129-130 Logistics of a 4-week road trip Parts 1 and 2

Going on an extended road trip takes a lot of planning. Today I’m going to give you the basic day by day report of my recent trip that started with a drive to Isle Royale National Park and ended 28 days later. This is Latitude Photography Podcast episode 129 (and 130) for October 25 (and 26), 2021.

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Main Topic (notes for both episodes)

  • The Basics
    • The Car
    • 5124 Miles
    • 60+ Miles Hiked
    • 0 restaurants
    • Three 1-lb propane and three 8-oz iso-butane canisters
  • Lodging-Food-Etc.
    • Very few hotel stays
    • Camping all the way
    • Grocery stores only. No restaurants.
    • Clothing, hiking and sleeping and laundry
    • GPS watch
    • Cooking equipment
    • Camera equipment
    • Computer equipment
  • Initial drive out there
    • Day 1: Home to Bozeman, MT. A relatively uneventful drive. However, I did make one huge mistake. 
    • Day 2: Bozeman to Bismarck, ND. Just a really long drive. Didn’t start keeping a journal until on Isle Royale so not a lot of details here. Did get my NP pass at the hotel though.
    • Day 3: Bismarck to Grand Portage, MN (this section felt the longest). Had a very light breakfast at the hotel, but had to stop at the MN border to fix myself more. Had cubed potatoes. Left the highway at Moorhead, MN, and was on more rural roads from here on to Grand Portage. Arrived at about 7:00 p.m.
      Power had just been restored to the lodge, no communication yet though.
      Turns out no Verizon Cell coverage this far north anyway. Was unable to communicate with the wife regarding my status as hotel internet was down as well.
  • IRNP
    • Day 4_Monday: Ferry @ 6:15 a.m. About 3 hours to WIndigo. Roughly 45 people on the boat. Was limited to 40 lbs.
      Everyone disembarked for an orientation session by NPS staff. More than half were continuing onward to other destinations on the island.
      More details when I talk specifically about IRNP, but for now, least visited NP in lower 48, but most revisited.
      Went to NP visitor center, bought a map.
      Walked up to the store, bought a muffin and a V8.
      Used the flush toilets.
      Set off on my 4.3 mile hike to Huginnin Cove
      Saw a moose on the way.
      Arrived at Huginnin at about 2:30. Set up in site 5 but the group in site 4 was annoyingly loud, so I went to check out site 1 after I had fixed myself some lunch. I moved to site 1 and was very happy.
      Rested the rest of the afternoon. Had an early supper then photographed the bay near camp. Rocks and such. To bed at about sunset.
    • Day 5_Tuesday: Awoke at sunrise. Nothing special. Ate oatmeal breakfast. Hiked a bit north of camp after breakfast. Had taken the shorter southern trail on the way out. Not much there that I wanted to see. And the map showed the trail following the coast for at least half a mile.
      Found a bench of rock about .25 mi north of camp. Could get down on it. About 30ft long and 10ft wide. Waves would crash up and wash down towards the South. Great S and N views.
      Returned to camp for early lunch, nap and early supper. Then back to the spot for more pics in afternoon light. Was much better. Downloaded one to my phone so I could post to fb via a Canadian Cell provider.
      Called Carrie during lunch.
      Had Pasta with Sundried tomatoes. Tasted OK. Needed more flavor/sauce.
    • Day 6_Wednesday: Slept Past Alarm. Oatmeal once again. Had oatmeal for each breakfast on IRNP. Packed and ready to go by 9:30.
      Took the trail to the north to return to Windigo. About 5.1 miles.
      This trail was very different than southern route. On the southern route, if you get 3 ft off trail you’re in a very dense forest. The woods are a bit more open along the northern route.
      Stopped at the bench again, but this time waves were crashing up on the bluff, climbing down would virtually guarantee I would get swept out into the water. I still wanted a shot so I set up a shot looking to the south and I got two or three frames off when I got absolutely drenched by a wave.
      I retreated up the trail a bit to get out of the way of the waves.
      Looked over the camera. Had held my hand out to block it from getting hit by the water. Didn’t help much.
      As I was drying off the camera, another wave hit. Not me, but it would have had I still be out there.
      Decided to go.
      Continued hiking and taking pics along the way. Not to far up the trail and the camera gave me an error “Camera error. Turn off power and turn back on”
      So I did, the message didn’t go away until I removed the battery. Popped the battery back in, still gave me the error after about 15 seconds. This was the only camera I had and I had four more shooting days ahead of me too.
      Noticed there was a bit of moisture on the battery. Decided to leave it out and to leave the battery door open. Made a decision not to even try it again until tomorrow morning. From my journal, “I’m almost surprised I’m not that mad, frustrated, or upset about this. Yes, it stinks, but I’m here for the experience too and I can still have a good experience w/o the camera. Hard to imagine. But it’s true :)”
      I did pray about it. That my frustration would be taken away. Also, I “knew” the camera would work the next day if it was meant too, and if not, then I’d still find a way to do my project and tell my story without additional images.
      Met several other hikers on the way back to Windigo. While along the Minong Ridge Trail, another solo hiker was heading up to an overlook not too much further up the trail. Met a few older ladies. Had already put my pack down to rest before they came up. Told them about my project and my camera. They wished me well.
