Tag Archives: travel

Migration Home Twelfth Stop Sisseton South Dakota and then home.

IMG_3965

We left Sioux City north and drove up I29. This has to be the most boring stretch of highway in North America. Miles and miles and miles of nothing. We had some luck in the city of Sioux Falls. We got a recommendation from a store clerk in Staples for a grocery store big on ethnic food. We arrived to find enough kosher-for-passover items that we were able to stock up for the whole eight days. On arrival in Sisseton the folks at Camp Dakota were welcoming as they had been last year and we set up. Our host for tomorrow’s visit, Sister Patrice Colette met us and we had dinner at the nearby Casino. Profits from the Casino go right back into the tribe including the school we were going to be presenting at. We had an excellent meal and turned in early. Sister was going to be picking us up at 6:30am. We fell asleep to the sound of enormous flocks of starlings and black birds feasting on the remnants of last year’s corn crop in the adjacent field.

Camp Dakota

The school we were going to visit is the Tiospa Zina Tribal School of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Reservation. Last year we presented to the class and then got a tour of the band offices. This year we spent the entire school day participating and visiting. This was our second stop as visiting scientists and much as I enjoyed the first visit last year, this one went even better. Our day started out with breakfast at the school. All students get a nutritious start to their day. Breakfast was scrambled egg omelet with cheese filling, bacon (which we skipped), vegetables and fruit. Cereal was available, as was milk, but not as the main item and not many kids picked those for breakfast.

After breakfast we attended a ceremony to start the academic day. This included a drum circle and songs in Dakota. I saw a lot of older students watching out for and caring for younger students. Our conference was interrupted by a break for school awards for excellent work, for personal improvement, for good attendance an to announce successes students had outside the school. Students not only got nice little printed certificates. They got something I never got in school, which was nice crisp new bills as cash awards. There was strong emphasis on personal responsibility, duty to the tribe and community as a whole and respect for elders and each other in the ceremony. Everyone helped clear up when the award ceremony was finished.

Officially we were there as keynote speakers for a science conference. The student prepared in advance and then I presented on sea turtles, their embryology, evolution, the dangers they face and how people can help them. Hubby dearest presented his latest research on the original of life in our universe and slipped in a talk about the age of the universe and powers of ten. We closed off our presentations by giving the students chunks of marine fossils in soft sandstone. Their objective was to break out a fossil and use Google and some books to identify what the fossil was. And they succeeded. We have done many of these classroom visits to schools over the years. In this school we were delighted to find curious minds, intense interest, and well thought out questions. We were not just questioned about the science itself. We were questioned about important practical things like how do you balance work and family and why did we become scientists. We were not once subjected to snarky misbehaviour or nasty background tomfoolery that has happened to us in other schools.

We learned a lot too, getting a glimpse into the life of students at the tribal school. Manitoba already has powerful connections to this reserve because they are related to the Dakota people on the reserve south of Portage LaPrairie and many of the students have family in Canada that come and visit them or they come and visit in South Dakota. The Manitoba connections made us feel right at home.

We left Sisseton feeling very positive and began the last leg of our journey. We made a brief stop in Fargo to buy lefse. Lefse is a traditional food of my father’s Scandinavian ancestors, far better than lutefisk and it is not readily available in stores. Additionally, making it from scratch produces a lot of smoke so I had to give up doing it myself due to my asthma.  At Freddy’s we picked up enough fresh frozen to last us and our family members to the next trip to North Dakota.

Our original plan was to stop at a state park on the border with Canada. I had checked the webpage and it said the campground was open. I called the park and I got an answering machine message that cheerfully declared the campground was open and if we needed fresh water we could get it at the ranger station. When we arrived it was different story. As it turned out, the only camping available was walk in winter camping and the roads and campsites were under too much snow to even think of driving in with a truck and trailer. We were subjected to a particularly stupid bureaucrat/ranger who seemed to think we were the stupid ones for not knowing all that in spite of what their message said. I politely suggested the message be changed to better reflect reality. Each time I said that, I was told why I was so stupid for thinking I could get the camper into the park in March. Eventually we gave up and left, muttering imprecations about how government seems to attract a larger proportion of particularly stupid people as employees than other organizations.

