In-tents Weekend

Wow. It’s June now. Meaning we are rapidly approaching our one-year anniversary in South Dakota. Yet, living here still feels like a novelty. I have no idea how that is possible.

It’s going to be a pretty busy but exciting week for us. We officially close on our house at noon on Tuesday. There is some debate over whether or not we’ll get our keys right away; Tara says the title company has to record the deed first. In any case, we’ll have them within a day, which means we’ll have a lot of work ahead of us over the next month. We plan to spend most evenings and weekends at the house stripping wallpaper, painting, cleaning, mowing, and planting. Need to get those things done before all our flooring is installed (scheduled for the end of June). Then, maybe we can actually think about moving in. We are already planning on simple dinners we can make over there, supplemented with takeout.

Also this week: my company is hosting a Nurses of Excellence awards banquet Thursday evening, and I’m traveling to Ellsworth AFB on Friday to meet with a group of people about some great programs they are offering military kids. And the summer issue of our parenting magazine lands. I’m exhausted just thinking of all these commitments.

Knowing full well this would be our last free weekend for a while, Tara and I decided to go camping. (Actually, I’d made the reservations back in March, before we’d even started looking at houses. The timing was just fortuitous.)

We almost bailed at the last minute. The weather last week was nuts – heavy rain caused flooding along Rapid Creek and the surrounding streams. Just when the waters began to recede, we had heavy thunderstorms roll through on Friday afternoon. Lots of rain, lightning, and hail. I was stuck in my car in the Safeway parking lot about an hour before we were scheduled to leave, waiting for the storms to die down. Cancelling was on my mind, believe me, but I didn’t want to be out the $60 reservation fee or the six bundles of firewood, five bags of ice, rack of baby back ribs, etc. we’d already purchased. There was a break in the action around 7:00 so we finally took off, not really sure what the weather was going to be doing at Sheridan Lake.

IMG_20190531_124601.jpg

This is why we almost cancelled our trip.

Fortunately, it was doing nothing. It was actually a lot nicer in the Black Hills than in town. Still, we rushed to get our tent set up just in case, and started a fire just as the sun was going down. It was a much later start than I would have liked, but the weather cooperated all weekend – other than a couple of distant rumbles of thunder and a few sprinkles Saturday evening, it was fine. That first night was cold, though. Pretty sure the temperature bottomed out around 40º and we were in a tent. Tara and I haven’t slept so closely to one another in a long time, lol.

IMG_20190601_073217.jpg

Check out that blue sky! No filter needed.

IMG_20190601_072904.jpg

Bloody Marys are a camping tradition of ours.

IMG_20190601_110754.jpg

Saturday morning hike in honor of National Trails Day.

IMG_20190601_184420.jpg

Does this plate scream summer, or what?!

IMG_20190602_111004_077.jpg

Saturday evening sunset over Sheridan Lake.

Overall, we had a great time. Broke down camp early and were back home before 10:00. An hour later it was storming like crazy: more lightning, thunder, rain, and hail. We really dodged a bullet!

That’ll most likely be our only camping trip this year, with all the work we’ll be doing on the house.

But you know what? BRING IT ON. We’re both eager to get a little dirt beneath our fingers so we can start this next chapter in our lives!

Spot 68: Pretty Great

Today is overcast and cool. It’s early afternoon and barely 60 degrees! Summer isn’t over yet – it’ll be back in the 80s tomorrow – but this is one sure sign that it won’t last forever. Living someplace with honest-to-god seasons is going to be a novelty, too. In the PNW, our temperatures would cool and the rainy season would kick in come fall, but it was rarely anything too dramatic. Last Thanksgiving it was 65 degrees. Any random July day could be 65 degrees. Pretty mild climate all things considered, which I’m sure is one of the draws. If you don’t mind getting wet.

Out here on the Great Plains, though? Let’s just say I’d better start shopping for a good pair of snow boots.

Fortunately the weather this past weekend was nice, which made for ideal camping conditions. Our destination was Sheridan Lake, just one of many spectacular bodies of water in the Black Hills.

DSC_0027

We had the perfect spot, too. There were just enough trees (the ever-present Ponderosa pines) to provide shade, and while we weren’t right next to the water, it was only a stone’s throw away.

2018-08-25 07.09.10.jpg

2018-08-25 07.09.26.jpg

Our first evening, we cooked bratwursts and beans over the campfire, enjoyed tasty adult beverages, and listened to music. Caught a pretty spectacular sunset, too:

2018-08-24 17.16.12-01.jpeg

Which was rivaled only by the next morning’s sunrise.

2018-08-25 04.31.11.jpg

Saturday, after breakfast, we hiked the Centennial Flume Trail, but didn’t have a very reliable map and because it branches off in several different directions, we ended up cutting our hike short at just over three miles. Which was probably just as well, because it was warming up by then and we had Bloody Marys to drink back at the campground!

