Friday, October 21, 2016

A Little Upgrade

Hello, my dears! Please bear with me as I try out yet another blogging app on the iPad. This one is very simple to use so far. I have high hopes for it.

It's been a busy week here in Damselfly's Pond. Well, maybe it doesn't count as particularly busy for some people but for us it felt pretty full. Several long walks, a dental appointment and I even got to show off my Flaming Intersect cardigan at my weavers' guild meeting. I think it was rather well received!

In knitting news, I'm nearly finished my Midnight On Catalina Shawl (only 2 more loooong rows), started the leg of the second one of the Indigo Skyp Socks (the first is nearly to the heel flap) and am cruising down the yoke on the Red Earth Candelia cardigan. The latter is the sweater that I started with my newly toned-down Intersect leftovers:

I'm quite happy with it so far. The mods I made seem to be working out alright anyway.

In sewing news, I finished my Boro Knot Bag:

It just fits my sweater in progress - at least while it's still pretty small!

In other news, I've finally gone and ordered a new desktop computer. My birthday present to me! The old one isn't dead but it's still running Windows XP and is having more and more annoying issues with it. It can't be upgraded because it's too underpowered. We can't even remember exactly how old it is but from the available evidence I think it's circa 2002. Yikes! The new one should be here on Monday. It has Windows 10 on it so wish me luck in learning a new OS yet again! Not to mention all the fun of trying to get the important stuff loaded on it. The nice thing is it will be all shiny new and clean. The bad thing is I'll probably lose something that is irreplaceable. Oh well. It wouldn't be the first time. Life goes on.

I was asked why I wanted a desktop instead of a laptop. Of course laptops are more portable and take up less room. But they are twice the price for the same computing power, the battery tends to die eventually and they have limited expansion capability in future. Also most of the laptops these days don't even have a DVD player. Everything has to be loaded by flash drive or downloaded online. I have legacy photos and things on DVD that I still want to access. Desktops also have more ports and I can hook up a much larger screen. And I prefer a mouse to a touchpad. My computer desk is huge so I have lots of room on and under it. So lots of reasons to prefer a desktop. But the biggest one of all is that if I want portability I have my iPad. I adore my iPad Mini 4! It just celebrated its first birthday since I bought it for my last year's birthday present. Hey, I always give me exactly what I want! Heh.

If you remember my little netbook computer, Bluet, the poor thing is also toast thanks to Microsoft abandoning WinXP. It's newer than the desktop but still old enough that it can't be upgraded either. Add to that the fact that I don't need it any more thanks to my iPad filling the need for a small portable system. It served me well. I really feel sad about my computers being obsolete even when they still (sorta) work. But what can you do? I attempt to keep things running as long as possible but even with my best efforts I have to know when to give up. So I'm moving on to a new system and hopefully I can keep it going as long as the last one. You know how short computer years are. As a matter of fact according to this website, my current desktop would be 259 years old if it was human!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Moving Into Autumn

