We finally made it to Custer on Friday, April 8th. High winds prevented us from towing the trailer up the mountain on Thursday but we got set up in the campground before noon on Friday. Our Tundra did a great job towing the trailer!
When we arrived Steve, the campground owner, guided us into the site and helped with the initial setup. We are so new at this RV stuff we really appreciated Steve’s help with leveling the rig, water hookup, and the electrical connection. It took some time to get everything just right but we finally were able to get the truck unloaded and all the boxes of short-term essentials unpacked and stored in our now very limited space. We had read before that one of the biggest challenges to this lifestyle is dealing with the small space, how true.
We spent Friday getting comfortable in our new digs. Our first night in our camper, which we dubbed “Happy” went very smoothly. We have no TV in here yet, so we listened to classic country music on the radio and Dave cooked up some burgers and I made a salad (which was much needed after eating junk food for the last 10 days!).
At dusk, about 6 beautiful deer made their way around the campground and decided to graze about 6 feet from the Happy Camper. We enjoyed watching them while we cooked and drank a glass of wine. Shortly after they left, the sun set and we were in bed by 8:30. A wild Friday night at Fort Welikit!
Saturday morning, we started working right away with Steve to get the campground ready for the 2016 season. Our first day of work included cleaning/organizing the maintenance shed and de-winterizing some of the campground. We removed tarps from some of the wood carvings, put up flag poles and flags, and moved all the paints/chemicals from the office into the maintenance shed. (For those of you in the Southern climes, winter gets pretty cold here and the office is the only heated building year round – so at the end of the season Steve stores anything that may freeze in there.) 1.5 hours of work, and we were dismissed to enjoy the rest of the day!
We headed to Deadwood in the Northern Black Hills to participate in the Forks, Corks and Kegs Food and Wine Festival. Jen won VIP tickets by calling into the local TV station at 5AM. Sometimes it pays to get up early! We picked up our passes at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel and proceeded to pub crawl through the historic town of Deadwood. The town is basically one string of buildings through a canyon. The buildings are old, western in style, and there is a lot of history and romance. Deadwood remains a gambling mecca, and it is very touristy. We enjoyed the food and wine parings and the chance to stroll through all the old hotels, and ended up back at the Deadwood Mountain Grand for a wine tasting. It was a beautiful day, sunny and in the 70’s…what a fun way to start out our first weekend in the Black Hills.
Sunday – 9 April 2016 – Rainy and high of 54F.
Brrrr….It was a chilly Sunday morning at Fort Welikit. We stayed in the camper until about 8AM and then went to help Steve organize the campground office and store to get ready for the 2016 season. He showed us how the reservation system works and we were happy/surprised to see that much of the campground is booked almost through the entire summer. We are enjoying the peace and quiet for now, but once the season starts it looks like it will be quite busy! After logging some of our work-camping hours in the office, we headed out in the drizzle to drive down to Stagecoach Springs and visit our property.
As we headed south down Hwy 89, the temperature began to climb and by the time we were at Stagecoach Springs, it was about 10 degrees warmer, and sunny! We went to Cowboy Dave and Linda’s house and it was so nice to be reunited with our friends. They told us about the winter, calving season, and all the goings on in their lives, and we told them about our crazy journey to get here. We were happy to hear they still have two pregnant cows, so hopefully we will get to be present for their births in the next month or so.
Eventually, Cowboy Dave told Pilot Dave to go get the ATV and we loaded up Cowboy Dave, the two of us, and their sweet dogs, Arrow and Hercules. We drove up to our future build site. Cowboy Dave has some great insight about building, preparing for weather, winter winds and summer heat, and cow-proofing our future residence. He pointed out that there may be an old road surface that would have been used by the Corps of Civil Engineers in the 1940s, which would serve as a great driveway (and cost less than starting a new road!). We are so happy that he and Linda are going to be our neighbors.
We got back to Cowboy Dave and Linda’s “High Lonesome Ranch” about 5pm, which was cow feeding time. Cowboy Dave told Pilot Dave it was time to get to work and that he should go get Bob to feed the cows. Bob is Cowboy Dave’s tractor. Pilot Dave was like a little kid at Christmas. He hopped up on the tractor and drove it to the barn where Cowboy Dave and I climbed up in the loft and loaded the bucket with hay bales. Pilot Dave then drove the tractor out into the field and to the round feeder. We unloaded the bales and spread them according to Cowboy Dave’s direction. Hay around the outside, alfalfa in the center and on top, so the cows think they are getting all the good stuff (alfalfa) and not just plain old hay.
Then, Cowboy Dave called his cows, “HEYYYYAAAA, HUP HUP, HEYAAAA, HUP HUP!!” His call was as loud as you could imagine; his voice carried over the fields and pretty soon there was a line of cows running toward the feeding pasture, answering his call and looking for supper! What a spectacular day!
Our spirits were high, and as we arrived back at our campsite at dusk, we had the usual welcoming committee of 6 beautiful deer. They watched us pull into the drive next to the camper and just kept eating. They are not afraid of us, and actually looked at us as if we may have some potential in feeding them something in the future.
It was cold that night. Dave drained the water lines to ensure we didn’t have any pipe blow outs as the temps dipped into the high 20’s. Happy Camper did great. The heater worked well and we woke up comfortable and safe for another beautiful Black Hills Morning…..even though it is Monday, we are looking forward to getting to work!