Day 7 – Oklahoma to Texas 

April 28

We left our campsite and stopped at Prairie Dog Town, an area set aside for Prairie Dogs in Wichita Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. 

The prairie dogs were almost friendly. I’ve never seen them so habituated to humans. 

Jon was eating a morning snack and he had one come up under the fence to almost beg for food. 

Obviously, most people don’t resist. The one that came so close was female and may have been nursing pups. So I got a few really up close photos of them.

It was really wonderful to see pups and a large number of prairie dogs out and about. They did signal warnings a couple of times, but there were always a few left out.

When we drove in, we noticed a bison in the pasture behind the prairie dog area. It turns out there were actually two bison on two separate fields. One on them was close to the path along the side of the prairie dog area, so Jon and I took it hoping to get a better view of the bison. 


We absolutely did. We stayed on the path for most of the time, but then we walked a little closer. 

We completely understand that bison are not tame and are much bigger and faster than we are. We didn’t get too close. 

I did really appreciate the new camera with a telephoto lens. I was able to get some really close up photos. 

After this excitement, we headed west. We were hoping to make it through Texas today. The weather report called for a winter storm warning tonight. Not something you expect in Texas at the end of April. We finally decided to stop in Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge to camp. 

Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge

Muleshoe is known for its bird life. Sand hill cranes stop here during their migration. We weren’t there at that time of year, but we did see a Ferruginous Hawk rise up from the road and fly off. It was impressive.

The Muleshoe campground was very nice. There were spaces for six spots. Some had picnic tables or fire rings. There were vault toilets, but no potable water. 

There was already another vehicle at the camping area. It was a Sportsmobile. After getting parked so that we were optimally lined up with the expected storm, we went over to say hi. 

It turns out that they had only recently taken possession of the van and this was a five week inaugural trip for it. They were from Oregon and had brought their very large black German Shepherd. We talked to them for a while and warned them about the oncoming storm. Jon suggested that they might want to realign their vehicle, but they weren’t interested in moving at this point.
Jon and I walked up to the main office to sign in. After a very short distance from our camper, the wind really started kicking up. And it was very cold. We signed in and took a brief look at the displays before heading back. 

It had gotten really cold and the wind was incredible. I am very glad we had a four-seasons camper and so appreciative of Jon’s forethought about the direction of our camper. 

Lemon-ginger chicken with jalapeno sugar snaps and French fried shallots with a nice white wine.

We didn’t leave the camper until morning.

I am thankful that our camper is well insulated with double paned windows, has heat, and a bathroom and kitchen inside. Those features are not always needed, but when they are, I am grateful. 

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Wild Turkeys at Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge 

From April 27 – 28

We saw a number of wild turkeys at Doris Campground in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. 

Because a took a large number of photos of the turkeys, I decided to split them off into their own post.

All these photos are from our turkey sightings on April 27 & 28.

We first saw the wild turkeys in an uninhabited campground loop. There were five Tom turkeys and about three hen turkeys pretending to ignore the males. The exact number of females was hard to determine. The males stayed in one big group promenading in their best mating postures. The females were often in high grass making them hard to spot unless they raised their heads. 

When we settled into our campsite, we saw the turkeys cross the road and come over to our campground loop. The females were in the lead grazing on whatever looked appealing. The males followed behind looking as dignified and pompous as possible.

A female turkey. Note her really long legs.

We watched them enter the camping area and seemed completely unafraid of humans. 

Jon and I walked over to get a better view. I took a lot of photos. 

Later in the day, once we had gotten back from our hike, two male turkeys in their normal attire came over to our campsite to forage. The males look so much smaller when they aren’t all poofed up. 

And they look kind of like they are wearing a skirt when they are in the in between stages.

All of the turkeys in the US are in the same genus and species (Meleagris gallopavo). This includes the turkeys which have been domesticated. The white domesticated turkeys have been bred with such large breasts that they can no longer breed naturally. See Dirty Jobs if you want a hands on demonstration. 
Wild turkeys almost became endangered in the 1960s due to excessive hunting. Restrictions were put in place and efforts to relocate turkeys were a huge success. There are now large numbers of wild turkeys. 

