This is the third Oregon post of the trip and the first time I've managed to work in an Oregon Trail reference. Quite frankly, I'm disappointed with myself. We certainly saw a LOT of Oregon and had an absolute blast! After the Wet Westies campout
, we headed east to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the US. The drive around the rim is gorgeous but steep and winding, which would become a theme for the next week. The roads out here are quite narrow and employ the hairpin turns quite liberally. The Westy is doing well, but asks for breaks every now and then to rest her engine.
From Crater Lake, we headed north and east to the small city of Bend, OR. Bend is a cool town consisting of an equal number of street-corner-drum-beating-dreadlocked-hippies
. The town is situated in the middle of some great hiking and rock climbing areas. After spending the afternoon exploring downtown, we stopped by the local McMenamins, Old St. Francis School.
For those of you not familiar with the concept, McMenamins
is a restaurant/hotel chain that takes old or historic buildings and turns them into community spaces. This particular one had a restaurant, cigar bar, movie theatre, hotel, turkish bath, and event spaces. We ate dinner at the restaurant and then checked out the turkish bath. It was lovely, tiled with mosaics and with cool fountains around the edges. We were the only ones in there except for one other guy. Turns out he moved to Bend from New Mexico - but he walked the whole way! With two burros! It took him 12 years off and on to make the trip and now he lives outside of town. He said the burros have gotten pretty fat since they stopped walking several miles every day.
Earlier that day, as we were getting ready to head into the restaurant, we met a couple, Jim and Anise, who were admiring the Westy. They had driven from San Diego to Chicago back in the 70s in their VW bus and had many fond memories of the trip. They now own a Eurovan and continue to enjoy camping in it. They invited us to stay in their driveway for the night, as the nearest campgrounds were a little bit out of town. We eagerly accepted and they even left the door unlocked throughout the night so we could use the bathroom if we needed! The next day they cooked us an amazing breakfast (baked oatmeal) and even gave us a few of their AAA campsite books for the west coast! Check out Jim's books
(he's an LCSW/family therapist and published author) for a great laugh.
That morning we headed farther north to Smith Rock State Park
for some world-class rock climbing. We got there a little late in the afternoon, but were able to get in a few climbs. The scenery was gorgeous and we headed to the climbers campsite for the night. The campsite was awesome and tents only. We met some fun girls from Calgary who were down for the week climbing while their friends were attempting to summit Ama Dablam in Nepal!
The next two days we climbed at Smith Rock. We had a great time and really got motivated to find some more climbing spots as we head down the West Coast. The weather was stunning, blue skies and cool in the morning and blazing hot in the afternoon, only to get cold again at night.
From Smith Rock, we headed further north again to Portland to pick up Katy and Kevin Linde, who were in town for the weekend. We met them at a mutual friend's (Rosalin and David) place and had a really fun night in Portland with everyone. Ros and David were intending to join us for a weekend of camping, but the night before we left, the toilet in their rental house overflowed and flooded into the basement, right on top of all their camping gear! So it was down to the Trimmers and Lindes for the weekend. We headed back south through Mt. Hood National Forest to hike Black Butte (note the very fashionable and responsible orange vests to avoid being shot by hunters). We camped right along a river in a state park called Camp Sherman. As always with the Lindes, we had great food the whole time! The next day we hiked closer to Bend at Tumalo Falls State Park. The trail was awesome and passed by 4 or 5 waterfalls. That night we dined at the Deschutes Brewery in Bend (yum!) and drove back north towards Portland to find some camping. It was a quick weekend packed with fun! We were so glad to host folks in the Westy "guest suite". It was surprisingly comfortable to have 4 adults living in the square footage of a minivan!
Okay, so the original quote is about Iowa, but there WAS a VW bus in that movie! But seriously, Oregon has been really good to us so far! The drive down the coast from Lincoln City to Florence was absolutely amazing. The volcanic rocks jutting out into the surf, huge pine forests, and barking seals make for some epic scenery. Saturday we made the drive down and were looking for a place to camp near the beach. The first few campsites we came across were closed for the season. We pulled off onto a wayside right on the beach and thought we might camp there for the night, but eventually decided we would go just a little further and see what we could find.
