Oct 16 Newton Hill State Park, South Dakota

Newton Hills Park

South Dakota

What a great find!  This park and the delightful town of Canton turned out to be a great respite after the past few days.  The temperature was perfect for hiking (mid 50’s)  and the nights not too cold (high 30’s).   As i entered the park I was given the sense of small town…. something that brings back memories of my childhood in New Hampshire.


Self serve honor system for wood.


I found a perfect campsite

Since we were the only people in the entire park we had complete solitude.

An early morning wake up by the Poodles.  They’re eager to go.  Me? Not so much.  I heard it pouring rain all night and I stubbornly refuse to face another dreary day.  The weather called for blue skies but it’s hard to believe after the heavy clouds and pouring rain of last night.  Of course you can’t put off poodles who have decided to throw their bodies across yours, so I relent.


I step out into a crisp cool dry morning!  How could this be?

IMG_2332I decide to start the day with a few chores and head into town.  There’s a little café that looked like the perfect local spot for a real breakfast…  Ok… it’s the ONLY café.  Walking in, all eyes were on me… oy.   The room was filled with white-haired farmers eating hardy breakfasts of bacon, eggs and white toast.  I forgot that Wonderbread still exists!  I have a leisurely breakfast while my laundry finishes up at the Laundromat and I wait for the library to open.  The poodles aren’t happy that they’re sitting in a car when there’s a woods full of turkeys back at camp.

I spent two hours at the Canton IMG_2218library working on the blog.  It seems like all I do is play catch-up.  Just modifying the pictures takes for ever.  It’s a nice little library and seems to be a popular place.  Someone is here using the microfiche scanner as he works on research about the original rail line that passed through here.  Apparently his grandfather was one of the original owners.  There are volumes of antique books sitting on the shelf next to me.

The strangest background I found about Canton is not just bizarre and sadly shocking.  It was the site of the first Native American Asylum, built-in 1898.

    Hiawatha Insane Asylum


Blog Related Link

******I decided to pick up my laundry and head out to the woods.


We enjoyed several hikes one of which was Turkey Trot Trail where the poodles flushed out several wild turkeys.  Little did I realize that it’s Turkey hunting Season!  IMG_2331Well, the poodles were safe in their neon vests but it was a bit disconcerting to see the sign at the end of our day.


Weird bugs
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These bugs grossed me out but I couldn’t stop looking for piles of them….

While I was busy scouting out bugs, the Poodles found mud to play in….YIKES

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On top of the mud… they found BURRS…..

Back to the camp we headed.  For a bath


The burrs were so imbedded that I had to have Nickel and Eureka’s ears down.



In the short time the burrs were twisted in Eureka’s ear hair, they rubbed welts into her skin


IMG_2253After all of this we finally called it a day!!!

Oct 15 The BadLands






Wake up in the morning IMG_1977 We see that we’re in the closed entrance to the Badlands National Park camping ground.  Between the shut down and this being a more remote part of the park, only a few local trucks drive by.  It’s about 8am and I decided to move without breakfast… the poodles eat of course.   It’s still sleet and wind but I  want to explore the area a little.

Since this is a regular thorough fare, the road through this part of the park isn’t gated off.  They have carefully closed every possible vista point though!



 Luckily  I find another gravel road (not mud!) with a trail head…. So off we go for a hike. IMG_2052


one benefit of hiking in a storm!

IMG_2050  IMG_2030 IMG_2020 IMG_2012 I don’t know how far we hiked.   Between the very slippery mud, prickly pears and wind we probably didn’t get very far.  IMG_2029 We were out a good three hours though and were able to see the park in one of it’s IMG_2046 unique IMG_1998moods. IMG_1997

The end of a long hike

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We’re all very happy to get back into the car…


Ok, So  and I were!

Mica continued on without us.

He went on ahead for another couple miles.

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Good Bye Badlands




Onward to Sioux City


  My plan at this point is to look for hotel.  We’re all tired, muddy and ready for a splurge.  The city between The Badlands and Sioux City is Sioux Falls.  It has a population of about 150,000 so I thought it would be a great place to bathe the dogs and run a few errands before getting a hotel in Sioux City (about 100 miles south of Sioux Falls).


The Fall colors are spectacular


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Very tired Poodles

After a frustrating 2 hours of trying to find my way around without GPS, I finally found a Petco with a self wash dog service.  Unfortunately, they required proof of Rabies on all the dogs.  I do Titers on the Poodles so there was no way to resolve the issue so back to the Interstate and southward we go.


My plans need to change

Muddy Dogs Hotel

I see a small state park named, Newton Hills, on the map and decide to check it out.  It’s about 25 miles south of Sioux Falls.  The park is outside a small town, Canton. As usual, it’s getting late as I pull into the campground and everything is shut down.  I figure out how to pay for a spot and roll into the completely empty park.

