Monday, June 29, 2009

Memories, both Old and New at Keyhole State Park

Every morning we are awakened by a Western Meadowlark. He sits, perched upon a small ponderosa pine and sings his morning song. It takes me back to when I was a child, traveling to West Union and visiting my grandparents and great grandparents graves. It was always a fun trip as while our parents would stand in silent thought we would check out the cannonball stacks and read the inscriptions on the other gravestones.
Afterwards we then went to a Brackin family reunion on the Gehring farm, where almost all of the thirteen brothers and sisters and ninety six cousins would show up and make our greetings before racing off to evoke terror in all the livestock.
The boys would all end up having a corncob fight and being one of the younger ones we were eventually trapped in the top of the corn crib.
Before long Uncle Dick would come to our rescue and help us chase the older ones away, at which time we headed up to the farmhouse for the meal. Maybe thats why camping at Keyhole is one of my favorite places, as listening to the meadowlark always takes me back in time.
We arrived at Keyhole State Park, in Wyoming, and set up at site 17 in Tatanka campground. Its our home base for two weeks and lets me visit the doctor for my yearly tests and prescription renewals. We have a lot of friends in Gillette and so our time here involves too many trips to town, along with biking, hiking, canoeing and fishing at the park.
The second day Renita and I took off and did a short ride, 6.5 miles. Most was on a bike path but some was off into the woods on a soft forest and prairie trail. We didn't see anything special, bird wise, just the usual white pelicans, western meadowlarks, and mountain bluebirds. It was nice to be here and rest after our long eastern loop.
I tried some bouldering on the soft sandstone spires that line Cottonwood bay and the rock felt good, as it always does to an old rock climber. Having running shoes on I didn't try anything difficult, but it felt still was good.
Fishing from shore here is always tough and this time has been no exception. I tried top walking lures for bass and northern. I also threw out minnows for catfish and walleye. In desperation I even thought about buying some worms but didn't go that far, yet.......
We were the only ones in the campground until later in the week, when it filled with the pre fourth of July crowd, and so we have been reading and walking and visiting friends. Nothing special, but its so nice to relax. Clear skies.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lake Sakakawea and the Garrison Dam Campground

Walleye is one of my favorite fish. Any recipe for a white meated firm fish works. You can fry them, grill them, or bake them and its always great. One of my favorites is to make walleye and broccoli cheesy scalloped potatoes. The first step is to catch a walleye!
We left Jamestown and drove to Bismark where we turned north and took Highway 83 to the Lake. The drive was easy and the roads were good. After checking out rvparks review we had found that there was a campground below the dam, the Downstream Campground. Its a COE campground, Corp of Engineers, and as they are usually pretty good we decided to look it over!
A yellow shafted northern flicker landed on a tree as we entered the campground. Goldfinches and a pair of bright orange orioles completed the greeting. It was the best campground we had been in for quite a while. It was so nice that we extended our stay for three nights as we wanted to check out the area for future visits.
The rest of the day was spent in getting set up and exploring the area. We found out that there really isn't much in either Pick City or Riverdale. If you visit here be sure to bring your supplies and fill up with fuel!
We did find a bike path which actually started from our campsite and so we rode the loop, 1.6 miles and rode the other campground loops and the access. The loop north took us along the Missouri river and signs told us of Lewis and Clark's expedition. What a beautiful place, winding through the cottonwoods, and an easy and peacefull ride.
Deciding that I could catch a catfish or maybe even a walleye I bought a fishing license and headed to the river. I fished at the tail race where I walked out on the cement piers and cast out to several likely spots. No bites. Undaunted I drove down to a place on the tail race where the current swirled. No bites. Farther down, at the end of the tail race a pair of pelicans swam so I went down there and cast out. No bites.
So a fish dinner was going to be harder than I thought as I drove to the boat ramp to fish where we had seen some fisherman the night before. No bites. It would have been too easy to just drive some place and catch fish and I realized I was going to have to have a dues day or two just to find some fish.
The next day we drove to the Sakakawea State Park. There we planned on having a picnic and planned to drive the campgrounds and check them out. It took several stops until we found a likely place where i fished for a while before the wind came up and blew us in search of a calmer bay.
After driving around for a bit we found a sheltered spot and set out the poles as we ate lunch and nearly dozed off as we sat in the sun. My pole started to jerk as a fish was definitely on and I grabbed it and set the hook.
After a brief tussle and a couple of runs I got the fish ashore. Thoughts of catfish dinner filled my head as I lifted the fish from the water, only to have it fall off the hook and swim away.
Feeling like a chump, I knew better then to lift a fish, I cast out again and had several more bites but no hookups. Oh well, cornbread tastes pretty good when you don't have any fish to go with it!
Returning to camp we talked of the fine days here and both of us expressed a desire to return again. Whats funny is the trip up here had been a spur of the moment decision, but thats the way good places are usually found. Clear skies

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lake Phalen

Where had the time went? It seemed like we had arrived in Minnesota only yesterday and it was almost time to leave. As we still had a few days left in our St Paul visit, we decided to take a bike ride to Lake Phalen and to drive to Maple Grove to visit Phil and Brenda.
Loading our bikes we drove to Jenny and Vito's place at the Northern Artist Coop. There we met Jenny and discussed the days ride. We had a couple choices, either ride along both sides of the river or ride to Lake Phalen. Since we had already rode the river we decided to do the Lake Phalen loop.
The first couple of blocks were down St Pauls streets. We rode past the deserted Farmers Market,(it was a Saturday afternoon), before turning east and meeting the bike trail. Riding past a custom bike building shop, (we heard the sound of a bike being tested from gear changes), we next turned south and coasted along and then over railroad tracks.
From there the ride was along a greenway with the occasional empty factory building. Soon it merged with other trails with the one we wanted paralleling a street that led us to the Lake Phalen.
Arriving at the lake we decided to ride around it. The park there was quite busy and the trails were full of bikers, runners,and families strolling their kids.
It was an easy ride as the bike trail is one way and parallels the pedestrian path.
The total ride was about twelve miles and a nice distance for us. Minneapolis and St Paul should be commended for their bike trails. They are by far the best we have seen in our travels!
On Sunday we picked up Vito and Jenny,(actually Jenny drove), and we headed to Maple Grove. There we managed to miss the turn before retracing our steps and finding Phil and Brendas house.
They have such a pretty house, bordering a park, and it was so nice to sit and visit about our travels. Phil and Brenda have a pretty hefty list themselves and they told us about Jamaica and Cabo and the Florida Keys.
We bored the kids with stories of old times and genealogical dead ends. We have been stuck on the Chandler side for quite a while, maybe this visit is the push I need to make a serious attempt at ending this genealogy mystery? The time passed too quickly and we said our goodbyes, before heading back home,(our rv).
Our last day was spent in packing the house. I grumbled, as usual, about all the stuff, even though Jenny and Vito had gladly taken some of our discards. That night they came over for a barbecue, and we had time for last visits before tearfully saying goodbye, but the road beckons and the mountains call.
We have been truly blessed. Clear skies.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

MInneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park

The drums beat louder as we neared the Hidden Beach. The tempo increased and it seemed that the air vibrated with the pounding. Our guide Jenny, sensing my fear flexed her biceps to reaaaure me. Queen Renita rode on her throne seat quiet but firmly in control. We beached the canoe and somewhat nervous, allthough never hearing of canniblism in Minnesota, I approached the drummers with my camera held at the ready.
Pointing at the camera and then at them I used universal sign languge to ask their permisson for a photo. The lead drummer looked at me and asked, "Are you the police?, to which I answered no and he gave his permission. We had passed the test!
Strolling through tattooed covered bodies we found a place to eat lunch and rested from the morning paddling.
We had wanted to canoe for weeks but the weather had been cold and rainy and windy so today was the first day when conditions were right. We called our daughter and she agreed to accompny us on a day of adventure at Chain of Lakes Regional park.
We ran into construction but eventually found a place to launch at Lake of the Isles, a middle lake in the chain.
Not putting on the stabilizers, we paddled uncertain and tenatitve until we found a rythum. Jenny and Renita pointed out bluegills and a good sized largemouth bass. We paddled into open, and deep water, heading uplake.
Gliding under a small bridge a narrow and heavily shaded waterway led us to Cedar Lake. As we reached the lake a boat clearing vegetation worked near the far shore, Jenny pointed out Hidden Beach, our lunch spot, and as we headed there the drums sounded louder. I explained to Renita my thoughts but she simply smirked, I had seen that look before!
Jenny explained that the beach was called Hidden Beach beacuse it used to have trees down to the waters edge, but the authorities had removed them after complaints of 'goings on". There were quite a few people there and one was completely covered with tatoos! Interesting.
After lunch we reimbarked and headed back to Lake of the Isles. A northern pike swirled away as we neared the middle isle. A blue winged teal led her ducklings to an isle and I wondered how many she would lose to the pikes. Signs warned against landing and so we skirted the edge and watched the ducklings follow their mom.
Another bridge opening presented itself and we paseed under, where another short and narrow waterway led us to Lake Calhoun.
There, a flotilla of sailboats were engaged in a melee of sails and tilted hulls. As we watched one overturned. It turned out to be a sailing class for beginners and we rowed away wanting no part of being an unintended target.
Deciding we had had enough adventure for the day we headed back to Lake of the Isles. We were tired and sore from all the paddling, but the day on the water had been exactly what we had needed, and we decided that this was a place to return again. Clear skies.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Twin City Bike Trails