The next campsite we pulled into was Washburne State Park. The campsite host gave us a big smile as we drove in and said, “Oh look, another one with the group!” Tom and I sort of stared at each other and then asked her, “What group?” She informed us that there was a big group of Westfalias at the campsite that weekend for a meet-up!! We had found the promised land!
We drove through camp and saw Westy after Westy, many doubled up in campsites, all colors and models - from bay-window buses to Vanagons to Eurovans. Site after site, people came out and welcomed us and laughed at how we had stumbled upon such a group. It turns out this was a weekend campout for the Wet Westies VW group - for VW owners in the greater Pacific Northwest. Everyone let us know that we were more than welcome to join the party and the pot-luck was starting in an hour! We quickly set up camp and threw together a dish to share. Our campsite-mate was Tortuga, a moss-green bay-window bus owned by Allison and her boyfriend, John.
The pot-luck was like nothing I have ever seen. These people are serious about their food - and cooking it in their VWs! This was no beans-and-rice shindig. There was beef bourguigone cooked over the campfire in a dutch oven; fresh, local oysters smoked at the campsite; mushrooms collected from the surrounding forest; polenta with manchengo cheese; and a huckleberry cobbler with berries picked that afternoon. Y. U. M. There was even Jerry, a former wine shop owner, who always carries no fewer than three dozen bottles of red wine in his Vanagon. We met Beverly, the matriarch of the Wet Westies, a woman in her 80s who has been traveling in her bus since 1996 when she retired.
After dinner and socializing, Jon and Brandon broke out the smudge pot. No, this is not drug paraphernalia. A smudge pot is used in vineyards and orchards to warm the trees when there is threat of frost. It’s like a huge kiln/jet engine that runs off of vegetable oil. Jon and Brandon found one on a Westy camping trip and enjoy blowing things up with it. It was really neat and toasty warm to gather around.
We learned a ton from everyone - from where to store our paper towels to the fact that the fridge really does work! It was wonderful to meet such a friendly and supportive group of fellow Westy enthusiasts. We are forever grateful to now have help on the road if we ever need it!
After spending a few great days in Seattle, we headed south towards Oregon. On the way we spent a night near Mount St Helens in an absolutely gorgeous old-growth forest campground. The trees were massively tall and well spaced with a thick carpet of pine needles that made everything quiet and serene. The next morning we headed to the MSH visitors center where we found out the the view of the volcano was clear that day. We made the hour and a half trip up to the crater to check it out. The volcano erupted n 1980, taking out the top and an entire side of the mountain and covering hundreds of miles in debris and ash. If you’ve never seen the eruption, check it out here
The crater was snow-covered, which really highlighted the crater-bowl and the new lava cap which has slowly formed over the past 10 years or so. MSH is the only national park which is intended to change for future generations, rather than preserving what is currently there. The park services are doing absolutely NO replanting or rehabilitation of the area, and the whole system is a giant laboratory for studying how nature rebuilds itself after a massive disruption.
After our volcanic adventure, we headed down to Lincoln City, OR, on the central coast, to continue our tour-de-Feldner. We had stayed with Lindsie and her family in Big Sky
and with Jarid and Carmin in Seattle
, now it was on to check in with them and their parents Jim and Karen, while they stayed on the coast. We had such a great time with them in their awesome vacation rental right on the beach. I went running every morning along the packed sand and in the evenings we went for long tidepool walks at low tide. We even spotted some whales off the shore! Friday during the day we went down to Newport, OR which is a great harbor town. We had an amazing seafood lunch at Mo's
and bought a whole albacore tuna right off the fishing boats at the pier. If there is one thing the Feldners do well, it’s cooking! We ate fantastic food the whole time. We also stopped by the Rogue Brewing Co.
for a sampling of their microbrews and house-made “pink” gin (aged in pinot noir barrels for a pink hue). Jim and Karen were excellent hosts and we were so happy that they welcomed us in for a few days.