Home

We were about three and a half hours from home and it was 3:00pm. We got waved through at the border by the cheerful guard. We stopped to stock up on groceries in the Winkler just over the border. We then just kept driving. We pulled into our driveway at our little house on the northern prairie. To our relief the driveway had been thoughtfully cleared of ice and snowdrifts by a neighbour for our return. It was SO good to be home. We found our house exactly as we had left it except for some extra cobwebs. Our migration was complete.

According to Google we traveled over 2300 miles. If we had driven nonstop, the trip would have taken a mere 37 hours. We took 35 days, most days did not drive more than three hours and stayed for at least two days at each stop. It was easily our best trip yet! The birds were even slower than us. It was two more weeks before the birds we left in South Dakota showed up. They were the smart ones. There was a blizzard between our arrival home and their return to the north.

Home2.jpg

 

Migration Home: Eleventh Stop Sioux City North KOA South Dakota

Eleventha

Our next drive was a longer one. We were now far enough north that it made sense to put in a longer drive and make some progress. There were no more government associated campground to go to. We were limited to a very few private ones that are opened year around. We decided we were going to check out a state park in South Dakota that was supposedly open. We have done that before and arrived to find that while the campground is technically open in March, there is no running water or dump site and the campsites are under several feet of snow. Our original plan was to drive to this state park and if it was unsuitable continue on to the Sioux City North KOA. There just one small problem. I misread the map and mixed up Sioux City North and Sioux Falls and the KOA came up first. We were both tired. We decided that since this KOA is a familiar and comfortable place, one that we stop at practically every trip, we would just turn in. We would try out the state park the next night. When we checked in, we discovered we had a $25 credit with KOA for our first night. We had also stopped at this particular KOA enough times to have earned a second free night on their own private promotional special. It worked out to $12 for two nights in a full service campsite and it just too tempting to turn down. We decided to skip the state park altogether.

We had a quiet two days. I spent most of my time preparing my talk for our next stop. We had both been invited to speak at Tiospa Zina Tribal School in Sisseton South Dakota. We had emails going back and forth with our host about content and preparations for our visit. We took one long walk on the walk past the campground because the weather was lovely. We had some friends call to announce they would come to visit us for Passover in Alonsa. It was a delightful treat to hear from them and we were happy about having company for Passover. I began planning putting on a full seder. This did leave us with the question of where to get enough Passover supplies to put on decent seder on the trip between here and home. There are not exactly a lot of Jews in North and South Dakota and rural Manitoba. Too bad we hadn’t known one day before as we drove right past Omaha, Nebraska, which is something of a kosher food grand central station. Much of the kosher beef used in New York comes out of a facility in Omaha.

We pulled out after two days. I had my presentation prepared and we set out for Sisseton SD, still wondering where we might find Kosher food for our Passover meal.

Here is my review of the Sioux City North KOA:

One of the few campground open year round in the north this is a standard KOA with a better than usual store. We seem to always end up back here going north or south from Canada. WIFI is excellent. staff are wonderful. They have specials to encourage people to return. You can buy propane and the laundry is clean and big. Some permanent residents but it’s neat and clean. A better than average KOA. Office closes at 6:00pm promptly. This KOA is in town at the edge of north Sioux City and right off the interstate so traffic and city noise is a problem.

Eleventh

Migration Home Tenth Stop Topeka, Kansas

Topekaa

We left Cherryvale and headed north hoping to get to our next stop before any of the predicted severe weather started. During our discussions with the electrician who came to fix our site’s broken 30amp connection, we got a recommendation to check out Kansas RV Centre in Canute. We were promised lots of parts at reasonable prices. That’s what we found. In spite of impending stormy weather we ended up spending an hour checking out stuff and, to our delight, we found replacement covers for our RV light covers that had cracked, larger size chocks, and a new housing for our truck’s electrical receiver. We couldn’t resist having a look at some of the newer RVs even though we are not ready for a new one. Still it was a treat. We headed north with the sky turning an ominous churning grey.