Most turkeys in the US are derived from the Mexican Turkeys that the Spanish settlers brought back to Europe. They were then brought back to the new world with English settlers. Some of those turkeys escaped and became wild again. So between the native turkeys and escaped turkeys, there are a number of different subspecies of wild turkeys.

Wild Turkey Subspecies

For the most part, the easiest way to tell them apart is by the banding in their tails and their location. 

On the eastern part of the US, the turkeys generally have a rufous colored band (a reddish-brown color) at the tips of their tails. Merriam’s wild turkeys are found in the western parts of the US (between New Mexico up to Wyoming and Oregon). Their distinguishing feature is the cream colored tip of their tail feathers.

The turkeys at this campground were the Rio Grande subspecies. The Rio Grande turkeys are found in the southern more central and western states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Utah. They have longer legs, a tan to cream tip their tails, and are more generally lighter brown with a copper and green iridescence to their feathers. They are also supposed to be gregarious, and these were certainly that.

Those features are hard to tell when they are in the shade.
Once we saw a few males in the sun, it was much more obvious. 

The turkeys really made this place special. I hope you enjoy the photos.

The Wikipedia entry was very helpful. 

Wikipedia Wild Turkey Entry

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Day 6 pm – Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge 

April 27 afternoon

After a brief stop for supplies, we headed to Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. 

We headed for the campgrounds and it took a bit to figure out the loops and campsites. 

We saw turkeys in the first loop we drove through. No campers, just a cluster of male turkeys and a few females.

We wanted to be down by the lake, but there were limited sites with power. So we wound up in D loop which had nice flat spots with power and a little space between the campsites. It was in a scrub oak forest among the many trees. 

It had gotten pretty warm, so I appreciated the trees to shade the camper. 

Hopefully being a little further from the lake, we wouldn’t have any issues with bugs.

We spent a little time talking with a nice couple in big, classic American SUV. And then the wild turkeys came over. I grabbed my camera and we all followed them. There were five males and three hens. It was fascinating. 

Once we had enough photos and our guests left, we walked up to the entrance to pay for our site. 
By the way, when going to state and federal sites, it helps to have a checkbook. Most of the time you have to deposit it in correct amount, so unless you have exact change, you may be stuck overpaying.

We planned on taking the Little Brushy Trail after the stop at the Entrance Station. 

We reached a really beautiful section on some rocks with a great view of the lake, turtles and lots of wildflowers. 

We spotted really dark clouds on the horizon. 

After reaching a dam and beautiful canyon, we decided to head back to our campsite before it started to pour.

We reached our vehicle without any problem. We hung out for a while and the storm passed over without dropping any rain. 

We had a nice quiet rest of the day. We saw more of the turkeys and some deer. The human neighbors weren’t particularly friendly. Everyone seemed to do their own thing. 

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Day 6 am – Sulphur, OK

April 27 morning

We had kind of a late start. Our plan was to keep the distance pretty short again today. We picked out a destination before we left our campsite. 

We decided on Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge near Fort Sill Military Reservation. We passed by the National Parks Visitor Center in Sulphur, the town next to the Chickasaw NRA (National Recreation Area). The building was a modern construction with the use of natural materials. We stopped to see if they had any info on our planned camping area. They didn’t. 

The building in the background is the NPS Visitor Center

The town was attractive, so we took a walk down the main street. There was a really nice little park on the corner with a water feature, a number of appealing bronze sculptures and native plants. 

We especially liked the Pileated Woodpecker incorporated into the water fountain and one of the wall plaques. We have a pair of them nesting by our house in NC.

After stopping there,  we walked along the main street. There were a number of antique shops obviously catering to the tourist crowd. I was surprised that several of them were open. After all, April isn’t exactly tourist season and we were visiting on a Thursday. We passed a dress shop with an elaborate strapless gown in the window. 

As we kept going, the shops’ quality and condition decreased significantly. By the end, most of the storefronts were vacant or used for storage. Several of those storefronts were owned by the Billy Cook Harness & Saddle Manufacturing. 

The horse coming out of the top of the building facade was fun.

Now that we had stretched our legs, we headed west to tonight’s stop.

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Day 5 – Arkansas to Oklahoma 

April 26

When we left Hot Springs, Arkansas, it was about to rain. We fortunately were able to pack up before the storm came through.

