Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rocky Mtn National Park

Well time has flown by this last week. It was a week ago already since we picked Pat up at Denver International airport amidst HIGH security. In fact so much so that in the 45 minutes in took for me to run into the terminal and wait for her to come through customs Chris spent the whole time sat outside in the unloading zone in the RV without seeing a single person, getting hassled, getting moved on...never mind planting a bomb he'd have had time to build one!! Still it suited us - we'd already caused a commotion when we tried driving into the arrivals area that only had a 9ft 6" clearance. Not ideal if we wanted to hold onto our new roof paint job and the much needed aircon units!

Spent a couple of days in a State park right in the Denver metro area. Great place called Cherry Creek and gave Pat a chance to acclimatise since Denver is at 5500 feet and we were only planning on going higher in the coming 2 weeks, plus it was HOT (although I hear that 90-100 degrees is no big deal even for England of late!)

Now we are in Rocky Mountain National Park. A cooler 7500 feet, and giving Pat a whole 4 days to acclimatise we beasted her on a 3.5 hike up to just over 10,000 feet! Luckily the views were worth it! No peace for the wicked or our guests we've just done another 4 hour hike today. It's a greta place - rather predictable weather it seems - the storm clouds come in about 1-2pm and you have to watch out for lightening on higher ground. Still it's now 7pm and a beautiful evening - Chris better have that BBQ underway.......

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Custer State Park & Jewel Cave

Have based ourselves out of Custer State Park for the last 4 days - what a great place! Really huge park and so much to do! It's nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota and there are heaps of trails and wildlife.

We had a super-busy day on Thursday. Got up just before dawn and rode out to a trailhead to hike up Harney Peak - at 7242ft it's the highest peak between the Rockies and the Pyrennes - amazing to think there's nothing in between as it's not really all that high is it?! Some gorgeous views though across the hills and the back side of the hill with Mt Rushmore on it. Sat there and ate some breakfast before heading back down - I think we must've been the first ones up there that morning - not really to beat the crowds but we were so concious of wanting to beat the heat! Were back at the trailhead by 9am!

Next stop was a drive out to Jewel Cave National Monument. The 2nd longest cave system in the world (alledgedly!) - Over 5 levels and 200 miles of passages - COOL Huh?! We were booked on a Spelunking tour at noon. Now I think this is what I'd previously called pot-holing. Perhaps it's called something different over here. To 'test' out ability we had to crawl through a 8.5 x 24 inch concrete block to make sure we wouldn't get stuck down the cave later! and off we went. It was only the 2 of us on the tour so we had out own private guide! The tour was supposed to last anything from 3-4 hours. Coz it was just us, and that we're so super fit(!?!!!?) we were done in 2.75 hours but I must say it's exhausting stuff! Great, great fun. Lots of crawling, climbing and we were completly covered in black mud (the quickest way to ruin a pair of jeans and t-shirt I know!) Awesome! Saw lots of really cool, rare rock features - balloons, boxwork and lots of other stuff that has complicated names! Cyrstal Caves is so named for all it's calcite deposits which are very crystal looking.

Finally that day we had tickets for a performance of 'Fiddler on the Roof' at the Black Hills Playhouse What a show! I've never seen it before but of course recognised some of the music striaght away. It was hot! (old building and no aircon) but who cares. And it was only 10 minutes walk from our campsite so just a brilliant end to a brilliant busy day!

Had some lazy time at Custer too - lots of nice roads around. Not suitable for RV's (height restrictions of just 10ft in some tunnels that have been carved out of the rock and funky spiral bridges) so we've been out on the bike a lot. It's been incredibly hot so we've been doing some short hikes and all before 9am. The afternoons we just tend to flake out before the evening coolness comes round and perks us back up again! (it was 109 degrees yesterday!)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Badlands

Just spent the last 2 days in the South Dakota Badlands - what a awesome and weird place! We drove via Wall Drug Store - this is 'famous' in SD mainly coz it's decided to put up about a zillion bill boards along the side of the main interstate advertising the shop for miles and miles. Quite touristy now but full of just everything! Including moose antlers!!

