Mount Rushmore or Bust! Our first road trip with the camper! (Part 1)

Our perfect plan: Drive to South Dakota towing pop up camper, kayak and Paddle board. Stay 5 nights at Bismark Lake Campground. Day 1- arrive and set up camp before dark (about a 6 hour drive). Day 2- hang at camp, fish, paddle/kayak and relax. Day 3- Jewel Cave tour. Day 4- Mount Rushmore and celebrate Brady’s 11th Birthday! Day 5- Cave if the Winds tour. Day 6- pack up and head home 😭.

As we all know even the perfect plans can throw a curveball. My husband likes to say “luck favors the prepared” so we left as prepared as we could. All sorts of tools, too much food and a few new glamping items we added to our upgraded camping homestead.


We were loaded up and ready to go by 10am. First stop, Big O Tires to check that our wheel bearings were packed properly (losing a trailer wheel can be a very traumatic experience, it’s happened on our boat trailer)…..and we are on our way. Smooth sailing, no traffic getting out of Denver. We easily made it to the Wyoming border and stopped at the South Wyoming Welcome Center for a picnic lunch with pre packed sandwiches. This welcome center is really cool. Highly Recommend stopping there. They have a mini museum inside about the state’s history and a fossil of a giant MAMMOTH! The kids could have spent a lot of time there but we needed to get on the road!

So about 12:45-1:00 we were back on I-25 headed north to Cheyenne and continued to hwy 85 to Torrington. By this time it was about 3:30 and we need to make a decision whether to stop at Fort Laramie National Park or push on straight to camp. We were running a little bit behind schedule but we decided to check it out anyways. After all it was only about 10 minutes off our direct route. Below is a picture of the oldest standing building in Wyoming.

Fort Laramie was originally established as a private fur trading fort in 1834, Fort Laramie evolved into the largest and best known military post on the Northern Plains and was a stop on the Pony Express for 1 year in 1860!

Of course this small detour ended up putting us another hour behind schedule but it was definitely worth it. Both of the boys were sworn in to the national Junior Ranger program and completed their first workbooks to receive their first Junior Ranger pin!

Back on the road again…. and at this point we were just hoping to get to our campsite before dark. We were also a bit concerned about the enormous looking thunderhead in the distance we were to travel. Would it be too much to ask to arrive before dark and be able to set up camp NOT during a storm? Maybe we would be spending the first night sleeping in our car 😂. (Of course Chris would never let that happen)

We continued up HWY 85. The clouds of the storm we were approaching were absolutely amazing. They looked so powerful yet not a drop of rain as we continued under dark clouds with continuous lightning. We were just about through the “storm” when it started to pour. The rain seemed to intensify and come down sideways. About a mile later all of a sudden the direction of the wind changed and rain came quickly from the other direction. It’s a feeling that is hard to explain but I thought TORNADO! Suddenly the rain just stopped. Then we pass a big SUV pulled over on the side of the road and a whole bunch of people set up with cameras filming what looks like to be the event we just drove through. Could those have been storm chasers? Holy cow….all I could think of was drive faster. We turned east onto Highway 18 and dealt with high winds which is pretty scary with the paddleboard strapped to the top of the truck for the next half hour and then all the crazy weather seem to die down. Well that was exciting, and luckily it was the worst weather we saw our entire trip!

We arrived in Custer, South Dakota about 7:30pm. Since we are running so far behind schedule we were nervous to set up camp and cook dinner before dark and in the rain so we picked up Pizza Hut while we were driving through Custer.

Happy to report we made it to camp about 8:00 pm just after it had stopped raining and still had about 30 minutes of daylight to set up camp. And what a camp it is! Please read Part 2 to hear all about our first night and 2nd on the trip! Here is a sneak peak at our view from camp!

Garden Update (post 2)

Better late then never! The plants just went in the garden on Memorial Day weekend. Between work and school coming to a close I’ve been able to find enough excuses to hold of planting my garden. I have found that even Mother’s Day is too soon with our crazy spring hail lately.

Now that the plants are in I’ll be keeping a close eye on the weather. While the plants are tiny I can easily place extra pots over them to protect them from hail.

The other obstacle I was concerned about was my cute bunny. The bunny doesn’t seem to care for the plants I put in. Not yet anyway. I fenced in my basil, parsley and rosemary so the bunny can’t get to those.

The greens of my carrots just started showing and I’m pretty sure that he will start eating those. I might have to fence those in as well.

The bunny loves eating the leaves off my blueberry bushes!

This year I knew I’d be waiting an extra two weeks until I planted the garden so I picked the cream of the crop and moved them into pots (from pods). This worked out great because the plants grew stronger before putting in the ground.

I ended up having a lot left over and divided them up among friends! More updates to come! Happy planting!

Splash Park at Clement Park Littleton

Come see your Jefferson County tax dollars at work! The newly renovated splash park at Clement Park is a great FREE way to cool down this summer! Clement Park is located between Columbine HS and Columbine Library (Pierce and Bowles). Enter through the east entrance on Pierce and you will see the splash park on the right by the ball fields.

I’d recommend packing a lunch and plan a picnic in the shade offered by one of the shelters or the mature trees in the area. No food? No worries! There is a condescension stand offering snack and drinks for reasonable prices.

Bathrooms are open in the center of the baseball fields a short walk from the splash park.

Beware of parking on evenings and weekends when baseball games could be going on.

I’d recommend this splash park for 7 and under. My 11 year old was too cool for this stop! He wished he had a friend and water guns and it would have been a different story 😉

dirt …local coffee shop with a CAUSE

I am so excited to share this local coffee shop with you!  The sign out on Rapp Street months before opening has been intriguing…FINALLY a coffee shop downtown open before 9am! It wont belong before this place is swarming with guests!  …and they have wine too!  Open 7-7 daily.

