Lost Lake

The results are in.

Lost Lake is indeed lost.

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I was exploring the North Dakota countryside via one of my favorite modes–Google Maps–when I spied a tiny splotch of green indicating some sort of recreation area. (Another reason green is my favorite color–green splotches on maps.) I zoomed in until the name appeared: Lost Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge was located squarely in the middle of nowhere and was small enough to lose on the head of a pin.

Exactly the kind of place Molly and I would love to see.

Satellite view on Google Maps didn’t tell me much. There did not appear to be any roads through he refuge. Or trails. Or even an entrance.

Most notably, there did not appear to be a lake.

Two creeks ran through the green splotch, and there were two or three small bodies of water, which may or may not be worthy of the name “lake”–depending, perhaps, on whether you had just arrived from Death Valley, and whether it had been raining in North Dakota recently.

The locale was both so remote and so mysterious, of course Molly and I had to check it out.

Google Maps offered two routes to get there. I started with one, penetrating deeper and deeper into the country, only to discover that there were no road signs. Meaning I couldn’t find my turn.

Now, let me define the word “lost,” according to me. “Lost” is when you have no idea how to get home again. By that definition, I don’t think I’ve ever been “lost.” I’m very good at following a trail backwards to my starting point.

However, I frequently have no idea where I’m going. In fact, I usually have no idea where I’m going. Hence why I’d rather just stuff the map in my back pocket and follow my nose. Maps stress me out. All too often, I find discrepancies between where I think I’m going and where I end up.

Google Maps is fun from an armchair perspective–but gets all complicated on me out in the field.

My search for Lost Lake was a classic example. I tried several roads–and saw plenty of pretty scenery–but didn’t find anything like what was drawn on the map.

I finally gave up on the first route Google Maps gave me and tried the second.

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This road proved more direct. I finally found a large brown sign proclaiming, “Lost Lake National Wildlife Refuge.”

Where one finds a sign, one would presume to find an entrance.

Not in this case. The barbed wire fence stretched endlessly to the horizon.

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So I followed it.

A couple of miles later, I almost missed the gap in the fence, the turn-off, and the cattle guard. No sign. No fanfare. Apparently Lost Lake intended to stay lost.

I followed the road into the park and drove from one end to the other, about two miles. Pleasant stretch of road, ending in another gap in the barbed wire, another cattle guard, and (oddly) a gravel pit.

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Something was missing.

I turned around and retraced my route.

Yep. No lake. Not one. Not so much as a damp, duck-infested ditch alongside the road. No turn-offs or trail heads, either, that I could see. Lost Lake was indeed lost.

This, then, was the Bermuda Triangle of North Dakota: where lakes disappear, never to be seen again.

To make the trip worth our while, Molly and I poked around the surrounding area, had a great walk, and came up with some nice photographs.

But Lost Lake is indeed Lost. Maybe we’ll try again another day.

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I Love Google “Tilt the View”

01 St Mary Campground Screenshot (640x360)I’m more or less indifferent about the new version of Google Maps, except for two things.

  1. I miss the little yellow stick figure guy
  2. I love Tilt the View!

Street View

The little yellow stick figure was SO MUCH FUN! Click, drag, and drop him almost anywhere on the map and get the street view. Of course, street view is still available in the new Google Maps, but while clicking anywhere on the map is convenient, it’s just not half as much fun as dropping a stick figure down from on high without a parachute.

Thankfully, I can still access the old version of Google Maps anytime I miss the stick figure guy.Let’s face it: Puppies, kittens, and stick figures are the cutest things on earth.

Tilt the View

On the flip side, my favorite part about the new Google Maps is Tilt the View. This feature is available when viewing the map as a satellite image. You click “Earth” in the lower left corner (to access satellite view), you zoom in as far as you like, and you click the icon on the lower right that looks like a window pane tilted flat.

