After leaving Pierre, SD, we continued east toward Mitchell, SD, where we stayed for several days at Famil-E-Fun Campground. This was privately owned campground, with resident owners, which was a very pleasant place. We need to go grocery shopping, and the owners gave us directions to both the locally owned Grocery, and the local Walmart. They mentioned that the meat department at the local store was excellent, since Raymond was craving barbecued pork. We opted for the local store, even though we had to drive passed the Walmart to get there.
We were pleasantly surprised by the local store! They had a great meat department, where we got some locally raised buffalo meat, as well as Raymond's pork. They also had a great in store bakery with orange - cranberry muffins! The store offered some sort of stamps that when collected, give patrons discounts on future purchases and/or on gasoline purchases. Since we weren't interested in these, we stopped at the office on our way back into the campground, to offer them to the owners. You would've thought that we gave them a treasure! But, what they were most pleased about was that we had chosen to forgo Walmart and shopped at the local grocery store. Made me glad we did.
This was also the place where we met one of the very few creepy people we've come across while traveling. We had barely gotten hooked up and settled when a guy from an adjoining site came by to introduce himself. He made himself at home and began talking to us about his military career, from which he was now retired, and his wife's career in the CIA. He then launched into a verbal presentation regarding all the weaponry he owns. That segued into an announcement that he had shot several squirrels right before we arrived. He seemed very full of himself to me, and since he gave me an uneasy feeling, I excused myself, and left him with Raymond, at the picnic bench. There was something in the man's manner and tales that made me very uncomfortable, and for a change, I listened to that little voice, and made myself scarce. As it turned out, he made R uncomfortable, too, so we avoided him after that.
It is interesting to note that throughout our short time on the road, we have met very few people like this particular guy. In fact, our time on the road has bettered my general opinion of people. We have most often met friendly, kind, gentle folks. Even when they referred to us as "glampers" (glamour campers), they did so in a light-hearted way.
Anyway, we visited the usual sights in Mitchell, SD, before moving a little farther east, to Palisades State Park, in Garretson, SD, where we spent the week of July 4th. We chose this park, because of its proximity to Minnesota's highway 23. Our plan was to head from Garretson to Pipestone National Monument. As often happens, theses plans changed.
I should mention that the South Dakota State Park system is very nice, and most of their parks have free Wi-Fi, which is a nice little bonus. Garretson promised trails which allowed dogs, as well, another bonus. Unfortunately, what we didn't anticipate was the heat. We did very little hiking because the heat was extreme, topping out on July 4th, at 105 F. We were grateful for the air conditioning in the motorhome.
Because of the heat, we decided to travel farther north, to North Dakota. In our poor heat muddled brains, we kept thinking that north equaled cooler temps. Silly us. We re-evaluated our plans, decided to skip Pipestone for now, and head to Grand Forks, SD, and then into Minnesota, via Highway 2. That turned out to be an excellent choice. Minnesota was green and beautiful, full of evergreen trees and little lakes. Our main destinations in Minnesota were Eveleth and Ely, both in the eastern part of the state, surrounded by national forests.
Along the way we stayed in a couple of private campgrounds that were unimpressive. But we finally made our way to Eveleth, Mn, home of the US Hockey Hall of Fame. I was giddy, as we pulled into the parking lot. I cannot imagine what my reaction will be when I finally get to the actual NHL Hall of Fame! We also discovered that Eveleth is home to the world's largest hockey stick and puck, so we motored to downtown Eveleth for a photo op.
From there we traveled a little more northeasterly, to the town of Ely, Mn, home to The International Wolf Center and The North American Bear Center. The Wolf Center had two pups that they were introducing to the pack this year, and I was hoping to be present for one of the public introductions, or even one of the feedings. Quite serendipitously, we arrived just as Wolf Pups 101 was beginning. Unfortunately, our seats were not optimal, but we did get some video of both Luna and Boltz. And while I enjoyed our time at the Wolf Center, I was a little disappointed not to see any of the other resident wolves in the habitat.
The North American Bear Center, on the other hand, was a complete surprise. Until arriving in Ely, I didn't know of its existence. They have three resident bears, who can be viewed in natural, outdoor habitat, often interacting. The presentation by the volunteer staff was very informative. There was lots of information available for campers, and hikers, from bear proofing a campsite to how to react if you come face to face with a bear on a trail. They also had a rather large display of local art depicting bears, as well as displays of local wildlife. We really enjoyed our time there.