Friday, December 30, 2016

Devils Tower

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One of my favorite movies as a kid was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. An odd-shaped mountain in northeastern Wyoming was featured heavily in the story and it stayed with me throughout my adulthood. I’m not sure if it would have been as mysterious had it not been for the movie but for me as a photographer, it was high on my bucket list of things to shoot.

After our spectacular visit to Alaska this year, Linda and I thought that anything in the Lower 48 would pale in comparison. Aside from an extended stay at our our property in Idaho, our main mission was to get to Campbellsville in Kentucky for our seasonal job at Amazon. So, with that in mind, I had kind of resigned myself to a fairly mundane few months of just getting to that destination.

Linda is the planner extraordinaire and her specialty is fitting a square peg in a round hole. What I mean by that is she will look at a short period of time and figure out an epic trip inside those restraints. One day she blurted out, “I figured out our trip!” When I hear those words, I always get excited. Her genius surfaced again this time when she showed me how we could fit a trip to Devils Tower into our itinerary! I couldn’t wait.

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Devils Tower really lends itself to black and white for extra drama!

Here’s a little information: Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument and stands 867 feet from base to summit. It is sacred to local Native American tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho. The mountain has had various names given by these tribes over the years including Bear’s House, Bear’s Lair and Home of Bears.

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Longhorns posed for us and then came around with a tin cup looking for tips.

In 1875 an explorer named Col. Richard Irving Dodge asked his obviously inept interpreter what the local name was and he mistranslated it as Bad God’s Tower. This eventually morphed to Devil’s Tower and, when it was designated a National Monument, the apostrophe was dropped. So now you know.

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This was one of the nicest campsites we have been to and the views were amazing!

The campground where we stayed lies just inside the main entrance. Fall had taken hold in all its beauty and we found a campsite with a great view of the mountain. Because we were at the edge of the season (the park closes in mid-October), there were few campers about and it was a wonderfully restful time for us.

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Fall colors were everywhere and our deer friends were out enjoying it all!

There is a loop around the base of DT that’s an easy walk with plenty of views of the mountain itself and the surrounding landscape. DT’s shape changes drastically according to wherever you happen to be on that loop, making it a really interesting walk. The first day we attempted to get to the base, we found ourselves on a somewhat strenuous ascent that left us completely out of breath! When we finally got up to the trail, it spit us right out at the Visitors Center! The next day, with newly-acquired wisdom, we drove up and walked the flat and paved loop trail which was a heck of a lot easier!

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We found the trail less traveled the first day. The fog and rain added a nice touch!

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Almost to the base, I promise!

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The views of the surrounding landscape made this strenuous hike worth it.

There are many trails in the area, including one that goes right through Prairie Dog Town. These little critters are fascinating to watch. They are so named because of their bark-like sounds when sounding danger and, believe me, they always seem to be in danger! The barking and screeching never stops. They have created an elaborate network of interconnecting tunnels and every few seconds, they are either ducking inside or heads are popping up.

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Prairie Dog cuteness.

We had a really great time here and, although it was a brief visit, it made a lasting impression. Our list of “must return” places is growing and this is one of our favorites.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Henry’s Lake State Park

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Since we started traveling fulltime we have had a mouse in Scoopy on three occasions and two of them have been while we are in the Teton Valley! And this time, the mouse brought his friends! We caught three in a matter of hours and though they weren't inside for long, they sure made a mess!

That is one of the main reasons we decided to move on to Henry's Lake State Park where we could enjoy full hook-ups and thoroughly clean Scoopy! It didn't hurt that the setting was gorgeous! It was also fairly close to Yellowstone, which we thought we'd enjoy often, but once we got started on cleaning, the process took on a life of it's own and kept us fairly close to home.

Every drawer and cabinet was emptied, wiped with Clorox cloths and adorned with a light-colored liner. This will make it much easier to spot any offending matter in the drawers in the future. The washing machine was in constant use as was the vacuum cleaner. Bits and pieces of stray dry goods and various and sundry foodstuffs were tossed and the trash bags piled up. That was the other great thing about staying in a FHU campground - garbage disposal!

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Steven did a lot of the icky stuff, like disinfecting everything and operating Stanley. He did a great job!

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We made great use of the makeshift “dumpster” at the park :)

The thing about this kind of deep clean is that the place gets completely trashed during the process. Then we decided to shampoo the carpet and things really got ugly. Our home was in complete disarray. 

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Our newest family member: Stanley!

All-in-all, it was a multi-day project that needed to be done, even if our favorite National Park was just down the road. We did manage to take a day off and visit Yellowstone which, of course, was spectacular as always. We originally intended to stay at Henry’s Lake for five days, but we extended for three more. Oh, glorious hook-ups! I've said it before, no matter how long we boondock, it takes about a nano-second to adjust and become addicted to FHUs! 

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Yellowstone was glorious, of course! We also got to see a wolf off in the high grass.

For the first few days at Henry's Lake we kept up with our walking, trying to get at least 10k steps per day. (Now, it makes me LOL that we thought we could physically prepare ourselves for Amazon by walking 10k steps each day....we were so innocent!) It certainly helped that we were in a beautiful setting with lots of trails to walk. But, after a few days, we both kind of gave up. We got bored with walking and figured we'd just tough it out at Amazon.

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Trumpeter Swans at Henry’s Lake State Park.

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The views of Henry’s Lake were just wonderful with an ever-changing light.

When we left Henry's Lake State Park, we drove through Yellowstone N.P. to Buffalo Bill State Park just outside Cody, WY.  We'd never driven Scoopy through the park before and it was a gorgeous drive, kind of overcast with dramatic clouds. You know, a photographer's dream.

We only stayed one night, but we still managed to visit a few places, including historic Old Town, a must-see attraction with beautifully preserved buildings and paraphernalia from the late 1800s. But mostly we just enjoyed the beautiful view from our campsite. At this point, we had a few stays along our route to Kentucky and, while we couldn’t stay in Cody as long as we’d like, there’s always next time!

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Our spot at Buffalo Bill State Park.

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And here’s the man himself in the center of downtown Cody.

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Old Town was a great place to visit with lots of authentic Wild West curiosities.

UP NEXT: Custer State Park