Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: Travel (Page 1 of 3)

Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave Sign

Wind Cave National Park is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, about 10 miles north of the town of Hot Springs. Wind Cave National Park was established in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt and was the 7th National Park to be created in the United States, and the first cave to be made a National Park. With 149 miles of explored passageways, Wind Cave is the 7th longest cave in the world.

Boxwork in Wind Cave

Wind Cave is a barometric cave, meaning it equalizes the pressure in the cave to the air above which causes the cave to breathe. The cave got its name when two brothers discovered air blowing from a hole in the ground at the natural entrance to the cave. Wind Cave is known for a calcite formation known as boxwork (above). 95% of the boxwork in the world can be found in Wind Cave.

Aboveground,the park is home to the largest remaining mixed-grass prairie in the United States. The grasslands can be explored through 30 miles of hiking trails where bison, elk, pronghorns, prairie dogs, and other animals roam freely.

Wind Cave BoxworkThe park offers several different cave tours each day but they are very popular and can sell out by mid-morning in the peak season. Knowing this, I arrived shortly after the visitor center opened and had to wait an hour and a half in direct sunlight and unseasonable heat to get tickets. I ended up doing the Natural Entrance Tour which is a longer tour but it doesn’t involve crawling through the cave. They sell 40 tickets per tour so it was pretty crowded in the cave. They try to move so many people through that you are kind of herded through it without really being able to appreciate it. The group I was with was not great and they kept talking over the ranger so all-in-all I did not have a great experience.

I don’t understand why they are not selling tickets in advance. Recreation.gov already exists, the other cave parks are using it for this exact thing. They can save some tickets to be sold same day, but it’s ridiculous that you would have to wait in the hot sun to buy tickets for a tour. I wish there was a way to tour the cave with fewer people and be able to actually appreciate it. It’s possible that some of my bad experience was just due to the other people in my group and if I went back it might be better. If you really like caves or you have a goal to visit all 63 National Parks, obviously you should check out Wind Cave. Otherwise, I enjoyed Jewel Cave (which I will talk about next week) much more.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Custer State Park

Path Around Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a large park on the scale of some of the most popular national parks. If there is some type of outdoor recreation you enjoy, I’m sure it can be found at Custer State Park. From hiking and camping to rock climbing and scenic drives, there is something for everyone at Custer.

Getting Ready for the Hay RideThe 71,000 acres of Custer State Park is home to a variety of wildlife. The best way to see the wildlife is to drive the Wildlife Loop Road. Bison, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats, and Prairie Dogs can be seen along the road. For my birthday, we took the Hayride through the wildlife loop road (left) and it was fun because our guide slowed down in areas where the animals are likely to be found and talked to us about them. At the end of the tour, we had a chuckwagon cookout and sing along which was a lot of fun and the food was good too! If you’re in for an off-road experience, the Buffalo Safari Jeep tour looked fun too!

Needles Highway

Probably the most scenic drive in Custer State Park is the Needles Highway. The Needles Highway takes you through pine forests and the unique needles rock formations. The drive isn’t for the faint of heart or those with oversized vehicles because there are some hairpin turns and one-lane tunnels through the Needles. I have heard that the road can get pretty crowded in the summer but we found that driving in the late afternoon or early evening we were able to enjoy the drive without crowds. We enjoyed the drive so much that we did it several times while we were staying in the area.

There are several good lakes for paddling in the park but Sylvan Lake (top) is probably the most popular. The unique rock formations are fun to paddle around and explore. It is a landscape unlike I had ever seen before. The downside of Sylvan Lake is that is fairly small and we had gone around it twice in probably less than half an hour. We were going to check out the bigger Stockade Lake after but when we got there it was closed due to bacteria. Oh well, I guess that gives us a reason to return, right?

The Black Hills really surprised me. I didn’t expect the scenic beauty that can be found at Custer and the surrounding area. I would love to return and be able to explore deeper into the park. I would love to stay at one of the many campgrounds or lodges. If you are going to be in the Black Hills, be sure to check out Custer State Park. You will not be disappointed.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Custer Pinterest Graphic

Custer State Park Pin

Epic National Park Road Trip

For the benefit and enjoyment of the people

We are back from our biggest trip yet. We were gone for 23 days, visiting 7 national parks, 4 other National park service sites, and 4 state parks spanning 12 states (8 of which were new to us). We had incredible luck on the trip securing a reasonably priced rental car and managing to score last-minute reservations at two incredibly popular national park lodges. To top off our luck, the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National park opened for the season on the day we needed to use it to get from one end of the park to the other.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip during the busiest summers for our National Parks ever! Throughout this trip report, I will share our experiences with the crowds and ways to avoid the worst of the congestion.

