Guadalupe Peak

Well, the plan was to spend 4 days hiking in Guadalupe Mountain National Park, culminating in a climb to the highest point in Texas (Guadalupe Peak) on the last day. So much for plans….

We arrived at the visitor center late in the afternoon of Dec 3 and it was cold… and getting colder. The Ranger who gave us our backcountry permits reminded us that the backcountry campsites were several thousand feet higher than the visitor center (5,800′). Using the old rule of 5 0F per 1,000′, that would be 10 degrees colder than Pine Springs CG (where we were spending our first night).

We quickly set up our tent as the temperature plummeted from the balmy 45 degrees when we arrived. We ate a quick dinner in the car and were in our sleeping bags by 6:00 PM to try to get warm.

Home for the night – Pine Springs CG

By morning our plans had changed. After a night of trying to sleep (wearing everything we had inside our bags) we realized that camping even higher would be a disaster.

We decided to do the ~8.5 mile (round trip), 3,700′ Guadalupe Peak climb and then skedaddle into town and a warm motel.

Starting up the mountain!

We started up around 7:30 (temperature had warmed up to 30 degrees or so). It is basically a 4 mile, 3,700′ climb that is pretty steep in parts. But the weather was great for hiking and the sun was out!

View from about 1,000′ up.
Another nice view.

You can’t actually see the peak as you climb – it is always over another ridge. The trail is rocky but in good condition. At one spot there is even a bridge over a small chasm.

Bridge in the sky! Roberta made me go first.
Mountain man! Nearing the top.

In the visitor center they say to “plan on 8 hours” to climb Guadalupe Peak. We reached the top in 2:45 after passing two couples. Much younger couples. Very satisfying.

On top – 8,750 feet! The roof of Texas!

There were only a couple of people on the top but more started to arrive so we only stayed for 15 minutes or so before heading down.

View from the top – looking south. That’s all Texas down there!
Another view from the top.

We were back down around 1:00. Thinking of a warm bed and a hot shower.

View on the way down.

Decize Update…

Decize “on the hard” in St Lean de Losne.

Owning a Boat in France in the Time of Covid

Our plan had been to spend the summer in France, slowly moving Decize from the Locaboat base in Briare to our reserved slip in Auxonne on the Saône River. But then Covid-19 happened and France barred Americans from entering the country.

We managed to find a captain willing to move our boat and by mid-September our boat was in the H2O shipyard in St Jean De Losne (just a few miles from Auxonne).

Decize is over 20 years old so is in need of quite a bit of mostly cosmetic repairs. We have asked for a quote to clean and repair the hull, replace the rub rail, and re-paint the hull and superstructure. We had planned for this but had expected to be there to discuss the work in person.

I will post details as the work proceeds. Hopefully we will be able to get to France next summer.  Here are more pictures showing hull damage.

Rub rail damage.

Keel, rudder and propeller

Looking down the hull

The bow thruster inlet/outlet

More hull/rub rail damage.

Final Post…..

Trip Summary

Back home!  Here are some trip statistics:

    • Number of Days:    44 (July 29 – Sep 11)
    • Number of States Visited:    15
    • Number of New States:      11
    • Miles travelled:   5,500 (approx.)
    • Nights Camping:  14
    • Nights Hotel:  8
    • Nights AirBnB : 22 (3 weeks in Colorado Springs)
    • Number of Trump signs seen:   Too many (mostly in the UP Michigan)
    • Number of  Biden signs seen:   Not enough, not nearly enough.
    • Number of semis that we sat behind while they took forever to pass another semi:   9 million (approx.)

Our new states

Our  new states from this trip ….

    • S. Dakota
    • N. Dakota
    • Minnesota
    • Wisconsin
    • Michigan
    • Illinois
    • Indiana
    • Ohio (Bert)
    • W. Virginia
    • Tennessee
    • Kentucky
    • Missouri

Heading Home

Tennessee

We picked up our final new state the first night, camping at Meeman-Shelby State Park just outside of Memphis. Of course we had to swing through Memphis to see Graceland.

Elvis wasn’t home.

We were only there one afternoon (on Wednesday, Martini Night!). We set up camp and did a quick hike. The park is near the Mississippi but we couldn’t see it from the campground.