And presto! You get a view that makes you feel like a little airplane zooming over the landscape. I always wanted a pilot’s license …

Why I Like Tilt the View

Aside from totally awesome images, it’s a really fun way to get an idea of the road ahead. What’s the elevation like? Where do trees stop and open landscapes begin? How far from the town to the lake?

Plus you’ll find a banner of images along the bottom of the screen. When you hover over the image, it draws a dotted line to a point on the map. What a cool way to locate areas of interest!

02 Apgar Campground Screenshot (640x360)It’s also a fun way to explore campgrounds in an area I’m thinking about visiting. Search for “campgrounds near (fill in the blank),” then tilt the view and get a comprehensive idea of what the scenery is going to be like in your destination. In the view on the left, we’re facing south. The mountain scenery and the lake look amazing, and there’s a town just in the distance. But if you were looking forward to beautiful sunrises over the lake, note that there’s a mountain in the way. (Also read that: mornings are likely to be chilly.)

Now all I want is to see the yellow stick figure guy go skydiving through Tilt the View …

10 Places I Really Want to See

I always said my dream home would be a little house with a big yard. I didn’t exactly have an RV in mind when I said that, but what d’ya know? My house on wheels is just 23 feet long, and my yard pretty much covers the North American continent.

It’s going to take me a while to explore these extensive grounds. So here are ten places I’d really like to see (in no particular order):

Yosemite National Park

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Mountains, forests, waterfalls … The pictures remind me of the opening scenes of Disney’s Snow White. According to the Yosemite National Park website, most of the park is operating normally despite the Rim Fire.





New England in the Autumn

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I don’t know if it’s true, but I picture New England as a quiet place time forgot, where the rivers roll lazily and horses’ hooves clop across covered bridges as they haul wagons brimming with maple syrup. (Oh, never mind. Syrup season is in spring.)

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington 

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I saw the name on a map and knew I wanted to go. One story behind its strange name says that Lewis and Clark, upon reaching the Pacific Ocean, hoped to meet a ship that would take them back home. No such luck. Cape Disappointment also holds the title as one of the foggiest locales in the US.

Fort Jefferson, Florida

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I could think of worse places to serve time. This fort in the Florida Keys remained in Union hands during the Civil War and was used as a prison. Not too sure how I’d get the RV there …


Grand Canyon

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Okay, sorry, this one’s just obvious.

Kentucky Horse Farms

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Kentucky’s famous blue grass pastures … idyllic farm scenes … and grandiose stables that put the Walt Disney Castle to shame.




Atlantic Coast Lighthouses

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Any one will do. Particularly if it’s really cute, and if there’s brightly-painted fishing boats on the water, and if there’s 30 different seafood restaurants in town (even though I can’t stand seafood–I’m just there for the ambiance).


Sequoia National Park

2013-10-20 Sequoia_Tunnel_Tree - Wikimedia Commons (516x364)More modern pictures reveal that the park system still hasn’t finished removing this dead tree. (But who’s complaining?)




Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

2013-10-20 400px-Bagpiper_in_Edinburgh_001 - Wikimedia Commons (400x600)As close to Scotland and Ireland as my RV will ever get! Fiddles, pipes, bodhráns, sword dancing, step dancing … even the signs along the highways are written in both English and Gaelic.




Glacier National Park

2013-10-20 Saint_Mary_Lake_and_Wildgoose_Island - Wikimedia Commons (600x399)Okay, I did save the best for last. More than anywhere else in the world, I want to see Glacier National Park. I was in Colorado once and fell in love with the Rockies, but not with the major metropolitan areas nearby. Montana is pretty sparsely populated, and that’s what I call paradise–a place where you can be alone with nature and with God and with your thoughts.

Some of the places I’ve listed are pretty well known, but the ones I’m most excited to find are the places no one’s ever heard of before. The quiet retreats you share with five or six other campers, the off-season locales, or the forgotten nooks you can have all to yourself.

What about you? Where do you most want to go? Leave me a comment, and you might tempt me to alter my “top 10” list!