I have been a busy beaver! I have been working on a few things. For instance, this FO:
These are Thom's Foxy Socks, my usual plain top-down heel-flap sock pattern. The yarn is Berroco Sox, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, 440yds per 100g skein, made in Romania. I hadn't used this one before and it's quite sturdy which one would expect considering the 25% nylon content. The printed stripe pattern was a bit "interesting" with plenty of what I call "blips". I kind of like that. It looks more hand-dyed and less mechanical. However I wasn't able to make both toes come out on the same colour. Luckily Thom isn't a stickler for perfect symmetry! Now we'll see how they wear over time.
I also wound the leftover handspun yarn from my Intersect cardigan back into skeins and - gulp! - threw them into a logwood dyebath. I used about 1.5% WOF of the purple extract on the 300 g of previously dyed yarn (rhubarb leaf mordant, madder dye). Not exactly scientifically accurate but I just wanted to maybe tone down the vibrant orange a little and shift the colour somewhat so it didn't look the same as the original. I tried to get an accurate photograph. Huh! Here's a few of them:
The last one is the most accurate on my screen but it's still a little bit darker than that. Kind of a brownish-red? Dunno but I love it! It's actually closer to the colour I was going for originally when I forgot to give the freshly dyed yarn an ammonia afterbath to shift the colour away from flaming orange. It all works out in the end since I adore my Flaming Intersect and I still get to make another smaller sweater with the leftovers in the shade that I really wanted. Win/win. It also begs the question - what kind of amazing shades can you get with various strengths of logwood over a deep madder dye? One day I may experiment to find out.
So what sweater will I make, you ask? I hunted high and low and on Ravelry and decided to go with a modified version of one I've already made: Candelia by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. I hope to make it button at least partway down the front, leave off the pockets and have regular 3/4-length sleeves (dependant on how much yarn I have available). My gauge is slightly different from the pattern on 3.75mm needles, 22 sts and 34 rows per 4". Perfect for the Intersect! But the Candelia calls for 24 sts and 32 rows so I think I'll do a size smaller (the 39" bust) which should give me enough room to button it up without it being too close-fitting. Wish me luck! I know I'll be casting on as soon as I can get these somewhat felted skeins back into balls. They did this the last time so I thought they wouldn't be so bad this time. But noooo. Sigh.
I've also been stitching a little each day on my Boro Knot Bag, knitting a little on my Midnight On Catalina Shawl and also knitting on a new pattern I started. This is the Simple Skyp Socks by Adrienne Ku. I'm using some grey sock yarn that I dyed in my Japanese indigo awhile back. The blue is crocking off on my hands quite a bit. Hopefully I can clear the unfixed dye after the socks are done. 
In other news I managed to get my garlic planted for next year. It's supposed to rain tomorrow so I'm glad to finish that little chore. The rest of the garden can wait. It needs so much work! I think I missed it while we were away though so I don't really mind.
We walked down to Granville Island yesterday because, hey, the weather was glorious! I stopped in at Maiwa Supply, thankfully reopened after some lady drove her car through the side of it in July. I got some Orvus for washing my woollies and these:
I couldn't resist. I had a craving for removable stitch markers and these are better than the ones I made with earring findings. So pretty in copper! They also had black ones - very sophisticated - but these will show up better in my work. I know there are a lot of Merchant & Mills aficionados out there but this is my first acquisition. They ain't cheap but they sure are elegant! We'll see how they work out in the Real World.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Catching Up

Now that things are sorting themselves out around here, I thought I'd catch up on a few makes. First of all I would like to review the bags and the iPad cover that I madly stitched before we left and tell you how they fared in actual use. First of all the iPad cover:
Corbie, my iPad lives in this thing permanently! It works well to protect the screen and to support the iPad upright in landscape position for reading. Two drawbacks, firstly the iPad slips around a little in the corner elastics so that I have to make sure the lens is centred properly when taking a photo or I get dark and fuzzy edges on my pictures. You may have noticed this once in awhile during my travelogue. The second drawback is the little red Velcro dots are not as firmly attached as they could be. The stitches are starting to pull out and the hooks are getting a lot of lint stuck in them. Neither of these problems are very curable though I can handstitch the Velcro down a little better. Otherwise I've become very used to having the cover on and it has padded Corbie well during constant use.
Then you might remember the knitting bag:
This beast lived between the seats in the van loaded with everything I might need to knit the Flaming Intersect Cardigan and a whole lot more. I added lip balm, a nail file, my iPad and its keyboard, travel directions, maps, and the rock collection. It was pretty darn full! Once or twice I had to clean it out when it started to collect lint, crumbs, dead flies and an accidental water spill. It held up quite well to the abuse! It's still a bit wonky-shaped but not too bad. Currently it's living beside my chair in the living room which will be it's more permanent home. Now the sweater is done it has 3 small projects in it instead.
Then there's the Hiking Bag:

It worked perfectly! I took it on every walk loaded with water bottle, iPad, lip balm, sun screen, sun glasses, bug bite stick and Minions Tic-Tacs. (Banana!) The pack is a little more ahem...weathered looking now. But I was glad that I used the Otter Wax on it especially when we got caught in the rain or the time I slipped and it fell partially in the St Lawrence. It even held an umbrella instead of the water bottle on a couple of hikes when we weren't sure if it was going to rain on us or not.
Oh and there's the tea cosy:
This fuzzy thing worked very well not only to keep the tea hot but also to pad the glass tea press when not in use. Just what I wanted.
Then there were the socks that I finished the day we left:
These are the Spring Forward socks by Linda Welch from Knitty Summer 2008. The yarn is leftover Sweet Georgia BFL Sock in colourway Ginger. My version is longer in the leg and I also made a mistake and made the first repeat even longer so I had to do the same mistake for the second sock. They're a little tight to get on and off. Probably due to using my Knitter's Pride Cubics dpns which are square. I tend to knit tighter with metal needles. These took forever because I mostly only worked on them at Guild meetings and then had to rip back when I made errors from lack of attention. I finally had to force myself to finish them by giving myself a deadline. I still have another ball of this yarn which will possibly become a shawlette.
Then there's the Big Project. I give you the Flaming Intersect Cardigan:
This beast was a shitload of work! I started the wool prep back in April and it took me 3 months to get the yarn spun up and dyed. Then it took another 3 months to knit. Well, 2.5 actually since I finished while we were away and couldn't block it until I got home. The pattern is Intersect by Norah Gaughan for Brooklyn Tweed's BT Winter 16.
I'm really happy with how this sweater turned out! The fit is spot on. For some reason it used less yarn than it should have but I'm not complaining. I have 3 balls left, something over 1,000 yards, enough to make another smaller sweater. However first I want to modify the colour in another dyebath because I don't really need any more bright madder orange sweaters! I have 3 already. It is a really lovely colour though, isn't it? Even bright enough for Sharon, I'm sure. ;)
So what's coming up next in the crafty project department? I need to finish the Boro Bag, which only got stitched on a very little while we were away. I'm going to our Spectrum Study Group tomorrow and bringing it along to work on. I'm also knitting a pair of Foxy Socks for Thom which are close to finished. Plus the Catalina Shawl in charcoal black lace-weight wool from deep stash. I have one 24-row pattern repeat to go but I can only knit on this when there's not much else going on. No reading, no TV and good light. The stitches need to be watched carefully. It's a pretty design though. A combination of lace and twisted rib which looks really light and ethereal in the photo. Mine is the smaller size and probably not so ethereal at all. But that's OK. I haven't had time yet to assess the sewing queue for fall. The van still needs to be cleaned out and the garden needs big time help before the rainy season sets in. I still have to plant my garlic and bring in the cactuses from their summer vacation. We finally caught up on the grocery shopping. It took 4 separate trips to different stores to get stocked up again. Yum, fresh fruit and veggies! Most of the supermarkets we visited while we were away did not have the variety that we're so used to here. I put that down to our large Asian and South Asian population who insist on fresh ingredients. Not so much pre-chopped and packaged "stir-fry mix". Even the mushrooms were all sliced and packed in plastic cartons. Where's the loose bin with the paper bags to store them in? And I also missed our Cobbs bread. So. Good. On the other hand, dairy and meat were cheaper than here. We actually got reamed out by an old lady in Maine who gave us a hard time for buying "expensive" free-range organic eggs. They were still half the price they are here! She apparently wouldn't pay more than 88 cents a dozen. Obviously there's some government support going on down there. Because somebody isn't paying what it actually costs to produce the food they're eating. But I digress.
What I did like was the ability to buy wine and beer in the grocery stores in most of the US. In most of Canada there was usually a government liquor store near the supermarket. Only in Quebec were we able to buy wine at the same time as the rest of our groceries. So sensible. Wine and beer are food, people! We don't need to be protected from ourselves, thank you much.
Ahem. I digressed again, didn't I? Maybe it's low blood sugar. I can't stop talking about food so I guess I need to go cook some dinner now.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

