Tag: midwest camping in fall

Camping among Giants


This photo was taken at Nisene Marks State Park just south of Santa Cruz in Aptos on a hike with Jerry and Bess. I’m wearing four light-weight layers because the trail we used is quite flat and the day was overcast and in high-fifties only. The Sequoias are loving this cool, damp weather, and I’m loving their deeply-grooved bark, their lofty heights, the green of their needles on the branches, and red of the ones that have fallen at their base to cover the forest floor.

We camped for a week in Big Basin Redwood State Park in the hills outside of Santa Cruz, then moved to a private campground in Felton, CA, among the redwoods for another four nights. Two of those days were rainy, so we got to appreciate days when the sunlight does eventually filter through the crowns of the giants to where we are far below. The young redwoods are a mere 150 feet tall, the elders 300 or so. Those who stay and live among these trees clearly love them and the micro-climate they create for other plants and animals.

Fungi Fungi Everywhere


This member of the Amanita family, Concorra, was seen in abundance on the weekly walk at Big Basin Redwoods State Park outside of Santa Cruz, CA., the week before Thanksgiving. I was lucky enough to be camping there that day and on a small group hike of seven hours with three docents from the area. We had the joy of spying so many fungi up after a recent and unusual rain in the coastal redwoods. Sometimes on the road you just hit it right.

Simple Joy of a Camper Kitchen


A tasty sandwich like this with snappy pretzels and real mayonnaise is whipped up in a few minutes without the hassle of cruising for a place to eat, a menu selection and the down time between decision and delivery. Bonus: price is about $2.00 a plate with fresh greens and a pickle. This is liberating!

Elk, Elk, where are you?

Glenwood Hot Springs, CO

Glenwood Hot Springs, CO

Overheard in the pool

“The elk are out there. Saw a bull elk today grazing by the fence along the highway. On private property though. It’s said that the elk are staying at higher elevations this fall. They think it’s September.”

While this may not be literally true, it says something about the change in the way things used to be climate-wise.

Notes on the Midwest

From the pov of an easterner visiting the Midwest, a few things stood out. Drivers seem content to travel at the speed limit and will stay behind our big van from Vermont, with a driver clearly unfamiliar with the territory, for miles and miles even though the van is going the speed limit or less. My experience traveling up and down the east coast in a Prius with VT plates was that every car and truck was eager to pass me with or without the broken center line. Nice change.

To my surprise, the yards, porches and doors of houses and apartments along our way were not overloaded with Halloween decorations. I would see just an occasional gesture, one much more like decades ago, before the blow-up ghouls and witches were available. A pumpkin or two and bunches of Indian corn could be seen occasionally. A friend in CO confirmed that the craze has not reached her yet. I don’t

Earlier travelers in the Midwest mostly passed through this land.

Earlier travelers in the Midwest mostly passed through this land.

miss the shrubbery strewn with fake cobwebs or the lawn that includes a rep from every conceivable Halloween theme.

It’s All About the Sky


Badlands National Park, South Dakota

The day we arrived, the sky was blue with puffy Georgia-O’keeffe clouds floating about. This photo is from the next morning from Wren. Is that rain? Skies cleared on our way from there west 40 miles to The Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore. The day delivered sunshine, snow, rain, cloud cover and finally a red sunset as we headed back to Cedar Pass Campground where 4 sites remained open after official closing. It had poured there and was pitch dark when we arrived. First thing we did was step out and into sloppy, sticky mud. The sandstone Badlands are eroding rapidly due to rain, wind, snow, and visitors’ footsteps. No one had to convince us after we could see the sediment in every puddle under clear skies.

It was a beautiful place to stay. While I was told camping would be dry this late in the year, the restrooms were open, and heated, as were the showers.  Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails or boardwalks.

My Great-Grandmother’s Diary

Part of this long road trip over three seasons is learning more history of my mother’s family and sharing some of what I know. This took us to Wisconsin and a large town outside of Madison where my ancestors settled after migrating from Vermont and other places East. My grandmother’s sister remained on the farmland there, so cousins who stayed on the land or nearby know a lot of the history. From there we visited a first cousin outside of Minneapolis, MN, and her husband. Kate was eager to hear all I’d learned and see what I’d brought from home. My mother was the only daughter and perhaps because of that was given much of what her mother had of family artifacts. These included a chest of drawers that made the trip west from Orwell, a spinning wheel from Vermont and fabric woven from its threads, and a tiny bureau made by one of our ancestors for a child. I did not bring these items in the camper.

img_4540Kate with Kate’s Daily Diary 1936

What interested Kate and me the most was a diary kept by Kate Buell Ranney, the woman my cousin is named for, in 1936 at the age of eighty-two when she is a widow and living part of the year with her daughter who left the farm to live in Des Moines and the other part of that year with her only other child, daughter who stayed on the farm and married a neighbor farmer. The lady had a busy social life with lots of calling and callers, club meetings, and church events. Letter writing and receiving was a vital part of every day.

Simplicity in a Swish

A simple daily joy of living out of a camper van as we travel across the country is how little time is spent cleaning up. For example, doing the dinner dishes takes about ten minutes from start to finish with everything is back in its place snug and tight for the next push down the road.


Part of that is that no steps are involved, just a bit of pivoting. It’s even better when Wren is plugged in, and someone remembered to turn on the hot water heater.

Fall Camping


We’ve gotten far enough north in Midwest to find fall colors. This morning’s hike was along the Kettle River. Great way to start the day. Bess had a dip in the river and brought lots of nice sand into Wren afterwards. It slides right off her silky fur and collects on the blue tarp we keep on top of our sleeping bag and under her blanket. That’s where she travels when we’re on the road.