Today, while I think back on 2020, I can't help but have a heavy heart. I have to frequently remind myself, that I am still here..... and only inconvenienced, not devastated, destroyed or gone from this planet as so many other are.
I was excited for 2020 with the thought of travelling during an early retirement opportunity - then suddenly a global pandemic, mass deaths, social injustice, blatant racisms, climate crisis, wildfires, my own fire loss and a THOROUGHLY divided nation.... So many challenges brought to light in 2020. Some for the necessary good, as we can now work to repair, and others not so much.
Yet, we need to look past this dark cloud and find light!! Find new meaning, new hope and purpose.... and NO, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it is not all going away in January 2021. We still have a long haul! So buckle yourself tight, hang on for the ride and hope for calmer tides!
For now, just pause and reflect on what you do have and what you can be hopeful for.... cling ever-so tightly to that! I thought hard....and it didn't take long for me to realize how lucky I am:
To a new dawn, a new day, a new year!
Let's make each day our best effort on Earth and may we ride calmer tides in 2021!
Inland Ocean Coalition - Wyoming Chapter
Crystal Reservoir Cleanup
I arrived just in time to call my daughter whose middle name is Cheyenne from Cheyenne, Wyoming on her birthday! I actually named her after the Chevy Cheyenne Blazer, a late 70’s model my parents had – but that’s my secret! I arrived a few days earlier than planned and just had to “park it”. On my way down from South Dakota my trailer brakes started acting up and continued to get worse. I pulled into Glendo State Park with the intent to stay and explore for a few days but when I hit the gravel road and the trailer brakes locked up…. well, that ended that idea! I was using a CURT Echo brake controller. It is a really cool gadget that connected to my 7-pin plug and then the app on my iPhone controlled the trailer brakes via Bluetooth. Nothing to install inside the vehicle – pretty slick, at least when it worked right! I stopped at a rest area and tried to uninstall and reinstall the brake controller app – but no data available! Good grief, the data plan I was sharing with my family was all used up and throttled back too far for anything. Luckily, I have OnStar and was able to add and activate a data plan quickly and inexpensively. I think I will be keeping it active while on this adventure, all things considered. I drove around that rest stop about 10 times and I am sure the truckers thought I was just some crazy lady! My brakes were still locking up right before coming to a complete stop otherwise they were fine. So, I decided to go the rest of the way to Cheyenne even though it was already dark. There was almost no traffic and I thought that would be my best bet and allow me a few extra days to find someone to look at it.
Everything went fine on my way down to Cheyenne (other than I was tired of driving and my butt hurt from sitting all day!) but as I got into town, the traffic lights became… let’s say… entertaining to stop at, errrk!! I made it to a Walmart parking lot but saw signs saying NO OVERNIGHT PARKING. I heard not all Walmart locations will allow you to stay so I got online (good thing I had my own data) and found that I could stay in one particular area away from the store. Sure enough a couple other RVs were there so I parked, errrk!! and called it a night. I soon discovered this was the employee parking area as well! I could hear them coming in early, parking, doors slamming, car horns confirming their vehicles were locked… yep, not much sleep. I got up early did some more troubleshooting, got coffee and did even more troubleshooting. Finally, I started looking for a place to stay for 3-nights and place to service the trailer brakes. Luck should have it I was able to find a spot and a place to checkout my brakes, only they could not squeeze me in until Saturday and that was the day of the cleanup event I came here for! I was determined to make this work!! I contacted the Wyoming IOC Chapter Lead, Kelly, to let her know I had made it to town. She called me later and invited me to dinner Friday night – FUN!! I had a lovely evening of good food, tasty wine, and even better conversation among new friends!
Images of cleanup event courtesy of Kelly Wright
Next morning, I headed out to Curt Gowdy State Park and Crystal Reservoir where Kelly arrange an extra boat for me and I teamed up with one of their friends, Mike. Everyone loaded up and headed to different areas of the reservoir and then combed the shoreline. Mike and I collected a rather large bag of debris and I caught a trout with my bare hands!! LOL It floated up and flopped on its side – a dead floater and rather easy catch. My guess is someone was doing the catch and release thing but this one did not survive the process. I gave it to a couple of kids, and I think that freaked them out more! After a couple hours of cleanup, it was back into town to get the trailer.
