Monday, July 27, 2009

We've Arrived in Montana

We have arrived at 7th Ranch RV Camp in Garryown, Montana, where we will be workampers until mid-October. Early last winter we posted our resume at and received a call asking if we would be interested in working here. At that time we had completed seven volunteer assignments in state and national parks and state fish and wildlife facilities. This is our first experience in a commercial RV park. We have spent very little time in Montana and are looking forward to learning more about the state.

We are one of four couples here right now. They had planned on having eight couples and we had expected that we would work two days on, then have four or five days off. Four of the couples were unable to be here, one couple left this week and another will leave the middle of next month. That means we will be working two or three days on, two to five off. Our first week we worked five days straight--three shorter days training and two full days.

My job is in the office—taking reservations, checking in campers, answering the phone, watering the flowers and grass around the office. I work from 8 am to 3 pm. John works from 7 am to 3 pm, hauling trash, cleaning restrooms and doing grounds maintenance, such as fertilizing and spraying for weeds and grasshoppers. When new campers come in during our shift, I call John on the radio and he escorts the party to their site. The park has 65 RV spaces, 17 tent spaces, four camper cabins and one teepee. The grounds are very well landscaped and well kept. And it takes a lot of work to keep everything clean and looking good. John works very, very hard during his eight hours. The temperature has been in the high 80s and 90s, hitting 100 a couple of days.

Chip and Sandy, the owners, are really great to work for and with. They go out of their way trying to make their workers feel at home, valued and comfortable. They developed 7th Ranch RV Camp on their ranch, replacing most of their cattle with travelers. The RV park is in the Little Big Horn River valley, which has lush green trees and fields along the river bottom. The surrounding rolling hills have fields of wheat, oats and hay that we have identified so far. It is pretty country.

We may have more social life here than we are used to. The day we arrived, Chip and Sandy took us and one of the other worker couples to lunch. Thursday they brought in pizza for lunch because one couple has to leave early because of illness in the family. Then Sunday one of the couples cooked dinner for all of us. We gathered at the office, where Jeri and Jim were working, to eat a delicious chicken enchilada casserole.

We are situated on Anglo-owned land in the middle of the Crow Indian Reservation, just a few miles from the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, where Gen. Armstrong Custer lost his fight, his troops and his life in a battle against the Sioux, Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians in 1876. The battlefield monument is the main tourist attraction in this area, so it is important we learn a little of the story. Last Tuesday we made our first visit, listening to a ranger explanation of the battle, watching the orientation film and viewing Last Stand Hill where Custer was killed, the Indian Memorial

and the Cavalry Horse monument. There also is a National Cemetery at the monument where veterans from the Indian Wars, as well as all the wars since then, are buried. We will return to explore the rest of the monument this week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Driving Through Wyoming

Last week we drove north across Wyoming, from Cheyenne to Laramie, then Casper and Sheridan. We were in the foothills and we saw many pretty places along the way. The biggest features of the drive are trains, wind farms, snow fences, cattle and antelope.

There also are a lot of cattle.

This haystack is one of a kind (not really, there were several in the field, but we had never seen one like this before.) The hay is pilled high inside a small enclosure.

We saw this unusual rock wall as we drove toward Casper.

Medicine Bow is a small town south of Casper. I liked the water tower there.

This really old building across the lot from the gas station we stopped in is the Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow.

We spent two nights in Sheridan, a delightful small town. On Sunday we drove to the McIntyre Commons in the downtown area for our run. It was a really great area—Little Goose Creek flowed nearby, and there are gardens and nice paths and green lawns. The downtown area of Sheridan appears to be very prosperous, with no empty or run-down buildings.

We were making our way to Montana, where we will be workamping till October. I will write about that after we get settled in to our work.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What a Change!

We haven't been in a commercial RV park since April 26. This afternoon has been a shock to our systems.

These two pictures show the view out our front door and the window on the other side of the trailer this morning. We were at Curt Gowdy State Park, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

This afternoon we checked into the Casper East RV Park. This is the view from our back window.

This is a view between our trailer and the one next to us on the side of the front door. The other trailer is so close I can't take a picture looking straight at it.

Tonight we have full hookups--we have sewer, but it is so far to the back we will have to back up to use it in the morning. But it is there. We are enjoying 50-amp electric. For the last two nights at Curt Gowdy we had no hookups. These two generators provide enough electricity that we can use the microwave or one air conditioner.

Tonight we can use both air conditioners at the same time. There are trade-offs. At the state parks we have stayed at--Lathrop, Cheyenne Mountain, Chatfield and Curt Gowdy, we have privacy and great views. Sometimes we have hookups, sometimes we don't. If you look at these photos, you know why we choose state parks whenever possible.

