From Fort Robinson, NE, to Custer SP, SD

We had some great adventures during our week in Fort Robinson. The hiking in the area was fabulous, as we went from grasslands to the top of Buttes overlooking the vistas. We ended up encountering a gang of grumpy locals as we made our way to the trailhead at Mexican Canyon.

Unruly locals guarding the road to the trailhead

Unruly locals guarding the road to the trailhead

Buttes from below - we stood at the eventually and looked out over huge vistas

Buttes from below – we stood at the top eventually and looked out over huge vistas

Fort Robinson is an intriguing place. As I came into this area I was mixed with awe for the beautiful landscapes and sadness for the history of this area. It is here at this fort that Crazy Horse, the great Lakota warrior and leader, was assassinated in cold blood. It is here that some of the great native American tribes were decimated. It is here that the buffalo were massacred in order to starve out that first nation. It is a rich history, but a bloody history.

Sod house

Sod house

When we left Fort Robinson to go to Custer State Park ND, we passed the turnoff of Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded Knee. Although close, I decided not to visit. One more white tourist gawking at the area re-imagining both the Massacre and the Wounded Knee Incident just seemed wrong. Instead, I thought of those peoples working to keep their culture alive and teach their children about the history that surrounds them. I wish them strength and perseverance in their efforts.

We spent a week at Custer SP, ND, where we hiked, adventured and met wonderful people. We had a couple of run-ins with the open-range buffallo herd, population approx 1300 – we  met three of them.

It's a buffallo blockade!

It’s a buffallo blockade!

These two were cruising down the road and then decided we WOULD NOT pass as we headed to a trailhead. And we didn’t … There are lotsa other hiking trails around here with friendlier locals! What is it with us and trailhead blockades????

I am constantly awed by the vastness and beauty of the lands we travel. It seems like I say to Dan every week “This is the most awesome view yet,” and then we get to the next place. Well, Custer was no exception. The Black Hills National Forest fills me with wonder, yet again, for the majesty of nature.

Another pretty landscape to admire

Another pretty landscape to admire

We left Custer SP after meeting some really nice people, and I had a chance to do a photo session with a very fun and talented bullwhip-toting, harley-riding fella (photos to come), to head over to Mount Rushmore just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

I had some pretty big assumptions about my attitude to experiencing Mount Rushmore in person. After all, it was hacked into the stone of a sacred Native American mountain, in the center of a sacred region. I was holding a grudge, I’ve got to admit. Instead, I found I was filled with awe for the sheer vision of one man, Gutzom Borglum. The celebration of the ideologies of the four presidents and his desire to present to the world the magnitude of their aspirations, physically realized, was pretty awe-inspiring. I was also impressed with the variety of visitors to the monument – I counted over twenty state license plates in the parking lot, from one coast to the other. Old people, kids, veterans in wheelchairs; all of these people from all over the country had come to this place to learn and pay respect to the founding principles upon which this country was built. I left my cynicism in the parking lot.

Today, we continue on our journey and head into North Dakota. I can see grasslands from one horizon to the next. The expanse of the view is making me dizzy! We head up to Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a week. And after that, we go to see Uncle Dennis, Aunt Illiana, Cousin Elena and little cousin Phoebe in Minot. We are sure looking forward to seeing family after four months on the road!

Fort Robinson Nebraska

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Thank god we made it to Nebraska where the snow was only a couple of inches!

We left Denver and headed north to Cheyenne WY where we expected to stay the night. Fortunately we keep on top of the weather pretty well and Cheyenne was going to get hit by a pretty substantial snow storm that night so we pushed through to a nice little town called Torrington about an hour north.

That afternoon at Torrington was great. There was a basketball court across from the campsite where some local highschool guys were shooting hoops. I was able to pick up a game (and won) lol.

It’s a good thing that we made the effort to make it to Torrington because the snow storm was bigger than expected and dropped about a foot of snow on Cheyenne. We would have been stuck there for awhile if we had stayed there over night.

It was suppose to start snowing around noon the next day in Torrington. Instead we woke up out of bed at 8AM and looked out the window to about 3 inches of snow. Knowing that our opportunity to get up to Nebraska that week would be gone soon we got going.

This was my first drive in snow and Kimberley did great leading the pack in the “Green Bean” (Toyota Tacoma) about 50 miles over the peaks of Wyoming and into Nebraska. It was a bit nerve racking because the snow was getting worse and started to pile onto the freeway a bit, but we made it into Nebraska.

Here are some picks of our stay there.

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Hiking through the hills

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Terry Gilliam inspired shot.

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If we plan it just right we can fuel both vehicles while still being connected to one another.

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I guess these tracks haven’t been used in awhile 🙂

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A snake I almost stepped on. I didn’t know I could still jump that high!

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An old shutdown factory of some sort along the plains.

Anatomy Of Our Day Pack

Now that we’ve had some time to get our new life situation dialed-in, I (Dan) am going to start writing some technical articles outlining many of the key systems/etc that are making this trip go pretty smooth (knock on wood).

I’ll start with out Doggie Day Pack just to get the feel for how this will work. We’ve been logging quite a few miles with Jesse Dawg lately and many times we’ve been a good ways from anything, so having a solid Day Pack is really essential.