The brakes on the trailer checked out fine so again it pointed to the controller being the issue. I did a couple of test loops and I still had a slight lag, then hard stop. While I was not skidding, I knew it was just a matter of time and being 4 states away, I knew the time would come. We talked at length regarding my options and in the end I elected to haul it straight back to resolve this and a few other challenges I had discovered. I was going to have to change my plans a bit, but I can do that – I realized early on I had to be flexible!! I also elected to go without the controller since it was almost more dangerous with it than without and being that I was just right at the point of still being legal without auxiliary brakes…it just made most sense. I thanked Tim at Adventure RV for making time on his Saturday to try and help me out. Next it was back to Curt Gowdy State Park to meet up with the group and then stay the night at the park.
When I arrived, I got checked in and backed into my AWESOME spot with a nice little beach area all to myself. I wish all campsites were that gorgeous! As I was unhitching to go meet the group the trailer-tongue cone I was trying out for the first time, to see if it stopped the roll I was experiencing as I unhitched, decided to flip out because it rolled and BAM it dropped onto the ground hard. And yes, I had chalked the crap out of both trailer wheel to try and prevent it from rolling. I‘d say that cone thingy certainly didn’t work as planned! I found my jack in the Colorado – although it took nearly 30-minutes to find it and get to it! I stabilized the tongue to take the weight off the jack and get it off the ground. Then I said a few choice words and left to meet with the group. I was not going to let the hitch in my unhitching ruin the rest of my plans so off I went.
After a nice gathering at a local joint, a few of us went back and had the most amazing catered dinner I have ever had “camping”! Aside from some crazy wind it was so much fun. Jim and Pascal (I know I am not spelling this right…sorry!) were so kind to include me along with Kelly, Joe, and Mike. After a fabulous time, I headed back to camp, which was just around the corner and enjoyed some more crazy winds. Thank you Kelly for being such a gracious host and thanks for sharing your cleanup event and photos with me!
I woke to the most beautiful sunrise! It was so peaceful and with fresh eyes I immediately figured out what I needed to do to get the trailer hitched back up…. It was a slow and steady process, which I probably over-engineered but it worked like a charm! That Colorado jack came in handy….I think I need to get me a more convenient one though! I ate some fresh fruit and enjoyed the quiet morning before heading out.
I towed slow, allowed for lots of room and geared down so I did not overuse the brakes on the Colorado. It worked out fine! The wind in Wyoming killed my gas mileage! OMG!! Once I hit Montana it let up and started to rain a bit. I spend the night at Cabela’s in Billings and then drove the rest of the way to Spokane Valley the next day. I was able to get the trailer in right away and I now have a new brake controller installed – not the little Echo, I decided it failed me once and I needed something reliable!! So, I have one of the controllers installed in the truck by my right knee. Ugly but reliable … we shall see! They found the blown fuse that was killing my battery daily, fixed the broken latch and I am upgrading the solar and battery before I head back out so I can be off grid without issue.
I might have to swing through Redondo, and checkout the 6-gill shark action and then I definitely need my Hood Canal fix before I head down to Oregon! So far, there is no place quite like home!
I did go on a little side trip prior to the cleanup event - an amazing place called Vedauwoo. One of those places that make you wonder "how on earth did that get there?" I was planning to stay a day and do some bouldering but plans had to change. I'll be back another day.
I got so caught up in dealing with the aftermath of our garage fire, and insurance inventory, I totally lost track that the Wyoming cleanup event was moved out 1-week for a COVID off-again-on-again wedding situation. Suddenly I found myself a week ahead of schedule instead of a week behind! Time to hit the Dakotas! I was further south than I would have been had I planned this but nothing like making the drive through Montana longer than it already is! I specifically did not dive in Montana this leg as I want to hit Glacier and Flathead towards the end of summer, so I just meandered through enjoying the scenery. Next stop - Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota.
First, what's up with the spelling - is it Sacagawea, Sacajawea or Sakakawea? "Sakakawea" spelling, use and meaning are based on the fact that Charbonneau told Lewis and Clark that one of his wives’ name was “Bird Woman” which translates to Sakakawea in Hidatsa. The three affiliated tribes, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, concur that this is the correct spelling and it is widely used in North Dakota. Certainly not what I was taught in history many years ago.