      Got to Washington Creek Camp near Windigo. There’s 15 sites, most of them with shelters. Only 12 and 14 were available. 14 was a shelter, but it’s an “isolation campsite” where the occupants are “subject to relocation.” Dropped the pack and went to ask a ranger about it. It’s for folks who have COVID. They keep them here until they’re able to be taken to the mainland. Inquired about the likelihood of me being asked to move. They haven’t had to ask anyone all season. So I stayed there. Also went to the store to see if they had any more muffins. None. So I bought a bagel and another V8.
      Being in a shelter meant I didn’t need to set up the tent. Since my tent isn’t self-standing I just decided to not set it up. Also, I could easily leave the camera out to dry and not risk it getting more wet should it rain.
      Settled in a bit. Cooked lunch, Spanish Rice by Knorr. Very good.
      While writing in my journal after lunch a hiker came into my camp. The rangers had mentioned that we might need to share facilities, especially if we’re solo. He asked if he could stay at camp for the night. I said sure. He inquired about the isolation status and While I could have used that to stay solo, I decided to tell the truth. His name was Jerry. He’s from UP MI, and he’s kayaking for a couple weeks on the island. He left his kayak about 6 miles or more away. He wasn’t very prepared. For supper, we went back to the store. He bought a half-dozen eggs and I boiled them. He had two for supper and I had one. Same for breakfast the next day. I also bought a pack of marshmallows.
      Chatted some more, sunset was at about 8:30, continued chatting, some about COVID and how dumb the world was becoming.
    • Day 7_Thursday: Alarm set for 6:45. Cooked breakfast while I packed everything.
      It got rather chili last night, without the tent I get a bit colder a bit quicker. Used my puffy jacket to keep warmer.
      Heading to Feldtman Lake today. 8.5 miles. A ranger said it was more like “8 miles” when I inquired during my arrival check in. Left Washington Creek at about 8:30.
      Trail heads south along Washington Harbor for about a mile, then cuts inland. At about 2 miles there’s an overlook from a ridge, nothing very exciting. Made a few images, now every 20-30 seconds the camera gave the error. A slight improvement over the previous day. A float plane landed. Decided to set up for its takeoff. I did, but it was too high to get a good shot when it left.
      Continued to think about the camera. Devised a plan. With 8 miles to go, decided to pace myself. I’d stop every mile and rest for about 5-10 minutes. At mile 4 I’d have lunch. I ended up skipping mile 5 though which was a mistake. 
    • Fixing the camera: I cooked my food, then while I was eating, I set up the burner of the stove on the ground. I spread the tripod legs a bit further than normal and used my shirt to scoop the heat up to the camera. I left the collar open so it would exit right by the camera.
      Initially, tripod set to high, no warmth was getting up there. Lowered it a bit and it was fine. Got good heat going up and rushing over the camera to dry it out. Let it run for about 15-20 minutes. And the camera was fixed. Never had an error again. Talk about happy!
    • Back to Day 7: Between miles 6 and 8 I stopped about 3 times to shoot pics. I had chatted briefly with a gal who told me about her encounter with a wolf. I was hopeful I’d get to see a wolf. She also said stay away from site 3 as it’s right next to the latrine. She was right! Site 1 and 4 were available. I chose site 1. Off to the right, no one else on the one side of me and easy access to the lake (almost all sites had easy access to the lake). But without anyone to walk in front of I liked this site. I was POOPED so I cooked supper right away. Also ate about 8 marshmallows. Felt much better after supper.
      Set up tent
      Shot pics along water’s edge for about .25 miles. Very narrow pebbly beach. Many trees falling into the water or reaching over the water. Stayed out until about sunset, but no good color happened. Seemed clear though. Had thoughts of doing some astro work.
      Scouted down the trail a bit to see if there was anything that might work for sunrise. Found a beaver dam nearby camp, less then .25 miles down the trail.
      For my astro decision, thought I’d just go to sleep. And I’d check the clouds when I got up to go potty. Got up at about 1 a.m. or so and it was cloudy, so no astro shots tonight.
      All buttoned in and ready for bed at about 9:00 p.m. Then I heard a significant sniffing. WOLF!
      Circled my tent twice then went to the neighbors. They freaked out!
    • Day_8 Friday Sept 10. A hiker mentioned the previous day that sunrise was a great time to see moose. She saw one both days she was at Feldtman Lake. I was up before dawn. No moose.
      Very foggy. Up by 6:45. Sunrise at 7:24. Shot until about 8:30 when the fog started to dissipate.
      After breakfast I moved to campsite 2. There was a bench to sit on and that was good enough reason for me. But also a log on the beach to lean against as I ate or just relaxed.
      Went to Rainbow Cove. It’s .8 miles south. Very southern edge of the island. The cove is not very photogenic. Checked for cell coverage and I got a signal. I had originally thought it was coming from Grand Portage, but it was coming from further south. Had to stand at just the right spot to get a good enough signal to manage a call to the wife.
      Headed east toward Rainbow Point. Rocky beach. Varying sized rocks. Went about .25 mi and turned around. Just a guess. Photographed a bit on the way back as a light fog had rolled in and softened the sun a bit.
      Returned to camp, prepared lunch. Ate while sitting on the beach.
      2:30, nap til 6:00. Woke to some new neighbors in Site 1. Josh and a woman. Told them about the wolf. They were both excited about the prospects of seeing one.
      Fixed supper, Knorr Red Beans and Rice. Very good. Roasted marshmallows with a tent stake.