On Saturday, we went for a really cool hike up to Drift Creek Falls which features a mini-replica of the Golden Gate Bridge over a waterfall. Sasquatch and Jarid came along for the 3-mile loop. The greenery was so bright and lush and the bridge was pretty awesome.
Yesterday the Westy was blessed with a gorgeous double rainbow in Seattle and we had to share it with everyone!
Well this post is late in coming! We spent two nights in Sun Valley, ID exploring the town and surrounding area. Tom found a great mountain bike trail that headed up towards the gondolas and I found some great running trails and the $5 shower at the local YMCA! Our second evening there, we even stumbled upon a free Zumba class in one of the parks. We checked out the old Sun Valley Lodge, where the lounge features Julliard-trained jazz trios and the worlds first chairlift. It was another really fun ski town to explore and the weather and changing leaves could not have made for a prettier spot!
The next day we headed off towards Boise, where Tom's godparents live. Tom hadn't seen them in at least 30 years, so we gave them a call on our way into town. Boy were they surprised to hear from us! They were excited to see Tom and invited us over for dinner and to stay the night. We had a great time hearing stories about Tom's parents in their college years.
The next morning we were up early and headed out for the 8 hour drive from Boise to Seattle. It was amazing to drive from the eastern part of Washington State, where it's dry and flat, through the mountain passes and down into the lush, wet city of Seattle. The landscape changed as if a switch were flipped! We spent our time in Seattle with my Aunt Peg and Uncle Doug and little cousins John and Olivia and also with our friends Jarid and Carmin. We had a blast exploring West Seattle with the Feldners and getting to check out some awesome meals in their recently redone kitchen. Their dog, Sasquatch, was a lovely hostess :)
We went sailing one night with my Aunt and Uncle on their boat in the Shilshole marina which was amazing. The water and wind were perfect and we got a gorgeous sunset. The kids had a lot of fun exploring the Westy, as did their dog Daisy. One morning we went with Peg, Johnny, and Livvy to a park for some rock climbing! It was the kiddos first time out with harnesses and ropes and we all had a great time. We even did a little slack-lining, which appears to be much easier when you are six and much closer to the ground!
After a really fun stay in Seattle, we headed back to Chicago (via airplane) to attend my cousin Sara's wedding. It was a little strange to leave our nomadic lifestyle and head back to things that were so familiar. We had an absolutely amazing time visiting with my family and getting to see my parents and my sister. Now it's back to Seattle to pick up the Westy and continue the awesome adventure!
That joke has been stuck in my head since we drove into Idaho two days ago. We headed out of Jackson, WY, but not before stopping at an awesome little natural grocery store to restock our food supply. It was called Jackson Whole Grocer
- get it? Really cute little store with a juice and smoothie bar. We drove over Teton Pass and headed into Idaho to meet Brian Charette. Brian was a customer of Tom Sr.'s solar panal mounting business (Custom Marine Products
) and lives in the honest-to-goodness middle of nowhere Idaho. The directions included lines like, "turn right at the dirt road, no name, just a white sign with no writing and a green electrical box". And then there were several more turns after that. It was gorgeous country. Brian's house is situated overlooking rolling hills and a valley with the back side of the Teton range in the distance.
The house is mostly self-sustained and off the grid. It's straw-bale construction and uses solar and wind energy as well as rainwater recycling systems and a peat moss toilet. The home itself is beautiful, Brian was the designer and builder and has built several other, similar homes.
Brian and his girlfriend Diedre were so awesome and hospitable. When we arrived we headed out for an off-road bike ride on a trail right through Brian's property. It was so pretty and peaceful. That night, Brian cooked us dinner and we ate out on their patio, overlooking the sunset in the valley. Brian and Tom got along like peas and carrots and shared story after story about back-country skiing, kiteboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, sailing, and backpacking. Brian is headed out for about 2 months on a sailing trip on his Cat-2-Fold
sailboat. It's a really cool design, a 36-foot catamaran that collapses into a trailer-able boat. It's a one-of-a-kind design that he is outfitting for the journey. It was a great time and so awesome to meet more amazing people!
