As a kid, I learned that winters are for planning summer road trips. So of course, I spent a lot of time on that, focused on getting to Craters of the Moon Nat’l Monument, in Idaho. It’s such a stark landscape, don’t ask me why, but it’s got this strong pull, like the desolate Hell Creek State Park in Montana (that’s changed significantly, no longer operated by the Montana State Parks system), and the Badlands, of course.

The plan, about 2/3 of the trip and then 1/3 (can only add so many stops):

Shall we just say that travel requires flexibility??

Split Rock Creek State Park (not to be confused with Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on N Shore) was great, and we had intense view of the full moon and eclipse, and by Monday, we were the only ones left in the park.

I was a bit nervous about “first come/first serve” campsites at Devils Towe National Monument, but it worked out well, plenty available. Hadn’t been there for ??? 55+ years? On the day to leave Devil’s Tower, the wind picked up, extremely, and when taking down the tent, pieces almost blew away, but thankfully, no rain.

That’s when we started to feel the effects of the moon and eclipse. The next stop was for 4 days at Curt Gowdy State Park in Wyoming. It’s a HUGE park, with LOTS of sites, but Wyoming has a 7 day delay for out of state reservations, and by sitting on the computer waiting for reservations to open, I was able to grab the last electric site, C-170, overlooking the reservoir, electric, and steps from bathroom & showers, what more could one want in life! Well…

On the way down, we stopped at Fort Laramie Nat’l Historic Site and fought the building wind as we had a picnic under the bridge and then strolled around the site.

Heading from Ft. Laramie to Cheyenne and Curt Gowdy State Park, the wind picked up from the 40-45 mph at Devils Tower, and weather predictions were for gusts up to 60 mph and SNOW, even the park pretty much recommended cancelling:

OK, motel time, not easy to find in a blizzard and high winds… that’s a LONG story that I’m still going back and forth with booking.com and the motel… did finally find a room, and yes, it DID snow, and I-80 was shut down for a day — this is the sheltered “smoking lounge” at the motel:

There are days I do NOT miss driving truck!

So we braved the cold and wind, and did touristy things… Alan is seriously into trains, and Cheyenne is a good place for that!

… and discovered Anong’s Thai (EXCELLENT, even came back for seconds on the way back through Wyoming a week later!).

Onward, next was Craters of the Moon, and on the way there, between Cheyenne and a stop in Evanston, we visited Dugway Rec Area, a BLM site on the North Platte River, where we’d planned to camp on the way back, but had eliminated when cutting out all one day overnights de to the hassle of put up/take down, so here’s Dugway, from the 219 milemarker, just a few miles NE of Sinclair, WY.

It’s a no frills FREE camping area next to the river, with 5 sites, pit toilet, a broken water pump, and with a few “undeveloped” sites too, apparently a popular area for fishing.

The White Mountain Wild Horse Management Area and Trail, above Rock Springs included a lesson in horse shit, transmission lines, and storms too:

On the way to a late “family Thanksgiving” with David and Ellen, after a night’s stay in Evanston — remembering my stay here with dear Sake, my LA rescue dog for a day:

The Dunmar Hotel in Evanston, WY, is a cool 50s design, with such 50s luxuries all it needs is a gold toilet:

When shopping in Evanston, we saw evidence of military build-up, huge train of military equipment headed west, probably to the coast:

Anyway, onward, to Craters of the Moon, and on the way, we passed Idaho National Laboratory, f/k/a INEL, and drat, to get a tour, must have extreme ID so they know we’re not terrorists!

Needless to say, we were not prepared, but tours are virtual in these days of COVID, so maybe next timeā€¦

The nuclear theme extended to Arco, ID, which bragged about being the first city powered by atomic energy, and a park dedicated to “Atoms for Peace.”

Craters of the Moon was PERFECT! Got just the site I wanted, but the wind was too strong to set up on the upper level of the site — it seems it’s calm in the morning, but afternoon and evening, it’s too windy to cook outside! The two flush toilets were still closed due to freezing concerns, and the two-holer pit toilet way down at the campground entrance was the only one for 40+ sites! First come/first serve campground and most people stayed only for a day or two, so it would empty out in the afternoon, but then be pretty much full by sunset. $4/night for old farts, cannot beat that!

Hey, it’s a Monkey Flower!

David and Ellen arrived the next day, they got lost using google earth, and saw them arrive from the opposite direction of their KOA site. KOA?!?! BWAAAA-HAAAAA-HAAAA!

Alan took a hike up the cinder mound – hard pass for moi!

We did the road around the park, the touristy thing, with all of us and the two pups in David’s truck:

And David’s grrrrrls:

And then on to Bessey campground in Nebraska National Forest. Struggled to get a site because of our changing plans… errr… flexibility… and the one electric site we’d reserved for the following week seemed to be open, but the system didn’t recognize that it was, so we couldn’t get it, and got the last site open for Memorial Day — and of course, once we got there, there were MANY sites open, perhaps due to the forecast, but none electric. Phone signal was 4 bars so that made up for it. The second day, everyone else in the loop had departed.

The second night, near sunset, it started storming, lots of lightning, HIGH winds rocking the tent, and HAIL for at least half an hour. Poor Sadie was terrified, shaking and trembling, and drooling, soaking the top sleeping bag. It continued raining hard, all night, and into the morning. Time to pack up and go, but the rain… breakfast was simple, cooking in the vestibule. Sadie had calmed down some as the rain was gentle after sunrise.

All morning we were packing what we could inside the tent, waiting for a break to run stuff out to car, load, and then take down the tent. Just as we’d finished what we could inside, we got another break, just enough time to take the tent down and put it and other stuff in the car top carrier, get into the car, and as we rolled out of the campground, DOWNPOUR. What timing.

From Bessey, we hammered down, another hotel stay in Sioux Falls where the storm had taken down some trees and power was out and phones too in much of the city, and then back to Red Wing.

3,701.8 miles and 25.8 mpg. Not bad!

The “flexibility” part meant that we spent too much time and money in hotels where weather made tenting impossible, or where timing meant we didn’t have time to fart around setting up and taking down the tent and all accoutrements.

The Wawona 6 was a success as a tent, but we need to figure out better way to deal with those times when the tent just doesn’t work, and it looks like that means taking the van rather than the Subaru, putting in a platform.

The non-electric sites don’t work too well, because we’ve been using a battery, and the air mattress has been deflating. The tag says, “DON’T WORRY, IT’S NOT LEAKING, IT’S STRETCHING” but that’s not helpful when 3 a.m. one of the three of us rolls onto the floor! So in the middle of the night, it means running the battery-inverter and inflating the mattress. Now looking into “self-inflating” camping mattresses with a cot. There must be a way, but this old fart just cannot do it if it means being on the ground. I recall so many times camping in a tent, on nominal air mattress, and it leaking like a sieve, the tent leaking like a sieve, and waking up in a puddle of water. This tent is a joy, it passed the test and did not leak, not at all, but the air mattress, that needs work. What to do.

I also didn’t get to cook as much as I wanted, in most places, it was so windy that it was impossible to cook outside, and we weren’t really set up with table space to cook in the vestibule, so that also needs work. Plenty of time to figure it out before the next trip — the Lake Superior Circle — towards fall.

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