Where River and Prairie meet the Sky…

Myakka River State Park the “Real Florida” is one of the largest and oldest state parks.  The “Florida Wild and Scenic ” Myakka River flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, hammocks, prairies and pinelands.  It has a 7 mile paved scenic drive and 39 miles of hiking and biking trails.

There are two shallow lakes , the Upper Myakka Lake is in the main section of the park.  At the upper lake you can find The Pink Gator, a great little restaurant for gator bites and ice cream along with a gift shop.  Boat tours, kayak and canoe rentals are a great way to explore the Upper Myakka Lake.

The birdwalk is a great place to meander on the boardwalk for alligators, bird sightings and sunsets.

The Nature Trail is a beautiful shady, leisurely 45 minute walk.  A highlight on the Nature Trail is the Canopy Walkway and Tower which was completed in 2000 and was the first public treetop trail in North America.  The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy.  A tower climbs to 74 feet in the air for a spectacular view above the treetops.

There are 90 RV and tent sites located in three campgrounds, Old Prairie, Big Flats and Palmetto Ridge.  Six primitive campsites are located along hiking trails in the back country.  Many of the original, historic buildings are still in use today, including five log rental cabins.  There are picnic areas and four pavilions that are available for special events.  The log cabins and log pavilion were built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930’s.  They used the trunks of cabbage palms and chinked them with tar and sawdust.

The Visitor’s Center was an old horse barn years ago, but now houses several wildlife exhibits and great stories of the park.

Potter Palmer was a Chicago business magnate who married Bertha Honore’ Palmer when she was 21 and he was 44 years old.  Their engagement led to one of the most extravagant wedding gifts, Palmer House, a luxurious Chicago hotel.  In 1910, Mrs. Palmer purchased vast amounts of land in Sarasota, where she raised oranges, vegetables and cattle.  One of the trail heads in the park is “Meadow Sweet Pastures” a lovely shaded walk where Mrs. Palmer owned a ranch and was the first to dip her cattle against the Texas Fever Tick.  In honor of their mother, sons Honore’ and Palmer donated a large amount of land to the state for the development of Myakka River State Park.

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There are many activities in the park such as Florida Tales, Campfire Circle, Ranger-led walks, Moon over Myakka bike rides, four evening concerts during the months of January through April and much more.

One of the most fascinating hikes during the dry season, which is usually January through March, is to the Deep Hole.  This is a 5-mile round trip hike, mostly through the prairie of the Wilderness Preserve to the Lower Myakka Lake.  During the dry season when the water recedes on the Myakka River, there is a 131 foot sinkhole that becomes isolated from the river and is a prime feeding area for alligators as fish become trapped in the Deep Hole.  On a good day, upwards of 200 alligators can be seen basking in the sun on the banks of the Deep Hole.  Only thirty people per day may enter the Wilderness Preserve either by hiking or paddling.

Our duties in volunteering at the park from the end of November 2018 to the end of May 2019 include the Ranger Station, Visitor Center and Roving about the park, mingling with the visitors.

In exchange, a lovely RV site, meeting new friends and the opportunity to spend time exploring God’s creation, witnessing first hand some absolutely magnificent sights!

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If you are ever in the Sarasota, Florida area be sure to check out this beautiful state park!

Fulfilling a Dream…

There is always excitement for friends starting a new adventure and we are just as excited to share their new business venture.  We met Jon and Leah Van Rhee at the first condo unit we bought when we moved to Florida.  Jon is a great maintenance worker and Leah is a wiz at running an office smoothly.  Jon and Leah decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of owning a RV campground and cabins.  In March they will be heading to Harrison, Michigan as new owners of Countryside Campground & Cabins,  The campground has full hook-ups, big rigs welcome, pull through sites, heated swimming pool, family friendly, great recreation area and cabins for rent.  The campground is located at 805 Byfield Drive in Harrison, Michigan, telephone 989-539-4368.  Leah and Jon left their places of employment to live their dream.  They said what better people to live their dream with than campers and RVer’s!  If you happen to be making plans for Michigan be sure to check out their website or give them a call!  We know they will do well!

The “Unbeetable” Experience

We arrived at Red River State Recreation Area, East Grand Forks, MN on September 23rd to begin our “unbeetable” experience as temporary employees through Express Employment hiring for American Crystal Sugar Company.