      Set up the camera for a shot. Thinking about doing a time blend of sorts. Looking for a “normal” foreground and the sky transitions to stars. If some color can be in there that’d be extra sweet. Planned to leave the tripod up and I’d get a few shots of stars when I get up in several hours.
      Feldtman Lake is very peaceful. Constant sound of various bugs. Lots of bees. Very few fish jumping.
      In the end the sunset was OK, but it stayed cloudy and I never got the star shots.
    • Day 9 Saturday Sept 11. Out of tent by 6:45. Heavy clouds and raining over the mainland. Rained a bit at camp, but largely missed me. Tried to get some lightning shots, but not being very familiar with the Sony made me slower than I normally would have been and the storm was moving quickly. Missed one shot by half-a-second. Oh well.
      On and off rain for about an hour. Sheltered under a tree. Fixed breakfast to eat while raining. When it finally stopped I packed everything and got back on the trail. Heading back to Washington Creek Campground near Windigo. Tent was wettest so it went in the bottom.
      Uneventful 8.5 miles back to Windigo. Was able to get a signal as I climbed a hill so I messaged Carrie.
      Stopped every mile again, but this time only had a snack at mile 4 rather than a full lunch.
      Emptied water bottles when I got to Windigo. They have potable water there and the Feldtman Lake water just tasted a little bit off. Didn’t get sick or anything, but it was nice to get rid of that water.
      Went to site 14 again. Hung everything out to dry in the shelter and a few places outside the shelter. But mostly in the shelter.
      Lunch: Ramen with dried greens and split peas. Needed to let the peas cook a bit longer. Went to Windigo Store to see what was left. Bought two concord grape jelly packets. Thought it would be good for the oatmeal the following morning. 10 cents each. Couldn’t bring myself to get a diet soda, root beer, Mt. Dew and Pepsi. Figured if I was going to do something like a soda I needed some actual calories to consume.
      Returned to camp. Started reading a book. Less than 10 min in and the camper from site 15 interrupted me telling me a moose had just entered the creek. Spent about an hour watching the moose hang out in the creek while taking a few pics.
      Female Moose. Stuck snout into water, scooped material from the bottom and started chewing.
      Camper’s name was Christine.
      Supper: Mediterranean Inspired Grilled Veggie Cous Cous. It was OK.
      After supper I took the stairs that are near camp wall the way down to the creek. When the moose was present I only went about half the way down. After about 30 seconds, she came back out into the water from the opposite side of the creek. Went back to get the camera. Light was very good, coming straight up the creek. This portion of the creek flows east-west, and she was heading west, directly towards the sunlight. I followed and other campers were happy to let me into their site so I could continue shooting.
      After about another 30 minutes, she’d had enough and she started coming right towards me. She then saw me and turned to her left a bit and she went up another area. Walked through camp and proceeded on to the woods. I followed as best I could without getting too close. Didn’t want to scare her.
      Day 10. Sunday Sept 12
      Heading back to the mainland today. Not planning on any additional photos. Set alarm for 6:45 eastern. I thought I’d been on Central time but got on eastern somehow. GPS tracks and camera are likely an hour off.
      Boat is on Central time, so I had an extra hour to kill. Had breakfast, all food now nearly completely eaten. Everything dried nicely. All packed and at the pavilion by 10:00 a.m., which is 9:00 a.m. Central time. Went to the visitor center to ask about keeping my backcountry permit. They collect them when you leave. Ranger made a copy so I could keep mine which made me very happy.
      8 picnic tables at the pavilion. A lot more people gathered to leave today than arrived a week earlier. Chatted with a few other hikers. Cooked another meal and continued to wait for the ferry.
      On ferry at about 12:30 p.m. Central Time. Grand Portage at about 3:15. At the lodge by 3:45.
      Parking fee of $5/day.
      Took a bath. Felt SO good. When finished, called Carrie on fb Messenger since there’s no Verizon service in Grand Portage.
      On the way to the lodge I’d stopped at the gas station/trading post and bought a few food stuffs. Had fresh salad for supper.
      Did laundry in the tub.
      Worked on images a little. Relaxed a bit then went to bed.
    • Day 11. Monday Sept 13
      Set alarm for 9 but woke up by 7:30. Took another bath, water even hotter. Starting to feel a bit normal now.
      Checked email.
      Ate two bowls of Life cereal.
      Started packing by 9:15. Fully checked out by 10:15.
      Filled up with gas. Bought a banana and an orange mango drink, and drove up to Grand Portage State Park.
      Water flows along the Canada/US border through a canyon. Got down to the water and within about 20 ft. of the border. Kind of a fun place.
      Photographed the canyon even though the light was a bit harsh.
      Met two artists at the waterfalls. One doing pastels the other painting.
      Bought a few stickers for my sabbatical project.
      Back to the car.
      Came across Arrowhead trail, a road that Lisa Crayford suggested a great little unknown waterfall. Unfortunately, the directions were a bit off. I didn’t find the bridge mentioned in the conversation I had with her.
      It is however, fairly accurately placed on Google Maps and I was able to make it the following day.
      Drove to Judge Magney State Park, where Devil’s Kettle Falls is located. Great place.
      Purchased the seasonal park pass sticker.
      Spoke with the ranger and she marked the mystery falls on a map for me. Then I went up Devil’s Kettle.
      About a mile to the falls. Shot from the platform and then got down on the rocks above the falls. Water so low I could easily walk around and get unique angles.
