Tag Archives: hiking

Free Things to Do in Rapid City: Hiking to the Strato Bowl

Free Things to Do in Rapid City: Hiking to the Strato Bowl

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The Strato Bowl is the best of both worlds for us: Hiking for me, aviation for Mike. It was the such a fun Labor Day outing. We got some exercise, enjoyed incredible views and learned something new about aviation history.

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The Stratobowl is a small, flat valley completely surrounded by the Black Hills where some of the first early manned balloon flights were launched in the 1930s. In 1934 and 1935, the Army Air Corps and National Geographic Society launched manned balloon flights into the stratosphere from this location to a record 72,395 feet. The Explorer II flight proved man could survive the altitude in a pressurized capsule, an important part of the space program and our quest to walk on the moon. Since then, the Stratobowl has hosted aviation pioneers Ed Yost, Steve Fossett, Troy Bradley and others.

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The view is spectacular. There are few places where you will see such an interesting view including pine-covered hills, wide blue skies and the small stream that winds through that peculiar flat valley nestled between the Hills.

 

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Dogs are welcome on this  1.7-mile, moderately trafficked out-and-back trail. To get there, take Mount Rushmore Road into the Black Hills (16). Stay on 16 past Reptile Gardens and Bear Country USA. Just past the service station is a small parking area on the right-hand side (westbound), marked by powerlines.

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Kayaking on the Gulf Coast

Kayaking on the Gulf Coast

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

We only stayed in Cedar Key, Florida, for a week, but we packed it full of fun stuff. One of our favorite things was kayaking out to Atsena Otie (which means cedar island in a tribal language). Mike and I shared a kayak and accompanied guide Mandy Davis and three of her friends on an awesome daylong adventure.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

Mandy is an accomplished, seasoned naturalist and guide who’s recently set up shop in Cedar Key. She runs Hidden Coast Outdoors, and the Atsena Otie adventure is one of many tours she offers. Not only did Mandy show us how to kayak, but she also educated us on the history of Cedar Key. We learned that the city of Cedar Key was located on Atsena Otie Island. Cedar Key was an important port. Two mills on the island produced ‘cedar’ slats for shipment to northern pencil factories. Economic decline began when Henry Plant’s railroad to Tampa began service in 1886, and a devastating Atlantic hurricane in 1896 was the final blow.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

We made the short hike to the now-closed pier and the cemetery. Mandy brought along paper and crayons so we could take headstone rubbings. I chose a grave marker with my name (except with a Z instead of an S). What a unique souvenir! We then kayaked further east for lunch. Mandy prepared a homemade, gourmet Mexican meal for us, and we ate on the beach near eaglets and other water birds.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

It was a glorious experience, so much fun and a wonderful workout.  $90 (per person) VERY well spent!!

Sunday morning hike

Sunday morning hike

hiking, Red Rock, Las Vegas, Nevada, Calico Basin, travel, photography, iPhoneography, Instagram, exercise, outdoors

While we were back in Vegas, we returned to a cherished tradition: a weekend hike in Red Rock with friends and the bark babies. Sheryl is a fellow writer. She’s full of sass and sarcasm and funny as heck.

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She’s also a dog lover, mama of a cream-colored girl named Akasha. Sheryl helped us find our little man Meeko at the adoption center after a hike last spring. She drove him home for us. On this warm, clear Sunday, the dogs roamed free while we got caught up, periodically stopping to admire the stunning backdrop we’d been away from for so long.

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Woodlake Park (Lake City, Colorado)

Woodlake Park (Lake City, Colorado)

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En route to Mike’s next gig in Rapid City, South Dakota, we stopped in Lake City, Colorado, to visit his middle daughter. When our first-choice campground didn’t have any openings, we settled on Woodlake Park, two-and-a-half miles south of town. The campground turned out to be great, but getting there proved to be rather challenging…all because we followed the GPS.

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The GPS took us halfway up Highway 149S.  The Silver Thread Scenic Highway, as 149 is also known, lives up to its name.  It is, indeed, scenic and beautiful.  However, south of Lake City, it becomes steep and windy, not particularly RV-friendly.  Thinking we were almost to the campground, we didn’t worry too much, although we weren’t looking terribly forward to driving back down.  However, when we got to the bend in the road where the campground was supposed to be, there was nothing but trees… and no place to turn around.  With drizzle accompanying us, we continued motoring up, until we found a state park we could turn into.  About a 1/2 mile in, we found a spot to unhook the Jeep, back the rig up and turn around.  Heading back down the mountain, we easily saw the sign for our campground.  Because it was set back from the highway, it wasn’t visible going up, but it was clear as day coming down.  Whew! What a relief!

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We were assigned spot J on the forest side of the park, which is the new side.  The full-hookup spots are very roomy, plenty of space to spread out and have a little distance from your neighbor.  Trash cans are discreetly positioned throughout, and we were intrigued by the posted signs that advised us not to put any trash into them after 7:30 p.m.  When we saw that the garbage truck near the office was surrounded by an electrified fence , we put two and two together and realized that these were precautions for keeping the bears away.

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The river side of the park.

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The forest side of the park.

There’re plenty of hiking trails around the park that are also terrific for running or bike riding.  Mike and I rode the bikes one day, and I ran and hiked on the others.  Although it’s secluded, the area is safe.  The main thing to be aware of is the altitude’s impact on your breathing.

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Garbage truck surrounded by an electrified fence

Staying at Woodlake, we were perfectly situated to venture into Lake City to grab a coffee at Mean Jean’s, wander the shops, or see a play at the Mary Stigall Theatre.  We also had easy access to the four-wheeling trails in the area.  After the day’s activities, we could return home to our peaceful spot, lulled to sleep at night by the burbling river and welcomed each morning by the fog-topped trees.

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