Category Archives: Fulltimer

Migration Home – Seventh Stop, Cedar Lake Campground, Ouchita National Forest, Oklahoma

Cedar Lake

We headed north after our long week in Beaver Bend State Park. According to the Army Corps of Engineers the state of Oklahoma has taken over and runs all their campgrounds. Because of this the Corp campgrounds are the same cost as state parks. We were aiming for another state park, Wister Lake State Park. I knew there were several Ouchita National Forest Campgrounds on the Oklahoma side but I assumed they were being run by the state as well. That turned out to be wrong.

I spent a long time checking the map and Google earth satellite about the trip. Mountain driving scares me and my truck is underpowered for mountains. If I am not really careful the transmission overheats and I have to go very slowly uphill in low drive to avoid that. I am still afraid from when we cooked our break system coming out of Death Valley. I didn’t want to do that again. Thus, I was nervous about going through the Ouchita Mountains but we decided to give it a try. I am so glad we did! There was one particularly hair raising multi hair pin loop downward into the town of Big Cedar but the road was otherwise not especially challenging for me or my truck.  We stopped at the Oklahoma Ranger District on highway 59 far above the tiny town of Hogden and we were delighted to note that there was a National Forest Campground nearby that was not run by the state of Oklahoma. State parks cost us about $25-$30 a night, still much cheaper than a private campground and often much nicer. With the senior pass a nice National Forest stop can be a little as $8. When we got to Holson Valley Road we turned left and we ventured in to check out Cedar Lake. What a lucky detour that turned out to be!

Cedar Lake has three campsites. Shady Lane has several full service creekside campsites for $18 and we needed to do laundry for which we need a sewer hook up. Rain was predicted. Shady Lane is in a flash flood warning zone and there were signs all over reminding us of this fact. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms over the weekend so we decided we would move. After settling in we unhitched the truck and took a drive to see all the other campsites. The North Shore campsite is actually the prettiest and nicest part of the campground but it doesn’t have any hook ups. We can make do without an electric hook up but we prefer the electric if we can get it, especially in rain. I just don’t like cooking with propane inside the trailer. The Sandy Beach campsite is up high on a hillside and it has electric and water sites and washrooms with running water and showers. We checked out the equestrian campsite as well. It was interesting to see campsites with corrals but you could only stay there if you had horses.

When we arrived, Sandy Beach was full except for three walk in sites and two others that were too short for our trailer. The sites are half first come first serve and half reservable. In the morning, I dressed early and dragged out our “guest room” tent and put it in the truck.  I watched the road. As soon as I saw a big rig leave I jumped in the truck and raced up the hill and put up out the “guest room” tent on an exceptionally lovely site among the first come first serve sites which had just been vacated. This site was the highest in the campsite and overlooking the lake with the prettiest view. Even though it was up high, it was sheltered by a ridge and had no really big trees making it a good spot to ride out thunderstorms. As soon as the tent was up I raced down to the pay station and paid my fee and got the tags and raced back up. By this point there were four other rigs driving around looking for an empty spot and two of them asked me if I was leaving that day. Sorry, no. We had the lower site until 2:00pm checkout so we got our laundry done and then moved up into the higher campsite. We ended up staying five more days for $10/night with the senior pass and it was easily the best campground we stayed at for the entire trip.

Just a side note on the practicalities of trailer living. If we have a full hookup, sewer water and electricity, life is not much different from a city stick house. If we have water and electric and can fill at need we only have to worry about black water and grey water tanks being full. We can empty the tanks by either moving the trailer to the nearest dump site or by using our “honey wagon” which is a small portable tank that pulls behind the truck. If we don’t have water handy, we can either move and fill up directly or we can haul water in our big tank. In this situation we had a five day stay planned and we didn’t want to be bothered with hauling water or using our honey wagon every other day. We used the honey wagon in Beaver Bend State Park because they had coin showers and it was so crowded the showers were either full or there was no hot water. At Cedar Lake we showered in the nearby showers. They had warm and abundant hot water without having to plug coins in every few minutes and we usually had the showers to ourselves. We can typically go five to seven days between emptying the tanks under such circumstances and that was one of nice things about Cedar Lake.