      Drove to Cascade River State Park, where I had reservations for the next two nights. Got in at about 5:45. Had skipped lunch so was really feeling hungry. Penne pasta, artichoke hearts and mushrooms with sauce, red pepper flakes, black pepper, garlic and savory leaves. All VERY delicious.
      Tried calling Carrie but the service was very sketchy so I never could keep connected.
      Set up camp and all by 8:09, was quite dark, no shooting sunset. 
    • Day 12. Tuesday September 14
      Rained. Late start to the morning. Photographed Cascade River, camp is very close to the trailhead. River certainly lives up to its name.
      Went to Onion River next. Had marked it as a high potential earlier, so I stopped when I came to it. Park at the Roy Berglund State Wayside. Worked out very well.
      Go up a flight of stairs, then take an easy gravel trail on up the hill about .5 miles. Gentle climb. An opening in the creek allows you room to shoot and get your feet wet. Very easy to get around with the reduced flow.
      Explored a bit more with other areas to shoot.
      Back to camp for supper and a bit of rest. 
    • Day 13. Wednesday September 15
      Tried to get out early enough to shoot Temperance River before I had to pack up camp and be on my way. Best to park along Hwy 61. No permit needed. Parking at the state park area is just a waste of time and energy.
      Lots of uneven rocks. Very steep climb in some places. Plenty of beautiful waterfalls carving through a canyon. Simply amazing. However, on this day the light was way to harsh to do anything interesting. I really wished this location had turned out, and it would any other day.
      Went to pack up camp. Drove to Tettegouche State Park. I’d planned to stay at one of the “cart in” campsites. Kind of a neat way of doing things. You have to load up your equipment into a cart and hike in. I didn’t realize the site was 6/10 of a mile from the parking lot. If I forgot something in the car I had to walk 1.2 miles to get it and then return to camp. They have closer cart in camp sites, it’s just mine was very far and they’re all spread out.
      Went to see if the spot was open, turned out the guy was still there. Went back to the visitor center to eat lunch while I waited for the fella to clear out. He had until 4:00 p.m. and this was easily about noon.
      Called Carrie while on the path to check things out initially. Was very close to the highway so always had good cell reception.
      Finished lunch by about 2:00. Checked to see if cart N was returned, and it was. So I was able to set up my camp even though I was two hours early. I was happy.
      Only brought some of the food. Figured I might want to keep some food accessible in the car. Fully set up camp by 3:30.
      Walked back to the car and drove the short distance to the High Falls trailhead. The Two-Step falls section is much better, also on the same High Falls trail. There’s a separate trail that goes to a cascade section of the river, didn’t go there.
      Got into the water at two step area. Lots of great comps. Walked up the lower of the two falls. Able to frame up just the upper fall of the two-step falls area. After a couple of hours shooting, on up the final half mile to High Falls.
      Trail splits to descend to the base of high falls. And go up to the top of high falls. Decided to continue up. Trail goes up and crosses the river on a suspension bridge type contraption. Leads to a platform on the other side of the river. Stopped there and backtracked.
      Got into the water above High Falls. Then went down to the base of the falls. The light was fading by then and the comp options were pitiful anyway. Finished shooting at 7 and the sun sets at about 7:15.
      Was very exhausted because I didn’t sleep well the previous night. Ate supper and in bed by 9:00 or so.
    • Day 14, Thursday September 16
      Early morning thunderstorm with lots of lightning. Thought I might get up early, but any efforts were futile.
      Stopped raining by 6:30 or so. Had breakfast and then out shooting by 8:15 or so.
      Light was perfect for Temperance, but decided to shake it up a bit and head to Oberg Mountain, a loop trail where I’d hoped to get a bit of fall color. I’d been shooting so many waterfalls that this option seemed really good.
      Saw a wolf in the parking lot, no pics though.
      Ran into a nice gentleman in the parking lot. A huge talker though. Full of great info, but the light was excellent and I was stuck talking.
      Got a few really cool shots as I started the hike. Cool place with a few neat overlooks. Light became harsh and that ruined plenty of shots through the woods. Just no clouds at all to roll through and dampen the light, even temporarily.
      Back to camp for a late lunch. Then it’s off to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park for afternoon and sunset.
      Hiked a bit on the rocks. Getting closer and closer to the lighthouse, then backtracked. Overall a good time but the light could have been a bit more lively. A great place for sunset.
    • Day 15, Friday September 17
      Very large thunderstorm again last night. Rain started at about 1:00 a.m. Didn’t stop until about 45min after sunrise. So I stayed in bed.
      Cooked breakfast, egg and fake bacon sandwich.
      Packed a few things, thought I might leave the tent up to dry while I went to shoot something. But decided to go ahead and take it all now. Since I did it in two trips, that was 2.4 miles of back and forth just to take down camp! Used a small towel to soak up some of the water on the tent. Once all packed, headed for Gooseberry Falls State Park. Arrived by 9:00 a.m.
      Already lots of other photographers there. It was Friday, and the first major falls north of Duluth, so I shouldn’t be so surprised. It’s also very well developed, very easy access to the falls.
      Was still mostly cloudy when I started shooting. Crossed the water to the central area, an island of sorts since the water splits and goes on either side of it. Got a few more shots. A gentleman showed me a pic from the previous day. The rain last night really brought some life to this river! At least 3x the flow. The falls are in two steps at the main area, and then a third upper step that I didn’t get to. The light started to thin and with 7.5 hours of driving still ahead of me I didn’t want to spend too much time shooting. I was moving on to North Dakota.
