Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A Rustic Trails Tiny Trailer Travelin' Man Travelogue, Part 1, Winter (January, February, March)

"Woke to an ice-encrusted camper and dismally cold temps." Emerald Isle, North Carolina
"D-Day (Departure day) has arrived [January 7, 2022]. All the waiting, planning and preparing are behind us as we leave our good friends Alex and Tavia’s house. Finley ever watchful in the backseat could sense it, that feeling of excitement and trepidation that courses through us as we start a new adventure. First stop was the CAT scales to make sure we were legally within the weight capacity of both the truck and camper. Had we packed too much? Probably. Had we forgotten anything? Probably but too late now we are on the way!! CAT scales said we were a bit porky but within specs so as the French say 'on y va!'"

Thus Allan Finlay begins his great epic Western travel adventure--by traveling east through North Carolina, visiting and overnighting at a couple of wineries, and finally landing at Oregon Inlet Campground on the Cape Hatteras Seashore. "This is where our journey really begins in my mind and though I have not yet dipped my toes into the frigid Atlantic Ocean, I will before we leave to head west.  Once you leave the commercial Nags Head region and head south the true Outer Banks reveals itself.  A line of sleepy villages dot this narrow island all the way down to Hatteras." 

Dipping toes in the Atlantic Ocean before heading west to the Pacific? Makes sense to me. After all, it's a tradition for bicyclists traveling across the USA. Allan, the RTTC Travelin' Man, and Finley, the Blue Heeler doggie, were officially on their way, off to adventure; and I was officially beginning my researching adventure of documenting their adventure--from Allan's blog, A Bloke and a Blue; from his Facebook Rustic Trail Teardrtops and Friends group page posts, and from a few email responses from questions I sent Allan after doing my research. 

Allan Finley describes himself as "a Brit who has been living in the US for over 35 years and although I've traveled to many parts of the country for business during that time, I'm not sure I've seen the real America." After nine months on American roads (and still driving), it's an easy guess to say that he's got a lot better idea about the American open spaces. His Blue Heeler, Finley, seems like the ideal traveling companion--a dog that likes "walks on the beach, treats, hikes in the mountains, belly rubs, chasing squirrels and more treats."

Little did Allan know that his first season, starting his trip at the beginning of the year, would be a real breaking-in experience! The weather turned more wintry when he arrived by ferry at Ocracoke Island. "Our first 1,000 miles has been full of adventure and challenges. Our time on Ocracoke Island was accompanied by a sand storm, frigid temps and gale force winds. It was interesting to see how the local villagers dealt with all this. To my surprise, nothing changed. There was no run on bread and milk at the grocery store, the school stayed open and even the crabbers went to work. Complete normality, it made me chuckle to think about the sheer terror and angst that would have pervaded the folks back home should such an event be forecast. A hardy bunch these Ocracokers!" 

An ice storm transforms the landscape
Changing up his itinerary a bit because of weather, Allan headed for Emerald Isle, where he hit an ice storm. (See this article's lead photo.) Allan and Finley held up well, though, in their tiny camper. "Throughout these extreme weather events I'm happy to report that our sturdy little Rustic Trail camper has kept us warm and dry and very comfortable indeed. I now know that all the research into various teardrop camper manufacturers was time well spent and I feel that I made the right choice for Finley and me." That right choice was a Kodiak Stealth tiny trailer built by Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers of Pilot Knob, North Carolina. With interior dimensions of 5x5x10 feet, this tiny camper is RTTC's best selling model.

Allan had a propane heater, a solar system, and a refrigerator installed during the build of his camper. The heater, a Propex HS2000 model, is thermostatically controlled and works well, "just sipping both propane and dc power," Allan says. The heater works on a heat exchanger principle, so all the inlet and exhaust gases are external to the camper, making it very safe, with no CO2 inside the camper.

Allan's tow vehicle is a 2021 Ford Ranger, rated to pull 7,500 pounds so his fully loaded weight of 2,400 pounds isn't an issue. Allan relates that the truck has had zero issues "pulling the camper over hill and dale and our overall average file consumption has been 18.2 mpg over about 20,000 miles."

