Tag Archives: Camping

Southern Utah

29 Aug

We woke up alive from the motel and hit scenic route 24 and onto 12. We ate at a surprisingly delicious and gorgeous roadside cafe called “El Diablo” that made posh Brooklyn food look silly. The waitress recommended a campsite called Calves Creek near Boulder (Utah). The drive in was so so beautiful. The best yet. We drove through Bryce Canyon. Red walls with white stripes and checker board sides. The campsite we went to was on a pretty little stream which provided a lush little landscape in the midst of the desert red rock. We watched bats swoop in the fading lilac sky as warm drafts of desert air rustled our tent.

20120830-230713.jpg

20120830-230919.jpg

20120830-231032.jpg

20120830-231133.jpg

Playing Yellowstone Tourist

27 Aug

Saturday morning, the 25th, we woke up with the shivers and leapt into the car to relocate to a new camp ground that was first come first serve. We arrive there at 7:30 and took the only available spot. We were sore and dirty and tired and all around not in the camping mood but never the less we did our touristic duties. We went on a hike down “Specimen ridge” which sounded promising but on account of we had to leave Yogi in the car (strict no dogs on trails rule) we only walked a couple miles and never spotted critters, though we did both have communal moments with nature.

After, we drove back down to canyon village to do a few short hikes and see the grand canyon of the Yellowstone, pretty neat. However, there is something surreal about an experience when you are behind fences and have a few dozen tourists shouting excitedly in asiatic languages all around you. The views are magnificent and the power of nature impressive but unless you have the freedom to spend some time on the trails alone, the park feels a bit like a zoo. We meandered around most of the day. Spending some time quietly sitting in the woods and trying to summon animals to little avail.

We made it back to camp, Tower Falls, pretty early and spent a gorgeous afternoon sitting on rocks in an idealic little stream. Guillaume brandished my good chopping knife by his side “just incase”. Despite his Frenchness there seems to be a strong neanderthal presence waiting to bite bear necks just below the surface…

Back at camp we (mostly I) managed to make a delicious tinfoil-a-la-campfire quiche with a dozen eggs that I had been delicately lugging around for G’s birthday (long story). I don’t think I could ever get tired of campfire food. We also finally made ‘s’mores and Yogi told us his new favorite food was roasted marshmallows.

After some deliberation we climbed into the tent with a new game plan. We managed to squeeze into the single sleeping bag all zipped up, with yogi and the rest of the sheets piled on top. We slept rather decently, certainly the coziest burrito in Yellowstone.

‘Ello Yellowstone

26 Aug

We woke up at the crack of dawn on Friday, part of the camping routine I guess, and had a funny breakfast with the B&B hosts. The other couple, from Texas, was enthralled as the whole conversation centered around the missionary work of the host family in the Middle East and all of their converts. It was interesting. We packed our saddles and got back on the road and headed on highway 14A to cross the Bighorn Mountains. The scenery was terrific. The windy downhill roads were stocked with places to “rest you breaks” which we neglected to do until they started smoking. After momentary panic we calmed the situation and decided we weren’t going to die. Between the Bighorns and Wyoming not much else happened besides dusty small towns and mountain tops that look like red ant hills. Our caffeine and candy bar addiction was at an all time high.

We passed through the town of Cody, home to Buffalo Bill, and soon after entered the Shoshone National forest. The drive was beautiful but haze faded every mountain range giving the whole thing a strange, dream like quality. Everything started to increase with size and I had the feeling we were entering Jurassic Park.

The entrance to Yellowstone does feel a bit like a Disneyland entrance. We smiled broadly when they handed us pamphlets on how to act casual when you see a Grizzly at the entrance gate. We passed by Yellowstone lake which is truly breath taking. With high winds, the waves on the water made it really look oceanic and miles and miles of burnt pine trees standing naked in front made the few even more dramatic. We continued inwards and passed all the usual stuff you already know about Yellowstone, steaming geysers smelling of sulfur, more herds of Bison, more herds of people with cameras, big trees, big valleys, big mountains. We headed into Canyon village where we had managed to reserve a campsite for the night. It was the least romantic campsite as of yet, there were lots of people and not a lot of privacy, but that’s okay- we were going to get to see bears! We were thrilled at the idea of having to use bear boxes </em to store all of our food and Guillaume gave me a stern talk when I accidentally dribbled some sunflower seeds onto the ground. This was after all wilderness. After our campfire feast we headed over to the amphitheater where a real live park ranger was going to talk about animal stuff. He was adorable. I’m sure if it wasn’t freezing out he would have been wearing very tight and very little shorts. He thrilled us as he spoke to us about how dangerous everything here was. He said even chipmunk here were fierce. We believed everything he said, he was wearing a very smart hat and badge, after all. He made us grunt phrases like ” steep cliff dangerous” to get us in touch with our cave man instincts.. I guess. G and I were clearly the best in the class. He told us about he and his cat watching Bison from the window and we almost died in a fit of giggles. I don’t know why.

