I was sad to leave beautiful Oklahoma but the forecast was for storms to the south and the calendar was creeping up on. We had to be over the border back to Canada because our travel insurance ran out for March 31st. We also had a planned stop in Sisseton, South Dakota to speak to a group of high school students March 29th. As soon as we got north of Tulsa the rolling hills started to smooth out and we were back on open prairie. I am a prairie girl and I love the variety mountains bring but once I am back under the big skies I immediately feel like I am back at home. I had not been in Kansas for at least a decade. It hadn’t changed much. flat magnificent open prairie stretched as far as the eye could see with gently rolling hills. We pulled into Coffeyville, which turned out to be a surprisingly large town complete with a Macdonald’s with WIFI to check email.
Dick only needs about four hours of sleep a night and he often writes while I sleep. As usual, Dick’s mail program picked up lots of interlibrary loans of PDFs of papers he had ordered. He enjoys editing scientific books which are collections of articles by various authors in fields he is interested in. Each article comprises a chapter. He currently has three books and a special issue of a journal going. They are Habitability of the Universe Before Earth (Elsevier), Diatoms: Fundamentals and Applications, Theology and Science (Whiley-Scrivener), and Discussions About Faith and Facts (World Scientific Publishing), and the special issue is Embryogenesis (for the journal Biology). He sent the latest batch of partly finished manuscripts he had edited while we were at Cherokee Landing back to the assorted authors. More manuscripts came in for his attention.
We drove towards Cherryvale and the next planned stop, an Army Corps of Engineers campsite on Big Hill Lake. I noticed two things. As is so often the case, there were no signs designed to draw in casual tourists to visit the park. If you didn’t know it was there, you would never guess from the highway. This park was also one of those adopted by the locals and diligently spruced up and enhanced to better suit their own needs. This park was laid out like the standard Corps campground with great big spacious lots. However about half its sites had full hookups. Most of the park was closed but one section is open year round. And with our senior pass it was only $12/night. We paid for two nights. It was only after we got settled in that we noticed that 30amp electric was broken so that it only worked intermittently. We were tired and the last thing we wanted to do was pack up and move again. I pulled out the 50amp to 30amp adapter we had purchased for $75 a long time ago and had only used once. Dick commented on how we had every possible adapter to allow us to get power from every possible source. Redundancy is the secret to happy migration with a travel trailer because you just never know what might happen. This got him thinking and he expended some creative energy writing about bungee cords.
We stopped by the ranger station in the morning to report the broken 30amp. To our delight, a fellow came by almost immediately and while he changed the plug we had a nice chat about electrical work. He admired our solar panel set up and I learned a couple of new tricks with connectors. I have always found electricity fascinating and if I had taken up a trade it would have been electrician. I love it when tradesmen are chatty and delighted about sharing their special information. He commented it is always nice to meet people who don’t take his work for granted. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the park. The full out spring eruption of birds we saw in Cherokee Landing had apparently moved north with us and the area teemed with birds. Near the dam was a large peninsula that features two nice group gathering places and a park dedicated to bird lovers run by the local Audubon society with illustrations and information about native birds. We went for a bike ride and two long walks and we followed a trail along the lake into the woods. We ran into our electrician acquaintance with his daughters on the trail, a pleasant surprise. The park has the best disc golf or “golf with frisbees” courses I have ever seen. I had played disc golf at a Normandy Farms Campground near Boston a number of years before when Dick was doing a visiting professorship at MIT. This one was even nicer and very challenging going up and down hills, in the brush, along the trail and out in open fields. After he commented about the weird looking chain nets on post everywhere, I explained to Dick how it worked. He said we should dig out our frisbees. It was getting late and the sun was about to set. We were having such a nice time that we got out the calendar and counted the days before we had to be anywhere at a specified time and decided to stay on for two more days. We were able to pick up a local Joplin TV station and when we got up the weather lady was reporting the predicted storms were going to be further north than originally forecast and Big Hill Lake was in the bullseyes for later that afternoon. We decided to return to our original plan and pack up head north.
Here is my review:
Cherryvale Big Hill Lake Army Corps of Engineers
One of the nicest Army Corp of Engineers campground we have been to, this park is lovely and has lots to do for families side from fishing. It is obvious the local community has adopted this park and made it much better. We were in Cherryvale which is the only one open year round. Like all Corp sites, the campsites are widely spaced and long. Unlike most corp sites, about half have sewer outlets. In addition, there is that frisbee golf game with the chain “holes” you shoot for, an Audubon bird lovers meeting spot, two really nice playgrounds, a basketball court, group sites for day visits and camping sites, horse trails, and multiple boat launches. There are several sections of campsites on both sides of the lake. Our campsite was treed by old oaks and was high up on a ridge overlooked the lake. On the down side, there was no grass and the ground was hard packed dirt. The drive was paved and there was a paved patio with cement picnic table. At the end of the drive and between the patio they used large white gravel full of white caked dust that got wet and then hardened into ruts but that is our only complaint.
Our next stop was a KOA near Kansas city that boasted severe weather shelter. Beyond Cherryvale almost no government related campsites are open in March and so we were back to using private campgrounds. The Kansas city campground not only had a big storm shelter in the basement of an old barn, it was just north of the predicted area for severe weather. I do want to get back to Big Hill Lake someday.