Our orientation interview was scheduled for Monday with training schedules during the week.  Robin will be working Shift 1 – 12:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. in the Quality Lab testing sugar content, purity and tare of the beets harvested in order to pay the farmers.  Bruce will be operating a skidsteer working 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. placing pipes that the beets will be piled on to circulate cold air to keep the beets in a deep freeze until ready to process into sugar.  Work was scheduled to begin on the weekend so first order of business was to socialize at the Blue Moose with our friends we haven’t seen in months!

The Red River Recreation Area is conveniently located to a movie theater, plenty of restaurants, Cabela’s, and downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota is within walking distance across the river.  The Blue Moose, Sickies Garage, Up North Pizza and the American Legion were some of our gathering places to socialize and meet new friends.

A fantastic four generation owned family candy shop originating in 1885 in downtown Grand Forks known as Widman’s. It is “Home of the Chocolate Covered Potato Chip known as the Chippers!”

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Now to the beet harvest, we have 11,888,324.00 tons of beets to harvest during this season.  Temperatures must range somewhere in between 32-60 degrees and fairly nice weather to harvest beets.  This year the harvest has been delayed several days due to the weather!

Beets are harvested in September and October.  First the foliage is removed from the beet prior to lifting.  Immediately after defoliating, the sugar beets are lifted out of the ground by a lifter-loader harvester, most of the soil is removed, then they are loaded into trucks driving along side the harvester.  Trucks take the beets to the piling stations or the factory for storing or processing.

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Sugar Beet Field
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Truck hauling sugar beets to piling station
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Piling Station
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Piling Station-laying pipe for ventilation
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Skidsteer
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Pipes for ventilation

During the piling process, sample bags are taken and delivered to the lab for analysis of sugar content, purity and tare.  Bags are unloaded at the dock, they lift and unload the equivalent of two elephants a day!  The samples are weighed before they go through a wash and drying process, then weighed again to determine how much tare (dirt) came with the sample.  Then they are mashed and come up on the brea belt, LBD machine, samples are analysed for sugar content and purity.

This is the process that we are involved in making beet sugar for American Crystal Sugar Company.  As of now we have completed about 40% of the harvest and are waiting for the snow to melt to finish what we came here to do!  For more information visit their website American Crystal Sugar

 

South Dakota…

DAY 1

First stop in South Dakota was Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  It was completed in 1941, and is 60 foot high with carved faces in granite of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  What a work of art!  Simply amazing!

My souvenir was a book signed by Don “Nick” Clifford, a former driller and winchman who worked on Mount Rushmore from 1938-1940.

DSC_1430 On to Custer State Park with more buffalo!

DSC_0001Our favorite was the wild begging burros!  Yes we fed them carrots!

Then to beautiful Sylvan Lake!

DAY 2

The town of Deadwood is known for its gold rush history and figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Spearfish Canyon has a beautiful lodge and several short hikes to fabulous waterfalls.

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Spearfish Canyon Lodge

DAY 3

Unfortunately it was a rainy, misty day to visit The Badlands National Park, but the views were still stunning!  The Lakota people named it “mako sica” meaning land bad.  We stopped to have lunch and decided to take a hike into the foothills even though it was raining.  After watching several people quickly coming back to the parking area, stomping their feet in great dismay, we discovered that the clay soil stuck to their boots like cement!  Pays to be observant!

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A little town known as “Wall” is famous now for a large tourist place called “Wall Drug”.

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DAY 4

Wind Cave National Park was established in 1903 and was the first set aside to protect a cave.  In the first picture the ranger held a ribbon that was sucked into the cave.  It was a demonstration of how a cave breathes air in and out, just like our lungs do.  The last picture is an example of boxwork, 95% of the world’s discovered boxwork formations are found in Wind Cave.  It is also known for its popcorn and frostwork.  It is currently the sixth-longest cave in the world with many unexplored passageways.  The tour took a little over an hour descending 300 steps to 215 feet below ground level.

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Another little western town “Hot Springs”.

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DAY 5

The corn palace is located in Mitchell, SD and is a multi-purpose arena.  It is decorated with more than 325,000 ears of corn sliced in half and nailed to the murals.  Local farmers plant 10-12 different colors of corn.  Each year there is a different theme.

South Dakota is a beautiful state! We wish we could have witnessed the beauty of all the Sunflowers at a earlier time of year. These are almost ready to harvest.

IMG_7918On to work at the Beet Harvest!