Here’s a little breakdown of the trip and a sneak peek of what is to come throughout this trip report:

  1. Ottowa, IL
  2. Dakota Dunes, SD
    • Ponca State Park
    • Badlands National Park
  3. Custer, SD
    • Custer State Park
    • Mt. Rushmore National Memorial
    • Wind Cave National Park
    • Jewel Cave National Monument
    • Devils Tower National Monument
  4. Old Faithful Inn
    • Yellowstone National Park
    • Grand Teton National Park
  5. Rising Sun Motor Inn
    • GlacierNational Park
  6. Watford City, ND
    • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  7. Moorhead, MN
    • Mall of America
    • Wisconsin Dells
  8. Madison WI
    • Indiana Dunes National Park

We did SO much on this trip, this will probably take me months to recap, but I am looking forward to it! Thanks for stopping by!  To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Road Trip Pin

Ocqueoc Falls

Ocqueoc Falls

Ocqueoc Falls is the largest and only named waterfall in Michigan’s lower peninsula. When you compare it to some of the grander falls (Tahquamenon, Bond, Munising Falls), Ocqueoc doesn’t really stand out, but at less than an hour’s drive from Mackinaw City or Alpena, it is a fun excursion in the lower peninsula.

One way that Ocqueoc Falls stands out from many other Michigan waterfalls is that you can swim in it. This is a popular northern Michigan swimming hole. Even though it was only 50 degrees out when we visited, a teenager was swimming under the falls. I was glad the long exposure blurred her out or my photos may not have been usable.

With the completion of the bicentennial pathway in 2012, Ocqueoc falls is now accessible to all visitors and is the first universally accessibly waterfall in the United States with a wide path with no stairs from the parking lot to the falls. There is even a tiered transfer station, allowing a person who uses a wheelchair to get in the water. Near the falls is a picnic area with ADA-compliant picnic tables making this one of the most accessible outdoor spaces in the state and possibly the whole country.

Across the street from the falls, there is a rustic state forest service campground with 13 small campsites, an outhouse, and a hand pump for water. Reservations are not accepted, the sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There may not be a lot of amenities, but I’ve heard there is good fishing in the Ocqueoc River which runs through the campground.

Overall, we didn’t spend a lot of time here, but it was a fun stop and would be a great place to explore if someone in your family uses a wheelchair. The campground looks like a nice, quiet place to spend a weekend.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week when I begin the recap of my western National Park adventure! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Remember the Alamo

The Alamo

When you think of San Antonio, Texas, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the Alamo. The Alamo is one of the most famous buildings in all of Texas and everyone has heard the phrase “Remember the Alamo”. Before visiting, I had heard from numerous people that located in with all the modern buildings, the Alamo seems small and underwhelming. So, I went into the visit with very low expectations.

Known originally as Misión San Antonio de Valero, Alamo was built by the Spanish as a mission to the local native people, just like other San Antonio Missions. Construction began in 1740. By 1793, the mission was secularized, meaning the land and assets were divided up among the mission residents. By the early 1800s it became occupied by the Spanish military and was used as a political prison during Mexico’s War of Independence. Later, the Alamo was used as San Antonio’s first hospital.

In 1835, the Texas Revolution began. Following Texan victories at Mission Concepción and the Grass Fight, the Texans began to fortify both the Alamo and the town of San Antonio. For thirteen days, the Alamo was under fire. On March 6, 1836, the fighting ceased after all of the defenders of the Alamo had perished, including Davy Crockett and James Bowie (of Bowie knife fame). On April 21 at the Battle of San Jacinto, cries of “Remember the Alamo” were heard from the Texans in battle.

The Alamo is free to visit but reservations are required. Somehow, in all of my obsessive planning, I missed the reservation part and when we got there, all of the reservations to visit the inside of the church were taken (reservations are not needed to walk around the gardens and see the statues outside the church building).  We were told all that was available was an outside history talk. I was disappointed in this, but we paid a small fee for the talk and went on our day. When we came back the next day for the talk we discovered that at the end of the talk we got to go inside and see the Alamo. I don’t know why this wasn’t better explained to us when we bought our tickets, but it worked out in the end.

The history talk went into much more detail than the brief history I outlined here. If that is something you’re interested in, I highly recommend it! Photography is not allowed because of the sensitive nature of this historic site, so if you want to know what it looks like inside, I recommend you get your free tickets in advance at thealamo.org.

Thanks for stopping by! To find out more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Alamo Pinterest Graphic Davy Crockett Statue Alamo Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Wing

Runaway RangeRunner First Impressions

Runaway Rangerunner

I first heard about Runaway Campers years ago on an episode of the Improve Photography Podcast as an inexpensive place to sleep on a photo trip. I have followed Runaway since then until the time was right to finally buy my own. The stars aligned and in May we put down a deposit on our very own micro camper. We were only able to run away with it for six nights before it got too cold, but I wanted to give you our first impressions of our new RangeRunner.