We went back to camp with our teeth starting to chatter and dove into the bed. Worst night ever. The tempurture dropped to 34F and the three of us with our one sleeping bag and a few sheets spent the whole night in a shivering heap.

Bear Lake Utah

26 Aug

We woke up in our burrito nest at the crack of dawn. We packed the car and got back on “the Yellowstone loop” south, determined to see at least one bear before leaving. The sights were beautiful, of course, we saw the famed chromatic geysers, old faithful and picturesque rivers steaming from hot springs. We drove and drove through Yellowstone and absorbed her beauty but were ready to say good bye and be warm again, plus going on two days with no showers we felt all around extra grimy.

We drove through the Grand Tetons which were gorgeous, the drive maybe even more scenic than through Yellowstone. Grand Tetons is French for Big Nipples, of course. We also passed by a park Gros Ventre, fat belly. G was very proud of the mark his ancestors had left on this land. We stopped in Jackson Hole, very cute town and had decent Thai food. Pretty touristy, which I’ve begun to learn can actually be a good thing.

After the Grand Tetons we slipped into Idaho. Blue skies, big hills, a lot of quiet and no way to tell what decade you were in. We drove along Bear Lake which was gorgeous and noted that lake front property with a mountain view was still being used to graze live stock. We entered Utah and soon after found our campground for the night at the end of Bear lake (I would like to note that still NO BEAR sightings.. we felt deceived). To console ourselves we laid in the afternoon sun on our air mattress looking at trashy magazines and drinking white wine with ice. It helped. We then took glorious, glorious showers and even cleaned under our nails which I forgot could even happen.

I made a blazing fire because I officially now have the magic fire touch. The highlight of the evening however, came when little Yogster heard a rustling and being the 25 pounds of ferocious dog he is, went to investigate. G shined his trusty flashlight, which never leaves his hand, on the spot to find a skunk waltzing skankaly around. We yelled and shouted in slow motion but.. It was to late. Yogi got skunked.

Stinky dog slept in the tent with us, at the food of the bed (luckily the tent was only screen and there was a nice breeze) but kept his war with skunk fuming all night. At one point Guillaume shines his flash light to find Yogi and skunk nose-to-nose on opposite sides of the screen. Yogi then got sprayed again.

20120830-233301.jpg

The Badlands of South Dakota

24 Aug

We left Palisades State Park and went grocery shopping which is always a grand affair. I found a nifty little co-op with all sorts of organic local fair which I must admit, my snooty city self was not expecting in South Dakota. We jumped onto I-90, restocked with tasty things, and started driving west. Roadside America thus began. We saw a sign for “The Worlds only Corn Palace” and rightly, couldn’t resist. A mere 40 minute detour to see a palace made of corn is a small price to pay. Huge and made mostly of corn, it was everything we dreamed of, and more. Turns out corn palace has been around for well over a hundred years, in slightly different incarnations, and attracts a half million visitors a year. I left Guillaume alone for a minute and I found him flirting with the little old ladies at the gift shop, his French accent suddenly much stronger. Perhaps his wilderness survival skills are stronger than I suspected..

Next we passed Americas smallest church and an automated old-west town inhabited by robots! Woo-hoo! The wondrous of South Dakota already had us hooked.

We crossed the Missouri River and the landscape quickly morphed. Hills painted in pinks, oranges, yellows and browns surrounded us. Abandoned wooden shacks dotted the highways and the largest selection of beef jerky I have ever seen adorned every gas station. American flags and TeePees too. A trucker saw my license plate and whistled between his two teeth what I was already thinking “Darling this ain’t nothing like Florida no more”.

Between corn palaces and tiny churches I was already feeling quite culturally saturated, and then, enter stage West, “The badlands”. Holy smokes. We turned off the main road and took 240- a scenic loop through Badlands National Park. We passed a Prairie dog town and stopped to watch them. They are so charming. They kissed and wrestled and chirped with each other and made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Their social skills were more advanced than those of some humans I know. We got back on the road and I have to say the drive was one of the most surprising and fantastic sites my eyes have ever greeted. This place is unlike any other earthly location I’ve been (extraterrestrial locations too, frankly). The surface of the badlands is covered with canyons and hills of multi-color stripes. The rock is in shades of red, pink and silver. We followed a windy road through this magical landscape. Our mouthes hanging open as the sun encroached the horizon. We scouted a bison and a big horned mountain goat family climbing these craggy peaks and felt like we were on the most exotic of safaris, the best part being we were practically alone on this dirt road. Prairie dog towns abounded and we watched them kissing each other again and even spotted a coyote spying on them too. Yogi of course threw tantrums the entire way pretending he wanted to go chase a buffalo as he climbed all over the car like a nimble spider monkey.
We wound down this dusty road and turned left into this small circle of 5 tents in a small valley surrounded by gentle, barren hills. We set up our tent but opted to sleep under the stars as it was so gorgeous out. We heard coyote howls surrounding us in the hills throughout the night. Yogi slept very close.

