May 16, 2018 Interior, South Dakota

Badlands Stormy Skies
Badlands Stormy Skies

A Couple Days Exploring Badlands National Park

Badlands Morning Color
Badlands Morning Color

I continue to rack up the miles in the poor old Prius driving the roads through the park.

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors

The sun rises very early here on the eastern edge of the Mountain Time Zone, so I am out the door by 6AM and head west through the park with the sun at my back.

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors

The colors are constantly changing depending on time of day and weather.

Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Badlands Colors
Sam Exploring the Badlands
Sam Exploring the Badlands

Sam is still active enough to want to accompany me out to spots to take photos, but is left in the dust by her new companion Pearl.

Badlands Stormy Skies
Badlands Stormy Skies

Stormy skies to the west change the feel of the landscape. Daytime temperatures have been in the high 80’s but the evenings cool down fast for comfortable sleeping.

Clouds Over the Badlands
Clouds Over the Badlands

Gorgeous cumulus clouds cast shadows on the landscape

Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep

I encounter a small group of Bighorn Rams each morning …

Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep

… and again as I return back to camp in the afternoon.

Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Bighorn Sheep
Badlands Prairie Dogs
Badlands Prairie Dogs

There are numerous Prairie Dog communities throughout the park and the surrounding  cattle grazing land.

Badlands Prairie Dogs
Badlands Prairie Dogs
Badlands Prairie Dog Lookout
Badlands Prairie Dog Lookout

Some of these communities must contain hundreds if not thousands of individuals.

Badlands Prairie Dog
Badlands Prairie Dog
Badlands Prairie Dog
Badlands Prairie Dog
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

If you scan these Prairie Dog “Towns” carefully with some binoculars, often you can spot a Burrowing Owl or two.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

Shaky images taken at a very long distance.

Bison
A Formidable Obstacle in the Road

I have encountered a few Bison bulls, but have not seen any cows and calves.

Scratching Post
Scratching Post
Bison Portrait
Bison Portrait

I had hoped to do some boon docking at the site just south of the town of Wall when I leave here Friday, but the weather is calling for some nasty weather ( possibility of large hail with violent thunderstorms ) and the road accessing those sites can get too sloppy for my rig after heavy rains, so I will continue to head west to Yellowstone and hope I can find a place to stay.

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April 14, 2018 Marion, Kansas

Endless Prairie
Endless Prairie

The Strange Weather Continues

As I write this, I am staring out the motorhome window at swirling snow and swaying trees as the winds howl out of the north and the temperatures continue dropping, now at 30 degrees and supposed to continue falling to around 22 degrees tonight. Springtime in Kansas!

Endless Prairie
Endless Prairie

Yesterday, however, it was a balmy 50 degrees with the wind howling out of the south with gusts up to 45 mph. The heavy clouds with intermittent sun made for some nice opportunities to shoot prairie landscapes, though it was no simple task to keep the camera from shaking.

Abandoned Farmhouse
Abandoned Farmhouse
Abandoned Stone Farmhouse
Abandoned Stone Farmhouse
Abandoned Farmhouse
Abandoned Farmhouse

Lots of abandoned farmhouses and barns in this part of the state, though most of the wooden barns I have come across have long ago given way to the elements.

Stone Barn
Stone Barn

This barn, built in the 1880’s, with stone walls 18″ thick, most likely will be standing for quite a while yet.

Bison Herd
Bison Herd

A shot of one of the bison herds that have been reestablished in the state of Kansas, this one at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge.

Maltese
Growing Up Fast

Pearl is growing up fast! Big enough now to really give poor old Sam fits, just harasses the living daylights out of her.

Maltese
Windblown

This shot gives you an idea of just how hard the wind is blowing out here. As with everything else, the howling winds and blowing snow do not faze Pearl in the least, outside playtime is enjoyed whatever the conditions may be.

Her bold nature almost did her in two days ago as a large, rangy bobcat sauntered into our campsite around 7AM while I was outside with the two dogs for them to do their morning business. The cat eyed Pearl, then me, then Pearl, as if trying to decide if I was enough of a deterrent to her being able to grab an expensive breakfast. Just as the cat decided to give up that idea, Pearl spotted the cat and started to run her way. Thankfully, she responded when I bellowed her name, and stopped before she got close enough for the bobcat to react. Since Pearl is about the size of a very small rabbit, I have no doubt the bobcat was eyeing her as prey. I have always been on the watch for coyotes anywhere I camp, but I have to admit, it never occurred to me that a bobcat would be this bold, especially in broad daylight. Needless to say, I am now even more vigilant than before and try to make sure that Pearl doesn’t get very far from me no matter what time of day we are outside.