The next morning we headed out in the general direction of Boise. We stopped first in Idaho Falls to replace Tom's broken phone and to find a place to get the Westy's propane regulator fixed. At the propane shop, we met Carl, who was quick to shimmy under the Westy and help us replace the regulator with the part we had with us. When we asked what we owed him, he tried to let us go for free! Remembering my parents had given us a bunch of $20s (with the instructions to spend one in each state on something cool), we offered him one, on the condition that he pose for a picture. If you ever need propane work in Idaho Falls, check out V-1 Propane
and ask for Carl!
We headed onward and decided to hop over to Sun Valley, ID, a cool little ski town. We ended up eating dinner at another awesome cowboy restaurant, The Pioneer Saloon
. The owner pointed us in the direction of free camping for the night in Sawtooth National Forest and mountain biking trails for the next day. There have certainly been no shortage of fantastic people on this trip! The campsite was great, just inside the park and near a river. It was similar to our campsite in Gallatin National Forest, but last night it was PITCH black with no moon. This morning we are headed off to find some great trails and see where the road takes us next.
Love from the Westy,
Lisa and Tom
Saturday we drove from Yellowstone Park into Teton Park with the intention of backpacking and back country camping. We arrived a little late in the afternoon and after trying to register at a few closed ranger stations, we finally found an open one and got some advice on where to go. We settled on the Taggart/Bradley Lake trail to camp and then continue on the next morning to Amphitheater Lake. We picked up a bear canister at the ranger station to store our food (this was new technology for me - check it out here).
Let’s talk about the bears for a minute... this area of the country is FULL of them. Black bears and grizzly bears make their homes in Yellowstone Park and the Tetons, and they have been particularly active this year, with several attacks on hikers, campers, and residents. So we were extra cautious and also brought the recommended bear spray, which looks like a mini fire hydrant and is supposed to ward off an attacking bear so one can escape. But enough about a potential bear attack...
We arrived at the trailhead in the late afternoon sun and packed up our gear for the night. We hiked through the most beautiful scenery on the way to the lake. The sun was beginning to sink low behind the Teton range and lit up the aspens all around us which were turning gold, orange, and red. It was only about 2.2 miles to our campsite. It could not have been a prettier spot. It was situated right on Bradley Lake with a view across the water of the Teton range. We set up camp and made our dinner and sat back and relaxed, watching the sun set over the mountains and listening to two elk bugleing back and forth to each other somewhere out on the peak.
Then the craziness started.
As soon as it was too dark to see across the lake, we heard a huge splashing, crashing, bumbling noise from right around the shore bend. Dear God, what is that! It sounded like one something HUGE or a lot of somethings that were mildly huge. We couldn’t hear animal noises so we weren’t sure what we were dealing with. We decided that it must be a moose, since we had read that they really like this particular lake and because it really did sound unbelievably clumsy. After a while the noise stopped, which only meant that the something was now in the woods with us. But, we figured a moose would probably not bother us. We packed up our food in the bear canister and walked together with our headlamps to store it away from camp. On our way back, Tom suddenly sprayed the area with bear spray! Turns out it was accidental, but man that sure got my heart going!
Once we were back in camp, we stopped and looked at each other. Tom asked, “Do you smell that?” And I sure did. You could smell that something large and beastly had recently walked right through our camp. We started scanning around looking for the culprit, but we couldn’t see anything. Eventually the scent began to fade, but we made the mutual decision that it might be best to hike back and camp in the Westy. We decided to leave our food, tent, and sleeping bags and carry the rest of our gear back to the van. In the dark.
The hike back to the van was pretty awesome. Tom had bear spray in one hand and a large stick in the other and I was carrying a sizable rock in each hand, ready to brain whatever animal might spring on us (mountain lions are nocturnal, I remembered as we walked along). We talked loudly and I sang every hiking song I had ever learned in girl scouts to try and scare away whatever was on the path ahead. We each had a headlamp and were constantly scanning left and right and sometimes behind us, checking for wildlife. And man did we ever see some wildlife! We saw giant toads hopping across the trail in front of us, small nocturnal mammals up in the trees with their eyes shining when they were caught in the light. And as we walked back along the creek, I turned to my left and saw, no more than 3-4 feet from my shoulder, a proud 6-prong mule deer buck. I could have reached out and touched him. He stood there with a look that said, “Why are you two so loud? Don’t you know it’s the middle of the night?” We all stared at each other in silence for a few seconds and then we went on our way. After that we calmed down a little and even turned off our headlamps for a few minutes. The stars were unbelievable on a totally moonless night, more than I have ever seen in my life. We even saw the headlamps of a few hikers way up in the distance who must have been camping up towards the Grand Teton. We made it back to the van and slept, even though we were jazzed with adrenaline and even though we had left our sleeping bags in the tent.
