Dec 30, 2015

Halloween Homecoming

From Wisconsin, we began winding our way through Illinois backroads (making a big loop to avoid Chicago), over familiar midwestern terrain. We spent one last night in a Walmart parking lot. These sometimes sketchy boondocking nights (in a place we otherwise boycott) had by now become so familiar and dare-I-say a quite special and memorable part of our trip. I'll just say we know how to party after a long day of driving. And it's always pretty cool, the weird sense of comradery you have with the other over-nighters as you circle up your wagons.

Walmarts, despite being unremarkable in their overall existence, have proven to also been an interesting gauge for local vibes. As mundane as these behemoth monuments to capitalism are...the surrounding landscapes can still be breathtaking, the sunsets stunning, and the surrounding development revealing. I've written before how state and county parks are incredible for learning the social and political climate of a state or region (Alabama begging for donations, their gift shop full of of stuff from China vs. Oregon with endless local business sponsors, and boutique-style gift shops full of locally made goods). Post offices across the country are really interesting too. Their size, age, architecture, presidential plaques, and community billboards are always telling of that specific town. (Art deco in Oklahoma under Kennedy, vs. 100 sq ft wooden storefront in smalltown Iowa) 

So we were back east, heading toward home. It was strange to cross the Indiana border. Being on the back roads, we just happened to recognize that we crossed into Lake County. Very anticlimactic after being gone so far, for so long. But we had one last big camping trip to look forward to - the annual McCabe Halloween Camp at Tippecanoe River State Park. It was surreal pulling into a familiar park, having a reservation, and the biggest hugs waiting for us from Ed's mom and dad. Such a comfort, a relief, a daze. We made it back alive! No major catastrophes, every prayer answered. We had such a great week, camping with family and seeing our loved ones again after so long. 

Our last campsite of the journey

Bird watching, and catching up with cousin John

Required trek up the firetower

Fascinating history - new informational signs since our last visit, yay Indiana

Camping in the trees, like God intended!

Park signage

Getting re-acquainted with the locals


Halloween is taken pretty seriously around here

My mountain man - back in the midwest.

The following December, we suddenly lost Ed's mom Sandi. We are enormously thankful to have returned home, and were able to enjoy this time with her. We had all agreed it was the best Halloween camping trip yet. It's always been a very special tradition, and Sandi is the one who made it so.

It's been a major adjustment this past year. Life comes and goes. We lost Sandi, and were given Juniper. The year has held the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Everything is different, and we'll never see things the same again. We miss the road and think of that big wilderness every single day. It's comforting just to know it's out there. Being. We still have ol' Hodor, and will always have plans swirling in our minds for future travels. We hope to get out on some weeks or maybe a month long trip with Juniper in 2016. The older she gets, hopefully the longer our trips and hikes can be. So excited to teach her all about the planet.

She's already been on a few hiking trails

  I hope to chronicle our future travels, and park geekery here on the blog, so stay tuned.

Oct 1, 2015

Homeward Bound

Ok dedicated readers, it's been a year since we camped at Palisades where our story left off...thank you to those hassling me to finish this blog ;)

Departing from Palisades State park, we continued east, making a quick stop at Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota. It was a rainy day and the mosquitoes were brutal so we did not see much of the actual quarries, but we enjoyed the visitors center and learned about the history, culture, and geology of the area.

"Oral tradition tells us that the site was used by people of all tribes, and that all tribes - even enemies - laid down their arms before quarrying side by side. Archaeological evidence shows many different tribes quarried here. By 1700, the Dakota Sioux were the dominant presence at the pipestone quarries." Learn more about Pipestone

From here, we called it our Homecoming Tour. We were able to visit some dear friends before coasting back into Indiana. Hardly any pictures from these visits as they were much too short, and we had more important things at hand than documentation, I did manage a few random shots.

We got to camp outside of Minneapolis and spend some time with cousin Joshua, Adrienne, and family, and our friend Alan. It was really great to catch up with these Hoosier transplants, and speak face to face with old friends after being away from home for so long. Alan joined us camping one night, we were treated to some fun city walkabouts, late night campfire conversation, and worship at J+A's church.

Next we camped out in Iowa, in Chris and Amanda's driveway. They were so nice to let us to squeeze in there for a while, and even share a visit from Chris's lovely mother. We enjoyed bike rides, apple picking, campus and greenhouse tours, homebrew, local brew, and the type of general shenanigans you'd come to expect from these fine humans.

On our way through Wisconsin we could not pass up another visit to Dr. Evermore's Forevertron. We got to catch up with Lady Eleanor again, and further explore the grounds.
"A mythic obsession"

Survey markers make great bug eyes

The bird orchestra is my favorite. I believe most of these were made in the 50's. Some are kinetic, and you can hear them creaking, clanging, and squeaking in the breeze...can't help but expect them to burst into a symphony at any moment.

Power On!

Next we stayed with the Booth family, we felt quite at home in their gorgeous and historic neighborhood (go WPA!). We were treated to delicious meals (and drinks), watched some cute kiddo soccer games, meandered through the local botanical garden, learned to knit (thanks Eileen!) and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather.

Next stop - INDIANA

Apr 30, 2015

Palisades State Park

After leaving the Badands, (and hitting up Wall Drug on our way out) we headed east for a short stay in Palisades State Park. It was our first taste of home, right on the edge of the Midwest. We camped amid deciduous trees and enjoyed cool evenings and warm campfires. Palisades State Park is situated along Split Rock Creek in South Eastern South Dakota.

These exposed rock cliffs are made up of pink Sioux Quartzite. This stone has deposits of soft catlinite used by Native tribes for carving sacred pipes. There are some great trails amid the beautiful sheer pink cliffs lining the water, some 50 feet high (of which we only have sub par phone pics). Really fun to explore and climb around.