Living the warm(er) life at Carolina Beach SP
Warmer fifty-degree weather awaited the Bloke and the Blue when they pulled in at Carolina Beach State Park, still in North Carolina, where they found the sites "nicely tucked back in the trees with quite good separation between them." Still traveling south, Allan summed up his North Carolina experience as follows: "Our journey down the coast of North Carolina has certainly been an adventure punctuated by the whims of the barometer. Ice, snow, wind and rain along with cloudless days of glorious sun have been our companions. I’m not sure what it is about the ocean, a fire or the night sky that captures my attention, holding me rapt and feeding my daydreams. It is something elemental, visceral even, that connects with the soul." 

Solar panels raised to catch the winter sun
After days of gray skies and no sunshine, sunny skies allowed Allan to come to some conclusions regarding his solar power set-up for the camper. Even with cloudy winter skies, his solar power had worked well. His battery had lasted five days with virtually no sun, about what he'd expected. Allan was pleased with that. He deployed the solar panels, "and for those that need convincing, I was reading just 205 watts coming in with the panels flat on the roof and 365 watts when raised," particularly important during winter months when the sun is lower in the sky and there are fewer hours of daylight.

"Big Oak": 335 years old, 155' spread, 70' tall, trunk 22' circ.
Traveling further south, the road led to Georgia, where Allan's itinerary included interesting and historical stops and pleasant (and warm) camping spots. He hoped Georgia would have more pleasant experiences, and she did not disappoint. "Our first stop for the night was a charming pecan farm called Terra Firma. Unfortunately their pecan trees produced nuts biennially and this was a fallow year. Still we enjoyed walking through the forest and orchard and Finley was able to say hello to the horses." They also stopped in Thomasville to visit the Big Oak, a Live Oak tree of great longevity, being 335 years old. Respecter of antiquity and dignity, Allan explains his (and Finley, the Blue Heeler's) interaction with Big Oak: "In deference to Big Oak’s celebrity, I did not let Finley, you know, be Finley, and so he had to be satisfied with some nondescript tyre." 

This completes the saga of Allan Finlay's "winter" leg of his travels--travels which he intends to continue for 2-3 years. When asked what obstacles or glitches he had to work out on this first leg of his adventure, Finlay thought that was a good question. "The first obstacle for me was learning to back the trailer up without jackknifing!! The second was getting used to bowing and not banging my head [on the shorter doorway].  After that I honestly did not have any issues adapting to the camper. I come from a backpacking background, so the camper actually felt very luxurious.  One of the most important things I learned was just how much my rig could take in terms of rough territory.  We tend to camp far from the madding crowd, often taking very rough roads to find a campsite.  During the first few months I also honed my technique for finding just the right campsite using a variety of maps and apps."

After a week in Florida, the travelers were ready to begin their trek to the West. Longer vistas and warmer weather were ahead as the trip continued, but these travelers had gotten down their routine and were now seasoned travelers. Part 2 of this travelogue will be the trip to the West during the spring. If you haven't already done so, follow this blog to receive email updates about new articles.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

From State Park to Private Camping on Our Own Land

It's not exactly boondocking, but it is camping with privacy--on thirty-five acres of property my wife and I just bought in rural southeast Iowa. We've been preoccupied with getting the land ready for camping, land that had been neglected--both a good and bad thing--good because the property hasn't been messed with and so is pretty wild, and bad because multiflora rose grows abundantly, along with poison ivy. 

Trails have been cut on the property which allow us to hike the perimeter of the land, which includes a higher ridge hill and also a lowering to the north where our land's boundary includes a creek. The land includes at least four large white oaks, hickory, honey locust, and other varieties that I still have to identify. Much of our initial work will be thinning the forest of saplings so we will be able to mow and open up the space. We're even researching the possibility of bringing in goats to clear out the bush!

Our first action on the land was to have the trails opened up, the second and third actions to activate electrical power and to gravel a driveway and camping area. We need to have a spigot installed to our water access. Having purchased a few mowing and work-related tools, we now will just begin exploring and improving. Even though the creek is mostly dry now, and even though during the rainy season it will be mostly muddy, the combination of hill and bottom land provides a diversity that we like. 

Camping in August on our over-grown land was enjoyable--despite the humidity, sweat flies, and chiggers and ticks. We plan, though, to be easy with the camping until the weather cools. It's then that we'll jump in more with the mowing and thinning. I did buy a second MoonShade awning, though, to help with the sun for the four nights I've camped on the land so far.

We've also discovered that our new Starlink communications connection works well. Eventually we hope for Sandy to be able to work on the land so that we can stay there for longer periods of time. Will we still travel and camp, though? Yes! I hope this late summer to camp at Backbone State Park again and to wade the Upper Iowa River. In the same area, I hope this fall to primitive camp (no electricity or water) in the Yellow River State Forest. 