Our Tennessee camp

Tennessee walking…

And there was no cell coverage anywhere in the park but they leave the wifi on at the Ranger Station after hours so we took our camp chairs, martinis and laptop and set up outside to zoom for Martini Night. Resourceful!

Arkansas

For out last night before the final push back to Houston we stopped at a campground just west of Little Rock, where the Ouachita Trail starts (or ends).  It was a lot warmer than when we were here last – close to 90 degrees.

Returning to the scene of the crime (sans Emerson).

After setting up our camp we decided to climb Pinnacle Peak, which we thought would be an easy hike. It wasn’t.

Pinnacle Peak hike.

Pinnacle Peak from the trail

We started at the visitor center and hiked the first mile of the Ouachita Trail to get to the Pinnacle East trail. The last 500′ of elevation of the climb was a steep, steep rock scramble.  When we got to the top we talked to some people who had come up the west side and said it was not bad so, even though it meant circling the base of the mountain, we went down the west side. It was a good call, even though it added three miles or so, it was much nicer.

Two hot, tired, puppies on the top of Pinnacle Peak.

Panorama from the top.

The campground was nice but we are definitely back in the south. It was still 80 degrees when the sun went down and it was well after midnight before it was cool enough (low 70’s) to sleep comfortably. But we were right on the Arkansas river and it was very pretty.

View from our camp

 

St Louis

Leaving the wilds of W. Virginia we headed back west on a long travel day to get to St Louis.  Our hotel was on the west side of St Louis, about 7 miles due west of the famous arch and right next to a huge park.

Our hotel location

Our hotel was a quirky, English-styled inn with themed rooms (we stayed in the W. H. Auden room right across from the Sherlock Holmes room).

View from boat.

Besides bagging Missouri and seeing the arch, we were in St Louis to visit our good friend Miriam who left Houston nearly 15 years ago.

We spent the afternoon of our first day with Miriam who took us on a tour of downtown St Louis. We visited the arch (but did not go inside because Covid-19) and then took a boat ride on the Mississippi (all outside).

Statue of Dred and Harriet Scott, who filed for their freedom at this courthouse in 1846.

Some guy name Pulitzer started a paper here.

We spent our last day in Forest Park, visiting the St Louis art museum (inside but there were very few people) and renting a paddle boat.

St Lous Art Museum (from the paddle boat)

Boaters. Probably in a Trump parade.

And then, because all this civilization was tiring, we headed out on the road. Next stop …. Tennessee.

West Virginia

Beech Fork State Park is a small state park located in far western W. Virginia. It contains the end of the long, man-made, Beech Fork Lake.

Our view, looking west (mostly).

Our camp site was right on the lake with easy access for our kayak. We were surrounded by the usual mega-motor homes but we had a pretty big spot and it was quite nice. One of our neighbors came over to talk and told Roberta that he envied our “simple setup”.

View from the kayak

I went kayaking after we got set up. Roberta saw I was having fun so she had a go also.

Saw this deer swimming in the lake near the far shore.

The REAL kayaker

The next day we hiked the only real trail in the park, the Overlook Trail. Which turned out not to have much of an overlook, but it was fun and we made a friend.

Our W. Virginia hiking buddy.

Even though we are quite a bit further south now, the evenings were quite pleasant (in the 60’s) and we had no trouble sleeping but we no longer needed wool caps in the morning.

Happy camper enjoys lousy cell service.

Sunset from our camp.

Four States in Two Days

Leaving Chicago…. Heading East

We had planned to primitive camp somewhere in Ohio after leaving Chicago but, since the hotel in Chicago did not have a laundry service, we opted for a hotel in Batesville, Indiana with a guest laundry. This gave us new state #1, Indiana.

There wasn’t much in Batesville (and we were pretty busy doing laundry) but the next morning we drove 3 miles to Oldenburg, a picturesque little town with a decidedly German feel (all the signs were in English and German).

Cincinatti

We tried…

We bagged our second state the next morning when we hit Cincinatti and stopped to stroll around down by the Ohio River.

The enemy!

Cute girl with Cincinnati in the background.

The Ohio River. Bigger than I imagined.

Two lost Texans.

And then back on the road, heading east, next stop: Ashland, Kentucky.  We were driving right by Ashland (or nearly by) and decided to stop and take a few pictures of Andrew Dansby’s boyhood home, which gave us our third new state.

