy Range Mountains visible along the entire trail.

On Wednesday we drove over to the town of Saratoga which is located about 18 miles north of Riverside. We walked the two blocks of downtown and visited the historic Hotel Wolf & Restaurant which was built in the 1893. There was a lot of old pictures of the hotel and town on the walls which we enjoyed looking at.

From there we drove across the river to the Snowy Mountain Brewery which is located at the Saratoga Resort & Spa. We sampled several of their brews before splitting a glass of their 2017 Total Eclipse Chocolate Black Lager (which was very good). We had a nice visit with the two bartenders: one of whom was here for a few month from Serbia and the other had gone to school in Encampment.

After finishing our beer we walked around the resort & spa. They have hot springs at the facility with individual tubs covered by tepees along with a large pool heated by the hot springs. The springs are suppose to have healing properties with numerous minerals in the waters. The resort has a 9 hole golf course, access to the river for fishing & canoeing, horse back riding and other activities. The resorts hosts a number of weddings each year.

There was old photograph of a hunting party from the 1880's that included Wyatt Earp and his brother, Teddy Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid and other famous old West characters.

After leaving the resort, we drove back across the river to Bella's Bistro where we had dinner reservations. This restaurant was recommended to us by Steve & Larrianne and we had a wonderful meal at the place. We were surprised by Saratoga with both a nice resort and Bella's being in a town of 1,700 population. We did find out that there is a number of large ranches around the area and a high end gated community right out side of town.

The high end gated community is called the "Old Baldy Club" and we remembered that Vic and Pam Gallagher lived there. We had house sat in their apartment in Austin while they traveled to the British Virgin Islands for several weeks for two winters and taken care their Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Emma and Murphy. We texted them Thursday morning and they invited us to come out that evening for a visit and to join them for the club's weekly "cookout on the river". We arrived at their house around 5 pm and had a great visit with them. We got caught up on our lives over the last couple of years and got to take a quick tour of their house. Murphy had passed away earlier this year and they now have an eight month old Cavalier King Charles puppy named Jo-Jo (full of pep and energy). The house was bought by Vic's dad in 1966 and has remained in the family since then. The Old Baldy Club was started in 1966 as a golfing, hunting & fishing club and Vic's dad was one of the charter members. Pam & Vic drove us and another couple, Milton and Rita from Dallas, to the location of the cook-out which was a few miles east of the club. We got to meet several people who are members of the Old Baldy Club (which is named for a mountain near Saratoga) and enjoyed quite the spread of food. There was a three man musical group that provided entertainment during the meal and they were very good. The lead singer is a retired rancher and in his 80's.  After dropping off Milton & Rita at their place, we took a quick tour of the clubhouse and dining rooms at the club. It was great to see Pam & Vic again and they invited us to visit anytime we are in this area in the future.

On Friday morning we packed up the Duchess and headed 200 hundred miles north to Glenrock, Wyoming which is about 25 miles east of Casper where we will be for the next two weeks.