We pulled into the the Topeka Kansas KOA with no small amount of relief. The owner was on duty and he welcomed us warmly and soon we were set up in a site with directions for what to do if we needed to be safe from severe weather. People from Oklahoma and Kansas do not fool around with severe weather. The campground has a big barn with a shelter in the basement. We didn’t do much in Topeka. It rained and rained and rained almost from when we got set up until we left.

One thing we found really frustrating was that it was cool but when we tried to start our furnace it wouldn’t fire up. Fortunately we had our electric blanket and electric oil filled space heaters. I made a loaf of bread and the little stove top electric oven also provides a lot of heat. Redundancy paid off again. We had cable at the KOA so I left it on the Weather Channel while I tried to figure out what the problem was. Getting at the furnace was tricky. I hadn’t ever tried it before because gas stuff is scary. The furnace was hidden under the fridge area. I found a great video that showed me how to get at my furnace. I was able to see by the trouble shooting lights the problem was air access. I also found layers and layers of dust and dog fur. It was almost like a mat of felt it was so thick. Ugh! I diligently and carefully cleaned and vacuumed and held my breath and tried the furnace….and nothing happened. ARRG!! We called a couple of repair places and it looked like this was going to be a major job costing major bucks. Since we had electric back up, we decided to leave it until we were home at our own dealer we trust. I took advantage of my frustration to do a whole bunch of long overdue cleaning elsewhere in the trailer.

As it turned out we did not need to test the KOA’s storm shelter. There were warnings about severe weather west, east, and south of us but nothing closer than a couple of miles away. I was very glad we had decided to move here. The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt really hemmed in. After all the long lazy days in national forest, state parks, and army corp campsites the close proximity of spaces in the KOA felt claustrophobic, a feeling enhanced by pouring rain.

The second morning we packed up and left for our next stop in South Dakota. To our astonishment and delight, on arrival in South Dakota the furnace cheerful fired up working beautifully as if nothing had happened. I have no explanation. I will guess it was clogged with dust and dog hair and that blocked the intake and it remained blocked until another road trip knocked stuff around and it unstuck. It may be the furnace has some kind of reset that needed to occur by going off shore power and then going back on. Whatever the reason, we were delighted to have our furnace working and I leaned over and I apologized for neglecting it and promised the furnace that from now on, I would be cleaning the cabinet of all dust and dog hair on a regular basis.

This is my review of the Topeka City KOA

We stayed here two days during a period of foul weather, severe storms nearby, high winds and rain all day. This KOA has a big red barn with a basement severe storm shelter which is why we picked it. There is a row of permanent residents but those campers are well kept and seemed to consist of young families with school age children. It felt very park like and safe. The office is only open 3:00 to 8:00 pm but the fellow was there was nice and helpful. WIFI was excellent although it would stop and restart every couple of hours. Campground layout was pleasing and well thought out. There was no mud in spite of all the rain we had due to nice grass and gravel/sand on our sites. There is a very nice children’s park and fishing ponds. Our site was fine but a bit short. It is set in a place between two interstates so there was some traffic noise but not too bad. A nicer than average KOA. We will stop again, especially if we need a place to sit out storms.

TenthCorrected

Migration Home Ninth Stop: Cherryvale Big Hill Lake, Kansas

Cherryvale

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.

Ninethday

Eighth Stop: Cherokee Landing State Park Oklahoma

trip8

We left Cedar Lake with some regret and a certain wish that we could have stayed longer and that we will try to get back. Our next destination was Cherokee Landing State Park. The trip was more harrowing up the steep hill, down the steep hill to a river bottom, up the steep hill, down the steep hill, with the tranny complaining as we went. Stereotypically, Oklahoma is supposed to be flat prairie but in the east a few of those roads could match the worst driving in Arkansas. The cat was once again riding in his carrier in the bathtub and I left him very unhappy with me.