The next morning we woke up and ate a quick breakfast and got back on the trail. From the trailhead, it was a 6.5 mile hike up to Amphitheater Lake, with a stop by our campsite to check things out. The morning was chilly but warmed up quickly. By midday it was close to 75 degrees and bright sunshine, perfect hiking weather. On our way to the campsite we saw the same buck grazing in the moraines. We also heard the elk, still bugleing, but it sounded like it was right next to us, just over a ridge. Tom wanted to go see it, but I protested, since we had read about how aggressive and territorial they are in the fall and that the bugeling is to warn other bucks that they are there (I’m such a party pooper). Our campsite was intact and undisturbed when we got there and we headed up the trail to the lake. The Amphitheater Lake trail gains 3000 feet in the last 4.8 miles up the face of the Grand Teton, which makes for some strenuous hiking, but the view along the way and at the top were worth it. We even saw a bald eagle in flight at the lake. On the way back through camp to pack up our things, we finally saw the elusive bathing moose across the lake. He was huge, just like we thought.
That night we headed into Jackson, WY which is a cool ski town where the celebs hang out (Jackson is the town, Jackson Hole is the valley). We ate dinner at a cool upscale diner and then ran into a couple we had met on the trail that morning. We had drinks with them at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, where all the barstools are real saddles, and met another couple traveling from Australia. The six of us had an awesome night sharing travel stories. An outstanding end to an awesome adventure.
After leaving Big Sky, we headed into Yellowstone park for a few days of sightseeing and wildlife watching. We entered through the west side of the park and immediately came upon a female elk grazing by the river. We headed north and west, stopping at Norris Geyser Basin and then by Mount Washburn, where a ranger and a horde of tourists had spotted a grizzly by the road. Unfortunately the bear had left by the time we got there. This was my first time to the park and I was really impressed by the geothermal features. The different colors and textures of the geysers and different pools were amazing. We then headed into the far northwest corner of the park to the Lamar Valley, where the wildlife spotting was supposed to be great. We saw pronghorns, bison, and deer all along the valley floor. It was truly a stunning drive. We exited the park that afternoon and headed for Cody, WY to camp and check out the town.
Cody is a true western town, complete with real live cowboys on every corner. There happened to be a classic car street festival in town the night we rolled in, so we parked the Westy and strolled around for a bit. We camped at the Ponderosa campground, right next to another couple “van camping”. They were in their late 50s or early 60s and from Seattle and were taking about 10 days in the Yellowstone and Teton area. They gave us some great tips on what to see in Yellowstone the next day and also some great info on which route to take up to the Northwest. They were traveling in a Sportsmobile
van, which is a converted Dodge cargo van. It was a really similar setup to the Vanagon, but with a different kind of pop-up top and a little more modern.
The next day in Cody, Tom worked for a little bit in the morning and I cruised around downtown on my bike. I went to the Dug-up Gun Museum
, which is one gentleman’s collection of antique “found” guns and weapons dating all the way back to the 1800s through WWII. He has about 800 guns on display, it was pretty interesting. That afternoon we ate lunch at the Proud Cut Saloon. A proud cut is apparently a horse or bull that has been castrated, but the procedure is botched and he still thinks he’s a stud. The specials sign out front is even decorated with bull testicles. We did indulge in some Rocky Mountain Oysters which weren’t too bad, but mostly tasted like breading and cocktail sauce. After lunch we biked over to Old Trail Town, where they have transplanted and preserved buildings from the old west, including the Hole in the Wall gang’s hideout and several homestead cabins.