Our second night was a repeat of the first, only we had ribeye steaks and corn on the cob, and we played a game of Cribbage. We’d actually forgotten some food at home, so we ended up running back to the apartment at one point. Good thing it’s only a half-hour drive away. When we returned to camp the sky was growing dark and ominous, and we actually had to duck inside the tent for a few minutes. But after a few rumbles of thunder, some gusty winds, and a brief smattering of raindrops, the sky cleared and it went back to being perfect.

Sunday we decided to give our hike another go after learning which way to go, but this time we hit the trail super early – 6:30. It was nice and cool and the morning light on the lake was stunning.

IMG_20180827_065541_853.jpg

The hike itself is pretty interesting. The Flume Trail follows the path of the Rockerville Flume, which carried water along a 20-mile stretch for placer gold mining operations in the 1880s. After dropping into the Spring Creek Canyon, the trail climbs high into the hills above, and you can see the crumbled remains of the flume itself, as well as a couple of abandoned tunnels. Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart, as the trail is pretty narrow in a couple of spots and it’s a LONG way down, plus you’re scrambling over rocks. But the views are worth it.

We were back at camp by 9:30, and enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast and read books for a couple of hours before it was time to break down camp and head home. All in all it was a great weekend getaway, and we can’t wait to do some more camping next summer! I figure things will be a little less hectic then since, you know, we won’t be busy planning this big 1,250-mile cross-country move.

Upgrade to a King

The weather has taken a definite turn the past couple of days and given us an early taste of fall. It’s going to be short-lived, but is still a nice reminder that “summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” (Sonnet 18 is the only Shakespeare work I can quote. I’m pretty sure I memorized that one to impress the ladies once upon a time, ha.) Yesterday we awoke to a cold rain and gusty winds. The high never made it above 65, which felt wonderful, to be honest. IMG_20180819_105334_295

And then this morning I was up early for a walk around the neighborhood and practically froze my ass off. I had to put on a hoodie and quickly regretted not grabbing gloves, too. Rapid City got down to 43 degrees. Brr! It’s funny to think in a few months a temperature like that will feel downright toasty.

I sometimes forget the seasons are going to change – and quite dramatically, at that. It’s been perpetual summer here ever since we arrived, so this is all I know right now. I think that’s why this morning’s unexpected chill was such a shock to the system. It’s pretty much always been 65 degrees when I’ve gone for a morning walk. Where did this come from?!

Fortunately, Saturday’s weather was perfect, so we ended up going to the Central States Fair. Neither Tara nor I had been to a fair in years, but Rapid City’s seemed so quaint and inexpensive compared to what I’m used to, we couldn’t resist! I mean, admission cost $3 per person, and there was plenty of free parking in a grassy lot just steps from the main gate. Hell, the “gate” wasn’t even an actual gate, but a couple of wooden podiums staffed by friendly volunteers. It would have cost us a total of $29.50 to gain admission to the Clark County Fair in Washington this year, so you can understand my excitement over handing them a $10 bill and getting change back.

IMG_20180818_210149_809

The fair itself was your typical county fair. We strolled the midway, checked out the arts & crafts and livestock exhibits, and ate bad-for-you-but-oh-so-good fair food. We even struck up a conversation with an oil & vinegar vendor who’d come all the way from La Grande, Oregon to sell his wares. I felt sorry for the guy because he’d traveled such a distance and business wasn’t as brisk as he’d hoped. We bought a couple of bottles but he gave us one for free and would only take half price on the others. He actually said if we come back near the end he’d load us up with more bottles for free. I guess we made quite the impression!

Funny side note: I bought a bottle of strawberry and black pepper balsamic vinegar which his card touted was “Amazing in Bloody Marys!” I asked him if he’d ever actually used it in a Bloody Mary and he just looked at me and laughed. “Hell, no!” he admitted. “That’s just something I wrote to help it sell!” Well, I didn’t think it was a completely horrible idea, so the next morning I made myself a Bloody Mary using the vinegar and you know what? It was pretty damn good.

Guy’s sitting on a goldmine and doesn’t even know it.

After the fair, we came home and watched the Broncos-Bears preseason football game. It was great, right up until the last few minutes.

Sunday we bundled up against the early autumn chill and headed out to Denver Mattress to buy a king bed. It looks like we might have our first visitors Labor Day weekend, as my parents have expressed an interest in flying out here. Yay! Tara’s been wanting to upgrade to a king for years and we’ll need a spare bed for guests, so it was time to bite the bullet and get ‘er done. Found one we both liked and were in and out of the store in less than an hour. The only downside? It has to be ordered from Sealy and might take as long as two weeks to arrive, so we may have to use the air mattress for this particular visit.

(Don’t worry, mom and dad. We’ll give you the bed.)

Speaking of the air mattress, we’ll be using it this weekend because we’re going camping. I booked us a reservation at Sheridan Lake the week after we got here (something that would have been impossible in the PNW, where you have to book a spot a year in advance these days). We’re looking forward to doing a bit of hiking, enjoying a roaring campfire, and indulging in a few of those strawberry and black pepper balsamic vinegar-infused Bloody Marys! The weather looks to be perfect, too: low 80s and dry. I don’t imagine tent camping in a thunderstorm is much fun.