After Cedar Lake, this park was a let down although it is a rather nice park. The park is open year round but it is also far enough north that there aren’t a lot of visitors in March. Being accustomed to remote self serve campsites, we weren’t particularly put off to arrive and find the office closed. However it was kind of a shock to see absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, in the way of instructions or anything else at the gate. There was no map, no list of reserved sites versus open sites, no campground host, not even road signage. We drove in and looked around and eventually found one of the four sites the state park brochure said the park had that were full service. Hubby dearest had to get out of the truck and walk to check for a sewer connection. It was time to do laundry again.

As evening settled so did a pall of thick smoke. A large wildfire was burning the south east. We closed up and did our usual trick to avoid having smoke trigger one of my asthma attacks. We left a pot of water on a slow boil and the dehumidifier and air conditioner going. The water surrounds smoke particle preferentially in condensing and they get removed with the waste water produced by the air conditioner and dehumidifier. By morning the wind had shifted and the air was clear.

About 3:00pm a ranger came around and collected the $28 fee and then he gave us back $4 for being seniors. He was very friendly and helpful and told us about the nearby Cherokee Heritage Center. Our rationale for wanting to see the heritage centre was twofold. First, we knew almost nothing about the Cherokee and we thought it would be good to educate ourselves. Second, during this trip we kept encountering historical markers or commentary about the “Trail of Tears”. According to the movie Hilary’s America by Dinesh D’Sousa, the Trail of Tears was the product of a Democratic President stealing Cherokee land to buy white voters over the protests of Republicans like Davie Crockett. We decided we wanted to hear another perspective for balance. The nice ranger gave us good directions and tips on parking and such. We paid for two nights. The forecast was for storms in a couple of days so our plan was to be further north before any storms fired up.

Our visit to the Cherokee Heritage Center (my spell checker is having hissy fits here because Canadians spell it Centre) was a fascinating look into a parallel culture and we learned a lot. The walk through the preEuropean village, complete with actors doing early activities like flint arrow making and pottery, was fascinating. What I especially liked was there was no “noble savage” nonsense. Our guide talked about what was good about preEuropean life and what was bad. For example, he explained how the central fire pit in the house meant the house was always fun of smoke and this resulted in a reduced lifespan from lung disease. It seemed to be a fair and balanced kind of presentation, mostly interesting.

The center also had a mock up of a little Cherokee town from the 1800s. There, we were told that the Franklin wood stove was eagerly embraced by the Cherokee because the wood stove was a much more efficient way to heat a home compared to a fireplace and it reduced smoke in the home in winter. The little town look pretty much the same as any historical mock up of town of that era and so it was obvious the Cherokee had immediately adopted any European innovation they liked and that the arrival of European technology had vastly improved their lifestyle.

From there we went into the Museum proper. Most of the interior is dedicated to the history behind the Trail of Tears. I was really upset to learn how horrible it had been. These were a people largely accustomed to European style of living abruptly stripped of everything they had and sent on foot to walk west, over the Mississippi moved by brute military force and, for the most part, taking only what they could carry. It would have been bad enough if they had been a hunter-gatherer society accustomed to living off the land as they went. These were a people who had been farmers and had adopted European ways of farming, housing, and dressing themselves abruptly forced to travel hundreds of miles on foot in all weather. No wonder tens of thousands perished along the way.

I don’t think of it as being genocide because to me genocide means the deliberate attempt of one group to systematically kill off every member of another group. It was most certainly an ethnic cleansing. Every Cherokee was stripped of their lands and most of their goods and forced to move to a strange new place designated as “Indian Territory”. The rationale was they would be better off living as savages in a savage land off to the west while Americans “settled” the east. (As if it wasn’t already settled by the Cherokee and other Indians.) There were more than a few problems with this. Almost no provisions were made for the Cherokee on the journey and there were already a bunch of other Indians living in the same land. It was not just the Cherokee who were forced out. Other tribes including the Canoe of Florida and the Choctaw were also ethnically cleansed. The historical account we saw did acknowledge many whites were horrified by this ethnic cleaning and did what they could to assist the refugees. There was nothing about whether or not it was the Democrat versus Republican battle as presented in the D’Sousa movie so I didn’t get an answer to that question. I was reminded of the bitter pograms of Russia where Katherine the Not-So-Great bought off Russian peasants by stealing everything owned by Jews and redistributing their meager wealth. That kind of ethnic cleansing drove my husband’s Jewish family from Europe to America. Like the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Russia, along the Trail of Tears, tens of thousands died.