I found my way to Lake Sakakawea State Park and got myself situated. I planned to dive the next morning however I woke to a crazy thunder and lightening storm so I made more coffee and decided to wait it out. As I ventured around looking for the best dive site I started to get a little confused (a large do not scuba sign). So I contacted Randy at Scuba One in Bismarck to get some information on diving Garrison Dam. Randy happened to be in the area and met me at the dive site and provided a great dive brief. Later he called me to see if I wanted a "job"!? Apparently a gentleman lost his wallet at the marina and I was the only diver he knew of in the area. Long story short, it was in the other State Park so I agreed to retrieve it the next morning and hoped to be able to get back in time to still dive Garrison Dam.
The next morning I was off to Fort Stevenson State Park, about 5-miles as the crow flies but a good 40-minute drive. I got lost in the sunflower farms for a bit, they were too beautiful to pass up. When I arrived at Fort Stevenson Marina, I checked in with the Ranger on duty to get his okay for me to dive the marina. After receiving my green light and a sarcastic "good luck in that muck" I found the location and gathered my gear. There were definitely a couple of dock lines to avoid but the water was still and the shoreline was rip-rap, so I thought there might be some hope in finding this wallet. Hot as can be already and guess who brought her dry suit! As I dropped below my buoy, I certainly did not experience a chill - it was more like bathwater. I positioned myself and shined my dive light. It was a nice rock bottom, very silty and BOOM - there's a wallet, a fishing pole, a reel holder, etc. I checked my dive computer and sure enough I was 1-minute into my dive! Now what to do? My dive light was attracting lots of little fish so I played for a bit, collected a couple items and then decided it was just too boring to waste any more air on. I ascended and made my way to shore with buoy in tow (cause that law). Getting out was the hardest part as I climbed the rip-rap rockery in my gear. I called the owner of the wallet and we rendezvoused just outside the park. He was happy, or maybe his wife was happier since he blamed her for dropping it! Unfortunately, it was getting too late to pull off a second dive considering elevation and my need to checkout of the campground timely, so I just stopped by and did my dive site cleanup and off to shower and pack up camp.
As a was pulling out and rounding the corner I saw something in my rear-view mirror that I didn't recall being in the roadway...but what could I have dropped?? I parked and took a quick shower, then to the garbage and dump facility where I spotted my DIVE boot on the rack of my truck! Oh crap - now I know what I saw! So around the park with the trailer again, only no boot! I talked to a couple of different campers but nobody saw it. I stopped by the Ranger Station where Ranger Greg called around to the camp host and then after no luck he took down my information and said he'd send it my way if it turned up. Two-days later Ranger Greg called me to let me know it was found! Ranger Greg to the rescue!! I guess I'll be diving a wet suit until I get back to Spokane.
Next Stop - South Dakota and Pactola Lake Reservoir
I found my way to Rapid City, South Dakota, crashed at Cabela's for the night before heading out to Mount Rushmore. Maybe it's our divided nation or just the crowds but I just wasn't into it. So, I took a few photos and hit the road after a much needed coffee refill. Then I made my way to Whispering Pines Campground in Black Hills. Did some dive site recon, found groceries, a cave to explore, and did laundry, just not necessarily in that order! The next day I made my way over to Lake Pactola Reservoir to clean up the shore and meet my group for an evening dive around "Alcatraz Island" which was a large rock formation near the dam. The surface elevation is 4,580' and water temperature was around 65°F. I think we hit a mild thermocline and it dropped to 62°F somewhere around 48' below. I literally saw two fish, and the shadows of a school of sunfish up in the murky shallows. We ascended to a breathtaking sunset, although there was a cost since it was the result of the smoke from the wildfires. Might say I'm a little hyper-sensitive to the destruction fire can cause.
I can't thank Jim enough of Black Hills Aquatic Adventures in Rapid City, South Dakota!! Not only did he get a few of his dive masters and friends to come out and dive with me, he also delivered me a new pair of booties since I remembered the wet suit but forgot the wet boots! Such a gear intensive sport and expensive when you have to keep buying what you forgot!! Thanks to my dive buddies - Carol, Shawn and Rob. If you are ever in Washington - look me up and I'll happily return the favor. Fair warning, the water is just a little colder!
I contemplated hitting Nebraska but my trailer brakes were acting "odd".... more on that next time....
On to Wyoming by way of Devil's Tower!
Pamela Treischel is a SCUBA diving enthusiast, underwater photography hobbyist and Ambassador for the Inland Ocean Coalition.