The rain and storms predicted for the weekend went north of us. We had lovely weather every day including afternoons nice enough to be out in just a t-shirt, all but two bright and sunny. We went on long walks and rode our bikes. We got the canoe into the water and had a wonderful couple of hours paddling around the lake. Migrating birds caught up with us and we saw eagles, herons, egrets, cranes, wood peckers, nuthatches, blue and grey jays, wrens, warblers, loons, cormorants, and many others. These are the birds that nest at our Manitoba home and we welcome so enthusiastically so it was lovely to note they had caught up with us on their migration north. While out in our canoe we saw two species of turtles. We saw a male ‘fence lizard’ in his bright blue bellied spring mating colours which was a first for both of us. Their favourite food is ticks making them one of our special favourites as reptiles go. We even saw a small rattlesnake subtly moving off the trail as we approached. There were wildflowers carpeting the ground and the trees were in bloom especially several large eastern red buds with the glorious pink/red. The southern maples with their brilliant scarlet were stunning. We saw huge numbers of water striders doing some kind of giant communal mating swarm which was also a first for us. We built a campfire and sat and talked until it burned itself out almost every evening. From our campsite we could see and hear trailer loads of horses going to the equestrian site and we got many glimpses of horses and heard their whinnies often. The angle of our place up on the hill meant we got to enjoy spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the lake. There were a lot of ordinary folks from the area who were happy to talk and we learned a lot, especially about fishing and how bad the economy still was in this area. There was no internet or TV so the days were quiet and stress free and we relaxed. It was beyond lovely. On our last day we took the three miles long (about 6km) hike on a well marked trail around the outside edge of the lake. Most people take under an hour to do it. We went slowly, stopped for rests and looked at all kinds of fascinating things and ended up taking three hours. It was worth every minute.

On a practical note, we drove to a Choctaw Nation run casino/gas station/deli in Poteau every other day because they had unlimited free internet. The food was reasonably priced and very good. I lost $40 in their slot machines. The town of Poteau is typical of what is so callously referred to as “flyover states” by people living on the east and west coasts. Poteau was full of empty buildings, empty factories, empty warehouses and an entire historic downtown district of empty stores in what had once been a thriving small city in a thriving community. There were Trump signs everywhere. The few people left in the area were older and underemployed and had not one nice thing to say about Democrats. We drove to see Wister Lake State Park on one trip and it was nowhere near as nice as Cedar Lake. It was satisfying to know our detour was the right thing to do and we had ended up in a nicer spot.

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My Review

Cedar Lake Campground Ouchita National Forest

Sometimes you pull into a campsite and your heart sings and your spirit lifts and you think “This is why I do this!” That’s how I felt coming to Cedar Lake. Cedar Lake is a small lake with a color like a glacial lake, pale blue/green and gorgeous. It is fed by two creeks. There are three major sections for camping. The east side has many lovely unserviced campsites. There is a section of serviced campsites including some with sewer on the south side on of the two creeks. There is a third group of sites above that on the west side of the lake that have water and electric. The upper area overlooks a lovely brown sand beach suitable for swimming. Half the sites, including all the sites adjacent to the beach, are reservable. Half are first, come first serve. Everything about this campsite was perfectly suited to my tastes. Big, spacious, private, paved drive, fire pit, barbecue, picnic table, and two places to hang things. We started with a lower level campsite with sewer in order to get our laundry done. We moved to a west side campsite high over the lake on the ridge where we could see both sunrise and sunset the next day. There is a three mile hike around the lake that is a delight. There are numerous other longer hikes. The west campground is adjacent to an equestrian camp so we got to see horses coming and going. Two caveats. The lower campsite with sewer is in a flash flood zone. Part of why we moved up the hill was because the forecast was for thunderstorms. Also signs say the lake can be contaminated with toxic blue green algae in hot weather. During our stay, it was just heavenly. Abundant wildlife, birds, turtles, beavers, and deer and blissful long paddles around the perimeter of the tiny sheltered lake, hikes on pathways with blooming wildflowers and the sound of creeks. During the weekend it got a bit noisy and busy so go weekdays if you have a choice.

And this is our trail after almost three weeks and seven moves. Next stop Cherokee Landing State Park and the Cherokee Heritage Centre.

Day Seven

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Meaner than a Junkyard Dog.

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We stopped in Thunder Bay to visit our friends Bryan and Patricia. We had dinner with them and then we left to boondock at the Flying J. We had an incident in Thunder Bay. Our friends live downtown and the neighbourhood is a bit too close to some, shall we say, rougher areas of town. We left the dogs in the trailer and the alarm on while we visited. Part way through our very lovely evening I heard the alarm in the trailer go off. I ran outside in time to see someone moving off very rapidly in the opposite direction and I could hear Fred, in the trailer. doing his savage, junk yard dog impression.