GTT Days 61 and Home

September 30 - Yakima Sportsman State Park, Washington.
The weather remained fairly nice for travelling today. We crossed the last bit of Idaho and into the southeastern part of Washington State, over the Snake River, the Columbia and finally the Yakima River. The land is either rolling sagebrush and cheat grass hills or irrigated farms, vineyards and orchards. Apples and pears were abundant and I wish we could have brought a box of my favourite Honeycrisp apples home with us. They were so cheap direct from the farm!
We had some trouble at the state park campground. Apparently it's in the white-knuckled control of the most anal bunch of hall monitors we've ever run across! We drove in, found a campsite that was not on the reserved list, popped our fee in the box and tried to settle in. Nope. Mr. Ranger flung (literally) our envelope back at us and ordered us out to the parking area to wait until the registration booth opened at 2pm. Less than an hour away. Nobody was in our spot. What was it hurting to stay there and go visit the booth when it opened? OBVIOUS. Mortal. Sin.
So we waited in the designated area. And registered as required. And were then told we still had to wait until 2:30pm before we could occupy our campsite. Because someone may be cleaning it or something. Not. Happening. Wait some more. I just wanted to settle in and go for a walk! In the many many campgrounds we have encountered this was the first time ever that things were so regimented. We've had to wait before for the previous tenants to vacate. No problem. This was the first time we've had to wait over an hour to occupy our site when it was totally open and ready for us. Just because they could make us wait. Jerks.
Anyway, we finally got to go on our walk along the levee above the Yakima River:
We got goat heads stuck in our shoes! It took half an hour with pliers to get the evil prickles out of the soles of my boots. I've written about these things before. Also called puncture vine, they're a low-growing plant with seeds that are "caltrops" (Latin name Tribulus terrestris) - no matter which way they fall they end up with a pointy side up. Nasty. And people ride bikes and horses down this trail too. Ouch.
The trail around the pond was pretty:
Red sumac and pink water lilies.
October 1 - HOME!
We had decided that we weren't going to stop for one more night but just to press on for home. Enough already! We had already picked up our supply of our favourite Tillamook cheddar cheese at a Safeway the day before so all we needed was gas to get us home. The border crossing took about 20 minutes to get through but was relatively painless. It's so nice to be in our own place again! It feels like so long since we've been gone. Remember we left on July 30 so the total is actually 64 days, all 10 provinces, 12 US states, and 11,000 miles or nearly 18,000 kilometres! Oy. 
We had a great time but take note - we'll never do anything that crazy again. Remind me I said that if I start hinting about another marathon trip, OK? Done.
People keep asking what we liked best. No idea! So many highlights and everywhere had it's beauty. I do think it was colder in general than I was expecting. It was never actually stinkin' hot! We were feeling cold more often especially in Newfoundland. Even the desert was tolerable. When you bring clothes for every eventuality and you use all the medium temperature items while the shorts languish and you're often reaching for an extra fleece top, you know it's not your regular hot summer weather. We used either our electric or propane heater especially in the mornings. Yellowstone especially was only 4C when we got up but heated up to 21C in the afternoons. Makes it hard to get out of bed when you can see your breath!
We managed to pace ourselves well most days so we weren't pushing too hard to get to the next place. Experience has taught us the hard lesson that we need to stop and make tea and coffee and to eat regularly while we travel. Not good when your brain shuts down due to low blood sugar! So much more pleasant all around when rested and fed.
Do you know I forgot to even mention what happened with the rock that we took to The Rock! Aggie elected not to stay in Newfoundland and little Magic decided to stay with us as well. But we did find a new rock to come home with us. Meet Newfie:
He has joined the family. Thom decided he didn't need eyes added since he has some of his own already. He found this really interesting rock in La Manche Provincial Park just along the roadway in the gravel. No idea where it came from or why it is so polished. These three rocks spent the trip sitting on the dashboard and helping to hold down the maps. There were also more rocks collected. We each have our own pile and this one is mine:
The top 3 are really sparkly thanks to their mica flakes. I picked them up in Cape Breton at Corney Brook. The flat one also came from there and gives a metallic sheen in the sunlight. Except for the smallest one, these will go in my pattern weight collection.
I bought 2 souvenirs too. This turned and carved olive wood reamer will be perfect for the limes I struggle to juice:
We bought it from a wood arts store in Bar Harbor, Maine. And this turtle button is carved by a Native American woman artisan from pipestone:
 It's quite large so I hope to use it on a sweater or something similar.
And there ya go! Hope you've enjoyed coming along vicariously on the trip with us. We are so glad to be home but incredibly happy that we did this monumental Great Transcontinental Trek! It was an amazing experience. Now we're singing the Ruby Slipper Song - there's no place like home. There's NO place like home.