It’s beautiful

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny so I decide to pitch the tent and stay a few nights.


Oct 1- Arrive at Pierce’s

IMG_1149  The next morning it was already time to hit the road.  Our next stop was Bozeman to visit Ken and Linda Pierce.  They own Epic’s brother Banjo.


Mica taking in the fresh Montana Air

I had a number of purchases to make before we left town.  I got each of the poodles a nice hunting coat, ordered new glasses and picked up chains for the car.  At this point I’m afraid the car might explode.


Finally ‘really’ got going at 2:32. As you can see the weather was great and I had plenty of fuel for the trip.

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It wasn’t far out of Helena when the topography started to change, but more impressive was the obvious threat of a change in weather.


My plan


I had planned to travel through Bozeman on the way to Yellow Stone National Park.  Unfortunately, with the Government Close, the park was no longer an option.

park close

news park closure


Late that evening, The 4 poodles and I arrived at the Pierce’s.

It was a wonderful sight to see Linda, Ken and Banjo.  In no time we were enjoying a fantastic dinner of seafood pasta and crisp white wine.   I retired (quite tired) to their down stairs bedroom to find a bed thick with wool blankets and a lofty down comforter.


Mica and Eureka! making themselves comfortable in the very dog friendly home.


Sept 28- second night… Montana!

Found a lovely lunch spot.  It was next to a babbling brook teaming with life.  There were so many Water Striders that I had to take a picture (although you can’t really tell what it’s about…LOL).  They happen to be one of my favorite bugs.  I used to sit for hours watching them when I was in junior high.  I had a secret pond that I’d hike to with my little white dog.  We’d sit for hours and hours watching the swallows, beavers and bugs.


All those little black dots are Water Striders


Just some water action over plant life


Gravel and plants

We got our first sighting of snow!


Little did we know that in less than a week we’d be in for more snow than we’d bargained.

It was such a beautiful spot I considered camping here.  Until…….  Mica and TinTin disappeared for about 5 minutes.   I wasn’t worried since they never go very far and everyone had been romping in the stream with frequent ‘check-ins.’   Soon Mica and TinTin showed up but something was amiss.  TinTin was smacking her lips.  I thought she’d found some Deer candy.  Then I saw Mica with a rim of red around his mouth and smeared across his muzzle.  I knew immediately he’d found a carcass.  At our early camp I found a deer skin drying on the side of a stream and, while driving, I’d seen a significant number of guys out with guns.  IT’S HUNTING SEASON IN MONTANA!

I asked Mica to lead me to his ‘kill,’ and he was more than enthusiastic to share.  The deer wasn’t that old but I could see that the belly was starting to swell.  I’m sure it had been shot but never recovered. Two of its legs were well chewed.  I wasn’t concerned about the dogs eating the meat but it brought to mind the possibility of a bear coming across this and the fact that the dogs are out romping around… basically looking like big silver deer.  We were in a National Forest so technically there shouldn’t be any hunting but I decided that I needed to get some fluorescent jackets for the dogs.

PS.  Aren’t you glad I didn’t get pictures?!


After lunch we hit the road again and the dogs dropped off to sleep.

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The Changing Scenery





Once more Evening was approaching and I scouted out a camping site.  Since it was only to be one night I decided to sleep in the car once again.  I found a Forest Service Road that wound its way up a small mountain.  We went about 5 miles in.  It was open range and the small meadow I found was full of old Cow Flops.   The wind was picking up and the weather was threatening rain so I decided to back down the road a bit and find shelter under the canopy of Pinion Pines.




Camping food doesn’t have to be bad!

My prediction was right and we woke up the next morning to high winds,  lots d sleet and a DEAD battery.  Ironically, I think I drained it charging up the Auto Battery Charger.  I was charging it while driving and forgot to unplug it that night.  Luckily it did its job and we were on our way.

Sept 27 first night Montana

This morning we wake up to drop drop drop of rain on the tent. Nothing pounding, but I know this is just the beginning. It’s time to pack up.


Red skies at night, sailors delight
Red skies in morning, sailors take warning


IMG_1011  Earlier this morning I heard a huge bump outside the tent.  The dogs (mica) gave a short warning but hushed up pretty easily.   A short distance from the tent I discovered that the dumpster had been turned up side down.  My first thought was some giant bear did it…. alas…. it there were truck tracks in the dirt.  Just one last bit of maintenance for the closed park.  I’m sure it’s turned over, not to keep the bears out, but to keep people from filling it up when it can’t be emptied during the winter.