I must admit I am uncomfortable with using the term “Indian”. In Canada we don’t use it because it is not accurate. We are supposed to use more accurate terms like “First Nations” or “Indigenous Peoples” and wherever possible use the correct tribal name for the individual peoples. However the Cherokee use the term Indian when referring to themselves along with other First Nations people. I got a lot of weird looks when I used the term First Nations, like I was some kind of strange white with an acute case of noble savage complex. Indian is a common acceptable term in the USA, so I will use it when referring to Indians living there.

In spite of the great historical horror and tragedy of the Trail of Tears it still felt like a positive place. The Cherokee Nation seems to be doing very well for itself, thank you very much anyway. Their identity as a people, their language both written and spoken seemed to be well preserved and their culture thriving in spite of the best effort of Democrats (assuming D’Sousa is correct). We left the gift shop laden with goodies and a positive feeling. Cherokee and Jews would seem to have a lot in common.

Here is my review of the campground:

Cherokee Landing State Park

This state park is on a high peninsula sticking out into the lake. The park has a few shade trees but it is more exposed than not. We arrived in on a day that hit 92F and we baked. The wind was high and our trailer rocked and rolled with the blasts. There were wild fires south and west of us and the smoke was very thick so we didn’t go out much. Overall it is a rather standard state park with spaces somewhat closer than I would like. There are some sites with sewer but they are immediately adjacent to the dump site which meant stink and a lot of traffic. One thing we did really enjoy was there was a spring eruption of migrating birds so we got to see a huge variety of birds in large flocks  including northern flickers, woodpeckers, jays, chickadees, juncos, starlings, blackbirds, nuthatches and several other species. We stopped here to be close to the Cherokee Heritage Centre which is 15 miles away. We thoroughly enjoyed the Heritage Centre and the coincidence of the spring migration but otherwise there was nothing special or noteworthy about the park.

The next morning we headed north to Kansas. the forecast for Oklahoma was becoming ominous and I had no desire to experience one of this state’s infamous spring tornado outbreaks.Trip

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Migration Home – Sixth Stop Beaver’s Bend State Park Oklahoma

Sixth Stop

We left the Crater of Diamonds State Park and headed into Oklahoma. We took the less demanding route and the cat rode in the cat carrier in the bathtub. We arrived at the Beaver’s Bend State Park after a grocery stop and settled in. The park has four campsites, three on the water and one in the woods. All the waterside campsite were full so we found a spot in inner campground. We initially signed in for two nights but we ended up staying a full week. The main reason we stayed a full week was that we were tired of traveling and even though our campsite was not very nice, this campground had a lot to do and see. The second reason was the weather turned cold and rainy and miserable and since the park had some indoor activities there didn’t seem much point in moving. Third, we discovered we had started our Oklahoma site seeing in the middle of spring break and a lot of campgrounds, including this one, were full by the weekend.

SAM_9342

The park had the one thing I enjoy beyond anything else, a babbling brook with falling water over rocks. Several time we walked from our campsite to the creek and followed the trails.

SAM_9339

In addition to the creek the park is full of roadways and places to drive and walk. We had our bikes out and we went bike riding every day except one where it rained.

SAM_9343SAM_9344

Going up and down the creek had some demanding parts including this little rock cliff that Dick carefully climbed.

We enjoyed our walks in spite of the cool weather. I have been fascinated by the lifecycle of bryophytes with their sexual and asexual/haploid and diploid stages since I took introductory biology a long time ago. All the mosses were in bloom and the fern were coming up as fiddleheads. I even had luck while carefully examining the ground and found several of the nearly microscopic haploid gametophytes. What a treat!