Friday, September 30, 2016

GTT Days 56-60

Update to the Update: Fooled you! We decided that we would go back to the gas station and use the wifi again before leaving Winchester, ID. We're definitely on the home stretch. Only two more long drives before we get home! Meanwhile, we go back in time several days...
September 25 - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Madison campground, Day 1.
Today is Thom's birthday, number 66! Hopefully an auspicious year. I won't catch up to him until November. But that's just fine - I can wait.
We got started at our usual early hour but the fog was pretty intense over the rivers and some of the fields where it was especially damp. We nearly ran into several herds of whitetail deer by the side of the road. They get so confused as to which way they're going, no wonder so many become "road pizza". We also saw our first non-road-pizza skunk scurrying beside the road on the way out of the Medicine Lodge campground. No smell!
We travelled across a large chunk of Wyoming, through Cody, home of the original Buffalo Bill, and through the very scenic Shoshone Canyon. The trip through Yellowstone's East Gate and the high Sylvan Pass was clear and sunny. It was pretty cool up there though. We headed to Madison by way of Canyon so we could visit the Dragon's Mouth:
I wish you could hear it roar! And see the tongue of water lapping out at each steamy breath.
We also stopped at Yellowstone Canyon itself at Painter's Point to see the falls:
So beautiful! And so busy with people all getting in each other's way to photograph the gorgeous scenery. After that it was off west to Madison campground which was to be our base for the next 3 days. We were lucky we had made reservations from Badlands because it was posted full for the whole time we were there. We didn't go too far that evening, only down to the confluence of the Firehole and Madison rivers near the campground where we saw some elk relaxing across the river:
We nearly always see some elk in this meadow every time we come to Yellowstone.
September 26 - Yellowstone NP, WY, Madison campground, Day 2.
This morning was really chilly, only 4 or 5C in the van! We were warm enough in bed but luckily we had our propane heater handy. We used it to warm us up enough to get up and dressed and have breakfast before we headed down to Old Faithful to walk the boardwalks and watch geysers. After all, that's what we're here for! The weather heated up pretty quickly in the sunshine and soon became a rather hot day.
This is Daisy. For once she went off right when we got there and was early so nobody else was there but us:
She only goes off twice a day within a fairly large window of several hours so sometime you have to wait for quite awhile. We usually manage to miss her because she's quite far away from most other thermal features in the area. We also watched my favourite Anemone go through her tricks. Here she is aquiescent:
There's two vents that play off each other in varying order and at the end each goes "down the drain" with a sucking sound. It stays quiet for 7-10 minutes and then starts up again. Very fun to watch and try to predict which vent is going to act first. The main front vent can blow as high as 5 feet for several minutes. It's even pretty when it's not doing anything at all!
Another favourite is Sawmill. It performs more often than it's quiet. It sounds like a mill - whomp-whomp-whomp - and spirals up from the centre:
The water droplets were sparkling and of course I got my usual "geyser kisses" from him! Not too hot this time, thank goodness.
On the way back to camp we saw a number of bison herds. This one was all relaxing very close to the road:
September 27 - Yellowstone NP, WY, Day 3.
This morning was slightly warmer than yesterday morning but we still used our heater to get us up and going. There was definitely frost on the picnic tables! Luckily it warms up a lot later in the morning but the cooler air means that the thermal features get rather steamy:
This was up by Grand Prismatic Spring, a view of the extensive bacterial mats. You couldn't really see much of Grand Prismatic for the steam and the hordes of people photographing everything in sight. I settled for the edge of it and its orange mats:
Under that steam the colour is a rich turquoise! The only way to really view this spring is from the air  though. It's just so huge, the biggest spring in the park.   Next we went to Old Faithful again and watched it go off from a distance while standing in front of Anemone:  
Then we toddled over to Grand Geyser, early because we missed it yesterday. Of course today it was not only late but outside it's window. We ended up sitting there for 3.5 hours chatting to our neighbours and hoping each time Turban went off (every 20 minutes) that Grand would go too. Finally it decided to go and it was really spectacular:
Note the rainbow! This geyser is actually 3 in one, Grand, Turban and the Vent on the left there. The show went on for quite awhile too and we were glad we hadn't given up and left prematurely. After all, once you've wasted a couple of hours sitting and waiting you might as well go all the way, right?
We had a lovely time geyser gazing! But tomorrow we're off again.
September 28 - Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, Montana.
We had only a relatively short hop today. We travelled north and a little west through farmland and sagebrush country. There was a very long section of roadwork near Quake Lake where we had to wait and wait for a pilot car to follow for several miles through the pass. The weather remained sunny which was lovely. We've been to Lewis & Clark Caverns a number of times so we didn't go up to the cave tour this time. Instead we rested and read books and had a hot shower (the first in what felt like forever!) and generally lazed about in the warmth.   September 29 - Winchester State Park, Idaho.
We got up to a lovely sunrise this morning:
Unlike yesterday, today was a very long drive. A large section of it was very scenic though. We went west of Missoula and through the Bitterroot Mountains on a winding road that went up over Lolo Pass and followed several rivers. Then we went around south and then north again over another pass to the Camas Prairie. Our campground is on a lake very close to the sleepy little town of Winchester. We walked the trail that goes nearly, but not quite, all around the lake. In winter it's a cross-country ski trail so it's quite wide and relatively flat. The lake as a number of "arms" so it was about a 6.5K walk and we were the only people on the trail. Everyone else we could see was fishing from one of the many docks. The lake is full of migrating Canada geese. These ones were marching past our campsite:

So cute! But noisy. Aside from the geese it's pretty quiet here because they are closing the campground in a couple of days. Good thing we're nearly home before we run out of camping options, huh? Not to mention good weather. Oops, should I have mentioned that?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

GTT Days 53-55

September 22 - Custer State Park, South Dakota, Game Lodge campground, Day 1.
It was back to the usual early morning rising today, though not with quite as long a drive ahead of us. We saw lots of pronghorns and some farmed bison on the way to Rapid City. We had to stop first at yet another NAPA Auto Parts (4th one?) to pick up a set of chains for the van. We may not need them but since our tires are getting pretty worn down, they just might be useful if winter shows up before we get home. Plus a few groceries were in order as well. Then it was on up into the Black Hills on the road toward Mt. Rushmore. The weather wasn't fabulous with fog in the high places so it's a good thing we saw the famous mountain before because we only caught a tiny glimpse. Instead we headed down the very fun Iron Mountain Highway with the pigtail twists and tiny one-lane tunnels. I didn't get any photos for you because I was too busy recording videos with Thom's iPhone for him!
We had reserved a campsite online which is the only way to do it apparently, unless you phone a reservation in. Dumb system but at least you know you have a spot. The campground is small but very nice and the cottonwoods and aspens were showing their full golden leaves in honour of autumn. After we checked out the new visitors centre across the way and watched their film about the park we got settled in. The paved Creekside Trail was a tempting walk too:
We saw turkeys and deer:
The place was lousy with them! Can you spot the turkey to the above-left of the gambolling deer? I kind of thought that Custer would be a bit Disneyland-ish if you read all the blurbs but it was actually very nice. No wifi anywhere though. Boo.
September 23 - Custer State Park, SD, Day 2.
It was raining and foggy the next morning, our second day in Custer. We decided to take the Wildlife Loop Road that began very close to our campground. The trees colours were even more intense though some of the views were obscured by the misty rain and fog:
We didn't see a lot of wildlife but the loop road was very scenic. Next weekend is their annual buffalo roundup so we were surprised not to see any bison at all. But we did run across these characters hogging the road:
The donkeys are feral but very spoiled. This one decided that our van looked good enough to eat:
Thom caught this shot while it was licking the door! Yuck. We probably should have held off our drive because it cleared up later in the afternoon and got quite hot for awhile. Unfortunately later in the evening it clouded over again and began a thunder and lightning storm that went on all evening. We acquired this young Two-Prong neighbour who hung out for quite awhile beside us:
He looked kind of interesting through the rain-soaked window.
September 24 - Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site, Wyoming.
Today is going to be a very tough one to write up since it feels like we stuffed at least 3 days into one! We started at our usual early hour and drove up the Needles Scenic Highway. Our first encounter (besides the inevitable turkeys) was a lone female bison in the woods. I tried to take a photo but she flipped around and growled at us so we were forced to keep moving before she decided to butt heads with our van! Too close. Sorry, hon'. The road was nothing short of amazing in the morning sunshine:
There we are! Twisting and turning and going through a couple of very tight tunnels:
Nearly hit the side mirrors on that one. And this one I ran out ahead:
Tight, no? Right after this tunnel is the iconic Eye of the Needle:
So huge it's nearly impossible to capture. Then it was down and down and around some more and north to Lead (like the mineral they mine there) and then through yet another gorgeous scenic byway, the Spearfish Canyon. I sadly just watched the amazing scenery go by and didn't take any photos but the light and the golden and rust turning trees were spectacular!
Once we got to Spearfish we ended up on the I-90 heading ever west. The weather deteriorated again and became rainy and windy making it not much fun to drive in. Kind of a let-down after so much beautiful scenery. But that's not all! After Buffalo, Wyoming, we headed up into the Bighorn Mountains on what was supposed to be another scenic byway. This is what we got:
Almost the whole way through to Ten Sleep (love that town's name). It snowed enough to call out the ploughs but at the worst it was only about 4" deep. Hah. And the main road was clear. Just reminding us that winter is coming, right? No need to try out the new chains yet though.
And that's not all! We headed north from Ten Sleep and into the sagebrush and farmland to our final destination. It took us all day but we were surprised to find a lovely little campground as well as a fabulous stone cliff with petroglyphs and pictographs, layered on each other:
You know how much I love petroglyphs! A whole wall full:
We didn't get much time to explore though since it kept raining on us and we needed to make dinner before we fainted. And of course it got dark. Looonnng day.   Update: I finally have wifi in Idaho but you are going to have wait until I get home for the rest of the story! The suspense is killing me. Heh.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GTT Days 50-52