Today will be a long day of driving.  I plan on getting to Missoula before dark today.  I was able to pack most of the car before the rain really came down.  The Tent, of course was wet.  I’m really glad I’m using a tarp under the tent as it would have been a muddy mess to pack.  As it is, this tent is more trouble stuffing into it’s too small bag than it is erecting.  Oh well.

Said ‘good-bye’ to Salmon La Sac and headed back down I90.  Once in Idaho, I decided to stop at a rest area to dry out the tent.   There were high winds and it didn’t take long.  Someone stopped to offer help.  They were afraid the tent would blow away.  Little did they know that it weighs a mere 70 pounds…

Spent most of the day on the highway.  Made a quick stop in Missoula to buy some essentials.  I had waited for the purchases knowing that there was no sales tax in Montana.  I got a small fire extinguisher, CO detector, gloves, long underwear and a few other items.

It was getting to be early evening so I decided to find a spot to Car Camp off the highway.  About 20 miles out of Missoula I found signage for a Ghost Town/ National Forest.  Hummm…..  should be quiet there!  Unfortunately the Ghost Town had been a Garnet Mining Town and what was left of it were huge piles of stones that lined the road.  Not a place to stop.  I investigated a few side roads coming off the main dirt road but they only lead to small pockets of what appeared to be squatter’s camps.  I decided to let the dogs out for some exercise since we were in the middle of no where and they had a great time running with the car.  At one point I spotted a lone cow laying in the trees so I picked up the pace and the dogs were none the wiser.



A little further down the highway I found a sweet spot to stay for the night.  It was safely away from the main road and had no traffic.  It was late enough that the dogs were able to do enough investigating without getting into any trouble…. and then off to bed.

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We remain to have good weather.  I think we’re following a small storm system but don’t seem to be catching up with it.  The ground has been damp but the sky clear.

Sept 25 – Journey Begins

On The Road

The day has finally arrived and a fully packed car pulled out of Wendy’s and Joe’s driveway in the late this afternoon.  Joe thought it odd that I was making a mid-afternoon departure.  He said most people begin a long car trip in the late evening or early morning but I’d put off our departure for 3  days and I was eager to get started. Over the past week it seemed that the trip was never really going to happen.

Then, with a last wave, the trip began.

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Every weather channel warned of foul weather and the threatening black clouds gathered in support. I was trying to convince myself that a wet tent wasn’t going to be so bad, but I was definitely having a hard time resolving the loss of summer sun and refreshing dips in the river. At Snoqualmie pass the clouds hung heavy, engulfing the surrounding peaks.


I was pretty resolved on camping in the rain this first night, until we drove over the pass. The sky was mostly clear and blue with only a few patchy clouds.  My original plan had been to make it to Idaho the first night but that beautiful sky gave me a better idea… camp in my home turf.

Since we had plenty of time, I made a stop along first stop on the iron horse trail to let the dogs stretch their legs.


after a quick hike down the trail it was back in the car to find our camping spot.




While we sauntered up the trail I schemed about our camping spot and decided to make a visit to an old haunt of mine called Salmon La Sac.  It would be a 40 mile drive out-of-the-way but knew it would be the perfect spot.

I knew that the throngs of summer campers would be gone and we’d have the place to our selves. It’s a long slow windy drive through several tiny towns, one of which is Rosalyn. Rosalyn, is where the TV show Northern Exposures was partially filmed yet it still holds its simple quaintness. These towns brought back memories of traveling in remote Alaska. Short dead-ended streets with only a few tired run down houses. Tin roofs and snow mobiles. Speed limit, on the only road north to south, is 25 miles an hour. I stopped at the Market to by a lighter.

As we picked up speed past town, the dogs started to get excited as they picked up the unforgettable scent of the deep woods.

About 13 miles out, we started to pass a few National Forest parks, all of which were closed for the winter. How disappointing.

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Finally we came across a little camp area with a restroom, dumpster and about 5 campsites to choose from. I picked the site that looked over the river at the end of the cul-de-sac. I was eager to get the tent out and see how it was to set up. I’d only set it up once before in the Wahman’s front yard, and it was a bear to maneuver. It’s a big tent made of a polyester/canvas mix making it heavy and awkward for one person.

IMG_1044 IMG_1046 Despite it’s size, I LOVE LOVE this tent.  In general I love things that are well thought out and this tent is.  The construction is detailed and it has many extraordinary features.  Here is a link to setting up the TENT

The evening was seeing more and more blue sky. The weather seemed to be coming in from the north but the clouds were getting caught up in the mountains and breaking apart as they entered the valley. We’d found our rain shadow.


Although we’d hardly traveled very far on our first day out, with the combination of a fall sunset and the slight over cast,  dusk was already with us and we were ready to settle in for the night.