The little river that runs through the campground has an old weir in it. The weir is nonfunctional now and is basically just a pretty waterfall. This is a working river and it came equipped with a siren that went off when water levels changed. And wow did they change going up a meter or more shortly after the siren sounded and then dropping back down again. Along the edge of the river is a long straight flat trail perfect for walking or bike riding. (The siren never went off while we were near it.) The trail along the riverside was full of wildflowers and tiny creeks and springs and the rocky ledges that were the most perfect for hunting up bryophytes. We took a walk every day, often with the dogs, and many a bike ride with several fast trips to watch the water levels change. The park also had a nature centre with a reasonable display of local flora and fauna. Dick noted an error in their diatom display and left them a comment card about that. The park also had a really nice museum of forestry in Broken Bow area that took about three hours to properly walk through. The walk ended with a small art gallery and a really nice gift shop. It was a perfect diversion for a rainy afternoon.

The campground was full of people and we met many of them. It was a bit peculiar. One man showed up on Thursday and parked a huge fifth wheel on one site. He had three teenagers along with him and they set up tents on three other sites. He told me the rest of his family was coming that weekend along with the other members of his church and their families for their yearly reunion. Friday night the campground really filled up with many large families. We saw several groups of women in long skirts, obviously pregnant or carrying babies, enjoying nature. The man with the fifth wheel helped three women with children to park their own rigs on the campsites he had put the tents on. By Saturday every site was full of these extended families. The children of whatever this denomination was, were all exceedingly polite but acted exceptionally wary around us, never speaking to us beyond a “Yes, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am” with a broad Texas twang and averting their eyes and running away if we said anything beyond hello. They traveled in happy packs, always with at least one older teen minder, like wild creatures set loose in this wild setting after a long captivity. The men organized group games like baseball whenever it was not raining. One campsite for each extended family group was set up as a sort of communal kitchen and every evening all the groups in a family would descend, gather and eat. Feeding this crew must have cost a fortune! On Monday, they began dispersing and by Tuesday the campground had a few empty places. On Sunday they had an open air service. I enjoyed watching them, the boys in blue jeans and jackets, and the girls with their long hair and modest skirts and leggings.

SAM_9338

And there was one special treat. I’m not sure what the special ingredients were, but the shaved ice sold from this little vehicle was absolutely the best tasting I have ever had. The owner had 14 flavours to choose from. I had pina colada and it was beyond delicious. It was even better after I went back to our camper and added a little vodka. Everywhere this fellow went, he had one long lines eagerly waiting their turn to pick a treat. He must have made a killing financially.

Every third day we drove into the nearby town of Broken Bow to check internet and weather forecasts and possible places to go. Finally, after a full week enjoying Beaver’s Bend State Park, we packed up and headed north to explore more of Oklahoma.

Here is my review of the park:

Beaver’s Bend State Park

Exceptionally nice state park. When you arrive at the main office, you can either go up the hill to the spillway area or continue down the river to the lower campsites. Going up, there are many unserviced campsites in three sections, half can take a larger rig and some are right on the water. These sites are $14. There are 15 non reservable campsites with water and electric. The upper area has paddle boats & canoes for rent, tackle shop, boat launch, easy lake access, miniature train, stables and a lodge. The lower section ends at the old dam that is like a waterfall and very pretty. The lower area has a good restaurant (We loved the fried pie!), nature centre, a museum of forestry and a gift shop. There are three camping sections of campground sites, Buckthorn, is reservable, Acorn and Cypress are not. Acorn and Buckthorn are all big and spacious and on the water for $27. There are also five sites specifically designed to accommodate the handicapped above Acorn. Cypress has many very narrow turns and all back in sites, When we were there, it was wet and muddy on either side of the narrow roads. We did not get stuck but we saw other longer rigs that did sink right to the jacks because they could not make the tight turns without going off the roads and into the muck. The sites are close together and set at haphazard angles so you don’t have much privacy. Our site was, like most, short and we had to unhitch to fit in. $24 but we got $2 off as nonresident seniors. The area below the dam has lots of tempting rocks to climb on and it looks perfect for wading. It isn’t. There are sirens that go off to announce water level changes at the dam and they are big changes. A man comes around selling snow cones for $2-3 and they are the best snow cones I have ever had so try one. We might go again if we can get a reservation first and it isn’t spring break.

And here is our path thus far on our long migration home.

6th day