When we departed Wyoming, we spent two days driving to Rapid City SD. We had broken the drive into two legs, stopping for the night in Casper WY. We spent the night at River's Edge RV and Cabin Resort and it was very nice! It was easy on and off the highway, not much road noise, and it was very suitable for big rigs. The young man who checked us in was very nice, and seemed quite proud of all the facility offered, showing me around the rec room, laundry room, patio area with grills, and above all, excellent wifi! We would highly recommend this RV park for anyone traveling through the area.
We stopped in Rapid City, with the main attraction being our good friends Phil and Rudee live here now. Being offered good, full-time positions at Crazy Horse Memorial was too good to pass up, and they settled here, buying a house in Custer. We had an awesome time with them, having dinner and chatting about this and that way too late! Reluctantly, we departed, hoping to see them again in the spring.
We had originally planned to depart the next morning, but the truck and the weather had different ideas for us. Actually, several small things happened that seemed to be conspiring against us taking to the road that morning, so we threw in the towel and decided to stay put. We have a satellite dish on our roof, and it decided to act up and not stow properly. Can't take to the road with it in the "up" position, so after researching the problem online, we found the method to do a recalibration on it, and got it stowed properly. Then, as we started pulling in the slides and the leveling jacks, the hydraulic switch kept cutting out. Finally got them all set, and hitched up. Just as we started to pull out of the site, a big old green wrench light lit up on the dashboard. And it started to rain pretty good. That did it for us, we said the heck with it, something doesn't want us on the road today, so we paid for two more nights and waited for the weather to clear and for the Ford dealer to open.
We had visited the Black Hills area back in 2012, and had done many of the activities there, but had missed going to Jewel Cave National Monument. Since it wasn't a nice day the next day either, we decided to go visit the cave, and take one of the ranger tours there.
It was about an hour drive there, being on the opposite side of Custer State Park from where we were staying. We decided to take the Scenic Cave Tour, about an hour and a half long. The Scenic Tour is the most popular tour, and is rated somewhat strenuous, as you climb up and down a total of 723 stairs along the route. Some of the stairways were quite steep, but nothing that was any kind of a problem.
During the tour we saw examples of calcite crystals such as nailhead spar and dogtooth spar, the "jewels" of the cave system.
We also saw cave popcorn
stalactites and stalagmites
and a long ribbon drapery called the cave bacon! It was a very interesting tour, and I was very happy with the performance of my camera in the cave environment.
Monday morning came and the weather had cleared, and so had the green wrench light! Al called Ford and talked with the diesel mechanic for a bit, not really getting much help and being told that they couldn't fit it in to even be looked at until the end of the week. It was running fine, so he took it out for an hour's drive both on the highway and on the curvy Custer State Park road. We couldn't get the light to come back on, so we made a command decision to hook up and head out.
We took three days to get up to Grand Marais Minnesota, where we are spending 5 days "vacation" before starting up at Amazon for our fifth season working the Christmas "peak" season. Our first day was our "normal" day, about 250 miles. We decided to push it on our second day, and get to Duluth MN, about 445 miles. The reason we did that was because we needed to get our drug screening done for Amazon within a certain time frame, and the closest lab to where we were going to be was in Superior, WI, just over the river from Duluth. We figured we could go over there first thing in the morning, then hitch up and head on up to Grand Marais, about 120 miles away. It was a great plan, until we arrived and found out their computers have been down for two days and they couldn't do the test. Really??
So, we went back to the campground (we stayed at Indian Point Campground in Duluth MN; nice enough but the road construction was a bear and the site we had was a tad on the unlevel side) and hitched up, and headed up Highway 61 to Grand Marais. We would just have to head back down to have our test done one day.
Highway 61 is a beautiful drive that I highly recommend. There are numerous state parks along the way, starting with Gooseberry Falls State Park and goes all the way to the U.S./Canadian border with Grand Portage State Park. We spent time at both of these parks as well as others, which will be in the next post. The highway is nice, two lane in parts, but a little slower going so 120 miles did take about two and a half hours. We arrived at Grand Marais Municipal Campground where we had a reservation, around 1PM, and they sent us out "shopping" for a site :-). We looked at the two available lakefront sites, but didn't like how close together the sites are, so ended up in a nice big lot at the end of a row, plenty of room and no neighbors on one side. After getting settled and having lunch, we took a walk right from the campground on a short trail called Sweetheart's Bluff.
We started out at the shore of Lake Superior.
The trail turned inland through the forest.
We took a side trail and ended up on the rocky shoreline. It reminds me a lot of the Maine coastline.
It really started to look like Maine!
A view of Grand Marais from the bluff. Its really a cute little town, built around the harbor. The campground is in the lower right of the picture, and our trailer is right there next to the two boats.
The trail had a pretty steep drop-off on the left hand side at some points.
As the loop ended it reconnected at the shore. We really felt like we were looking out over an ocean. The Great Lakes are incredibly large. By surface area, at 31,700 square miles, is the largest freshwater lake in the world, and contains 10% of the earth's fresh surface water.
Our explorations of the activities on Minnesota's North Shore will have to wait for my next installment. But stay tuned, I promise you'll love the natural beauty of this are. We sure have :-)!