      Drove through Duluth, found a Duncan Donuts, but they no longer serve Coconut which is too bad. That was their best donut.
      Called Dad since it’s his birthday.
      Stopped in Jacobson, MN, for lunch. The Mississippi River flows through here. Stopped a bit too early, I saw it after I’d stopped for lunch.
      Called Carrie while I cooked the food.
      Continued driving towards Jamestown, ND. A nice little town of about 15K. I like the smaller town as the hotel was a lot cheaper than the larger towns, and they’re just fun to see. Had a great room with a kitchenette for only $65/night. Staying two nights.
    • Day 16, Saturday September 18
      Rather uneventful day. Uninspiring breakfast provided by the hotel.
      Had looked up a local church website, said services started at noon. I planned to arrive by 11:30.
      I actually arrived at 11:15 and services started at 10:50, so I decided to skip it.
      Before that, I did go see the world’s largest buffalo, a concrete sculpture built in the ‘50s. They also have a pioneer village with a bunch of historic items to look at. Very interesting.
      When I came to the church, I flipped through the hymnal and belted out a few tunes. When I came to “I come to the garden alone” I sang all the verses. I love that song.
      The acoustics of the old church were great too. A few people stopped in from time to time between songs. I wasn’t there long, only about 20 minutes.
      I went downtown for a few minutes, then left. Tried to find fort Seward. Google Maps led me very wrong. Finally found it and the visitor center is closed for the season, but even still, if it were open, not much to write home about. Went back to the hotel room for some rest and relaxation.
    • Day 19, Sunday September 19
      Woke at about 7:00 a.m. Cooked breakfast of 4 eggs with chopped spinach, topped with pico de gallo salsa. Packed and out of the hotel by 9:30. Out of town by 10:15. On my way to TRNP. Stopped at Walmart to get some more Almond milk and propane for the stove. Then drove non-stop to TRNP, about four hours.
      Arrived at about 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time.
      Stopped at the visitor’s center, called the wife, then proceeded into the park. Campsite is five miles in from the visitor’s center, about 1.5 the way the crow flies.
      Have to cross interstate 94 to get there. Thought it odd that they would take an interstate right through a national park. The southern edge, but still. Seems odd. Fixed lunch of a hot dog with sauteed onions. Set up camp. Will be here for six nights which is excellent. The longest I’ll be in any one spot.
      Went to shoot at Painted Canyon. Arrived at about 4:30 which is closing time for the visitor’s center there. I spoke with the ranger there to confirm trail conditions. However, I ended up following a bunch of game trails down into the canyon. Found a lot of hoodoos to photograph, had a great time. Walked in a washout gully for a while. Simply a fantastic landscape. When I decided I’d better get back to the car I realized I was completely off trail. I knew I was south of the main trail, so I just walked directly north. Ran into the trail in no time. It’s well marked and well worn. Took it out a bit further but as the sun was starting to set I turned around and went back to the car. Wind was also picking up, and I only had a short sleeved shirt on. I’d forgotten to bring my jacket and it was getting cold.
      It was quite a bit longer to return via the regular trail, but that was OK. I was seeing all new stuff anyway. Started to rain. Sunset was at 6:58, got to the car at 6:40. Looked promising for a great sunset but it didn’t materialize. Had driven back to the main part of the park where it wasn’t raining yet, nothing exciting happened.
      Checked the picnic area for flush toilets. They do! Turned out there were flush toilets in camp too, just had to walk a bit to get there. A pit toilet was right at the edge of my camp.
      8:06 and still raining. Supposed to rain all night.
      Had wheat thins, a fruit cup and corn chips with medium guacamole salsa for supper in the tent. If not for the rain I’d have had a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. But I don’t have a canopy for the picnic table. 
    • Day 18 Monday September 20
      Set alarm for 5:30. Started to get ready for the day when it started to rain again. Radar app showed a huge storm to the east and lots of cloud cover. Was planning to head back to Painted Canyon and take the loop trail they have there.
      With all the weather decided to get more sleep. Re-awoke at about 6:30, sunrise at 6:37. Didn’t miss anything since the weather was so thick.
      Fixed pancakes for breakfast. Out to start shooting by 8:10 a.m. Did the loop trail at Painted Canyon. Very nice place. A few ups and downs, lots of great zoomed in shots with the 70–300 and a few with the 24–105. Finished up at about 10:45 when the clouds were starting to dissipate.
      Went back to Medora to find gas. Only one station in town. Very old pump.
      Lunch at camp, mashed potatoes and green beans. Went to Buck Hill for sunset. Nice 360º views. But everything of interest is so far off, nothing really jumped out at me. There’s actually two hill tops, each with a trail that leads further than what is shown on the map. Park between them. First hill didn’t amount to anything interesting. Second hill I found some sandstone formations to be my foreground elements. As the sun set it was looking really good on these foreground rocks. Also got a 300mm view of the sun setting. Used my finger to block the sun then got it with the sun. This helps take out the flare from the foreground.
      Drove up to Badlands Overlook to see if I could predict what it would look like tomorrow for sunrise. But the road was blocked before the overlook. The rangers said it was open up to the overlook, so I’ll have to investigate more tomorrow to see what’s up.
      Back to camp, off to bed after a small snack. Got quite cold tonight. I’ll have to break out my long underwear again tomorrow night.
    • Day 19, Tuesday September 21
      No entry in my journal for today for some reason.