Two Days and Counting…

It’s funny how you can live in a place for several months or years and at the last minute there are places you want to see before you leave!  Our last two days in Yellowstone were some of the most exciting!  When we arrived in May we were able to view the lower falls at Artist Point but the brink of the lower falls and upper falls trails were closed due to snow.  We decided to take the short hike to some spectacular views of the upper falls and lower falls.

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Upper Falls

We have driven through Yellowstone National Park countless times, most often our focus was on the wildlife.  The Mud Volcano and Dragons Mouth Spring were definitely something we didn’t want to miss!

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Mud Volcano

Finally, late afternoon as usual, we arrived in Lamar Valley, probably our favorite place to view wildlife in the park, and this evening was no exception.  Before to long we spotting a crowd gathering on a hilltop, so we grabbed our spotting scope and joined the crowd.  Off in the distance was a grizzly feeding on a carcass that the wolves had brought down.  There were at least seven wolves on the scene awaiting their turn on the carcass.  We watched them patiently waiting close to the bear, while others were playing and nipping at each other, and off in the distance was one wolf that seemed to be on guard overlooking the scene.  Finally the grizzly sauntered off with a full belly and the wolves took their turn feeding on the carcass.  Very interesting to watch this pack, a wolf had his share of the food, then went to relieve the lookout for their turn on the carcass.  As the sun set, we watched them one by one, head to the same area and disappear into the woods.

We were also on the lookout for friends Phil and Sue, that we met while workamping at Cypress Trail RV Resort in Fort Myers, FL and surprisingly they found us on top of the hill and joined us in this exciting evening.

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One of the things on our bucket list was to hear the wolves howl in Yellowstone and before they all left for the woods, they howled to each other!  It was time for us to find a spot just outside the Northeast entrance to sleep in the truck for the night so we could be in Lamar Valley early in the morning to hopefully watch the wolves for one last time.

Also on our bucket list was to see a bull elk bugle!  Mammoth Hot Springs is known for the elk gathering in the center of town, especially during the rutting season.  When we arrived we saw a small bull elk guarding his little harem.  It wasn’t long before the big guy showed up trying to keep his harem in line and that is when we heard that beautiful bugle!

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Smaller Bull Elk
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The Big Guy
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Big Guy & His Harem
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Undine Falls

It was a magnificent final two days in Yellowstone National Park!

We also were blessed to have Bill and Linda stay at Yellowstone Holiday Resort our last week at the park.  Good friends and good food were enjoyed at our favorite pizza place Wild West Pizzeria in West Yellowstone.

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We will miss the beauty and splendor of Hebgen Lake and the wonderful people we met while working at Yellowstone Holiday Resort.

Glacier National Park…

A mini-trip to Glacier National Park entering through the West Entrance had been planned for several weeks.  Unfortunately, the Howe Ridge Fire on Lake McDonald, that was started by a lightning strike, had us altering our plans.  We had made reservations through Vacation Rental By Owner (VBRO) to stay in Big Fork, Montana.  A lovely historical town situated on Flathead Lake with beautiful flowers, great shops and delicious places to eat!

 

We traveled to the East Entrance because The Going-To-The-Sun-Road was closed from Lake McDonald to Logan Pass due to smoke from the fire.  Our first stop was Historic Glacier Park Lodge just outside the park.  We were in awe of the huge Douglas fir logs used in construction in 1913.  At Two Medicine Lake we were greeted by these Big Horn Sheep!  An interesting feature of the streams and lakes in the park are the beautiful colored pebbles ranging from various hues of red, maroon, green and blue.  Also a quick stop at St. Mary’s Lake.  Even with the smoke the views were beautiful!

Finally was Many Glacier Hotel situated on Swiftcurrent Lake known as the “Switzerland of North America” and the largest hotel in Glacier National Park.

Again, not enough time to explore but it is a beautiful National Park!

Johnny Sack Cabin…

In 1929, Johnny Sack leased a tract of land from the Forest Service and built this log cabin located at Big Springs, Island Park, Idaho.  It is one of the most photographed sites with Johnny’s cabin, the water wheel house and the beautiful springs filled with large trout.

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Inside the cabin it is decorated with Johnny’s trademark split bark decoration used in the cabins furniture and interior.

The cabin became part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.  Big Springs is a Natural National Landmark and one of 40 largest natural springs in the world, producing 120 gallons of water a day!  You can see the springs bubbling up and the beauty of the clear fresh water.

A beautiful little spot to visit in Idaho!

For more information Johnny Sack Cabin