Mostly, we intend to enjoy this new experience of camping and working on the land rather than just hiking for recreation. It's a new kind of interaction with nature, one of stewardship. I have no doubt there will be lots of hard work, but there will also be joy in especially helping the trees on the land to grow without too much crowding, and to help the land be freed of the invasive multiflora rose. 

I plan to write more about my experiences with our new land on my writing blog, Tom Kepler Writing ( Go to that blog and subscribe for updates . . . or subscribe to this blog because I intend to provide links on our work on the land to Green Goddess Glamping subscribers, too. The form for subscribing to this blog is below.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Airstream Basecamp and Starlink--First Time Out and Impressed

Starlink for RV
I'm sitting and writing in the shade of a large oak tree, early afternoon, lakeside, and about twenty-five feet from my Airstream Basecamp. My new lounge chair is comfortable, the south wind is keeping the gnats away, and  I can't think of a more comfortable or satisfying spot to be writing about my first camping experience with the Starlink RV satellite internet system. Lake Darling State Park in Iowa is a darling lake, with campsites right on the lake. It's a challenge for me as a writer, though, and for my wife with her consulting business which is almost completely managed by phone and via the internet because Lake Darling's signal strength is almost completely nil--and is sometimes non-existent--and, therefore, the perfect spot to test our new satellite internet service. I'll deliver our first impression right now--my wife and I are newly pledged Elon Muskateers!

At the office
The view certainly is perfect for composing this article about Starlink RV; as I finished the first half of this sentence, a gray heron flapped up the lake in front of me. I don't have to compose this post, just write down my observations! Because I'm about twenty-five feet outside my RV, the wifi signal strength is "medium," according to my Samsung Chomebook; taking the Chromebook inside the camper, it reads "strong." This Starlink RV unit is a real game changer. Prior to using it, I'd have to walk to a high point in the campground in order to send the text "Arrived" to my wife. Now I'm composing this blog post, including downloading photos to Google Drive and then uploading them to this post. Even with the medium-strength wifi signal, the speed is entirely acceptable--almost as fast as the fiber optics at home. Maybe a shade below normal. After listening to a couple of YouTube music videos, I could discern no lagging.

The router inside
Outside the window
I found the unit easy to set up, although there was a bit of learning involved but nothing difficult. It took me a while to realize I had to turn the unit on and then give it time to do its think setting up. What I've done the last couple of times plugging it in was to plug it in and then do something else for a few minutes--and by few I mean no more than three minutes. I've run the outside wire to the dish (which is a Gen2 flat one) through the side window latch port. The window closes easily on the wire. (I used this same system with our WeBoost signal booster.) The unit comes with seventy-five feel of cable. I've set the extra cable on top of the Basecamp's tire. The router I've set on the inside counter top that locks. The flat satellite dish I secured to the ground with a couple of smaller metal tent stakes.

Stats while writing
The unit does run on 120v power, so if I want to boondock, I'll have to figure that out. The power outtage is 74-250 watts, depending on if the unit is rotating and zeroing in on the closest satellite or just capturing the signal. Perhaps a battery power station with solar panels would do the job of keep me online while off the power grid. I've uploaded a screenshot of my network time while writing this article. However, I'm not going to interpret it for you since I'm so new at this sort of thing. All I can say is that the unit at Lake Darling is doing a fine job for me. The final test won't be this trip but will be how Starlink here works for my wife, who up- and downloads much larger files for her work. So far, though, Starlink allows me to be connected even while camping. My wife and I want to be able to get out together more, and Starlink might be that last "link" that allows up to camp more together.

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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Basecamping Backbone State Park--Iowa's Oldest

Backbone East Lake Trail
I remember wading a pebble-bottomed stream, ankle deep and crystal clear, and I remember hiking the "backbone" ridge with my son's schoolmates on a classroom campout, raccoons in the night and owls . . . and rain. Those are good memories, and I wanted to return to Backbone State Park, Iowa's first state park, and explore and experience more deeply this sanctuary in NE Iowa's Driftless Area. Missed by the glaciers of the last ice age, this part of Iowa has a geography much different than the rest of Iowa.