      I do know I went to the visitor’s center to inquire about the road. It was closed today so they could have a road crew up there doing some radar survey of the road that was still OK. But they wanted to see if it would get damaged once they started trying to fix the damaged part of the road. I’d just have to be patient to get my shots.
      I went back to check the status of the road Tuesday evening. Ran into about 75 Bison on the road. They walk slowly, but the work was finished and I could get out to the overlook the next day. So I was happy.
      (This must have been the day I went on the longish trail and I got the rainbow shots)
    • Day 20, Wednesday September 22
      Woke at about 4:45, too early, but with the drive I had ahead of me I didn’t go back to sleep. Just had a slow morning.
      The overlook was better in a sense compared to Buck Hill. Some nearby interest and no man-made objects in the distance as can be seen at Buck Hill. Didn’t stay long but glad to have been there.
      Went to Boicourt Trail for the rest of the morning. Easy and paved trail, but a really great place. Pavement ends after about a quarter mile and the trail continues on. Lots of landscape variety. Good options for wide angle, mid and tele shots. I’ll return for sunset too. Had originally planned to go to the petrified forest area this afternoon, but with a minimum of three miles hiking and some climbing that I’d have to do as well, I decided I didn’t have enough energy to fully enjoy myself. So I took it a bit easy. Went back to the visitor center and watched the video they have on the place and perused the exhibits. It was a good decision. I’ll be well rested for tomorrow’s hikes. Took a nap before heading to the visitor’s center though.
      Returned to Boicourt trail. Clear day. Sunset was pretty good, colorful clouds, great subjects. When I was there earlier today I saw some smoke from a coal vein fire. Didn’t see any smoke today, but walked down the trail a bit to see if I could make it down. Turns out it was rather easy to get down there and I’ll plan to do it Friday morning. So long as it doesn’t rain. The rain and the clay makes the hills impossible to climb.
    • Day 21, Thursday September 23
      Woke at 5:10. Decided to head again to Painted Canyon. But I’d stay on the rim today. Mostly clear morning. Looks very promising.
      Found a spot where I could shoot directly into the sunrise, and then backtrack 30–50 feet and then get another shot to the North NW. Tried to get some good foregrounds in the frame as well.
      I’m sure this will require a bit of PS work to blend everything in the frame together.
      Got a variety of shots. Used the split neutral density a few times as well.
      Got a shot with some yellow trees in the foreground. Came back after they were backlit. We’ll see how that one goes!
      Once the morning color was over I continued shooting with a concentration on some fall color. Went down the trail about a half mile until the color gave out and turned around. Was thinking about this afternoon’s hike. Didn’t want to spend all my energy in one place.
      Back to camp at 9:30 for breakfast and a nap. Up by 1:00 and had lunch. Headed to Petrified Forest.
      The PF was really great. Chose to drive there. Have to leave the park and then go on small county gravel roads for about 5–6 miles to the trailhead. The road does go through private property, just stay on the road and you’re OK.
      Start hiking and in a half mile there’s a fork. Both lead to the Petrified Forest area. The North section is a bit larger according to the ranger I spoke with. So I decided to go that direction. While you could walk off trail and connect the two sections, it’s not really worth it.
      After another 1–1.5 miles you reach the Petrified Forest. Mostly it’s just crumbling stumps. Almost hard to tell some of them used to be trees. The sign at the trailhead said that this area used to resemble present day everglades in Florida. That would be a sight to see!
      Found a lot of interesting erosion patterns. Got some detail shots of the plant life clinging to the clay-rich soil. Finally did find some good petrified tree stumps to photograph. One was hollowed out and it had a shrub growing inside of it!
      Sunset was fast approaching. Found a spot to frame it up with some interesting foreground elements. The color was very good. Just before that though, a single Bison strolled down the path. I was off path so it didn’t bother me, but still, kinda cool.
      After sunset, packed up the gear and headed back to the car. Used my headlamp as it got dark fairly quickly. Started walking back.
      After leaving the Petrified Forest area the trail is on a generally flat plateau/meadow area. The trail is well established and well marked. Which is certainly good. Then, about 100 ft down the trail, and right near the trail, a very large adult Bison was laying down. He stood and was at least 6 ft at the shoulder. He stayed right there, just standing. I decided to leave the trail and go around him. NPS recommends at least 25 yards between you and any Bison or any other wildlife for that matter. I tried to maintain that but with it being so dark it was difficult to accurately judge the distance.
      Once back on trail I still cautiously was checking behind me to ensure he wasn’t following me. I was fine.
      Got back to camp, had a pickle and then went to bed. Previous mornings had been about 34º when I wake up. But tonight was going to be a touch warmer.
    • Day 22, Friday September 24
      Alarm set for 5:30. Planned to head to Boicourt Trail and make it down to the coal vein. Also made it in time for sunrise color which was nice.
      The horses I’d seen on Tuesday were down near the coal vein.
      The hike down was fine. Switched to the 70–300 to photograph the horses. Got a few good shots of them peering around a land formation. Battery was very low so I had to change it at the most inopportune time. Decided to let them be and continue on to the coal vein. Several spots were smoldering. I wanted to get into the “remains” area, or where the area has already burned. On video I called it a cauldron, even though it’s actually kind of wet. Overall, it’s a ring that’s burning outwards. It’s irregular, but I’d say the average distance across the ring is about 50 ft. diameter. It also goes up a badlands formation, so it’s hard to judge really.