As usual, we wanted to take the back roads. We took US 270 for a while and then planned on picking up the Talimena National Scenic Byway from Arkansas into Oklahoma.

Talimena National Scenic Byway 

It had the similar feel as the Blue Ridge Parkway, down to the very heavy fog.

Little serpentine roads like that are great on motorcycles, but it the Fuso, it wasn’t much fun with no view and no visibility for even short distances.

I’m sure the views are really great without the fog. So, if you happen to be in this part of the world, I would recommend taking it assuming there isn’t any rain or snow.

We turned off at the next exit and headed to Oklahoma on the back roads.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

We aimed for a shorter drive today. So we decided to camp at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. It had formerly been a National Park and there was an area that formed a historic district. There was an enclosed pasture with Buffalo. We didn’t see any there.

We camped at the Buckhorn Campground. We were able to find a spot close to the Lake of the Arbunkles. 

There were four loops, although A & B were closed. The campground had a controlled burn within the last year and the evergreen trees looked like it.

The campsites were a reasonable distance apart with lots of mature oaks providing shade.  We checked out the bathrooms and showers. They were really nice.

We took a walk down to the lake about an hour before sunset.  It was a great view.

We had a quiet, laid back evening.


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Day 4 – Hot Springs, Arkansas 

April 25

We camped at Gulpha Gorge which is part of the Hot Springs National Park. The park includes Bathhouse Row in the historic part of Hot Springs. 

After driving for the last three days, we were ready for a break. So we decided to hike to the historic section and back. 

We crossed over the creek and followed the Gulpha Gorge Trail up the mountain and then took the Hot Springs Mountain Trail that follows the ridgeline. 

There was a great view from the top.

We opted to skip the Observation Deck.

We continued along to reach the Shortcut Trail & then the Dead Chief Trail.

Doing that put us out on the Grand Promenade right behind the bathhouses. It is a lovely, patterned brick, wide walkway. It is easy to imagine couples dressed in their finest strolling along it.

Going to the end put us close to the end of Bathhouse Row. 

In 1832, the federal government set aside this area to reserve the springs. Considering this was before National Parks and the Civil War, it was an unlikely action. In 1921, it became the 18th National Park.

Hot Springs National Park

The architecture of this area is notable. In 1913, there was a huge fire that burned most of the buildings along the main street.

Because of that, the majority of the buildings around this area were built soon after in an art deco style. The details caught my eye. 

And the lines.

The bathhouses were designed to attract the rich and wealthy, so they are build in a variety of styles. 

Quapaw Bathhouse is built in a Spanish Colonial Revival style. It has been restored and offers spa /bath services. Of course, it is closed on Tuesdays.

The Fordyce is built in a Renaissance Revival style. It was the most impressive bathhouse at the height of the Bathhouse period.

It was extensively restored and is now the Visitor Center for the National Park.  

It was early afternoon at this point, so we stopped at the Superior Bathhouse for lunch.

It was built in a Classical Revival style. It is currently operated as a brewery and restaurant. 

Superior Bathhouse

The food was really good and fresh. Jon tried their root beer and found it tasty.

We toured the Fordyce visitor center and museum. The restoration was extensive and there are lots of attractive features.

It was interesting to see what kinds of health therapies have come and gone in the last 100 years. 

Hydrotherapy is still in use.

Physical exercise is still important, just the types of activities. I’m surprised that Cross fit isn’t incorporated traveling rings in their training programs.

After the Fordyce, we continued walking down the main street checking out the sights. 

Once we felt like we had seen enough, we hiked back to the campground via a little less hilly a route. We walked about 7 1/2 miles with a lot of elevation.

Jon and I were both hot and tired by the time we got back to the campsite. So we spent time hanging out, talking with other campers, cooling off, getting organized, etc. 

We are heading out tomorrow. A big storm front is coming through in the morning.

On our way out, we passed by the observation deck at the top of the hill we climbed. We definitely had a lot of elevation to climb on that hike.

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Day 3 – Crossing the Mississippi River

Alabama to Arkansas

Our campsite was relatively quiet until the whippoorwill (turns out it was actually a Chuck’s-will-widow) started calling at 4:30. We were able to get back to sleep, so we had a nice lazy start this morning.