I opted to camp at Backbone for only four days, not really enough, but another heat wave was sweeping the Midwest, and a humid 97 degrees was a good reason to head home and water the garden. Four days of exploring wasn't quite enough to hit all the sites in this 2,001-acre state park, especially with Backbone State Forest adding an additional 186 acres of recreation opportunity at the NE corner of the park. The park, according to the DNR website, has something for everyone, from bold climbs to relaxed outings.

"Dedicated in 1920 as Iowa’s first state park, Backbone State Park is one of the most geographically unique locations in Iowa. The steep and narrow ridge of bedrock from the Maquoketa River forms the highest point in northeast Iowa - The Devil’s Backbone - giving the park its legendary name. Take a walk through history by checking out the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) museum, explore the rugged 21-mile multi-use trail system or fish in some of Iowa’s best trout streams. Whether you’re an adrenaline seeker or just wanting to get outdoors for the day, Backbone State Park has something for everyone."

 Arriving on a Thursday morning without a reservation, I felt confident that I'd be able to land a non-reserved site for my stay. I was correct in that assumption--but there is a story attached to that choice. I arrived and walked through the lower park of the modern South Campground, the 30-amp section, and found a non-reserved site with an old tag still attached to the site-numbered post. I added mine and then spent some time erecting two awnings to help with the sun and heat after the usual leveling and unhitching routine. By late afternoon I was able to enjoy my Airstream Basecamp's air conditioning, reading and relaxing. 

Interrupted by a firm knock on the camper's door, I looked out to see a park ranger waiting outside. I got up, and after a moment opened the door, saying, "Sorry it took a bit. I had to put my pants on." The ranger's response was, "And I appreciate that." It turned out that the site was already reserved. The rain-bedraggled reservation slip had indicated a reservation from June 10 for four days--except that it was actually from June 15 for four days . . . and I had arrived on the sixteenth. I had to break camp and leave; however, the ranger had kindly found another two non-reservable sites that weren't taken. 

"I thought you couldn't reserve a site and not set up camp. There was nothing at this site indicating anyone was here," but evidently, Iowa allows for someone to arrive at a campground and reserve a site, leaving only the reservation tag. So, okay then, I'll remember that. "Happens all the time," the ranger said. A group of several travel trailers showed up on Friday for the weekend, with my walk-in site spot having been reserved on Wednesday to ensure a spot for the weekend--two days reserved and empty, but the DNR still got their money.

At Backbone with two awnings to help keep the camper cooler
Deciding not to let the situation ruin my mood, I packed up and moved, following the ranger's advice of first picking one of the two sites and then adding my already-filled-out tag, having changed the campsite number. After that little blip, now I was ready to enjoy my four days, and I'd actually enjoyed the practice of speedily breaking and setting up camp. I'm getting pretty doggone fast! 

I had arrived at Backbone to stay for four nights. Obviously, Thursday was mostly driving and setting up camp (twice!), but I still managed to walk the upper and lower sections of South Campground, scouting out the general lay of the land. I discovered a trailhead for the West Lake Trail while taking a small, relaxing walk around the campground before bed. I also met one of the campground hosts, Thad, who let me photo a map of the park so that I'd have a better understanding of the trails.

Backbone Lake from the lower end of the West Lake Trail
The next day I was off hiking, a bit late in the morning, but I did manage to walk about half of the West Lake Trail, first heading south to the end of the lake and then turning around and hiking north of the trail. I managed a little more than half the trail, turning around at 11:30 so that I'd get back to camp in time for lunch and before it got too hot. Talking later with Thad and nearby campers, I was told that I could walk the West Lake Trail, follow the park's central road around the north end of the lake, and then take the East Lake Trail to complete the lake trail loop. I was told by a ranger I talked to that the loop trail route was okay to complete on a bicycle. That was my challenge for Saturday. The weather forecast was predicted to be cooler, and I assembled my folding bicycle, a Montague Allston, Friday evening. 

Instead of beginning my lake bike ride later in the morning, I headed out at 8:30, catching the cool air. There was a bit of a breeze, enough to hassle the humidity but not enough to hassle my trek. The West Lake Trail was described as having steeper hills than the East Lake Trail. I had hiked a couple of pretty steep pitches on Friday, so I knew that I'd be pushing the bike. That's okay with me, though, because ultimately the route is faster on a bicycle, even with a little riding and a lot of pushing. If I were pushing a fully-loaded touring bike, then that would be unnecessary work, but a lightly loaded bike isn't a problem; the bike can even function as a "walker" or wheeled "trekking pole" on steep parts of the trail. The West Lake Trail was uniformly about four to six feet wide, with mostly graveled sedimentary stone chips. 