After our western adventure, we headed back to Yellowstone via the southwest entrance, this time headed for Hayden Valley to hopefully spot wolves, to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and to see Old Faithful. We didn’t spot any wolves, but TWICE our car was surrounded by bison. Those suckers are HUGE.
Two days of driving around the park was enough for us at that point, so we headed south to Teton National Park for some backpacking and camping.
After tiring of 9 hour driving days, we spent 4 days and 3 night in Bozeman and Big Sky, Montana. We fell in love with both towns and met some really great people. Bozeman has a quaint historic section, great little restaurants and bars, mountain views in every direction, a major university, spectacular public spaces and running trails, and world-class hiking and camping within 30 minutes of downtown. What more could we ask for!
The first afternoon in Bozeman, we spent a little bit of time at Wild Joe’s Organic Coffee
on historic Main St. We came back again and again to this spot for their awesome looseleaf tea spectacular people watching. It seemed to be a common meet-up location in town. We saw everything from groups of old cowboys sipping coffee to student-faculty advisor meetings. It also housed a self-serve bike and ski repair shop in the back. Anyone could bring in their gear and use the tools in the garage space in the back. They also advertised organized rides and workshops weekly. That evening we treated ourselves to dinner out in town. We got a recommendation for a place called Over the Tapas
, and it was fantastic. Great food and great people.
That night we drove just outside of town to Gallatin National Forest
for some camping. Just a little ways into the park, we pulled over to a spot in the canyon by a rushing river to set up for the night. It was COLD as the dickens, but one of the most peaceful nights we have had so far. In the morning we woke up and grilled a real cowboy breakfast, bison burgers and eggs, and headed back into town.
Tom rented a by-the-day office space on the MSU campus for Tuesday and Wednesday (check out www.loosecubes.com
) so he dropped me in town. I had seen a $5 hot yoga class advertised in Wild Joe’s the day before and went to check it out. The space at Your Yoga
was great and the class was really enjoyable. It was a style of practice called yin yoga, which I hadn’t heard of before. It involved the stretching of the ligaments and joints rather than the muscles. We went through a series of about 5 poses, holding each for 3-5 minutes per side. While it wasn’t particularly strenuous, it was intense! After yoga I headed to the Bozeman Community Food Coop
for a post-workout kombucha and to mooch off their wifi access. For lunch, Tom and I indulged in their hot food bar and salad bar, both of which were OUTSTANDING. Better tasting, homemade, and cheaper than Whole Foods, yes, you heard that correctly.
After lunch we drove back out to Gallatin National Forest for some hiking. Tom had gotten a recommendation for the Palisade Falls Trail. It was a pretty laid back hike, but ended at a really impressive waterfall, which cascaded over a cliff formed by rock and landslides. We later found out that this is world-class ice climbing during the winter months! Tom of course, had to check out the “climb-ability” of the rock face. See if you can find him in the picture below:
That night we tried to find a new campsite, possibly one a little warmer than the previous one that had been tucked deep in the canyon. We drove around town and picked up a few needed items at REI and Walmart. At Walmart we noticed a rather large contingent of campers and RVs parked in the far corner of the lot. We decided it might be fun to try out the infamous Walmart camping, and maybe we would meet a few fellow travelers while we were at it. For those of you who don’t know, Walmart is one of the only stores that allows RVs and campers to park overnight in their lots for free. We set up camp and cooked our dinner there, the whole night we didn’t see one other person! Apparently it’s pretty comfy-cozy in those giant RV busses and their owners didn’t feel much like socializing. Probably the last time we’ll Walmart camp unless it’s a last resort.
The next day Tom went into work again in the morning, but in the afternoon we met up with his friend Jarid’s sister, who lives in Big Sky, MT. We met Lindsie and some of her friends and their awesome kids at a playground in town and had a picnic lunch. Lindsie started a wrap shop in Big Sky with some friends, so we had to stop by and visit it. The Wrap Shack
is a great little shop in downtown Big Sky with really delicious wraps, tacos, and burritos. They make all their salsas and toppings in house. We ate at the Wrap Shack and then spent the night parked outside Lindsie and her husband Brian's house. They are former Westy owners as well! Brian has owned 3 VW buses and they just recently sold their 1976 Westy. A friend of theirs is actually the man behind the soon-to-be-released documentary “The Bus” :
Brian is also the writer of The Insiders Guide: Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park
! We got some great advice on what to see, what to skip, and where to stay in the area, and he even gave us a copy of the book. We had a great evening sitting around their kitchen table and talking about travel stories, bear stories, and Westy stories - some stories involved all three. We had a great time and were very grateful for the showers!