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April 3, 2018 Twin Points COE Campground, Oklahoma

 

Maltese
Pearl

Still Waiting Out Weather

Twin Points COE Campground

This morning I took this shot of my campsite here at Twin Points COE Campground on Skiatook Lake in Oklahoma. Don’t let the blue sky fool you, the rough weather continues, unabated. The howling wind out of the south woke me this morning, actually shaking the motorhome. Around 10 AM the wind started to turn around to the west, then the north, and this blue sky lasted about ten minutes as the wind changed. Temperatures Sunday night dropped into the 20’s, warmed to the low 40’s Monday, up to the 60’s today and predicted to dip back into the mid 20’s tonight with winds up to 35 mph. And of course, rain and possibly ice and/or snow.

Twin Points COE Campground is yet another very nice Corps of Engineers campground. Almost all the sites are located amongst the oaks, all are paved and most can handle a large rig, though a lot of them are sloped enough to make leveling your unit difficult. There is 50 amp electric at all sites and water spigots are located throughout the park. When I arrived there were only three or four others camped here and I snagged this great site on the water, though, as is way too often the case, I will have to move to another site as this one is reserved for the upcoming weekend.

Maltese
Constant Motion

Warning: Nothing but puppy shots from here on!

If you aren’t into cute little puppy shots, no need to read any farther. Though I have been making several road trips out into the surrounding country, I just haven’t yet found much of anything to shoot and the gray rainy weather has not been conducive to landscape photography.

Maltese
Pearl

Pearl is now at thirteen weeks and is growing rapidly, fortunately, also learning rapidly. Full of energy and developing her muscles with a lot of playful, exuberant exercise.

Maltese
Showoff

Constantly tormenting thirteen year old Sam running circles around her and attacking from all angles.

Maltese
Do I have to put up with this little twerp?

Sam dutifully puts up with her for the most part, but quite often looks at me to please get Pearl to leave her alone.

Maltese
Sight, Scent, Taste

Every trip outside, and there are a lot of them, about every hour and a half to encourage her house breaking habits, is an opportunity to explore as well as play.

Maltese
Takeout

She almost never comes to the door to be let back in without hauling something out the woods to take in with her.

Maltese
Diving In !

The drainage ditch along the driveway at this site is chock full of this winter’s oak leaves, about a foot deep, and this ditch has become Pearl’s favorite play station.

Maltese
Digging Down

Dives in …

Maltese
Pearl

… digs down ….

Maltese
Got One !

… and comes up with something …

Maltese
Digging In

… then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Maltese
Digging Deep
Maltese
Pearl
Maltese
Got One !
Maltese
The End Result

The end result, remember I told you the weather has been less than wonderful, a formerly white pup, needing a bath …

Maltese
The End Result

… but enjoying every minute of her time outside.

She still amazes me with her bold, shy away from nothing personality. She now has encountered several large dogs, many admiring people, hyper active kids, a pair of mallards, squirrels, heavy winds and rain, as well as cold weather, and nothing fazes her. Tail curled up ALWAYS and throwing caution to the wind, probably a little too bold for her own good. As a result, I am on constant alert trying to anticipate her next move, to make sure she doesn’t bite off more than she can chew.

She already is well aware of her name and comes when called … unless she is into something interesting, then she lifts her head to acknowledge hearing me, but then resumes pursuing whatever has her interest at that particular time. She always does eventually come back to the motorhome steps and bounds up them with ease now. Just three weeks with us and only 13 weeks old and yesterday we had our first 24 hour period with no accidents in the motorhome, not bad for a pup that age. Not saying she is housebroken yet, but she sure is getting the hang of it. Goes to the door and whines to go out when she feels the need and as long as I am paying attention, we’re OK. Quite smart, very bold, and fiercely independent. She is going to be a lot of fun to have around, but I think she is going to challenge me all along the way.

I originally planned to only stay here through Thursday and then head a bit farther north to another COE campground but the weather forecast once again calls for cold weather with possible freezing rain, so I am going to hunker down here through the weekend, still waiting for warmer springtime weather to make it’s appearance. Guess I can always watch the Masters on TV, it must be springtime in Augusta.