      Decided it wasn’t safe enough to get into the middle of the burn. Even though I’d have gotten a lot closer and probably gotten better compositions. The ground was soft/wet and I didn’t want to destroy it so much with my footprints. Everywhere else the ground is quite resistant to the hiking, rather sturdy ground. But here, it was very sensitive. So I stayed on top of the burn area and shot down into it.
      Once burned, the land tumbles down about 8 ft. It’s a very slow burn. And the smoke can be hard to capture on a still image. So video was certainly a better match here. I inquired at the visitor’s center about this burning coal. Another nearby vein has been burning for about 3 years. The ranger I spoke with wasn’t aware of this specific vein so she couldn’t tell me how long it’d been burning. Another trail area actually called coal vein had burned for decades. It’s largely recovered now though as it was burning long ago.
      Once finished, and on the way back up the hill, ran into a mamma Bison with baby. The trail is very narrow and steep. No room to go around this one. I backtracked and so did she. So I proceeded until I could get to an alternate trail which would allow me to go around wherever she’d been. Once at top I looked around and couldn’t find any sign of them.
      Went driving to the end of the road in search of more wildlife, only saw a few deer.
      Rested the remainder of the day/afternoon. Simply exhausted from all the hiking and shooting. Not feeling very creative at all, when that happens, time to take it easy if possible.
      Leaving tomorrow, so I poked around camp, repacked a few things in the trund more efficiently.  Simply a nice and relaxed afternoon.
    • Day 23. Saturday, September 25
      Tried to sleep in. Made it to 6:30. Still before sunrise, but at least not 5:10 like I’ve been doing recently.
      Pancakes for breakfast.
      My second original plan was to leave here and drive straight home today. But I’m heading south. Decided to add Badlands NP to the itinerary. Had considered going to Devil’s Tower for tonight, but that’s another $20 so I decided to go to a free site just over the border in SD.
      Picnic Spring Campground. Arrived before noon. A great place for sure! Small canyon, campsites are on the edge of the canyon. Selected a site further away from other campers, and it has cell service too! Called Carrie. And my son had to tell me a joke. Why do you not hear a Pterodactyl going to the bathroom? Because the P is silent!
      Lunch is TVP and potato shreds burritos with chopped onions, sun dried tomatoes and taco bell seasoning. With some green salsa too. Very good!
      Read a Signs of the Times and my Wolf Island book a bit. Took a nap. Ate supper, a dehydrated soup mix.
      Enjoyed the stars some before I went to bed. Rather clear evening. Counted about 8 satellites. 
    • Day 24, Sunday September 26
      Slept very well last night. Warmer than in TRNP by a long shot. Took it easy Friday afternoon and all day yesterday, I’m ready for more, but I’ve got a hotel tonight. And a session with my LPS members.
      Breakfast of oatmeal and dried cranberries, then drive to Rapid City, SD. Did some grocery shopping, and then to hotel by hopefully 2:00. Saw that the SD Air and Space Museum was available, so I decided to check that out. Closed on Sunday 🙁
      Checked in at 1. Which was two hours early but so nice as I had a jetted soaker tub waiting for me in the room. SO NICE.
      Was able to rest and recharge and get set up before my LPS session.
      Met with my LPS members, helped them with their questions and just had a great time with everything.
      Stayed up late watching Last Man Standing and Shark Tank.
    • Day 25, Monday September 27
      Woke at about 7:00. Took another soak. Then down for breakfast. Packed and on the road by 8:30.
      Wanted to check out the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center, see if I can get a tour. Place was completely closed. Very disappointed. The rest of society isn’t so COVID stupid still, but some of these places managed by the federal government are.
      Proceeded to the park, stopped at the visitor’s center. Bought a few things for my sabbatical project and then went to Sage Creek Campground, about 40 miles through the park. Took a while, 12 miles of it on gravel road. But it’s a free campground. The only other campground in the park is right near the visitor’s center. While some items of interest are close by the visitor’s center, much of the park isn’t so the fact that I was so far away wasn’t a huge inconvenience.
      And again, it’s free so it matches the budget.
      Prepared lunch, TVP burgers. Finished my last pickle spears. Had extra burger mix, so had one plain, just ketchup and salt.
      Bought a book that details the different trails. Read that to determine what my schedule would be. Cross referenced with the map so I understood where these locations were. Decided I could finish up on Thursday rather than Friday which is nice. This meant I could leave a day early.
      Tons of flies at camp. Camp is also a prairie dog town, lots of critters just a few feet from my tent, picnic table and so on. They are curious. No water here, had to bring it all in. I was well prepared though. I’d keep my empties in the car so I could fill them up when at the visitor’s center.
      Had a cell signal so I could call and text the wife.
      Temp was forecast to reach 92º today. Very warm compared to the other areas I’d been in. No shade, so even 92º feels rather hot. Supposed to be in the mid 80s by Tuesday.
      Too hot to nap which is too bad. I had gotten spoiled with afternoon naps!
      Finished eating at about 2:45. Decided to head to Pinnacles Overlook for sunset. Though I decided to head into Wall, SD first. Had a hankering for a soda. Ended up getting a Pepsi, but not the Real Sugar kind, if I’m going to get a Pepsi, I should be the Real Sugar kind. Oh well. It was 10 cents cheaper than the DP, but I should have splurged.
      Got to Pinnacles at about 4:00 p.m.
