August 24, 2012

Journey Across the West - Part 1

So as it turns out, blogging while traveling is very difficult!  Trying to use the computer while driving doesn’t really work and by the time we get to a camp site there is probably no service and we are too tired to even think about blogging.  And during the day we have been busy either driving, hiking, touring or trying to plan our next leg – which has turned into a bit of a struggle!  So I thought the best way to update everyone was a quick journal of where we’ve been in the last three weeks with a few photos thrown in.  I’m trying to keep a hand written journal of our day by day stuff, so after we weed through our photos when we get back East, I can give some more detail of our travels.

Our journey started from Southern Berkshire County in Massachusetts where both of our family’s live and where we are going to eventually be moving back to.  We started out West towards Adirondack Park in upstate New York on Friday the 3rd of August.  We stayed at Golden Beach Campground on Raquette Lake.  It was absolutely beautiful and after a day of hiking on Saturday we took a relaxing dip in the warm water!  It was wonderful to finally unwind and hike after the craziness of July.

Golden Beach Campground

Raquette Lake

We left the Adirondack’s on the 5th and headed toward Niagara, New York.  On the way we hit some torrential downpours outside of Rochester and finally got a chance to see how our weather proofing worked!  Amazingly there was only one leak on the passenger side door along the hinge… wah hoo!  We stayed at Golden Hill State Park which was 45 mins outside of the Falls and absolutely beautiful.  Our site was right on Lake Ontario and it had free showers!  The next day was spent at Niagara Falls and Old Fort Niagara which were both a lot of fun.  There’s nothing better then getting our learn on at historical sites… and the falls were pretty too!  Unfortunately my camera battery died, so I didn’t get any photos at the fort, but I highly recommend it!

Golden Hill State Park

Niagara Falls

Our next major stop was with friends in Michigan and on the way we got to drive along Lake Erie and into Ohio which was a pretty drive.  I never knew that there were so many vineyards in New York!  I also never thought about how many power stations there were along the great lakes either – hydro, coal and nuclear.  We pulled into East Harbor State Park in Ohio on Tuesday the 7th which was nothing to write home about.  It was huge (over 300 sites) and very much a city dwellers campground.  I didn’t even take any photos.  The next couple of nights were spent in Haslet, Michigan with our high school friend Robin and her boyfriend John.  It was a wonderful couple of day’s of relaxing and swimming in the nearby lake and planning.  The only photo I really managed to take was of the Big Boy restaurant’s sign where we had lunch one of the days… it was our first time and delicious!

Taking the suggestion of Robin and John we headed up North to Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We were going to go South to Chicago, but decided trying to navigate a city with the trailer would be to stressful.  Pulling in on a Friday night was a little crazy, but we managed to fine one campground that had open spots, Forrest Lake.  It was really out of the way (and about a half hour from the National Lakeshore) but beautifully quiet and almost empty!  It was a hidden gem.  Pictured Rocks was not at all what we were expecting from a Lakeshore.  The whole cost line is made up of towering sand stone cliffs along Lake Superior – which I swear is an ocean with the waves it had that day!  There were even a few beaches as well though the water was too cold for me to handle swimming… the hiking was easy though and the scenery beautiful!

Forrest Lake Campground

Beaches along Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks

From Pictured Rocks we headed south again out of Michigan, through Wisconsin and into Minnesota.  It was just a driving day but we did manage to stop at Humbird Cheese in Tomah, Wisconsin to buy some delicious cheese and sausage before heading into Minnesota.  We spent a rainy night in Myre-Big Island State Park and finally saw our first home built teardrop on the trip!  It was fun chatting with the owners and seeing how they did things compared to us.

The drive through Minnesota along interstate 90 was actually really interesting.  Mixed in with all of the farms were literally hundreds of windmills, not something I expected to see here.  Once we crossed the border into South Dakota we could get back to doing some touristy stuff.  I wanted to stop in De Smet to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead and from there we got to see the worlds largest Pheasant in Huron and the Corn Palace in Mitchell.  All were really fun and worth the stops.  That night was spent in the Fort Pierre National Grassland which was amazing.  Though you can camp there, there aren’t any official campgrounds.  One of the websites we found about the grassland literally gave you GPS coordinates for a fishing spot where people had camped in the past.  It was just off a gravel road and so peaceful since we were the only ones there!

Windmills in Minnesota

The Ingalls house in De Smet, SD

Worlds Largest Pheasant!!

The Corn Palace

Ft. Pierre National Grassland

On Tuesday the 14th, we finally rolled into our first National Park, Badlands.  Driving in was breathtaking!  After miles of flat grazing land, the rock formations of the Badlands suddenly appeared seemingly from nothing.  Once we were in the park, the landscape got even more spectacular with deep canyons, high peaks and stunning rock formations.  The rock itself almost seemed like it would crumble away if you were to touch it, but for the most part it was pretty solid… but the wind!  The second day we were there hiking we ended up with headaches from the wind blowing so strongly and constantly.  But it was worth it.  Of the two campgrounds, we stayed at the one with water – Cedar Pass. 

Approaching the Badlands

We also swung by Mount Rushmore while we were staying at the Badlands.  Though I’m not overly patriotic, it was a very impressive site and even after a lifetime of hype, it didn’t disappoint. 

