Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Tale of Breweries and Caves

The weeks started with a flurry of activity when friends Dale and Ruth flew into town for a weekend visit. Little did they know they would be leaving sunny Las Vegas and flying right into a blizzard! Saturday morning we made plans to meet up at Wind Cave National Park for a cave tour.
A bridge on the Michelson trail on our way to see Dale and Ruth
The Wind Caves are thought to be over 320 million year old has over 140 miles of caves but it is all compressed vertically within a 1 ½ square mile area with the deepest known point being 654' below the surface.

We took the Natural Entrance tour. We had been on this tour here last year but luckily this one was totally different both in the tour route and the tour guide and much better than last time. The tour lasted about 1 ½ hours has over 150 stairs and descends over 200' under ground. 
Barb and I with Ruth and Dale
The predominant formation within the cave is Boxwork which is formed when sediment seeps into cracks in limestone and hardens then the limestone dissolves over time just leaving the sediment boxwork. 

After the cave tour we drove to Hill City for lunch at the Bumpin Buffalo. Food was good but we will probably not go back. From there we headed over to the Sick and Twisted Brewing Company. This is a unique brewery with some pretty creative names for their brews. For example, my favorite was the Hump'her Honey Wheat while Barb's was the Nut Hugger.

They also have a winery attached to the same building Naked Winery with some equally interesting names. 

This interesting sign was in the restroom
Two days later we got together with Vicki and Harry fellow full-timers who recently arrived in Hill City for their summer work gig. They will be working at Prairie Berry Winery as "Wine Slingers" serving wine in their tasting room. Jim and Brenda joined us as we met them at The Miner Brewing Company which is actually a sister company to Prairie Berry.

The next two hours was filled with laughs and great conservation as we sampled many of their brews. The overall favorite of the group was the Maple Brown Porter while mine was the Miner Wheat.

The rest of the week was filled with work around the ranch; putting the finishing touches on the fences, getting caught up (again) with the prairie dogs, limbing trees and measuring out the exact layout of the house so we can begin digging in the drains and other plumbing within the house. This is tedious and time consuming work as if I am off by just an inch or two it can affect the entire layout of the house.

Speaking of the house, here is a sneak peak of the layout as it stands right now. Some people call it a "Shouse", some call it a Barndominium" but it is a structure with a large steel structure with the front third serving as the living area and the back a large garage area for the rig and vehicles.

The building site is tucked on the edge of the woods to protect it from the winds and provide a view down a small valley.

Parts of us want to get it going and finished as fast as we can while others are not ready for us to become part-time RV'ers. As of right now we are sticking to our 5 year build plan as there is just so much out there still to explore!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Turkey Time in South Dakota!

Since being back in South Dakota this week we had yet to see a turkey on our property. They were still all in their winter flocks of 70+ well off our property but when I woke up Tuesday morning and heard gobbling within a mile of our rig I knew I had a chance! I was in the blind 30 minutes later with 3 decoys set out to entice these wily birds into bow range. Over the next two hours I called and called trying to sound like the sexiest hen in the woods enticing the gobblers to check me out.

Soon I could hear the gobbling toms getting closer and closer and over the hill popped a hen followed by 5 strutting toms! It was amazing just watching the toms strut behind that hen trying to impress her.
Turkey hunting has been a passion of mine for many years and one of the things that attracted us to this area was the amount of wildlife and one of those was the turkeys! There are several varieties of turkeys across the country. Back in Wisconsin we had the species called Eastern turkeys, this area of South Dakota predominantly has the Merriam turkeys.

What? You thought a turkey was a turkey? There are actually 5 sub-species of turkeys across the U.S. 6 if you count those turkeys who were not particularly discriminant with whom they breed and cross breed.  Over the years I have been lucky enough to harvest two of these sub-species, the Eastern and Merriam, well, 3 if you count the cross bred birds commonly referred to as “Dirty Birds” as they are not really a distinct sub-species yet. All my birds have been with bow and arrow as bow hunting is another passion of mine. 
Turkey hunting can be very challenging. At times turkeys can be very appear very stupid, standing in roads or parking lots and standing in the way of vehicles. While other times they run at the first sight of a human over a ¼ mile away. The birds around here are a little bit of both. They will stand within feet of our rig and not care that the dogs are barking at them through the window. But try to sneak up on one out in the woods or prairie and you would swear that they read the memo and know you are after them. Add to this scenario that I am hunting them with a bow and arrow makes it incrementally more challenging as you have to get the birds within 20-30 yards. 
As the hen, along with her 5 suitors came closer and closer I searched for an opening in the woods and readied myself for the shot. As the hen passed through the opening at 20 yards I drew my bow back and waited. When the first tom crossed into the opening he was a full strut and I took aim and released the arrow. “Honey, get the grill ready, we are having turkey for dinner!”
Nice Merriam!
Carrying the bird up the hill back to the rig
Although that adventure went as planned, our big adventure of the week did not. Three weeks ago, a friend of ours Gary Thompson, father to Chad and father-in-law to Michelle owners of Pasha Lake Cabins passed away. We made plans to head to Minnesota on Wednesday, attend the funeral on Friday and drive back that afternoon. Chad and Michelle are good friends and we wanted to be there for them. Unfortunately the weather had totally different plans for us with 8-12”s of snow and 30+mph winds right on our travel route. With weather like that they will no doubt close Interstate 90 across the state. So unfortunately we had to cancel our trip but they will be in our thoughts and prayers. 