      Walked around a whole bunch, got fairly distant from the parking lot. Started shooting and walking back to the parking area as I shot. Came across a bighorn sheep on the top of a hoodoo formation. I was higher still so the compositions were kinda nice in that I could isolate the critter fairly easily. But he just laid there so I moved on after a bit.
      Wanted to get some star shots, so I called the wife while I waited for the sun to set further and the sky to get dark.
      Had a good foreground, and had photographed it before it got too dark.
      Set the camera up to get star trails. Also go the Milky Way prominently. But focused most of my time on the star trails idea. Went for 1600 ISO @ 15 seconds @ f/4 for the star trails. We’ll see how it goes. Haven’t done anything with them yet.
      Had an annoying photographer across the way, kept shining his light over at me for some dumb reason. But he was only there for about 30 minutes. Once he left I was able to just sit and relax. While he was there, I had to block his light from shining into my lens.
      Finished shooting at about 9:30. Back to camp and in bed by 10:30. Nice and warm and cozy, even though I didn’t need to wear my down jacket. Warmer temps are nicer for sure!
    • Day 26, Tuesday September 28
      Woke at about 4:30, didn’t get out of bed until about 5:05, just a few minutes before the alarm was set to go off.
      Was planning on going to Notch Trial, about 40 miles away. So I knew I had quite a drive.
      Got out there with plenty of time. Climbed up the rather precarious ladder and found a place at the top with a lot of interest for sunrise. Not the end of the trail, but right near the top of the ladder. Horizon had considerable haze, so that affected the light a bit, some good color still though. When finished with sunrise, chatted with some other hikers that pointed me in the direction of the end of the trail. It goes on up into a hoodoo formation area, right in the middle of the badlands. Very cool stuff. Only about ¾ of a mile left, so not far. Once I got there, it was nice, but I’m still glad I was shooting sunrise elsewhere. The end of the trail had good overlooks, but nothing spectacular for sunrise.
      Today is the second day of school for the new school year, and it’s still rather surreal to think I’m not in the classroom, but out here doing this. Pinching myself all day today it seems!
      Climbed back down and went to the window and door overlooks. Nice places, especially the door trail. But the light was rather harsh and it was getting a bit warm. And I was hungry. But mostly, the light was harsh and the shooting was over.
      Slightly surprised how accessible this whole area is. When we were here with the boys five years ago we hardly got out of the car. Of course, it was over 100º and we were staying over 2 hours away. But still, would have been interesting to see at least one of these spots with the boys.
      Drove back to camp. The 12 miles of gravel road is starting to really take its toll on me…
      But it’s free and just as shaded as the paid campsite, in that there’s no shade, except for a cover (not waterproof) over the picnic table.
      French toast for breakfast. Finished up at about noon, so kind of a late meal.
      Too warm to nap, seriously considering heading in to Wall Drug to kill time. They’ll have AC and there won’t be any wind either. The cool nights at TRNP was great for keeping my food cool. I’d just open the cooler at night and close it in the morning, all was good. But here it wasn’t getting cold enough. I needed ice too.
      Got a maple donut from Wall Drug and some of their free ice water. Filled up the car and got a little bit of ice. Got to 96º this afternoon, so that ice was good to get!
      Went to Panorama View Overlook for sunset. Arrived three hours beforehand so had plenty of time to look around. Lots of good options. But would have been real nice if I’d had just a little more height, about 10 feet tall would have done it. Oh well. Shot a few items anyway, even with some foreground distractions. A major thunderstorm in the distance kept the color from doing anything exciting. Saw lightning in the clouds. Really hoping it doesn’t come my way as it will ruin the hiking. You just can’t hike on a wet trail here, the clay will make it a laughable experience.
      Returned to camp, had chili and burrito shells and PBJ triple decker for supper.
    • Day 27, Wednesday September 29
      Woke at about 4:30. Fairly windy. Looked at the weather forecast last night and again this morning. Looked at the radar. Saw that a massive storm was approaching. Option 1, do what I could today and sit around all afternoon and probably Thursday morning too. Finish hiking maybe Thursday afternoon and leave by Friday. Or possibly go into Friday and leave by Saturday. That was the original plan anyway, but I’d already convinced myself that I needed to leave early. So with the pending rain, I decided on Option 2.
      I’d pack up camp, go hiking for sunrise and be out on the road heading home by mid morning. So that’s what I did. I decided that sitting around waiting for the rain to pass and then the ground to dry would be too much of a waste and I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing for a day or more.
      On trail before sunrise. Parked on the Old NE Road. Took the Medicine Root trail and looped back on the Castle Trail. Briefly look down over the Saddle Pass Trail which is very steep. And it was quite windy! Had a few rain showers which created a few rainbows too. Overall, I was very happy with this hike. I’d been getting some great details, but really hadn’t gotten more of a landscape feel to the images. This area allowed me to get the foreground grasses in the shots with the hoodoo formations. And there was a great variety of formations too. In all, about 5 miles in total. Was finished and on the road by 9:00 a.m.
      Drove I-90 all the way to west of Spokane. In total about 15 hours of driving. Stopped just short of Missoula, MT, for a rest at the rest area. Pulled in at about 10:00 p.m., out by about 5:00 a.m. Drove to the MT Border and pulled off again to sleep until about 8:30 or so.
    • Oh, I did run out of gas too!

Day 28, Thursday, September 30
Pulled into the driveway at about noon. Very nice to be home.

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