This summer I did a little experiment. I stood in the same(ish) spot during the first(ish) week of each month from May to October, and took a photograph. This particular spot shows the Many Glacier valley in Glacier National Park, Montana. Which, if you haven’t been following my blog, is where I spend A LOT of time working each summer. Check out my post A Day In The Life: Wrangling in Glacier National Park to read more about what that’s like.
You know that swoosh when a basketball goes through the hoop without touching the rim? That’s what it feels like when you back a trailer into a spot perfectly. In this post I’ll share what I’ve learned about successful trailer backing in my first year of camper ownership.
Only a third of the original dinette remains and I have decided to keep this bench seat with hidden storage. It needed some minor improvements though. Here’s the before picture as a reminder, or check out a previous post Camper: The “Before” and Camper: Counter Top Project to see how this bench seating has been evolving.
Last Sunday was a pretty surreal day revolving around fire, both past and present, as I watched the Howe Ridge fire blow up from the Sperry trail (burned last year). Topped it off with a rescue and evacuation. It was one hell of a way to kick off Glacier National Park’s fire season. This is a very long story, but guys, it was a very long day.
My summer job for almost a decade has been in the trail riding business. People often make comments like, “wow, you get paid to ride horses through Glacier National Park? Your job is my dream vacation!” But lemme tell ya, it’s not easy keeping things running smoothly and taking care of your butt out there on the trail. I picked a day at work to write about, June 23rd of 2018 to be exact, not because it had such memorable moments necessarily, but because it’s representative of the “well, shit happens” attitude you sometimes need out here to survive and stay sane. I’m the kind of person who always has a plan, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned at this job it’s that the horses, the people, and the Park will always find a way to throw a wrench in it. So here’s a true story about an eventful, but totally typical day at work.
Remember how I didn’t like the dinette in my camper? In this post I’ll show you what I did to make the space more practical for my purposes. My goal was to get more counter space for food prep that would do double duty as a desk. In a previous post, “Camper Demo Day”, I showed you how I ripped out parts of the dinette and the weird bunk/cupboard above. That was the easy part. It was looking like this last you saw:
Actually, demo days, plural. This didn’t happen all on one day. But if you’ve ever watched “Fixer Upper”, you know how exciting demo day is! It’s pretty fun to remove all the things you don’t like and get a clean slate to work with. There were a lot of things I didn’t really like in my camper. Like the bunk beds.
Another post about my eight months in Arkansas: The Buffalo National River! It’s amazing! The river creates a 150 mile long corridor of recreational opportunities in northern Arkansas. In addition to floating the river, there is great camping, historical sites, a random elk population, rock climbing and horseback riding at nearby Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, hiking on the Buffalo River Trail, and outfitters to help supply and shuttle canoes, kayaks, and other gear. Plus, the scenery is gorgeous.
Accessing the western end of the BNR corridor takes only about a 2 hour (scenic!) drive from Fayetteville, AR or Springfield, MO. The National Park Service’s website is chock full of resources to get you started with planning a trip: https://www.nps.gov/buff/index.htm
Spring is the best time to float the Buffalo because the water level drops quickly. Even in early May (after a recent flood no less!) there were spots where I had to get off my kayak and tow it over shallow spots. I borrowed a kayak (for me) and canoe (for my visiting parents) from local friends. Outfitters along the river seemed to have reasonable prices if you want to rent gear. The folks at Buffalo River Canoes were super friendly and helpful when we asked about water and weather conditions. Outfitters can also help with shuttling, even if you bring your own boats, but we had two trucks for shuttling ourselves from put ins and take outs.
We opted for a base camp approach so that we could return to the comforts of a familiar campsite after each day of recreating. Our camp was at Kyle’s landing. Kyle’s landing was a busy place during day light hours. Hordes of children (school groups? summer camps? idk), utilized it for put in/take outs. Things quieted down considerably in the evening and the landing had plenty of room for camping. It even had flush toilets! This surprised me because it had been described as “primitive”. Maybe that was in reference to the road- a long, steep, rutted and washed out dirt road. Vehicles with low ground clearance or without 4-wheel drive might struggle.
There had recently been heavy rainfall and flooding in northwest Arkansas. Like, major flooding. We were worried that this would affect our trip. Fortunately, the water had receded to a welcoming level. The brown mud color turned back into a beautiful turquoise. There were plenty of rapids to keep us occupied. Slower deeper stretches of water gave us breaks to sit back and admire the scenery.
We had a few issues with strainers (trees and branches across the water creating a hazard) but I kept telling myself that if those groups of kids and those older booze-cruising adults could get past them safely, so could I. I will admit to falling out of the kayak twice, but that was actually in the less sketchy spots when my guard was down, ha ha.
We experienced beautiful sunny weather (and no mosquitoes!!!) on our trip. My parents especially enjoyed all the bird watching and constantly scanned the bluffs with their binoculars. While we aren’t really into fishing ourselves, the river certainly affords that opportunity. The water temperature was just right, but I saw several copperhead snakes swimming and I didn’t really want to join them.
We barely touched on the hiking possibilities on this trip. The Buffalo River Trail parallels the river and it connects to the Ozark Highlands Trail. Backpacking trips are totally possible. Not to mention the webs of shorter trails around campsites and points of interest. We hiked to Hemmed-in-Hollow which features a 209 foot waterfall. This is the tallest waterfall between the Rockies and Appalachians. The pictures I took failed to take in the scope. My friend, Anna, hiked there a few weeks later and allowed me to use her picture in this post.
One last success to tell ya’ll about: I camped comfortably with my hammock! I’d tried to sleep outside in my hammock before, but I got too cold. This time however, I was perfectly comfortable because I was armed with an underquilt. Don’t know what that is? Stay tuned to my blog, I’ll do a future post: Tents vs. Hammocks!