We intermixed play with the work by tightening about 1/4 mile of barbed wire fence along the back edge of the property, attending to the return of the prairie dogs, taking a load of posts over to Kevin's property and getting out to eat with Phil/Rudee and Larry/Sue to Maria's Mexican restaurant in Hill City.
As we were on our way to Kevin's we came upon a truck parked sideways across the road. As we approached he flagged us down and told us they were doing some blasting ahead trying to get a rock off the edge of the road so they could straighten out the road a little. Soon we heard warning sirens and then the earth shook beneath our truck as the explosives went off. 
He let us go ahead and as we rounded the corner we saw the dislodged rock and a blast mat in the road. 

We also went to town a couple of times to get water. Although we have a cistern full of water I need to get a pump setup in place before I can get it out and I want to wait until the freezing temps are done before I do that. So instead we went to the water station in Custer to fill our barrel. Most towns in the area have water fill stations since many of the residents have cisterns instead of wells or rural water. The Custer location charges $0.25 for 25 gallons. 

The adventures continued with a trip out to our favorite steam for a few hours of fly fishing. Barb out fished me once again catching 3 to my 1. Two of hers were big enough for the frying pan so we were able to enjoy a nice trout dinner!

Being a little higher in elevation there was still a lot of snow in the area so much so that there were some ice shelves over the stream. One time I looked across the water and noticed that Barb was on one of these shelves and was actually standing over the water. I debated the pros and cons of telling her. On one hand she was out fishing me and it would make a great video/story if the ice shelf was to give way. On the other hand, I like to eat and sleep in bed…..decisions decisions….. So I did what any good husband would do, I got out the camera to document it should something go wrong!

I was going to tell her to about an old indian trick of jumping up and down to attract the fish but in the end I told her she might want to move back a couple steps and once again saved her life. 
With my bird in the freezer, it was Barb’s turn to see if she could get one with her bow. Although I cannot see the blind from the rig I could see a group of turkeys headed her way. I counted 48 of them marching down to her location. When she returned to the rig a couple hours later she had a big smile on her face and said that it was a really cool experience. She had turkeys all around her for over an hour. Six toms were strutting their stuff trying to impress the hens and she said a couple were successful and she got a little X rated turkey porn show! 
She went on to tell me that a couple of toms were coming within bow range and disappeared behind the blind and when they came out in front they were within 2  feet of the blind, she said she could have reached out and grabbed one! Way too close for a shot so those two went on their merry way. A little later a lone tom came within bow range so she drew back and readied herself for the shot. When it was in the perfect spot she released the arrow and it went just under the turkey. She said it jumped up about 3 feet and got the heck out of there! That was it for opportunities so we will have to wait until another day to try again.

Dakota was doing fine with her bronchitis, she stopped coughing for about a week but then it started up again so she got to go to the vet for x-rays and more testing. They did not find anything additional wrong with her so they put her on more medication and sent her home. The good news is that she lost 3lbs so far on her new diet. When she is resting you cannot tell anything is wrong but when she is playing and active she starts coughing. I am sure this cooler weather is not helping her at all.

True to her word Mother Nature hit us hard on Friday. The forecast was for anywhere from 5-12"s depending on where in the hills you are located. Typically this part of the hills is on the lower side of those numbers so we are hopeful to only get 5"s or so. We hunkered in putting our slides in at night to keep the snow off and only opening two during the day so we could get around the rig. Great day to work on the blog post and the plumbing diagram for the house.

Hopefully the snow ends soon as we have big plans this weekend with friends Dale and Ruth who flew into town for the weekend! (I bet they are glad they picked this weekend to come to South Dakota!)

Saturday, April 7, 2018

From Oregon to South Dakota......