In the end, I walked about forty percent of the West Lake Trail and bicycled the other sixty percent. There are many large, mature trees in this section of the park, many of them oak and hickory. Having attended an introductory lecture about the park by camp host Thad, I had learned that originally the park had much more open prairie, that the area had been a mixture of copses of forest and prairie. With the establishment of the state park, many more trees were planted so that now much of the park is unbroken forest. Some of the trail skirts private farm land, but most of the trail is deep enough in the park that the feel of forest silence is available. The west lake side of the hike spends some time near the lake and then moves away. 

A wider, smoother park of the East Lake Trail
I don't mind walking my bicycle, even when on highways. We can go for a Sunday drive and enjoy the scenes, but our interaction with the environment isn't nearly as immersed as when on a bicycle. Take that one step further; hiking immerses me in my surroundings even more than when riding a bike. On a road, that may not be so obvious: we can cruise along and still gawk. However, when riding on gravel or on a path with upthrust stone and exposed tree roots, a lot of the attention has to be on the path just in front of the bike. Believe me, I know because I've fallen a couple of times when the front tire has slipped out from beneath me. I wasn't hurt because I was essentially standing still, balanced on the bicycle when the tire slipped away, but nonetheless, there I was, on the ground. 

Therefore, I wasn't upset when I ended up riding about fifteen percent of the East Lake Trail and hiking the other eighty-five percent. It was a beautiful journey, even while packing the bike up or down steep, rocky trail across the "backbone" of the park and around or over trees fallen across the path. In a later conversation with the camp host and the park ranger, the ranger decided he'd have to hike the trail and open up a few spots that were sketchy.

My last full day at Backbone was a hot one, so I spent the morning checking out campsites for sun and shade orientation. I also enjoyed checking out some of the smaller trailers in the campground--quite a variety!

Rpod with a rear kitchen and quite a lot of room inside
A happy couple downsizing to an Aliner after their children have grown up
A classic (and well-used) Aristocrat trailer
Although I enjoyed my four days at Backbone State Park, there are several area features that I missed: I didn't get to the ice caves (at Bixby State Preserve), didn't get to hike the Backbone Trail, and missed wading up the river from the North Flats Shelter. The last two were activities I enjoyed with my son over twenty-five years ago, and it would have been nice to revisit both those places and those memories. However, 97-degree days were coming, so I kept my stay to four nights. I plan to visit Backbone again and to explore those areas of the park that I missed, especially the north end of the park. It was a good trip, one that made me look forward to another visit. Maybe those are the best camping trips of all!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Camping the Iowa Driftless Region in My Airstream Basecamp

Pulpit Rock Campground, Decorah, Iowa; Airstream Basecamp
Arriving at Pulpit Rock Campground
With the windshield wipers futilely slapping at the deluge of rain, I'm driving at 25 miles per hour on a country road to visit a city campground at Kendalville, near Decorah, Iowa. The storm was so severe that I was truly having trouble seeing my path, yet the county road fell off on both sides without a chance to pull off. Welcome to the Driftless Region, I told myself, and was at least happy that my Airstream Basecamp was safely back at Pulpit Rock Campground in Decorah, and that I wasn't towing the narrow road, pulling the travel trailer, imagining myself Noah with his ark.

The Driftless Area in northeast Iowa was missed by the last glaciers, so the area is more hilly than much of the Midwest. The entire Driftless Area extends beyond Iowa, capturing parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and a bit of Illinois. Wikepedia describes the area as follows: "Never covered by ice during the last ice age, the area lacks the characteristic glacial deposits known as drift. Its landscape is characterized by steep hills, forested ridges, deeply carved river valleys, and karst geology with spring-fed waterfalls and cold-water trout streams. Ecologically, the Driftless Area's flora and fauna are more closely related to those of the Great Lakes region and New England than those of the broader Midwest and central Plains regions."

Bluffton Road, near Decorah, Iowa
Bluffton Road

Bluffton Road, near Decorah, Iowa
My eight days of camping in the Driftless certainly highlighted the unique beauty of this area. I did finally make it to Kendalville Park and Campground, the rain slackening enough so that I could make a quick walk around the campground and providing a chance for the rain-drenched ground to soak my sneakers. On the way back to camp, the rain stopped so I turned onto Bluffton Road, which eventually narrowed to gravel and even a one-lane bridge. It was a great drive, and I saw several private campgrounds along the road that I would have checked out except for the continuing possibility of more rain. 