In front of an iconic tourist shrine, Andrew Dansby’s boyhood home.

After Ashland it was a short drive to  our home for the next two nights, Beech Fork State Park near Huntington, W. Virginia and our fourth state!

Beech Fork State Park, W. Virginia. Our new home.

 

 

Chicago and…. showers!

So after 7 days of camping we hit Chicago after traveling the entire length of the eastern side of Lake Michigan and a hotel (21C) and showers! The room was nice and the art was cool but this was the first day they were open and they had no room service or ice. No ice. And no guest laundry! Oh well… this caused a change of plans …. more on that later.

John Hancock Tower

Our first stop on our walking tour of Chicago was the water tower, one of the only structures to survive the famous fire.

The Water Tower with the John Hancock building in the background.

We noticed the Hancock Tower as we were taking pictures of the water tower and walked over to take a look. Turns out they have a viewing level on the 94th floor and, since it had just opened and there was no one there, …..

Looking north from the 94th floor of the John Hancock building.

… and looking south.

And we were the only people there.

So we decided to have “breakfast”.

The Navy Pier

After the Hancock building we headed south on the “magnificent mile” and ended by walking east along the Chicago River to the Navy Pier. Most people we saw were wearing masks, at least indoors.

Chicago from the end of the Navy Pier

Tourists on the Navy Pier

And then lunch at a beer garden on the river (with outside seating!).  We have been very careful wearing masks when we are around other people and the city is relatively uncrowded.

Just …no.

The Bean

The bean.

We ended our walk in Millennium Park with Chicago’s famous “Bean” (it’s actually called The Cloud Gate). It’s quite a bit bigger than the one in Houston. And it’s on its side.

The outdoor theater in Millennium Park

We also saw the Crown Fountain, an interactive work of public art and video sculpture which probably is more impressive at night.

The Crown Fountain – he blinks.

21C Hotel Art

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the art exhibits in our hotel.  21C hotels only have art from the 21st century. Here is a sampling of the art in our hotel….

 

Cheboygan, baby!!!

Heading further east we left the UP via the bridge over the Straits of Mackinac (which connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron) into “downstate” Michigan.

Mackinac Straits bridge

Cheboygan State Park and Lake Huron

We arrived at our campsite around noon, set up camp and then went for a hike across the small peninsula that makes up the park to Lake Huron (the campground is on a small protected bay off the lake).

Hiking to the beach.

Lake Huron!

Another lovely beach

This makes our third Great Lake! When we got back to camp I took the kayak out for a spin in our little bay.

Path from our camp to the bay.

That man needs a shave!

Bobbing on the waves.

We were only here for one night which was probably good since the campsites were very close together and we could here at least one person snoring.

Getting inventive for grilling our fake-brats.

One last sunset….

Another Day, Another Great Lake…

The UP (Upper Peninsula)

Leaving Wisconsin behind we headed east toward  the western edge of Lake Michigan in that funny part of Michigan that is isolated from the rest of the state.  This is a very conservative area, we saw tons of Trump signs.

It was still raining as we neared so we stopped at a Walmart and bought (the last!) small pavilion tent which made our evening much nicer.

Our little dry spot for dinner.

The next morning dawned sunny and dry so we flipped our tent over to dry.

Drying out in the sun.

Peninsula Point

Our campground was located on a peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan with Little Bay de Noc on the west and Big Bay de Noc on the east. “Noc” was a descriptive term for the local Indians. Our first day we drove out to the end of the peninsula where there is an old lighthouse.

Windy (but not raining!) at the point.

The Peninsula Point Lighthouse

Now that would be a tough flight!

This turned out to be one of our favorite campsites. It was big, isolated and we had our own little forest that bordered on the lake. Dinner was veggie-burgers on the grill.

The chef works with limited tools….

A pretty sunset….

Lake view just down from our campsite

Bay de Noc Grand Island National Heritage Trail

The next day we did a short (5-6 miles) section on the Bay de Noc Trail. The trail follows an old 40 mile Indian portage trail between lakes Michigan and Superior.

Hiking girl!

The  back to the campground for another beautiful sunset.

Another lovely sunset on Lake Michigan

Sunset

Last night on Lake Michigan