Today we head to Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks for a few days. Hopefully we come back with more stories to tell.
Love from the Westy,
Lisa and Tom
It’s true, you can grill anything. As a child, my dad taught me to treasure a good grill, specifically a charcoal Weber. While we await repairs on our propane tank in the Westy, we are cooking all of our meals on a small 20x10 inch propane mini-grill. It turns out to be a great substitute! Saturday night we grilled bison steak (bought locally in South Dakota), chicken breasts (bought locally at the Walmart), and corn on the cob. It was fantastic! Tom even fashioned a grill stand before we left Chicago out of one of the two Westy tables. It really came in handy that night as it was downpouring for most of the evening. Sunday morning we grilled eggs, yes... eggs. We made little tinfoil “cups” and cracked a few eggs in each, then sealed up the top and tossed them on the grill. Voila! The eggs steamed themselves in a few minutes. We also put a tinfoil packet of kale on the grill and that turned out perfectly. Give us a few weeks and you don’t even know what else we might think to toss on there! (PB&J? Soup? Who knows!)
Chillin and grillin in the Westy
Saturday we spent the morning driving into Rapid City, SD with the intention of seeing Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Mountain, and climbing Harney Peak (the high point of South Dakota). On our way out from Chicago, we had been feeling that the Westy was pulling a little to the left. Given the worn out bearing on that side, we decided to get the alignment checked in town. Two mornings at the mechanic in two days! After getting everything sorted out, we headed over for a glimpse of Mount Rushmore. It was very impressive and worth the stop.
When we got to Harney Peak, we started out in a light drizzle, but then the thunderstorms moved in. We decided that since the next day forecast was for sunshine and 70 degrees, we would wait one day and try again. On our way to our campsite we stopped by to see the partially completed Crazy Horse Mountain. We had been warned that it was a pretty big tourist trap, so we just viewed it from the road. Even at that distance, you could tell that it will be really impressive once it’s completed.
Westy visits Mt. Rushmore
Our campsite for the night was awesome. Quiet and tucked away in a wooded valley a ways off the main road, it was by far the most peaceful night we’ve had so far. It poured like crazy, but we were able to grill out under the awning and stay comfy and dry in the Westy. Sunday morning we were up with the sun, cooked breakfast, and broke camp by 7:30am. We headed back to Harney Peak for a glorious hike to the summit. The view was really clear and the temperature was perfect. It was a moderate 3.5 miles to the top with really pretty pine forest and beautiful rock formations all around. On the way back we took an alternate route which was just as picturesque. Completing Harney brings my total of high points to 8 and Tom’s total to 22!
Harney Peak, Highpoint of South Dakota, Elev 7242 ft.
After completing Harney, we headed north to Amidon, ND to complete the high point there. White Butte is on private property about 5-6 miles off the highway on a gravel road. It took about 4 1/2 hours to get there and when we did, no one was home. So we called and left a message (their phone number is in the US Highpointers guide) letting them know we were headed up to the peak. The access "road" had a road closed sign, but the Westy managed to navigate the two-track, overgrown path just fine! We parked by an abandoned farmhouse and hiked the one mile to the summit. The trail was very faint and at times disappeared altogether, only to reappear on the other side of a meadow or rock formation. It was a gorgeous piece of land and a great 360 degree view from the top. We summited just before sunset so everything was in a pretty orange light. White Butte made 9 highpoints for me and 23 for Tom! We are really racking them up.
White Butte, Highpoint of North Dakota, Elev 3506 ft.
After spending the night in North Dakota, today (Monday) we are headed across Montana. Big sky country here we come!
With love from the Westy,
Tom and Lisa