Enjoy a cup of coffee on the patio or inside the “farm house” style bungalow.  dirt also sells food.  Paninis and burritos along with sweets.

One special feature I’d like to share is dirt’s non profit status. Its mission is to train and employ young adults affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders and related neurodiverisities.   Check them out and tell them that the Downtown Littleton Realtor, Chantal Gemperline sent you!


dirt coffee & bar | 5767 S. Rapp St. Littelton, CO 80120 |

Hike at Deer Creek Canyon Park (Level 7)

Friday around noon (just before the storms rolled in) I checked out a spot I had never hiked before in Deer Creek Canyon Park, located just west of Ken Caryl Valley area. This spot is less than a 10 minute drive from 470/Ken Caryl in West Littleton.  Since I do most of my hiking with kids, and sometimes even Grandma, I rate my hikes based on easy (1) to challenging (10) for us a s group. This one was definitely on the challenging end of the scale due to the duration of the hike and the vertical terrain.  If you look at the map below we hiked the Plymouth Creek Trail out and Meadowlark Trail back to the lot for a total of 2.6 miles/2+ hours! I hiked this trail with my 7 & 11 year old boys and Grandma. Plymouth Creek Trail was a lot of rocky vertical terrain.  Meadowlark Trail was more level and mostly down hill, a welcomed change.

There are many trails here that allow bikes. Be aware of this if you are walking the trails as they come down pretty fast!  I highly recommend going earlier in the day to avoid afternoon storms. When we were there last Friday we were just about 1/2 way through our hike (about 1:00) and I received a Flash Flood Warning for the Ken Caryl area on my phone! Glad the second half was down hill.  Our hike ended about 2:00 and by the time I was home (20 min later) it was raining, thunder and lightning! It would have been very scary to be on the hike during that storm.  I highly recommend this hike for families with older kiddos.  As I said this was a bit much for my 7 year old.  I ended up piggy backing my my 7 year old a few time towards the end.  We had some cloud cover which was nice, I can imagine this hike could be very hot later on in the summer.

The views were amazing and it was an easy hike for my 11 year old.

You can see from the pictures that at the beginning of our hike it was beautiful and sunny. By the end there was cloud cover and thunder! Be prepared! Check the weather and bring a map. Maps are available at the parking lot and trail entry point. Here is the park link for more info:

A Home Garden in CO Clay

Where it began…

I like to believe that I was born with a “green thumb”. I grew up on a Long Island canal and our home was always easy to spot from the water (well actually it was hard to see the house) but everyone knew which one it was because of the rich green growth of exotic flowers and vegetables.  The soil in our backyard was sandy and had its challenges but that didn’t stop my dad (a crazy Italian from Brooklyn) from having his own farmers market.  I learned a lot about gardening from those years. You name it we grew it!


Above is a picture of the backyard of our Long Island home. You can see what I mean…Where is the house? Unfortunately another obstacle NY gardeners face are the hurricanes.  After Sandy all this growth was gone permanently!  I’ll save that for a future post!

OK NOW LETS RELATE THIS BACK TO COLORADO GARDENING…..the point is gardening is a happy place for me.  I grew up with fresh salads in my backyard! I have been determined to continue that tradition each year.

Colorado you  have been making it hard to love this gardening thing….We may not have hurricanes and sandy soil in Colorado but we have HAIL, CLAY SOIL and now a family bunnies (that are so adorable by the way). Luckily I don’t have to worry about deer where I live but other wildlife could be a problem.

Here is what I have been working with for 6 years.  A strip of earth lining the back of our yard. When we moved in to this home in Littelton the earth was pretty much solid clay.  Year after year we turn it with some new soil and peat moss.  We manage to grow herbs, carrots, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, sweet peppers, jalapeno peppers, watermelon, squash, and sometime potatoes in the barrels not visible in this photo.  I know it doesn’t look like there is room for all that, but we did it!  We have also been successful at growing raspberries and blueberries.  We usually start our plants from seeds inside our home.  To all my neighbors, those are just normal veggies growing in the front window. These seeds below are about 2 weeks old. Awe…Can you guess which plant is in the lead?

Another challenge we face in Colorado different from Long Island is the growing season.  You learn quickly not to plant anything until after Mothers Day.  Even planting that early is risky.  Until I moved to Colorado I had never experience snow on my birthday (May 3rd)!  I’ll start to prepare the soil around Mothers Day and will write a new post when I’m ready to start planting.

A new year, a new blog!

A new year, a new blog!  I know its not January, but Thursday May 3rd marks the first day of my last year in my 30’s! Yikes…So to me May is the start of a new year for ME!

I’ve jumped back on the blog wagon…It is amazing to me that after only one year off how much has changed in the “blogging world”. I’ll try to keep up with it all. The neat thing is how easy it is to add video and pictures now.  Follow my blog and I can guaranty some fun pictures and interesting information and experiences on a variety of topics such as:

  • Outdoor adventures- hiking with the kids, camping with our new pop up, boating, paddle boarding and much more…
  • Health and Fitness- through my experiences with a personal trainer and connections I have in this field
  • Home Tips- Painting, plumbing, cleaning, gardening, decorating, etc
  • Technology
  • I’m sure there will be others!

Maybe even throw in a little bit of Real Estate here and there.  One thing I cannot promise is perfect grammar, lol.  Sometimes I’ll be writing the from the lake or the middle of nowhere South Dakota and lets face it, I’m not prefect. I’m sorry to my friends who I know this bothers tremendously!!

Looking forward to this journey with you all! -Chantal Gemperline

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton