Posts tagged ‘animals’

E-I-E-I-O

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One of the many attractions near Mt. Rushmore is Old MacDonald’s Petting Farm, a petting zoo just outside Rapid City.  We learned about it from brochures in the KOA park.  Sarah Michael wanted to check it out with one stipulation:  She did not want to go anywhere near the turkeys.

The farm is great for kids.  In addition to all the animals to see and pet they have a train ride, pig races, opportunities to bottle feed young animals, pony rides and lots more.  The goats are funny, they have a high bridge they can climb up to and walk across.

Custer State Park to Mt. Rushmore

Today we drove into Custer State Park to look for animals and see the sights.

We drove along the Wildfife Loop which goes down and around the southern end of the park.  For a while we didn’t see anything but the first animal we enjoyed was a white tailed deer.  He was curious for the length of his tail.

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We were bummed we hadn’t seen any buffalo since last night we saw two of them beside the road, but then we noticed several cars stopped up ahead.  They were stopped to see a herd of buffalo grazing right next to the roadway.  A couple buffalo wandered into the street and walked right past us, which freaked out Sarah Michael, but they weren’t interested in us at all and didn’t bother us.

There were some young ones in the herd and they were very cute.

We continued on and enjoyed the scenery and more animals.  We saw lots more deer and also more donkeys.

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Then we followed the same path out of the park that I’d driven the night before with the RV.  It was great to see the route in the daytime.  We also learned the tight winding bridges are called the Pigtail Bridges and it was cool to actually see them, since last night I had no visual context.

We were also able to see Mt. Rushmore from the mountain road, another thing I couldn’t know at night.

So we made our way down the mountain and onto proper-size roads and then made our way to Mt. Rushmore.

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Mt. Rushmore is quite a sight.  It is exactly what I thought it would be, but it was still neat to see it in person.  We didn’t stay long at the monument, we took a few pictures and visited the gift shop.  In the gift shop I spoke to a woman who was sitting at a table signing books.  She was coauthor of a book about the mountain’s history, so I asked her a few questions then had her sign a copy for us.  I look forward to reading up.  For example did you know that there were nine major design changes to the mountain during construction?  Neither did I, but I don’t know the details yet.  I have to read the book.

South Dakota RV park finding

Our dilly dallying around in 19th century history in Wyoming meant a late arrival into South Dakota.  We had made arrangements to stay in Custer State Park and called ahead to let them know we may arrive a day early and we finally got to the campground around 1am.

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But not before seeing wildlife.  As we drove through the park towards the campground we saw some deer near the road but even better we saw two buffalo.  The first one we saw freaked us out, it was walking just next to a curve in the road and we both only realized what it was just after we’d passed its dark shape.  Jessie was thrilled, she may just get to see some wildlife on this trip.

Shortly before we got to the park Jessie realized that we had not booked a campsite with full hookups, instead it was electricity only.  That’s just not the way we roll.  So we pulled up an email from my friend Mike that recommend a good KOA resort near Mt. Rushmore.  I ran around and confirmed that the entire campground was in fact only had electric hookups, but we had to decide, should we stay here tonight and move in the morning?  I was still plenty awake from all the energy drinks I’d consumed during the drive so I decided to drive to the KOA and figured we could park in their lot until they opened in the morning.

The road suggested by the GPS navigation device took us out of the park to the north, not the way we had just come in.  As we turned out of the park a sign warned that the road ahead was narrow and steep and came with one-lane bridges and tunnels, the shortest clearance only 12 foot 4 inches.  I asked Jessie, “How tall is this RV, didn’t the guy tell us it was 12 foot-something?”  She pulled out the RV information sheet from the rental place and it said “Most of our RVs are 12 feet high…”  Uh oh.

We pressed on.  I figured I’d stop at the tunnel entrance when we found it and climb the ladder to the roof to see if we’d make it in.  I was definitely nervous.

The road itself came through on the narrow and steep promise.  I traveled slowly up the mountain road and was thankful it was middle of the night and no other cars were there to compete for passage.  We saw scores more deer and even encountered two donkeys on the road at one point.  Jessie was tired and decided to go to sleep, and I assured her I’d wake her up if I needed her help to turn around should this gamble go the wrong way.

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After what seemed like forever I finally found the first tunnel.  This was the shortest, the 12 foot 4 inch one.  I maneuvered to get a straight shot into the hole and stopped just as the nose was about to enter.  I climbed the ladder and peered over the air conditioning unit, trying to gauge its relative height and see if I could safely proceed.  Even though I felt like I didn’t have any definitive evidence of any kind, I decided to chance it and go on.

Very slowly I drove into the tunnel and I listened for the possibility of anything on the roof hitting rock.  No sound.  I continued.  No sound.  Then I was safely out.

I continued, confident that I’d passed through the lowest of the tunnels and that I’d be fine the rest of the way.  The road got even windier, the switchback turns very tight indeed, but eventually I stopped climbing and began to descend on the other side of whatever mountain this was.  I had to remain alert, though, because the going down was just as steep as the going up and I didn’t want to lose my brakes.  I got through it and just before 2am I was on real highways again, just miles from our new KOA destination.

One feature of this night was the moon was quite full and bright.  This provided me a nice reward for the last hour’s scary trip, because I actually drove past Mt. Rushmore on the way to the resort.  In the moonlight the faces of the presidents were visible and it was a pretty sight.  A nice way to see the monument for the first time.

I pulled into KOA at 2:00 and parked.  As expected the office was closed so I locked up and laid down and slept.  In the morning I’ll register and get us our site.

Jessie saw a deer!

Here we are driving on I-70 through eastern Utah on the way to Colorado.  Jessie is at the wheel and she just saw a deer!  She’s been feeling left out and gets frustrated by the road signs warning of animal possibility.

So a big Hooray!  Jessie saw a deer!

Watch for animals next 10 miles

BAHHHHH…….The only wild animals I have seen since the Elk in Oregon are what we now joking refer to as “wild cows” free range and and I saw a dead jack rabbit on the side of the road and some REALLY big birds.

I plead with the people who put up the signs that say, watch for deer/Elk, watch for mt. goats or the signs that were all through Yosemite ” speeding kills bears”.  Today we saw a sign we had never seen before, cougar next ten miles.  Do we ever see any of these animals…NO….so please take these signs down.  The are only teasing us and making people like me sad that there are never any animals to see.  And who’s to say that they will be in those specified miles?  They might actually be roaming outside their boundaries.  They are after all wild animals.

The Grand Canyon

We spent today driving around the Grand Canyon park and seeing the sights.  It is certainly an impressive sight!

This morning, before we left our RV spot we were relaxing outside when Sarah Michael saw a little groundhog-type animal poking his head out of a hole.  We watched as it pushed dirt up from his tunnel out onto a pile.  And he didn’t seem the least bit afraid of us.  We got closer and closer and he just went about his business.

Then we headed off to see the canyon.  We headed off to one of the historic sites in the park and on the way stopped at one of the many roadside view points.  I imagine it is hard to find a bad spot to view the canyon, as everywhere you go and the views are spectacular.

Sarah Michael thought the this rock formation looked like WALL•E in his crouched position…

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Next we went to the Watchtower, built in 1932.  It is three stories high and has great views.

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We stopped at a couple of other viewpoints and the view was always great.  But it didn’t take me long to get tired and want to get back to the RV.  The Grand Canyon is beautiful, but it all kinda looks the same after a while.

So we’re back in camp now, relaxing (this is what vacations are for!).  We leave tomorrow for a couple days of long driving so I’m going to luxuriate in nothingness for as long as I can!

2 B’s Mine

IMG_1602.JPGNot too long after crossing into Arizona I started seeing off the highway what would have been the old Highway 93 long ago.  What was cool what that there was access to this road and seemingly other tracks that went up into the hills.  Some had signs saying the roads were part of a recreational area, so I started thinking, “We should take the Jeep on them there roads.”

At one point I saw a sign saying something about a mine being not far away, and with that I couldn’t take it any more.  We pulled over and it became time for Jeepin’.

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We drove along a rocky road and across washes that probably get pretty wet from time to time and eventually we came to the mine.

It didn’t look like much as we approached, there weren’t many tailings piled up, least not much to my untrained eye.  There was a metal gate preventing access, but it was neat to peer into nonetheless.

Up the hill from the mine entrance was a large boulder with a chain link fence around it.  I wondered why that was set up, so curiosity led me to climb the rocky hillside and check it out.

Inside the fence was a kind of carved out bit, which at first glance didn’t seem to do anything special.  But I walked around the fence and saw a hole that appeared to go down into a passageway.  What intrigued me was I saw light on the wall through the hole, and that light was clearly not coming through the hole I was trying to peer down.

As I started climbing down I happened upon a second entrance to the mine, and it was the source of the light that could be seen from above.  In fact, crouching down I could see the hole up above.

This second, higher entrance was only guarded by a small chain link fence, so entering would be easy.  I stood there for a few minutes before I was tempted to go in.  It was terrifying.  What if it caved in?  Would it cave in?  This hole has been here for how many decades and it is still here, so why would it fall today?  And look, there’s a beer can just down a little ways, so other people have obviously explored successfully.

So I decided if I walked with my feet along the edges of the tunnel and stepped on solid surfaces I wouldn’t make any noise and so I would be less likely to trigger a fatal cave-in.  I took a step, then another, I could barely breathe I was so nervous.

Look at this picture and also this picture.  See that wire rope?  It isn’t very long, one end rests against the fence support and the other ends among the rocks on the tunnel floor.  Just past the end of that cable is where it happened.

There were enough rocks on the ground that my plan for stepping only on solid ground didn’t work.  I stepped on the rocks and I felt them shift and crackle under my weight when suddenly a sound came from the area beneath my feet.  I thought it sounded like the hiss of air escaping a pressurized hose.  It freaked me out and leaped back to the entrance.

My heart was in my throat.  What was that sound?  A booby trap?  Seriously, I had the thought that it could be a booby trap or warning system of some kind.  I’m dumb.  Then I realized it was probably a rattlesnake.