At Curt Gowdy we were surrounded by bluebird houses and the Mountain Bluebirds were everywhere. We really enjoyed watching them and listening to them.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Why We Love RVing

It has been very good to be here in the Denver area, near our stick house. We had a great visit with our son and his wife and their two children Friday. Saturday we watched our granddaughter, Kylie, compete in two events at her swim meet. We also have enjoyed shopping in familiar stores and buying food at our favorite specialty food store, Tony's Market. We bought chicken Kiev and chicken cordon blue for dinner Sunday and three pairs of New York strip steaks, which we froze for future dinners.
All of that has been good, but I think what has been best is the confirmation that we are doing the right thing in renting our house and RVing full time. We have driven through beautiful neighborhoods with lovely houses and yards. We are so glad we haven't returned to our stick house here. If it was available, we wouldn't feel right paying to stay at Chatfield State Park. Instead, we would have unpacked everything, moved back into the house, and put the RV in storage. That is a lot of work. And it is the reason we always avoided coming into Denver as we moved around. If we came to Color ado, we always made sure to go to other parts of the state. The house almost felt like a whirlpool that would suck us in if we came here.
Owning a house means there is work to do on the house or yard before we could leave again. When we first bought the house, we would fill planters with flowers and hang baskets of flowers on the patio. We worked on the gardens and updated the inside—having furniture reupholstered and installing hardwood floors and new carpet. We enjoyed entertaining and used our living room and dining room often. They we began RVing. It got to the point we were gone most or all of the summer—so no more flowers and hanging baskets. When we were gone seven or eight months of the year, the time we did spend in the house was spent catching up with family, cleaning the gutters, Christmas shopping and spending the holidays with family. We didn't have time (or, really, the inclination) to entertain much.
We are glad we are only here for a few days this time. Life in the city, living in one place all the time, doesn't appeal to us. After we take care of the house and go to the gym, there really isn't much we like to do here. Life on the road is so much more interesting. Yesterday morning we had our coffee outside, listening to the birds. In the afternoon, a thunderstorm came through. In the house, we might glance outside and see it was raining. Here, it was so loud we could do nothing but listen. That is a real treat. We can see most of the eastern and western horizons, as well as the sky to the south. We can watch the storms come in and watch them move on. All day we can hear the Western Meadowlark singing. We watch the cotton tail rabbits as we walk around the campground. Last night I woke up at about 2 a.m. to hear coyotes howling.
In short, we are so much more in touch with nature when we live in our RV. Because our living space is small, the outdoors is much more important than when we are in the stick house. We spend as much time outside as we can. We rejoice in God's creation daily during our life on the road.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What a Life!

What other lifestyle could we choose and see a mule deer doe, a wild turkey and a chipmunk before 7:15 am, while looking at a view like this

while staying is a site like this

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overlooking this trail?

Tuesday we left Lathrop State Park and drove to Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado Springs. This is the newest park in the Colorado park system and it is certainly first class. The camp sites are large and have full hookups. They offer privacy, as well as great night-time views of the Colorado Springs lights. The trails are well planned and well maintained. We had a great run downhill Wednesday mornign (we walked back up to our campsite).

The entrance is across the road from Fort Carson Army Base and we heard reveille waking up the soldiers this morning. But the park is quite and beautiful. We will definitely return.

After a short visit with family and some doctor, dentist and truck appointments, we are headed for Montana, where we will be workkamping till October.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Hiking in the Wilderness

Wednesday we went hiking in the Spanish Peaks Wilderness off the Cordova Pass Road with Nan and Norm, one of the campground host couples here at Lathrop State Park. We will be leaving Lathrop on Tuesday, so this will be our last hike here. We hiked the West Peak Trail, which goes up the west Spanish Peak, which tops out over 12,000 ft. We started at about 11,300 ft altitude and ended at timberline, at close to 12,000 ft.

The Sange de Cristo (meaning blood of Christ, referring to the red color in certain lights) Mountains to the west were beautiful Wednesday.

The wildflowers at that altitude were absolutely stunning. We had such a good time looking at first one flower, then another. In many places they carpeted the ground.

This is the peak we were on. We didn't go up onto the loose rock above tree line.

One of the trees growing on the mountain side was this one--possibly a Bristle Cone Pine. These trees can live for many years, sometimes hundreds of years. This one isn't that old, however.

Some of the dead trees were so interesting to look at. They were as interesting as the living trees.

This is another interesting-looking tree.

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We ate lunch next to this very large rock cairn. It was right at the tree line. Above this point there is a 1,600 ft climb to the summit, which we didn't make. We decided that each person who reached this point must have added a stone to the pile. So, of course, each of us did that, too. It was a lovely place for lunch. But just as we finished eating clouds filled the sky and the wind began to blow. We made a hasty retreat back down the mountain. We only enountered a little rain.

We really felt good about ourselves. Our ages are 65, 66, 66 and 72. We were all proud that we were able to make a 6 1/2 to 7 mile hike at this altitude.