We gave Hodor a little hand-lettered flair. Upon leaving an RV park in Washington, the furthest we had been from home, this was the parting word from the park owner, a good mantra we've adopted.

Scavenged some firewood leftover from weekend campers

And hung out with Bowie (this is the view looking up from the couch, Bowie sitting on our bed over the cab).

It was really nice camping, we enjoyed the trees, campfires, bike rides, and just took it real slow in preparation for the last stretch towards home. We already felt so close, no more deserts or mountains on the horizon.

Feb 20, 2015

Badlands National Park

"I've been about the world a lot, and pretty much over our own country, but I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Bad Lands. What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere - a distant architecture, ethereal, an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it." -Frank Lloyd Wright

Most National Parks will naturally have State Parks close by, (the awesome is usually wide-spreading throughout the region) and we had always stayed in those State Parks due to site availability (we almost never make reservations) and internet access (for work). But we were able to camp in Badlands National Park thanks to the elevation/lack of trees making internet no problem. Along with the somewhat 'spartan' campground and hot weather, plenty of sites were available. We stayed in a loop with no utilities, and put our solar panels to good use for the week. 

Our view to the north east

Of course the sky and weather affect any landscape, but the Badlands will change drastically depending on the sky. It's a different park from one minute to the next.

The Badlands have a mystic quiet about them. Every evening we were treated to a breathtaking sunset. I made it a ritual to climb up onto the roof each morning to catch that Badlands horizon and sunrise alpenglow. The moon was brand new so the stars were at their brightest. We were finally in the right time and place to spy the teapot, an asterism inside of the the Sagittarius constellation. The Milky Way looks like it's steaming from the spout :) We want to return another time to see the park under a full moon.

In our hiking and exploration we saw some big horned sheep and our favorite - prairie dogs!

Prairie dog town. Could sit here all day watching these guys.

The park is full of fossils, and striking bands of color in each layer of sediment and soil. We see that this landscape began as a shallow sea. Continental plates shoving together (which formed the Rockies) caused this area to rise and drain. A subtropical forest developed and eventually gave way to a savannah and grassland similar to the prairies we have here today.

The visitor's center is really great, full of paleontology exhibits and regional history (spoiler: the Natives got completely screwed). There is a lab in the park and you can observe paleontologists and work, cleaning, revealing, and studying newly discovered fossils. There is evidence of all kinds of strange animals, like the Mesohippus for example - a small three toed ancestor of our modern horse. Now we both want to be Park Rangers and paleontologists...and geologists and botanists and...

Thanks for reading if you're reading,

A photo posted by Cori (@trailandcompass) on

Jan 12, 2015

Bear Tipi

After we had (reluctantly) left the mystical landscapes of Yellowstone and the Tetons, it was time to push on through the wild and weird landscapes of Wyoming.

Devils Tower was to be our next stop, but since it was such a long distance, we found a stopping point in the North-Central portion of Wyoming. A ‘resort,’ or so it was called.

Undrinkable water due to fracking and drilling in the region, non-working showers and facilities, and awkward layouts nearly drove us away, in spite of the fact that we had already paid for a couple of nights. Lucky for us, a friendly (albeit eccentric) neighbor offered us fresh drinking water. We ended up sticking it out, although it certainly wasn’t our preferred course of action.

The sunsets were always pretty though.

And so, when the weekend was upon us, we moved forward toward Devils Tower. Approaching the tower is almost dream-like. Such an amazing and rare example of columnar jointing (similar to that of Devil’s Postpile in CA) leaves little room for trite description.
...approaching from the south, about 5 miles away

The view from our campsite

The Circle of Sacred Smoke. The tower was the location where White Buffalo Calf Woman delivered the first sacred pipe to the Lakota people. To get this nicely framed view, you must bow down slightly. I imagine the placement was entirely deliberate, prompting a bit of reverence for the tower which is considered sacred by over 20 tribes.

"May peace prevail on earth"

For an idea of scale, there is a tiny climber standing on top of the column in the middle/top of the picture,

The natives of the area (the Lakota, Arapaho, and several other tribes) referred to this structure, not as the ‘conventional’ name that we decided to give it, but rather as Bear Lodge, Bear Tipi, Bear Butte, or Tree Rock.

Native legend tells that there were once 8 siblings playing in the forest – a brother and seven sisters. The brother had been dabbling in the ways of magic, and accidentally turned himself into a huge bear. Terrified, the sisters ran away from the bear that was once their brother.
The sisters came to a tree stump, and prayed that the tree would save them from the evil bear. The tree spoke to the sisters and offered to save them. And so the tree stump grew and grew, taking the sisters to safety, while the bear jumped and scratched all around the tree stump to get to the sisters – to no avail.
The sisters finally jumped from the tree stump into the heavens and became the Pleiades constellation. And the bear was eventually able to jump after them, and became the Ursa Major (big bear) constellation. But the sisters are eternally out of the bear’s reach.

The first evening we were there, we did a short night-hike and got to see the Ursa Major constellation directly above the tower’s silhouette, and the Pleiades off in the distance. Truly a wonder to behold!
We hiked nearly all of the trails in the park, including two concentric circles around the tower itself – allowing us to survey its majesty from every angle.

View along the Red Beds Trail

The prairie dog villages around the tower gave the experience a touch of adorable splendor. The trail from the campground to the tower took us straight through a village, these cuties were all over, barking their cute squeak-barks at us.

Silent reverence, with a touch of cuteness, made our experience at Devils Tower (or Bear Butte) one that we will not soon forget.
Next up: the Badlands of South Dakota.