Quite exciting!  And I realize I’m quite lucky.  I climbed back down the hill and the three of us got back in the Jeep and drove back to the waiting RV.

Telegraph Hill and Lombard Street

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One of the San Francisco landmarks you can easily see from the Fisherman’s Wharf area is Coit Tower which site atop Telegraph Hill.  I’ve often seen this tower and wondered what it was, and I’ve also previously wonderered where Telegraph Hill was, so going up to see both was good for me.

In fact the way it went today was Sarah Michael asked us about the tower as we were driving on the waterfront, because it reminded her of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I didn’t know what it was, or what the hill or park was called, so I used Google Maps on my iPhone to determine that it was probably Pioneer Park.  Then a Google search informed us the name of the tower and the name of the hill.  Jessie and I got excited when we learned this was Telegraph Hill.

We were excited about Telegraph Hill because of the docmentary we’d seen, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, the subject about which I wager you can guess.  Jessie and I enjoyed the film (and we suggest you add it to your Netflix queue) and so to see the area in person would be special.

IMG_1224.JPGWe drove up the windy roads to get to the summit, then waited in a line of cars for a parking spot, then enjoyed the views from the park.  We didn’t go up Coit Tower, but from the park you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, and Treasure Island (where we’ll be tomorrow night), Alcatraz and more.

The weather also cooperated.  While the morning had been foggy and cold, by this time in the afternoon the clouds had broke, the blue sky revealed and the sun warmed us up.

After walking around the parking circle in the park we found a path that went down into the neighborhood just blow the park, as I hoped that we just might get lucky and see the parrots.  I wasn’t hopeful, though, I really had no idea where the on the hill the parrots like to visit.

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But we were lucky.  As we descended some steps we heard the sound of the parrots and saw a group of them fly into a tree just in front of us.  Before I could snap any shot, though, they flew away!  But they didn’t go far, I could hear their squaking just a few houses away.  Then one flew back to the tree in front of and I was able to get a shot of it (click here for large size).

Before we left I saw in the distance more of the birds flying around, and of course we could hear them, but no more landed close to us.

I was so pleased we were able to see the parrots, it really made my day.

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After Telegraph Hill we headed to the nearby and famous Lombard Street.

Everyone has seen this street in commercials, television shows and films, and we thought it would be fun to drive down it.

I was worried there might be a long wait, but thankfully there wasn’t.  There was certainly a lot of tourists both driving, walking and looking at the hill, but there wasn’t any major jam-up.  There was traffic, of course, so there was a lot of stopping on the hill, but it was something to do and it wasn’t a problem.

You’ll see in the movie the two yellow three-wheeled vehicles in front of us.  We saw these little rental vehicles all over the place, they look like a fun thing to rent.

Sea Lions at Fisherman’s Wharf

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Today was touristy-stuff-in-San Francisco day for us.  We started off going down to Fisherman’s Wharf to see the sea lions and have lunch.

The sea lions are entertaining, a lot noisier and active than those we saw in the caves.  These San Francisco sea lions are quite noisy as they battle each other for positions on the floating docks.  Some of the sea lions lay on the docks quite mellow, but others refuse to let another onto their dock and are happy to fight it out.

The California Redwoods

I’ve always heard about how amazing the California Redwoods are, but I guess I wasn’t really prepared for how amazing it truly is.  Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I’ve seen plenty of trees and I’ve seen some large trees, but until you stand below these monsters and gaze up you just can’t appreciate their magnificence.

First thing we did when we got into the park area was find the Mystic Forest RV Park and get the RV settled so we could take the Jeep out and about.  Pretty close to where we were staying was the Trees of Mystery park, where they have huge statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe, trails through the woods to see amazing trees, plus a gondola that takes you high above it all.  Oh, and Paul Bunyon talks.

IMG_1062.JPGThe Brotherhood Tree is one of the most impressive trees in the park, it is 19 feet in diameter and 297 feet tall.  It is incredible to look up and see that its diameter remains nearly the same.  This isn’t just a tree trunk, this is the tree trunk.

The picture to the right is of just the tree, click here to see Jessie and Sarah Michael standing in front of it.

There were lots of other amazing trees to see as well, the Elephant Tree, the Cathedral Tree, the Candleabra Tree, the Lightning Tree, and many more.

The gondola ride was fun, but it was cloudy up above the trees so  we couldn’t see anything once we got up top.  If it were a clear sunny day the view would be amazing.

After the Trees of Mystery we went and drove through the Tour Thru Tree.  And it was only $4 to drive through it!  Compared to the other tours we’ve been doing, this is a steal.

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Next we went and found the Corkscrew Tree, south of our campsite.  We didn’t know what it was going to look like, though we figured twisting was involved, but it was cooler than I would have thought.  The tree is huge and it is very hard to capture in a photo what the thing is all about.  You need to see it to appreciate it.  In my opinion of course.

We keep seeing signs warning of Elk that could be on the road but to Jessie’s disappointment we also keep not seeing any Elk.  On the way out of the park Jessie finally got her Elk wish.  There were only two of them, but it was fun to see some wildlife.

The Redwoods were neat, better than I expected.  Thank you Mr. Bunyon!