The Badlands themselves are served by a nicely located scenic loop road taking in many great sights and viewpoints. We took a slow drive along the road before stopping our first night in the park campground. We went out on a 'night prowl' with a ranger listening to all the critters and watching the stars. It was a full moon so it was really clear and bright and the moonshine on the rock formations was really cool and eerie.

Got up before dawn to ride out and take some photos of the sunrise. This early morning thing we've been doing quite a lot of lately. It was initially a shock to the system but now it's really the best time of the day. It's still cool then and there just isn't anyone else about. It's great in the national parks as it's so peaceful and empty and you actually have a chance to hear silence and appreciate your surroundings.

The day was simply too hot to do our planned 10 mile hike so without too much dissappintment(!) we rode out to the Minuteman II Missle site. It's one of America's newest National sites and the only one dedicated to the cold war era. We toured the bunker and missle launch control centre - very interesting stuff - we got our own personal tour since the standard tours were booked solid - we'd got chatting to a guy who volunteered there and he'd lived in Witney in UK! Chatted some more and he said he'd take us out to the site for our own tour - great guy and so much more interesting as he'd worked as a missle control person in SD in the 70's so had so much knowledge.

Last night we camped out in the wilderness. You can tent camp anywhere in the park so long as you're not visible from the road which is easy with all the rock formations. Another clear bright night we laid out and watched shooting stars and listened to all the critters nearby (and praying I didn't have a 'james bond' moment and wake up with a snake slithering across my body!) Got woken up by the heat of the sun about 5.30 this morning!! Another hot hot day ahead methinks! Had a great sight of the full moon this morning peaking out above some great coloured rocks being lit by the sun - shame my photography just doesn't convey the image we saw!!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Chillin' out & Mt Rushmore

Have spent the last week in the most fabulous campsite - Hart Ranch resort - this is our last night and we'll be sad to leave. A couple of days ago we got up before dawn and drove to Mt Rushmore for the early morning light - it was wonderful. So peaceful and serene and the view was great. There was only about 1/2 dozen other people there and 2 of them were cleaners! What a wonderful time of day to visit the monument. By 8am that morning we were climbing! Had an average day - the rock in the Rushmore area is so crystal like so hard on the fingers - both came away scuffed up!

Today we painted the RV roof! (can't get away from the DIY!). Now it looks all sparkly and clean! Spent the rest of the day lounging by the pool. I nursed my sore backside in the shade after over-doing it slightly yesterday! Chris was all out there in the sun doing his bronzed Adonis impression! Right now we're sat outside in the balmy evening breeze (sweating like pigs - its darn hot!) having a BBQ.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mount Rushmore 4th July Fireworks

...which are actually on the evening of the 3rd July!! Have just got back from a spectacular 1/2 hour firework display held at Mount Rushmore at dusk - a very damatic setting it was just brilliant. Incredibly busy but being on the bike made parking pretty easy so we had a great spot to watch from. (Despite the woman in the local tourist info centre this afternoon who basically told us NOT to try getting to Rushmore today - roads would be closed etc - absolute rubbish - the road right to the monument area was free-flowing - the small issue was finding a parking spot but bikes were just filling the gaps between the cars so we were no more than 1/4 mile from the real parking area anyway! And we'd even told her we were on a bike and she'd still told us not to go) Anyway....the photo just doesn't do it justice!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Devil's Tower

We got to the area yesterday afternoon after driving a couple of hundred miles to get to the NE corner of Wyoming State (it's 100 degrees so it was as cool to be driving with the breeze than to be sat still somewhere!). Rode out on the bike last night at sunset to Devil's Tower - beautiful colourful sunset. Had a HUGE thunderstorm last night but this morning you wouldn't have realised - another gorgeous hot day and the roads were completely dry. Now we've moved campsites so we have a view of the Devil's Tower from our 'backyard' and will go into the park area now to the visitor centre and maybe take a little stroll around the base of the tower