As time moves on I’ll put together additional articles on our network setup, water system setup, what emergency gear we’ve packed for the trip, conserving electricity with the solar panels when off-the-grid, towing the pickup truck (ie mobile garage), and probably a couple of product reviews, etc.

So lets get started on the Day Pack.

13995147668703Jesse and Dan

A good day to be out and about in Denver. The day after this shot was taken we had a real lightning storm (which I’m not used to being from California). Fodder for another “Anatomy Of Surving A Lightning Storm In A Tin Can” blog post next week. But I digress…

13995147546982Note that the retractable dog leash (1) is actually attached to the shoulder strap using a carabiner (metal repelling cable loop). This works out really well because when the dog pulls on the leash it doesn’t jerk you immediately. It comfortably raises higher on your back. If Jesse does haul off and start to chase something while on leash she’s stopped quickly without wrenching my back. Item 2 is the dog doo bag carrier ready at a moments notice.

The bag we use is an Osprey, and it’s been great (thanks Mom for the present!)

13995147181837A Gerber tool can be a life-saver. Get a good one that’s going to actually work when you need it to. This one has about 10 different accessories and a good solid set of pliers.

13995147259808Dog treats in the event the dog actually listens to you. Jesse actually does pretty well, so we go through this bag every couple of weeks or so.

13995147101326A satellite phone (3) is a great thing to have. It definitely allows you to feel a little bit more relaxed when out-and-about. I keep the sat phone in a waterproof plastic bag (1) with the battery out (2). In the event that it is exposed to water it may not short the phone out as well which would save a bit of dough. Also the battery holds a charge much better out of the phone. I check the phone once a month to make sure it is charged and good to go.

 

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The “Hydro Bowl” (2) is a fold out bowl for the dog to drink water out of. You can use a dog doo bag for the same effect, but this is a bit more sturdy. Keeping the dog separate from the water bottle means that you can share out of the same bottle, so you only have to carry one water bottle.

13995147336029Don’t forget the bear spray. Thanks Uncle Jim for the complimentary bottle. I have a story about a vicious raccoon that I tested it with. I didn’t actually spray the critter, but a bit to the right of the ferocious, snarled, opposable thumbed demon, with huge claws. Let me tell you that stuff works like a champ. Be very careful with it or else it’ll be a bad day for you and the bear/critter/etc.

13995146899474Jesse’s been through two rounds of rattle snake training, and has the rattle snake venom inoculation (which should help out if she gets bit by one). But in the case that she does we have a couple of syringes with medicine for her always in the bag.

13995147415560Carry the ball in a bag! Between the ChuckIt and the ball in the bag I don’t actually have to touch the slobbered-up ball at all.

13995145854623Keep a pen around to fill out all of your off-leashed dog grievances. Also used to sign into hiking logs at some trail heads (so people know that someone is on the trail).

You got everything daddio? Lets go!

You got everything daddio? Lets go!

Chatfield Lake SP, CO – Near Denver

We made a quick change of plan to stay in Santa Fe area for an extra week, as the snow fell and winds howled last weekend.

Paddleboard and snow - what's wrong with this picture?

Paddleboard and snow – what’s wrong with this picture?

We really enjoyed our extra time hiking the area trails and spent many after-work hours exploring the region. My knees hurt from all that climbing!

Top of the world view

Top of the world view

We headed out Saturday to Trinidad Lake SP, CO. This is my first time in Colorado, and I was so excited to catch my first glimpses of the Rocky Mountains. The park was really beautiful, and I was enraptured by the smell of the forest. It was the most sun-beat, sweetest scent, familiar but not really, and completely intoxicating. I found out later that we were surrounded by pinon forest, and that sun-baked sweetness was from the trees. De-licious! Maybe it smelled familiar from a pinon coffee phase I went through…

I wasn’t expecting hot and sunny in the Rockies, but we got up Sunday morning and headed out for a paddleboard session. You couldn’t see any camps or habitation from the lake, which made for the most pristine paddling.   There were some marsh areas to explore; I saw ducks with their hatchlings, lots of frogs and even a water snake. It was a great way to start a day of driving.

We logged some hours in the car, and arrived just south of Denver at Chatfield State Park, CO, where we’re set up for the week. Yet another place with good hiking, and miles of bike trails that run around the reservoir. AND a 70 acre dog park complete with lakes. Jesse’s been a social butterfly after so many weeks of mostly just Dan and I for company.

Jesse tearing it up at the 'dog lake'

Jesse tearing it up at the ‘dog lake’

One of the nice things about showing up on Sunday is everybody else is packing up and heading out. We’ve got about two acres to ourselves in this campsite; plenty of room to stretch out. We had a bonfire last night, and grilled steaks that we got from a food co-op in New Mexico, along with roasted potatoes and asparagus. A feast! Here’s our camp and my office this week:

We've got lots of space around us!

We’ve got lots of space around us!

My office this week.

My office this week.

I’m interrupting my camp week with a quick trip to Las Vegas for work. I fly out tomorrow morning then back in the wee hours on Sat. Just time for a few winks until we’re on to our next adventure…