Fred is normally the sweetest, gentlest, most easy going dog you could ever meet. We followed the advice of a dog expert who advised us to have both dogs very well trained in obedience school and very well socialized. (Both dogs have their level 3 certificate, I am proud to say. We did the classes with Trusty and I as on team and Fred with Hubby Dearest the other team.) 24 Thursday evenings for one hour with a dig whisperer training us how to be dog people. The dogs already knew how to be dogs. According to this dog expert, a well trained dog is confident and reliable is also well aware of what is normal behaviour and what constitutes someone who is a threat. So you end up with a very well bonded dog who is normally sweet, gentle, and easy going and but knows when some human is up to no good and when to respond with the junkyard dog routine.

I went into the trailer and checked it all over and saw no reason for the alarm to go off. Fred was also very upset, not his “Why do you have to test that stupid alarm?” upset, but his “Danger! Danger! Bad Guys! Alert! Alert!” upset which I have only seen four times before during the ten years we have had him in our life. I shut the alarm off and reset it. I calmed Fred down.

Trusty was also agitated but she depends more on Fred in such situations, preferring to be his back up rather than the first responder. A soft word and a pat on the head and she went right back to sleep.Which is not to say Trusty does not have her moments. We once had a black bear decide to check out our barbecue and Fred did his alert thing and then ran and hid behind Hubby Dearest. Trusty on the other hand parked herself halfway between us and the bear and just dared him to try getting at that barbecue. The bear decided to get dinner elsewhere. So I suspect Fred is the brighter one of the pair but Trusty is more, well Trusty.

The cat was also agitated but it could have been from the dogs, the intruder or the alarm or just his usual general feline peevishness. So he got a head pat. Fred, however remained agitated. So We took our cue from Fred and the rather scuzzy types wandering about a block or two over and decided to move to a safer location for the night after our visit. Now to be fair, between Fred and the alarm we were probably quite safe. These passerby looked like are rubby dubs, drunks and druggies not savage sociopathic killers. We left anyway.

As we got ready for bed we did one final inspection of the trailer and we found the reason the alarm went off. One window was partly ajar. We got some amusement imagining some human tick thinking he had found an unguarded treasure to abscond and then abruptly finding himself facing a junkyard dog and a screeching alarm instead. Ha! Got you, creepy human parasite type.

It was very nice to be out of the city and into the countryside again, safely parked at a Flying J. Fred took a long time settling down that evening. We take about it before we fell asleep. Fred is getting old. I had been thinking once he was gone we should give up having dogs. They are a pain in a lot of ways. However we both agreed when Fred’s time comes, we will be getting another dog. This life on the road is mostly great but there are dangers and it is a good think to have a sweet, gentle, easy going Fred type around who knows when to act like a savage, man eating, junkyard dog.

Ikea, we love you, we hate you.

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Yesterday was a frenetic day. We left for Winnipeg after getting up at 6:00am. We went to Ikea and we bought a new bed frame, a new table and a bookshelf. The new table is now together and fits exactly right. We have a long extended narrow table that can double as my work space which still leaves room for the door and having a meal. In summer we can open door, which will be essential because the widows are almost all painted shut! The new blinds arrived and I have set them aside for now. The bookshelf is mostly assembled, as you see. It fits precisely in that corner, not blocking the one plug there, or the window. Hubby dearest has begun migrating his few books from our trailer to the house. At this point they should all fit in the one shelf along with my assorted bird and plant identification books. I am very happy with bright cheerful colours. I will leave him to set the heights of the shelves to suit the books.

Putting together the table was a snap. It took me one episode of Law and Order on Netflix. The bookshelf was a quite a bit more of a fuss. I didn’t follow my son’s rules about putting together Ikea.

Rule 1: Don’t let the kids help. That’s his rule. I have no little kids these days but that goes double for cats. If you possess one of those demon cats, do not put all the little screws and bits into a bowl and leave it on the counter. One advantage to Ikea is they give you a chart to count all the parts to make sure you have the right number of everything. This allows you to clean up spilled bits without moving the refrigerator to be certain all the pieces are present.

Rule 2: Read the directions. Read them again and make sure you really really really understand them before you actually do anything. That way you don’t have to take something apart again. Ikea is great stuff as long as you only try to put it together once. Everyone I have talked to who ever took their Ikea stuff apart to move or for some other reason ended up with broken furniture. So one must be very careful. I had to take one side apart and put it back. My own fault. I added glue.

Rule 3: Do not work with a spouse or someone else you do not have a strong stable relationship with. Ikea is a multi cuss job and while it feels really good once the thing is done, I suspect it could fracture an unstable relationship.