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March 31, 2018 Hickory Creek COE Park, Arkansas

My Campsite at Hickory Creek Park
My Campsite at Hickory Creek Park

On to Oklahoma

Tonight ends my two week stay at Hickory Creek Park, yet another great COE campground. This park is, theoretically, closed until April 1st, but they apparently always leave one section of the campground open for winter camping, although I could not find anything about that with an internet search. The sites are paved, level, and some can accomodate a large rig, I had to detach my tow dolly and move it to the side of the campsite to fit my 32′ rig in and still have enough space to park the Prius off the roadway.

The sites do have 50 amp electric but no water nor sewer. There is a dump station within the park and maybe water ( not sure since I am planning to fill up before I leave ). Fairly strong Verizon signal here and I was able to grab one of the few sites in this section that would allow my satellite dish to see out from under the tall trees.

Rapidly Rising Waters
Rapidly Rising Waters

My winter of lousy weather continued while here, with maybe three or four nice days and a lot of rain. The base of those trees you see behind my motorhome, now under a couple feet of water, were about 100 feet or more from the water’s edge two weeks ago when I arrived.

Flooding
Flooding

In fact, some of the campsites across the lake, with that section of campground set to open tomorrow, appear to be underwater, and there is more rain coming today. Notice all the flood debris floating on the water.

My Campsite at Hickory Creek Park
My Campsite at Hickory Creek Park

Pearl has been with us almost three weeks now and is growing fast, probably doubled in size since she came aboard. Doing pretty well with doing her business outside about 75% of the time, can’t wait to get to 100%, but that’s not too bad for a 13 week old pup. Already responds to her name and has mastered the four steep steps up into the motorhome after I had to lift her up the first two weeks. Very independent nature and absolutely fearless, kind of unusual for one so young, and small.  Does not want to be picked up and will back away if I want to pick her up to do something, but will actually position herself in my hand when I reach down for her when she wants to get up in the recliner with me. In other words, OK to be picked up when she wants, but not OK if I want … pretty sharp independent puppy.

Loves terrorizing poor old Sam, not sure I did Sam a favor by bringing on a companion for her, but for now, she can escape by hopping up into the dog bed by my recliner, about two feet off the floor. Pearl will probably master that jump in another week or two and then Sam will get no more relief from puppy exuberance. However, Sam does seek her out when she shuts down for naps and almost always will be laying with her when they are both sleeping.

Prius damage
Ouch!

I didn’t bother to mention it when it occurred a couple weeks ago, but my year of living lousy seems to be continuing, and the Prius, as well as my wallet, got the worst of it.

As I was exiting I-49 in Fayetteville, on my way to investigate whether Hickory Creek Campground was really open or not, I was rear-ended at about 60 mph by a driver who was later led from the scene in handcuffs. DUI in a stolen car! The rear panel of the Prius was crushed, the hatchback door thrown out of whack, and the force of the impact actually broke the back of the driver’s seat from my being thrown against the steering wheel and whipped back into the seat. Fortunately I was wearing my seatbelt. Unfortunately, the dogs and my photo gear were not, and all were thrown into the dash. The dogs came out of it OK, not so the photo gear.

My poor Prius, rear end ground off in the Yukon, pelted with golfball sized hail in Oregon, and now crunched by a drugged out car thief. Yet it keeps on going, though I am starting to be a little embarrassed by it’s appearance.  Three quarters of the exterior look like the surface of a golf ball, the windshield is cracked, and now the rear end is held on with duct tape, while I drive around with a driver’s seat that looks like I am laying down trying to get some shuteye while cruising down the highway.

Because of the car being  supposedly stolen ( the investigating State Trooper suggested there probably was a relationship between the driver and the car’s owner ), USAA, the owner’s insurance provider is giving me the runaround, trying to drag this out to discourage me from pursuing the claim for damages, even though Arkansas law provides that they are responsible for damages even though the vehicle was ” stolen “. In the meantime, I will continue on my journey with my sad looking Prius, but without some of my expensive photo gear.

Sunday I head a little north and west into Oklahoma to another COE campground. With cold weather still hanging around in the plains where I am eventually heading, I am in no hurry to proceed farther north at this time. In fact, the forecast for tomorrow calls for the possibility of freezing rain where I am heading, but I am hoping I can arrive at my destination and get set up before it hits. We’ll see.

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