Pulpit Rock Campground
Trout Run creek at Pulpit Rock Campground
Pulpit Rock Campground
Pulpit Rock, a short hike from the campground

Pulpit Rock Campground
Camping at Pulpit Rock Campground in Decorah was enjoyable. I would call it more of an urbanright at the edge of Decorah, campground, even though the area is rural. The campground is skirted by US Highway 52, right at the western edge of town, so road noise is a reality. It's a busy city park and campground with a trout stream running through. I chose the park to be my basecamp for four days, and from there I'd take day trips in my car to see more of the area. I wasn't disappointed; the campground provided me with exactly what I needed. Decorah is a town of over seven thousand people and hosts Luther College. It has a progressive vibe, and there's quite a bit of refurbishing going on in the downtown area. During my four nights there, I was able to familiarize myself with the campground, hike a bit to Pulpit Rock, which is just beside the campground, and to set up my folding Montague Allston bicycle and ride about half of the 10.5-mile paved bike trail that circles the town. If I owned a kayak or canoe, I could have navigated the Upper Iowa River that runs through the town. It's a beautiful town and area, with many recreational opportunities, including a Farmers' Market, which I didn't get the opportunity to visit.

Yellow River State Forest, Little Paint Campground
At Little Paint Campground

Yellow River State Forest, Little Paint Campground
One day trip that I was eager to take was a long-awaited trip to Yellow River State Forest. A forest in the Driftless Area with only primitive camping, I wanted to camp for at least a couple of nights there, enjoying one of the greatest forested areas in Iowa. The Iowa DNR website describes the forest as "home to stunning views, beautiful woodlands and meandering trout streams." Irresistible! However, with heavy rains followed closely by a heat wave, I chose after all to resist the lure of the forest. The humidity would have been extreme, and the primitive, non-electric campsites would have disallowed the use of air conditioning. I'm either getting too civilized with my Airstream Basecamp or getting too old--or both! At any rate, I plan to visit again in the early fall. I'm sure the colors will be spectacular then. I found Little Paint Campground to be especially beautiful, with its trout stream and two shallow fords to get to some sites.

The sculpture "Walking with Birds" on the Trout Run Trail in Decorah, Iowa
"Walking with Birds" sculpture on Trout Run Trail

Pulpit Rock Campground, Decorah, Iowa; Trout Run Trail
Upper Iowa River, with the ribbon of bike trail
Pulpit Rock Campground, Decorah, Iowa
Downtown Decorah, Iowa
"That camper of yours has been causing a lot of talk," the camp attendant told me as he and a co-worker cruised by in their John Deere Gator. Explaining the history of the unit, I asked about Trout Run Trail that crosses the park, and the attendant mentioned that I should get going to beat the rain. I headed out on my bike ride in the morning because rain was expected that afternoon. The trail is pavement or blacktop and is well maintained. It was a beautiful ride with just a cooling breeze and enough clouds to keep the day cool. Quite a bit of the part of the trail I road skirts the Upper Iowa River, so lush trees were on one side and the sparkling river of the other. One characteristic of the Driftless Area is that the creeks and rivers are not muddy, the bottoms gravel and sand. Of course, after heavy rain, the water flow did become murky. As I traveled along, I noticed the build-up of dark, roiling clouds, so the last twenty minutes of my ride was a "cardio" experience as I spun back to camp to miss the rain. I arrived before the rain, put the bike away, and took a nap, waking up to heavy winds and rain. Later I found out that there was a tornado watch, but Decorah just received strong gusts of wind. I was glad that I'd taken down my awning, though. 

Pulpit Rock Campground, Decorah, Iowa; Airstream Basecamp
At Pulpit Rock during a heat wave, awning up for some shade
I stayed at Pulpit Rock on Sunday through Wednesday nights, but the campground was still busy even though it wasn't the weekend. With no reservation, my arrival on Sunday afternoon still allowed me to capture a campsite; however, that may not have been the case on a weekend. Decorah was a perfect place for me to situate myself for exploring the local Driftless Area. I could have spent more time and discovered more, but after four nights, I packed up and moved south a bit to Backbone State Park--but that will be another post!

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