Entering South Dakota

21 Aug

We wake up early and hit the purple back roads of Minnesota (who knew?). Our first stop is Jeffers Petroglyphs. By the time we arrive both of us are pretty sure that I’ve done some shoddy navigation work and we are in the middle of nowhere but low and behold a little visitor center appears in cross plane of fields and prairies. We enter in and are told do watch a movie to “put us in the mood”. G and I glance at each other suspiciously. We sit in the room and press the painted turtle button (it’s one of those kind of places) and watch a short interpretive video flooded with images and symbols and drums and buffalo grunts. I begin to wonder if this is all just some peyote trance. The video ends with the crack of lightening from spirit eagles mouth or something equally as epic and I leave feeling very extremely tuned into to mother earth and quite convinced that I am a reincarnated Plains Indian.
We are led out onto this flat red rock in which literally thousands of carvings are made. Most of them are very faint and difficult to see but Gary our guide uses fancy things like mirrors in shadows to illuminate the petroglyphs. There are Thunder birds and horned turtles and hands and a slew of mystery symbols all etched into this sacred rock between 70000- 500 years ago. It was all very mystical and awesome.
We hop in the car again and picnic at some muddy little creek side and watch giant trucks pass by.
We hit the road again and drive only a few sweet hours before crossing in to South Dakota and deciding to break camp early today and enjoy the afternoon. We go to the Palisades State Park on Split Rock Creek and despite positive reviews in our guide book I’m not expecting much. The land is flat and full of corn. And that’s about it. We drive into the park and find this exotic oasis of red cliffs and gorges along the side of this creek (which we get to camp- ON). Boom. New high standard. This place is awesome, we spend the afternoon rock climbing and teaching yogi to “stone hop” on the creek so his feet don’t get wet (he’s a little vain in that way). It is a natural playground. We make grilled cheeses on the campfire (and I have to say they turned out pretty tasty) and salad. We try to count the stars as they become visible and found that if you squint hard enough in any one spot they start to appear. And find that if we squint hard enough in any one spot a star will appear. We fall asleep and are awaken once in the night to raccoon rummaging through our tings. Guillaume has graciously allowed me to quote him because he was an eye witness “He was huge!! He had arms like a fat foot ball player. He could have kicked all of our asses”. I begin to wonder how long this Frenchman will last in the American wilderness…

Camping on the Mississippi

19 Aug

Yesterday after leaving Chicago we had to deal with some basics like groceries and upgrading to a 4 person tent (do I really need an apartment in Hollywood?), groceries and some craft supplies so I can make Yogi the coolest collar ever. We hit the road and started North West and within a few hours were in the middle of nowhere (with all fondness). We made a pit stop in this town where they played elevator music in speakers on the main street! This took ook the surreal awesomeness to the next level. Meanwhile this was a Saturday in summer and the town was close to a ghost town, everything was abandoned, shut down, empty, closed. Unusual for me because Florida just seems to grow, never shrink but there seems to be a lot of empty buildings on our journey. Especially barns. A lot of run down barns.
We continued on highway 20 until we reached the Mississippi River (after all all that time learning to spell that bedraggled word and still spell check just beat me to the punch!). We followed The Great River Road scenic byway north along ‘The River’ and the drive was incredibley awesome. Highly recommend it. Just the right amount of “this is America” feeling and wow this is so exotic (from what I know). Once we entered Wisconsin, G made us stop on the side of the road because he saw a sign for “Cheese Jerky” (???) and had to walk back a few meters and within minutes the sheriff drove by and stopped to ask us if he could help us with something. Such service! (or maybe just get the hell outa here buckos).
We passed throngs of bikers because apparently they enjoy that “drive” too and we passed heaps of road houses where the bikers all stopped to compare their babes and goatees.

We passed a crazy mosaic church constructed of broken glass, shells and other interesting debris. We mostly passed miles of corn with signs marking which kind of hybred species they were. We saw a lot of dairy cows too. We took some pretty windy dirt roads at the end stretch, and passed a man and his lady on the front porch playing the banjo which made us happy.. And nervous.
I was amazed that even this far north the Mississippi is a swamp in so many areas. It almost reminded me of Florida; sprawling wet grasses, wet footed trees, Lillie’s and that gorgeous electric green algae that usually has alligator eyes peering out from it.
Finally we arrive at this state park (Wyalusing) nestled in the arm pit of the Wisconsin and Mississippi River just as the sun starts to set. We pay our 25$ fee (apparently only in national forests can you pitch tent anywhere) and are serenaded with information about wild canines and toilet locations by a man with an adorable park ranger uniform pulled up way to high and a thick Wisconsin accent. We weren’t expecting too much but arrived on this epic ridge over looking the river. We broke camp and set up our tent (now fitting a queen size air mattress) and even made a fire ( with a fire starting log) with relative proficiency on which to roast our organic turkey wieners (this is modern day hipster camping at its finest). We drank our bottle of Trader Joes wine and scourged over our new maps (After groceries, new tent and art supply store, I dragooned G to stop for some more guides and books, excellent choice if I do say so myself), even did a bit of star gazing and all in all felt pretty good about life.