Merikay on bridge at Royal Gorge, CO, 2019

Monday, July 14, 2014

More Famous Than Mt. Rushmore

Ready to Take Off 

As they say, RV plans are written in Jello.

I won't bore you with an explanation of why we decided to head northeast instead of west, but the fact is we decided to skip Mt. Rushmore for now and head to Minnesota instead. 

 Most of my fellow RV friends know who's living there this summer. 

Someone more famous than the four stone heads: 

Merikay, Judy Bell, Craig

Judy is a wonderful retired teacher who has spent many years volunteering at Wildlife Refuges thoroughout the country. She lives, and travels, with her "wild child" dog Emma in their 38' Winnebago. They spend about five months in the North, currently Tamarac Wildlife Reserve in Minnesota, and five months in the South. Judy is well know in the RV blogging community for her excellent bird photography and her down-to-earth daily blog.  My best description of Judy is that she is real.  

I found Judy's blog, Travels With Emma, almost four years ago. She has been an inspiration and role model for me in many ways. Perhaps it is because she doesn't "sugar coat" anything, but doesn't complain or grouch either.  

We were delighted to meet her, and delighted to find that in person she is no different.  What you read is what you get!  

We had always planned on visiting Judy someday, and hoped she would spend a day with us. I knew she had had a lot of visitors this summer, but when we contacted her, she replied with a welcoming email telling us she would be working at  the Visitor's Center on Saturday afternoon, but would be happy to take us on a tour of the Reserve on Sunday!

We drove from Sioux Falls, SD to an RV park across from the Itasca MN State Park on Friday. Met Judy at the VC on Saturday, and had a wonderful day with her on Sunday:


Driving a Reserve-owned truck, we were able to see some of the back road areas where the public is not allowed. Judy completed a couple of her usual jobs, restocking kiosk pamphlet boxes and picking up trash while checking for downed trees along the trails.  So the use of the truck was "official." 

So many ponds and lakes!  This was one of many postcard views we stopped to enjoy.

 I liked the shapes of the shoreline and the weed mat in the water. The water was crystal clear, and we could see the vegetation gracefully swaying in the currents. This picture was taken from a small but sturdy wooden bridge on the Otter Tail River. 

At one of the bridges Judy showed us claw marks and tufts of black hair caught in the rough wood of the bridge rails. It was from where the bear rub to scratch their backs.

We saw more wildlife with Judy than if we had been alone, but everything we did see was pretty far away.  That was OK. If you want to count on seeing animals or birds up close, go to a zoo. Just driving around and seeing the natural habitat was remarkable. Judy pointed out an Osprey nest with young, an Eagle nest, also with young and the parents in the distant sky. We saw beaver lodges, Trumpeter swans, and loons. Later in the evening we heard the loons while having a nice cookout at Judy's RV.

Along with the bear hair, she showed us other evidence of other unseen wildlife. This was twice the size of any domestic dog poop  we have ever seen.
Wolf Scat, This puppy wasn't eating Purina!
This entire day will hold one of the "top" positions in my list of good memories.  

Thank you, Judy

We will visit the stone heads another time. Probably next summer when we wander through Yellowstone.

Making plans is fun.  Being able to change them is priceless.


  1. Going on a tour with Judy is an exceptional experience. So glad you were able to do it. Our daughter has a book called Scats and tracks. We used it while we were near her, but had to return it. Think I will get one for us.

  2. the heads will wait and still be there...

  3. I'm very happy you had an enjoyable time. I'm also glad you came yesterday and not today. The weather sure went down the tubes!

  4. What fun to meet up with Judy. It sounds like you really enjoyed your private tour!

  5. Yep, don't think that was Purina....what a cool learning experience.

  6. Sounds like you just missed Sherry and David, who are in Bear Paw campground. Judy gave them a tour the other day. That looks like a lovely area to be in.

  7. What a wonderful GTG! Love that you are making use of "jello" plans. Got some fantastic photos too.

  8. You have some very vibrant crystal clear photos. Good stuff. Nice that you got to meet Judy. She has been a mainstay out here in Blogland for a long time. Maybe we will get to meet her one day as well.

  9. You got one special tour guide there! Fabulous photos!

  10. We are jealous, meeting Judy and Emma is on our list.

  11. So glad you got to meet Judy. We met her last January while she was working at Anahauk refuge in Louisiana. Hope you get a chance to visit the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park. Its a great park.

  12. what a special day! The photos are fantastic - scat - proof that they eat the whole thing!

    I read your comment on my blog - I wondered if I was being clear enough with the first ending - the sisters are both dead and as spirits finally reconnect. When I posted it I thought it was confusing. In the new ending she is by herself.


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