I also bought the last of the groceries and utensils I needed to get the kitchen functioning without having to be running back and forth to the trailer and when we pull out with the trailer we won’t need to spend a long time packing and find we have inevitably forgotten something.

I am fretting about money. We made a calculated decision to use our line of credit to finance some of the expenses of the purchase and to pay for the new furniture planning on keeping the costs low being able to pay it off the next month. The old rule about plan your expenses and then multiple by ten apparently works for this kind of situation. Well actually I am only 50% higher than we budgeted and so we will need two months instead of one to get back to debtlessness. I always pay of the credit cards in full each month because they are loan sharks with their interest rates. If I am short, I use the much more reasonable line of credit to pay them off and just spend less the next month. For the past four years we have been debt free and putting aside modest savings each month, not using the line of credit and living below our means. So this really bugs me. I just hate using the line of credit. I know that short term using it will save me money to use that line of credit because our savings are locked in and there are tax penalties if we take money out early. I still really hate owing anyone money. I decided to make due with the chairs we borrowed from the cabin and get the ones that match the table when the line of credit is paid off. That offset the cost of the big dehumidifier we pick up next week from Sears. In the meantime, I look at those ugly vinyl and chrome chairs and with the hideous floral pattern and think debt and say out loud “They are vintage!”. Thank goodness there aren’t any more major expenses coming. I have to finance planting the garden but gardens usually bring in more than they cost several times over so that is an investment not an expense.

Yesterday we closed the frenetic day by visiting with my kids and grandkids. It was wonderful. I felt very loved and matriarchy. I have wonderful kids who have grown up to be fine adults. And in addition to some thoughtful gifts, I got a big hanging basket of flowers from Superstore for spending more than $250 on groceries on Mother’s Day. One of the gifts I got was two hooks for hanging plants so we are good to go. And two kids asked me to plant kale. So kale is now on my seed list.

Interior of our New Stick House

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The bedrooms are small, I know. That is our mattress on the floor. We have a bed frame picked out and waiting for us at Ikea.

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This space here is the other room. Eventually it will be workspace. Bookshelves also on order at Ikea. Trusty, being her usual self is quite happy wherever she is as long as she can sleep. Fred is equally unbothered new accommodation.

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One disadvantage is that we don’t really have a dining area. The big room is living room, dining room kitchen combined and ever though it is a big room compared to the other two rooms, it’s tiny overall. So my RV life tricks for making do with less space have come in handy. We raided our cabin for the futon and beds. Eventually we’ll replace them and put them back in the cabin but they work for now. The cat has not adjusted well but cats hate any change so I am ignoring his complaints.

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Oh the joys of taking long showers! RV living means short showers as we had only 6 galloons of hot water. Now my only concern is not over filling the septic tank. We have a septic tank and a septic field behind the house. Water is well water from a community well. The cover to the septic tank is behind the house and an easy reach from the trailer for emptying the black and gray water. In essence, we have out own one trailer, RV park. Still waiting on the RV plug parts.

SAM_5547 SAM_5548The basement to the little house is a full basement, unfinished. We have an oversized 200 amp panel which means I can fix the problem of only one plug per room at relatively low cost. Also plenty of room for the RV plug.

If one defines a “tiny house” as less than 1000 square feet, then ours qualifies. The square footage is 480ft on the main floor and even if you count the basement, it is still under 1000ft. The house is also independent of “the grid” except that we have electricity and internet. We share our well water with six other families. Some people define a tiny house as having wheels and in that sense we are a stick house. In any case we seem to have found the perfect solution to multiple small dilemmas associated with tiny house/RV full time life.

Home Home Home!

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We are home. It’s a very strange feeling. It is akin to the feeling you get when you arrive at a campsite you know you will be staying at for the next six months. But now there is this little house and a driveway and garage and sprawling yard we own. We are still living in our trailer because we have no bed for the house and lack most other things needed and our trailer is comfy. We have hooked up to power and water and if you look at the lower right behind the house you can see the access to sewer system where we can dump at need with our macerator. So why rush?

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So much cleaning to do! Mayhem of moving! Actually the place was clean when we moved in but I am scrubbing every inch of every wall, ceiling and nook and cranny claiming it my own as I do. Imagine our delight to discover the layout is perfect as is. No knocking out walks. Two bedrooms. A long open living room kitchen combo. There is only one major repair we must do very quickly. The rest is all cosmetic. We discovered our washer is huge, a mega super heavy duty one that can take our biggest quilt and we promptly began a frenzy of washing the linen in the trailer. We don’t have the clothesline up yet but the deck rail works.