Our Oregon adventure complete, we said our goodbyes to Forrest, Somer and Lily and headed east. Surprisingly there are no straight eastern routes out of Klamath Falls towards South Dakota. Try as we might the only viable route we found took us southeast through Salt Lake City then northeast into Rawlins Wyoming, Casper and eventually South Dakota. 
We drove a total of 1,272 miles and 22 ½ hours (10 ½, 8 ½, and 3 ½) over the next three days trying to miss two different snow storms. Our first night brought us to West Wendover, Nevada. The same exact route Forrest and I had taken two weeks before. We stayed in the parking lot of one of the casinos with about a dozen other trucks and RV’s.
Wendover Will was there to welcome us!
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful with the exception of a cattle drive and a wildfire. The cattle drive was pretty cool and stretched for a mile or more. 
The cattle stretched for quite a long ways down the road

 Most of the cattle seemed to know what to do and where to go. The young calves kept the cowboys busy though as they brought up the rear and did not have a clue what they were supposed to be doing. Instead they were running from one side of the road to the other and not down the road like they were supposed to. 
Trying to keep the calves under control
 From afar the wildfire did not look too big but as we got closer we could see that it had started at an isolated spot near the road and quickly spread from there. There were numerous fire trucks and other emergency personnel there trying to keep it from spreading any further.

The Walmart in Casper Wyoming is a familiar stop over spot as we have stayed here about ½ dozen times on our way back and forth across the west. They had a significant snowstorm the night before but by the time we rolled in that afternoon the roads were fine. We were now only 3 ½ hours away from our property in Pringle and we had a decision to make. The forecast over the next couple of days called for 5+ inches of snow and temperatures dropping into the single digits. Two things we try to avoid whenever possible. On the other hand we wanted to arrive when the ground is frozen as we did not know the condition of our driveway and parking area and thought arriving when it was frozen gave us better odds of climbing the hill to our RV spot. So do we hunker down for a couple of days and avoid the snow or do we go for it and arrive when there is no snow and the ground is frozen? Well, if you know us by now you know we rarely take the safe choice so off to Pringle we went! 
3 ½ hours later we were at the gate of our property and who was there to greet us? Prairie dogs!  We thought we had gotten rid of those last fall! Well we did but not all of them on the neighbor’s property so they migrated west taking advantage of all the recently vacated prairie dog homes. There weren’t the numbers that we originally had last fall but enough to get us a little frustrated.
We arrived on a beautiful sunny day with no snow, that would change......
We were able to get up to our parking site with little problem. The ground was solid up to the point where the top soil had been removed just prior to our RV pad. Once we hit that we started to spin and slide, controllable, but we had to account for a little sliding as we hit our gravel pad. Once we hit that we were fine again.

True to word, the temps started dropping and the snow started falling the next day. Over the next 36 hours we got a little over 5”s of snow. 
The girls playing in the snow

We took advantage of the snow to burn a couple brush piles from clearing our building site.

Perfect day to burn some brush!
Thursday afternoon we got a message from Phil and Rudee asking us if we wanted to meet up at Hitch Rail for dinner with them as well as Larry and Sue. Do we want to meet at our favorite bar/restaurant for dinner? Heck ya! Both Barb and I had burgers which were as good as we remember them. 
With all the snow on the ground we thought it would be a perfect time to go for a drive through Custer State Park to see some beautiful scenery.

We had heard that three baby buffalo had been born in the past week so we were hoping to at least get a glimpse of one and if we were lucky get some decent pictures. We searched each of the buffalo herds as we passed them but could not find one of these little rascals….until…..we were just about to pull away from one of the herds when out of the brush runs this little baby buffalo. It was as if he/she was running out of the brush yelling “Here I am, here I am!”
Itty bitty baby buffalo
It did not present the best photo opportunities but we were happy to at least see one. We saw a variety of wildlife throughout the park, mule deer, whitetail, antelope, elk and of course the ever present prairie dog.
Nice herd of elk

Mule deer



Little mouse sunning itself

Evidence of the 84 square mile fire that swept the park was everywhere. Some areas were devastated, some just singed and other areas not touched at all. A lot of the area that was burned was grasslands and that was already starting to recover, much to the delight of the wildlife.
Scorched landscape but coming back to life 
Thoroughly satisfied with our adventure we set out for home and what did we see on our road just before our driveway? Why, it was the Jordan’s! But wait, why is their truck disconnected and the back end of their rig in the road. This can’t be good. As we pulled up we indeed did see it was not good.
Oh oh that does not look good
The recent snow had made their driveway pretty slick and the ground soft so as the front end of their truck slide off the edge of their driveway, the back tires of their rig sank in the soft gravel. And there they sat.
That really does not look good

They could not go backward as they would have got sucked into the pole but go it out going through the ditch forward
Luckily the neighbors down the road, Lane and Deb, were there with boards and chains and after much finagling Jim was able to get the rig back on the road and in our driveway where they will park until the snow melts and they can get into their site.
It is really good to be back here and we had an action packed couple of days. We cannot wait to see what the next few weeks bring!