About an hour and a half further west of the Badlands is another small National Park, Wind Cave.  It is tiny but worth it because while you’re there you can wander into Custer State Park and the Black Hills which are in complete contrast to the Badlands – mountains, forests and green rolling grasslands.  The cave system at Wind Cave is definitely worth the tour too.  It is one of the longest cave systems in the world and is completely dry, at least in the areas that the different tours go though.  It doesn’t have the traditional stalactites and stalagmites but boxwork and different beautiful formations.   After the cave tour we went on a hike in the northern end of the park.  We were disappointed in our lack of animal sightings until at the end of the hike there was a huge male bison standing in the middle of the trail!  We did a large loop around him, but it was so cool so see one so close in the wild.

Boxwork at Wind Cave

The bison is scratching his head on the trail marker!

On the way out of Wind Cave, we drove North through the Black Hills along the Needles Highway.  The rock formations through the mountains were stunning and worth the drive!  From here we linked back up with interstate 90 and began our trek into Wyoming.  Our first stop in Wyoming was Devils Tower.  I’ve seen it countless times in photos before, but the real thing can’t be compared.  It rises out of a sea of prairie and the faceted sides are so different to any rock formations around it.  Like so many other places we’ve seen, our first thought is that it can’t be real.  After a quick hike around the base of the tower and some lunch, we continued our journey West to Big Horn National Forrest for the night.  We managed to snag the last campsite at Lost Cabin Campground.

Rock formation on Needles Highway

Devils Tower


The change in landscape out of Big Horn National Forest was stunning all over again.  The mountains of the forest gave way to deep, rocky gorges and then as we exited the rolling dry hills of northern Wyoming opened up.  They red, brown ground was covered with light green sage brush and small yellow and white flowers.  We drove through the small town of Ten Sleep and then stopped for a break at Castle Gardens Scenic Area in the surrounding BLM.  The rock formations were amazing and well worth the stop to explore.  The day ended in Cody, Wyoming just outside of Yellowstone where we stayed at a KOA campground.  It wasn’t my favorite but we could do laundry and take hot showers, plus there were free pancakes in the morning.  That night we went into Cody and had a delicious dinner at the Prime Cut Saloon and then when to the famous nite rodeo.  It was a little touristy but super fun.

Wyoming landscape outside of Ten Sleep

Castle Gardens - can you find Darrell?

Cody Nite Rodeo!

Since we had been able to make reservations for our campground at Yellowstone we took our time heading out in the morning.  Before heading into the Shoshone National Forrest, we stopped at the Buffalo Bill Dam.  When it was completed in 1910 it was the tallest dam in the world at 325 feet.  There was a great visitor center there and it was a fun stop.  Next stop was in Yellowstone National Park!  Driving it we knew that we would need to extend our stay.  The entire park is larger than the state of Rhode Island and it takes hours to drive around the whole thing.  The scenery was beautiful though and there is no way I could possibly describe it in a paragraph.  From corner to corner, each section was different and the thermal areas were spectacular.  We ended up spending four nights and three full days there and I still felt that it wasn’t long enough.  We definitely want to go back.

Buffalo Bill Dam

Formations at Mammoth Hot Springs

Grand Prismatic Spring

'bobby sock' trees near Old Faithful

We managed to leave Yellowstone on the 23rd of August and headed south to Grand Teton National Park for a night.  Unfortunately the mountains were shrouded in haze from the wildfires in Idaho and Nevada, but they were still stunning.  Their jagged peaks rising from the planes surrounding the park.  At night they were even more unreal because all you could see was the solid outlines of the mountains in flat colors of grey and blue. 

The Grand Tetons

Hiking with Mount Moran in the background

Our original plan was to travel up to Glacier National park next, but as we were charting our course, we realized we are quickly running out of time to get through the country!  So plan B, we are heading directly west to Yosemite National Park and then into San Francisco.  This will save us at least 5 days on our schedule giving us more time to stop at the parks in Arizona and Utah.  Either way, our trip so far has been amazing and we have seen so much of the country.  Though we are both a tad road weary, we are still excited to see what adventures lie before us in California and beyond!


  1. I've been wondering how your trip was going. I would like to know more about how your teardrop is working out for you. Thanks for the great update.

    1. Darrell and Rebecca - Thoroughly enjoyed meeting you all at Myre-Big Island SP that rainy Sunday night in Iowa. We were the couple with the other home-built woody teardrop. Great blog on both the build and details/pics of your trip. Great craftsmanship on your teardrop. Glad to see that you added details of the trip - keep up the posts. Have a safe and fun trip.
      Dick and Kathy

  2. Aaah ... You must be enjoying the trip

    Can you please give more info about using and living in the Teardrop ?

    Travel safe

  3. What wonderful adventures. I/we would also like to hear more about living in a Teardrop. One thing we have used while traveling is a hot spot for internet. Ours is from Verizon and I'm sure other companies offer one. Some places you just can't get a signal, but sometimes it is surprising where you can get one. We also used Wendy's a lot. Many of the lodges in the national parks also have internet.

    Safe and happy travels!

    Kathy and Fred, Haslett Mi

  4. Hi Guys

    Its Great reading your blog , I'm building a cargo trailer myself a little bigger however, maybe I'll see you on the road one day

  5. You stated you aren't overly patriotic. What does that mean, beyond the simple words?