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And we have snakes. It’s migration season and they have just come up from below ground and are migrating out so there are plains garter snake everywhere. I like these snakes. They aren’t poisonous, they don’t bite. They do eat field mice. When ever I have had garter snakes about I have not had pesky rodents. Home.

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Now official invitation. Our home can accommodate others and our driveway can accommodate a second trailer in a few weeks once we put some gravel into some ruts. So free boon docking for friends and if you don’t have a trailer, being an air mattress until I announce we have guest beds.

Back in Manitoba and all is well, except the weather.

We returned to Manitoba April 17th and we have had a hectic few days. There are only two campground that are open and offer service this time of year. One is south of the city and one is west. The western one is marginally closer to our family so we went there first. However we arrived to find that because of all the contraction they had after last years flooding they are open but do not have water or WIFI. So we are at Arrowhead Campground which is open and has full services. This is actually quite a nice campground, very clean and well run. My only complaints are the lots are small and they are a lot fussier about dogs. We prefer to dean up the dog droppings by keeping them on a very short leash outside the door at night and when we go out in the morning we clean up. Everything is right near the trailer so only our own lot is affected and this works in most places. However at this place, you are expected to somehow get your dog to hold it until you can race with it off the property and then have it go. If the dog doesn’t hold it or needs to go out at 2:00am you must catch it basically before it hits the ground or risk complaints. Oh well, every campground has its peculiarities and you adjust and this one is a minor. They get around the low temperatures by having a network of hoses all over the campground and they come back and fill your tank at every time you ask so the service is great. Plus it’s hard to find a campground open for us snowbirds in April.

After getting settled we began the seemingly endless run of stuff to catch up on. Visit the son who receives our mail for and go through a huge pile. Even though we have converted to every possible coming by electronic mail, we still found ourselves with a HUGE stack. Most of it junk or stuff we could really do without. And then there are a large number of things to be dealt with. Income tax by April 30th (just sent that off). Off to the doctor to renew regular prescriptions since most of them only allow you 6 months at a time maximum. We both had dental checkups. Dick came through clean which is great considering all the trouble he had the last two years including a $3800 bridge. I have one small cavity and will be going back in a couple of weeks but otherwise everything is fine. Last two years I have had cracked molars to fix and I was dreading that again.

Also because of the house purchase, we had to run to the Credit Union, sign papers, run to the lawyer, sign papers, run to the insurance company, sign papers, and so it goes. We have visited with all the kids now, hugged all the grandkids, distributed books, gifts, duty free booze and stuff. All our assorted families look great and the kids are all grown handsomer and bigger. We keep in touch all year of course but there’s nothing like a hug, smelling their scent, and seeing them all looking so good. We are blessed. Even the youngest, who is 18 months, remembered me after a few minutes.

Naturally Manitoba needed to make sure we continue to plan to go south each winter. We were greeted with bitterly cold weather and snow, several centimetres of it blowing like it can only blow on the prairie. Last night the temperature was down to -10C and we have had to do all the cold weather stuff with the trailer, UGH! Monday night the highway was even closed due to blowing snow. The dogs have been giving us dirty looks before going out. I can almost hear them thinking “Why did we have to leave the south too soon?”

Today is the first day we have had no running catchup to do. We can breath and relax. Tomorrow we go shopping to stock up for our extended stay in the country with a decent store hours away and hubby dearest gets a blood test just to check things. We meet the real estate agent Monday 10:00am to get our keys and finally get into our house. Then the real fun starts as we do a full inspection to decide what renovations we want/must do now, what can wait, measure all the rooms to decide what furniture, curtains and stuff we need and a bunch of other things that go with a new house.

This morning the cold is finally breaking and more temperate weather is back. The sun is warm through the window and the sky is finally blue blue Manitoba blue under the wide open sky. I can hear a meadow lark. I joke about how I as born in Winnipeg due to sins of a past like but Manitoba is my home. It’s good to be home.

Arkabutla Lake Army Corp of Engineer Campsite

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These pink flowers were in bloom everywhere. They were also full of happy bees. It was the spring migration eruption and the campground was full of chickadees, blue birds, red headed woodpeckers, cardinals, Carolina chickadees, warblers and so many other birds I couldn’t keep track.

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The Lake is nice and big, bigger than Forklund but it was too far to haul the canoe without unhitching so we just took a long walk to the boat ramp and looked out.SAM_5360 SAM_5361 SAM_5362

We saw a lot of wildlife (including a black widow spider and a rattlesnake) but only this poor deceased shell of an armadillo was still long enough to photograph.

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