Camper from the dunes

Runaway calls itself America’s most affordable mini camper. They are built in the U.S. and you can visit the factory in Florida. With its low price point, it doesn’t have many amenities of the bigger, most expensive rigs. You won’t find a bathroom or kitchen inside that little trailer. Runaway currently sells three versions of its camper: the 4×8 CoolCamp, the 6×8 RangeRunner, and the off-road capable Venturist (available in both the 4×8 and 6×8 size). At one time Runaway made a version that you could stand up in called the Rouser and I know people are really hoping to see it come back soon.

Runaway campers pretty much come as an empty box (with an air conditioner) and the owner gets to modify it however they want. Some people just toss an air mattress in it and hit the road while others build cabinets and fold out beds. The camper can be whatever you want it to be.

One thing to note about Runaway Campers is they were made up of wood until the 2020 models. The new models are made out of a composite material that makes them lighter and also makes it so they shouldn’t have water damage, which has been a problem with the older models. You don’t need a big truck to tow a Runaway. We tow ours with a Subaru Outback.

We typically are people who prefer to buy used to save on the depreciation, but with these changes we decided to buy a new one. Due to higher demand and some supply chain issues, the build time on these campers is currently about 12 weeks. That is really nothing compared to some of the bigger camping brands where you may have to wait as long as 18 months for a new rig right now!

Selfie in front of the camper
Setting up camp for the first time at Cumberland Falls.

As tent campers, this little camper is really everything we need right now. If you read this blog regularly, you know that we love to take road trips, but setting up and taking down the tent many times on a trip really starts to get exhausting. With the camper, all we have to do is make sure the doors are locked, hitch up, and move on. The few times we’ve been out in it we noticed that not only is it faster to set up and take down than a tent, but it’s also easier than packing up a lot of the big rigs we see in the campgrounds. We refer to our RangeRunner as our tent on wheels.

Our little camper has also allowed us to camp in conditions that I’m not brave enough to tent camp in. We definitely wouldn’t have gone to D.H. Day with snow on the forecast in the tent, but the Runaway kept us warm and we had some power banks to run a small heater and charge our phones.

I am very excited to Runaway when the weather warms up and the snow melts. We already have four reservations booked for this summer to try out new campgrounds! To learn more about Runaway campers visit Runawaycampers.com.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Flashback Friday: Savannah Ferry

Savannah Ferry

Essential Tent Camping Packing List

Camping at Straits State Park

With COVID-19 sticking around this summer, many people are opting for vacations away from the crowds and into nature. Campgrounds filled up fast and it is very difficult to get a last minute site anywhere! With all these new campers out there, I wanted to share my must-haves for tent camping.
I keep my gear organized in big Rubbermaid bins: one for the tent supplies and another for kitchen. We tend to be minimalists when we camp so you won’t see portable AC units, outdoor lighting, or Crockpots on this list. This list is in no way exhaustive and may not be right for every camper, but it should help to get you started.
Tent:
  • Tent, poles, stakes, rain fly
  • Mallet or hammer
  • Ground cover
  • Sleeping pad, cot, or air mattress and pump
  • Sleeping bag, pillow
  • Extra blankets/sheets
  • Mat or rug for tent entrance
  • Dust pan/broom
  • Extension Cord
  • Fan
Kitchen
  • Food and Water
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Lighter or matches
  • Cooler and ice
  • Pot and/or pan
  • Utensils (tongs, serving spoon, spatula, can opener, knife)
  • Pot holder/oven mitt
  • Plates and/or bowls
  • Silverware
  • Cups, mugs
  • Cutting Board
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Cooking oil
  • Seasonings, condiments
  • Coffee maker (French press, Ready Set Joe)
  • Dishpan, biodegradable soap, and sponge
  • Paper Towel
  • Food storage container
  • Trash bags
  • Water bottles
  • Table Cloth
  • Dutch oven
  • Campfire grill
  • Pie iron/marshmallow roasting stick
  • Bottle opener/corkscrew
Other
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight/headlamp/lantern
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Firewood
  • Fire starter
  • Folding chairs/hammock
  • Multi-tool or knife
  • Hatchet
  • Clothesline and clothespins
  • Bungee cord
  • Backpack
  • Canopy or screen tent
  • Rubbermaid tubs
  • Outdoor shower or toilet and privacy tent
  • Towels
  • Shower Shoes
  • Toothbrushes and toiletries
  • Clothes

For a printable version of this list, click here.

Thanks for stopping by! Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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