It seems like every city has something special, a place where you can escape from the busy city life, relax and slow down. A place in which the city, or town or village for that matter, puts its heart. A place in which the city takes pride. The bike trails, walking paths, connected parks along the lakes and Mississippi River of the Twin Cities are the heart we found.
Of course it rained and was cold for days. The temperature was 22 degrees below normal and so we bided our time until it finally warmed up and we could enjoy the cities places. Two such places were the bike trails along Lake Nokomis and the new trail along the Mississippi river in St Paul.
The trails around Lake Nokomis are an easy ride. While they combine in places most of the bike and walking trails are separate. Starting near Minnehaha Falls we rode by Lake Hiawatha and then around Lake Nokomis. A boat launch on Lake Nokomis seemed to say, "Bring the canoe", but we continued on hoping it would warm up more so we could enjoy some water sports.
Well traveled and enjoyed, the trails were busy but not crowded, it was a weekday. We planned on riding further but it started to rain and so we rode back to the truck before seeing Minnehaha Falls. As we drove home Jenny, our daughter, pointed out the new section of trails along the Mississippi river and we definitely wanted to ride it!
The next day Renita and I loaded the bikes and headed to a parking lot along the river, where we unloaded the bikes and rode upstream. Our goal was to ride to Crosby Farms Regional Park.
Along the way we passed new condos and apartments. Statues and fountains graced part of the trail, as did flowers on a balcony, which Renita pointed out to me. I did notice the Schmidt Brewery, a landmark place. A barge moved up river as did a replica paddel wheel steam boat.
We reached Crosby Farms and rode into the park. Huge cottonwoods lined the trail but stinging nettles kept us on the asphalt. The forest here was dark and had a smell of deep woods and earthy loam that reminded me of childhood morel mushroom hunts in Iowa.
While there were several hills they were pretty easy and we rode and stopped and pointed out sights. Returning to the truck we checked our gps and saw we had rode 12.25 miles. We were both surprised as it didn't seem so far. We have been blessed to retire early and visit such a beautiful place and blessed to be able to hike and ride in such a place. Thank you Twin Cities! Clear skies.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

An Anniverary Day Bike Ride, Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Wanting to do some canoeing and biking we decided to drive down to Lebanon Hills Regional Park. There we could also check out the campground, for future visits and for a picnic. As it was our 38th anniversary. Jenny, our daughter, accompanied us, both to share the day with us and to keep us from getting lost.
Now it's a good idea to know where you are going so I did some research and wrote down the highway that a 35 or a 36? Maybe I should have worn my bifocals when I was sitting at the computer? Anyway, after a few wrong turns and a few extra miles we finally found the park.
Stopping at the visitor center we talked with the rangers and got directions to the bike trails and campground. It turns out the bike trails are extreme mountain bike trails, not what we were looking for. However the campground sounded like a great place for a future visit.
As soon as we turned into the campground, we liked the place. The host told us about the full hook up and electric only sites and so we drove around and looked at both loops. Everything was so dry, this part of Minnesota is in a drought, but the sites were large and the parks campground is the kind of setting we prefer! An easy and paved bike trail parallels the road so we decided this is the place for our next visit.
Leaving there we drove to a small lake and had our picnic. We sat along the lake and watched the bluegills, fighting for spawning beds. We walked onto a small dock where we got a much closer look at the fish. Each bed was claimed by a larger fish and it seemed like it was a never ending battle as the female would chase fish after fish away from her nest.
Returning to the truck we drove to Oak Park, where we unloaded the bikes and set off for the Highline Bike Trail. The trail started with a severe downhill and then traveled north along the road. At first it wasn't really what we had hoped for but after crossing a busy street it turned and we rode through a corridor of trees and small lakes. A much more relaxed and peaceful setting.
That last hill punished us when we returned and we were both tired but happy for the ride as we loaded the bikes to return home. It felt good to finally get some exercise. On the way home Jenny pointed out a new trail along the Mississippi River. A good day. Clear skies.