September 19 - Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota.
It was a long long drive diagonally across Minnesota mostly on a small two-lane highway. It was even longer because there were two closed sections of the road that we had to take big detours around. We got to see even more of the nearly endless Minnesota farmlands than we planned! However we also went to Pipestone National Monument, only a half-hour or so before our planned campground. It was really interesting. This is an area with a layer of a beautiful red stone that was discovered by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. It's relatively easy to work and was traditionally used for making ceremonial pipes. On top of the stone are a number of layers of very hard Sioux quartzite which is also very pretty and has been used in more recent years for building. To get to the pipestone, the quartzite has to be removed laboriously by hand. We went on a walking tour of the site to see some of the quarries:
It's a sacred place and only the tribes can dig for the stone. The walk also included a lovely little waterfall:
And cliffs of Sioux quartzite with really decorative lichens growing on them:
I particularly loved this stone stairway to the top of the waterfall:
The display centre had an area where artisans worked on pipestone pieces and I bought a turtle button which I'll have to show you later since it's all wrapped up and put away. They show a really informative film on the pipestone and it's significance to the aboriginal people too. Well done.
Not so well done was our experience at Blue Mounds. It was quite late by the time we got there and there was nobody there. Signs said they want you to reserve 3 days ahead by phone or Internet. What? We just stuffed the requisite fee in the envelope and took a spot! Any spot. They had shut off the water except for the toilets because of E. coli, we never saw the bison at all and we were nearly eaten alive by tiny little biting gnats that insisted on working their way around our bug screens. Bleh. Not nearly as nice as we remembered from our last visit 3 years ago. 
We also had a couple of mechanical issues for Thom to solve. The other headlight went (the first one died in Nova Scotia) and the water pump on the sink refused to work. We had found a NAPA store in St. Cloud for the replacement light so after fixing that quickly Thom was left to fiddle with the water system. Luckily his Magic Touch worked and we have water access again.
Wildlife viewed:  deer (we nearly hit one!)
September 20 - Badlands National Park, South Dakota.
Another long drive but this time on an Interstate freeway. Boring! But quicker. We are now in our 8th state and crossed another time zone into Mountain Time. It finally feels like the West! Badlands is incredibly beautiful in an otherworldly sort of way:
It was also very hot and windy so we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the shade. Too hot for hiking trails for us! I nearly burned my hand just opening the door of the Ladies washroom. Ouch.
September 21 - Badlands, Day 2.
We had a second day to explore Badlands and were surprised to wake up to clouds and much cooler weather. That meant that we could take our time and not have to rush to hike before it got too hot. We drove along the scenic road down the length of the park and then turned around at the west gate and stopped at many of the overlooks on the way back:
Photos just can't convey the incredible beauty of the worn layers. My favourite part is Yellow Mounds:
The layers shade from bright yellow at the bottom to red and then to the more subtle greys toward the top. We also got stopped several times along the road by these guys:
Excuse the imperfect through-the-window shots. Why do I always end up with sheep butts instead of faces? Don't answer that...
We also saw pronghorns and deer and possibly bison in the distance. Could have just been cows though. We have yet to see bison up close this trip. The mourning doves, meadowlarks and bluebirds are keeping us entertained in the campsite too.
As for our hike, besides the short Fossil Trail we only did part of the Castle Trail this time:
It's a game of Follow-The-Red-Trail-Markers since it's not always easy to see where people have walked before you. Even just the little ways we went was very cool:
Instead of viewing the pinnacles from afar you get to walk among them:
It was perfect to go with the cooler cloud cover. Good thing it didn't decide to rain though! 
Tomorrow it's off to the Black Hills.