We continued west on Hwy 278. It is a really pleasant route to take. It reminded us of Hwy 64 in central North Carolina.

We crossed into Mississippi going along I-20 before taking the Natchez Trace Parkway back to 278. 
We took more backroads to cross the Mississippi River at Helena, Arkansas.

It gave us a chance to see a juvenile Bald Eagle and coyote.

Even with the bridge being only two lanes normally and one lane right now due to construction,  we crossed in a timely manner with a chance to enjoy the view.

We stopped at the Arkansas Welcome Center in Helena which is worth stopping at if you happen to be out that way.

We took the backroads across most of Arkansas. The eastern part is primarily agricultural. We saw a crop duster. Other than that, it was pretty much just fields and trees and tiny farming communities.

We stopped for the night at the Gulpha Gorge Campground in the Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

It is an older, moderately densely packed campground. There are lots of mature trees providing great shade. 

We settled in and took a stroll around the campground.  We talked about overlanding with a nice couple in a pretty rugged vehicle and trailer.

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Day 2 – Georgia to Alabama

Driving through Georgia in the Rain

It was raining when we got up. So no photo of our campsite. It rained on us through all of Georgia. We made it around Atlanta with only slow downs, no major stoppages. That is why we tried to get through it on a weekend. 

After Atlanta, we got off the interstate and have been following Hwy 278 through Alabama. The rain mostly stopped by early afternoon. 

We passed by a car that had slid off the road into a ditch deploying all of their airbags. The family seemed to be ok and waved us off. It was a good reminder to be careful on rain slick roads. 

We stopped for the night at the campground at Corinth Recreation Area inside the William B Bankhead National Forest. 

We found a really nice campsite right next to the lake overlook and a trail through the woods.

We stopped a lot earlier than last night giving us time to take a hike in the forest and time to prepare grilled chicken with salsa verde for dinner. 

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 Day 1 – Leaving North Carolina 

Robinson Fuso is underway. We are finally leaving home and heading out West. 

We made it to the South Carolina/Georgia state line tonight. We stayed at Lake Hartwell State Park near Fair Play, SC. We pulled in right at twilight which gave us enough time to pick a campsite and get set up,  but not enough time for photos.

Lake Hartwell State Park 

We woke up to rain. We’re heading across Georgia and into Alabama today. Lots of rain expected. 

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Mugwumps, Nevada – May 29, 2016

Camping at Mugwumps

Camping at Mugwumps

After spending a quiet night at Tuff Campgound in the Inyo National Forest, we started out towards Reno. The Fuso drove significantly better since we swapped out a front tire with the spare tire.

We stopped in Reno to pick up supplies. Now that we were prepared, we headed to the Black Rock Desert. We made a brief stop at the historical marker near the border of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation.


Jon reading the historical marker.

There was a nice view, too.


Since we weren’t going to be able to reach the Black Rock Desert until after dark, we decided to do a little dispersed camping in the BLM land east of the highway. We found a spot that was sheltered from the highway noise by a rock outcropping.

Camping behind a big mound of rocks.

Camping behind a big mound of rocks.

We were surprised by the unusual nature of the rocks.


After getting the camper set up for the night, we went out to explore.


These rocks are tufa mounds.


They were formed when this entire area was underwater. Our campsite is below the surface level of the now dry Winnemucca Lake. The landscape looks like it could have been part of an ancient lake bed.


The mounds were created by springs emptied into the lake below the surface level. The springs contained dissolved calcium with combined with the carbonate in the water created calcium carbonate rock. As the springs continued to flow, the rock built up into the tufa mounds.

USGS Tufas of Pyramid Lake, NV website



You can see a number of other areas with tufa mounds in the background.

Most of the mounds had broken which allowed us to take a look at the interesting forms created by the slow deposition of rock.




They almost look like the remains of an ancient alien civilization.


We spent a lot of time walking around.



Jon found a rattlesnake. We left it alone. Rocks like these are a great habitat for small rodents. And where you have small rodents, you have things that eat them.


The scenery made for a nice background.




It was getting close to sunset.


I fixed dinner and we had a quiet night.





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