Home Away From Home, Montana, National Park

Last Day in Yellowstone

What an exciting morning. As our boys would say, we got up at 0 dark thirty and headed to Lamar Valley via Mammoth. We saw a few elk as we traveled along but little else during our hour ride to Mammoth. Leaving there we continued on to Lamar Valley through Tower-Roosevelt. As soon as we turned toward Lamar Valley at the Tower, we immediately saw a lone bison strolling down the highway. Our cars didn’t seem to bother him a bit as he passed very closely by our car. A little further on we saw another bison taking his morning stroll and then we began to see herds and herds of bison. Now we know where they all are!

As we journeyed on, we saw a crowd of people stopped at a bridge. Several had high magnification scopes so we stopped to see what was so interesting. According to everyone, it was three grizzlies eating on a carcass. We looked through the binoculars and the camera plus someone’s scope. I never saw a thing!

A little further on we saw another group of people stopped so we pulled over. One of the guys said they had been tracking a wolf all morning and they were expecting him to come by. Suddenly someone cried out “there he is” and he was on the other side of the road. I actually saw him loping along. Not only did I see him with the binoculars but also with my naked eye. He was really big!

We continued on down the highway marveling at the number of bison we were seeing. At one point we watched some that appeared to be running from something but we never saw any kind of predator. We finally turned around and bam, we were in our first bison jam and we were the first car. We patiently waited as they sauntered along. The biggest guy just stood in front of our car like he dared us to try to come through. We didn’t move! There were several young calves. Eventually, they moved on by and we were able to proceed. There were bison all up and down the road, some by themselves and some in herds, large and small.

As we rode along, we saw another group of cars pulled off of the side of the road so of course we stopped and jumped out to see what everyone was looking at. It was a bear! He was on the other side of the little stream sitting on the rocks eating. It was a black bear, not a grizzly and he had been tagged.

Next, we hit Mammoth again. We walked into the hotel, used the bathrooms and then went into the gift shop to get the pink cap I had looked at earlier in the week. A quick walk down to the General Store where we got a blueberry muffin. After all, we had been up five hours and it was time for a snack.

I had been looking forward to seeing all of the elk in Mammoth as we saw several on our earlier visit but they must have been still sleeping. We saw none. I had been dreading the drive leaving Mammoth headed to Norris because of the construction we had run into earlier this week. Apparently, the road construction comes to a halt on Saturday because they were not working today. Yea. That was an extra 30-40 minutes subtracted from our road time today.

We finally got to visit Artist Paintpots after two earlier attempts. We were both kind of dragging but we soldiered on. The hike was 1.6 and part boardwalk. The first stop was a boiling mudpot and a boiling spring. It was amazing to stand and watch the seismic activity imagining what lies beneath. We continued up to the overlook and the scene below did indeed look like an artist’s palette. Further up we came to a large mudpot and boy was the mud shooting up. Beware flying mud! It looked like one big muddy hole which I guess it was, only a lot hotter. I could just imagine children enjoying playing in that were it not for the depth and the heat. Within the Artist’s Paintpot were colorful hot springs, mudpots and small geysers. It seems there are geysers all over Yellowstone but we only hear about Old Faithful since it’s predictable.

We continued our trek through the park and decided today was the day to have our picnic along a flowing stream. We found a picnic area on a stream and luckily a free picnic table but when we got out, we realized that it was a little chilly and windy for a picnic on the water. Obviously, we had a quick lunch. One of our earlier plans had been to stop by a stream and put our feet in the water. In fact, I had put a towel in the car for that purpose. Well, it was just too cold to do it. Instead, we used the towel as a tablecloth.

We wanted to get a short visit to West Thumb Geyser Basin so that was our next stop. West Thumb is on the Yellowstone Lake and is the largest geyser basins on the shores of the lake. West Thumb is still thermally active and we saw hot springs, mudpots and geysers steam and percolate along the shore. In fact, one geyser was called Percolate. One of the more interesting features was Fishing Cone, a hot spring. Old tales talk of fishermen catching a trout in the lake and then swinging it around to the spring with the end result a boiled fish!

After the hike around the lake we decided to head on back to the campground. We were planning on one stop at Black Sand Basin. Black obsidian or “sand” gives the basin its name. The oranges, greens and other colors in and around the hot springs come from the thermophiles. The colors were so vibrant especially a bright yellow that we hadn’t seen anywhere else. As soon as we walked up the Cliff geyser erupted. What a sight to see.

The steam almost covered the geyser!
We were on the way back but decided we could drive to Firehole Lake Drive. We thought we were going to take a nice simple drive. How surprised we were when we realized that there were many cars and people lined up around a geyser. We snagged a parking place and walked over to see what was going on. We knew it wasn’t an animal despite the attraction. It was actually a geyser, The Great Fountain and they were expecting it to erupt any minute. A couple we talked with had been waiting for three hours. While we were waiting for the Great Fountain, we saw a smaller, yet still significant geyser, the White Dome erupt and then the Great Fountain began erupting. What a sight to see. It was amazing to see the water fill the area around the geyser plus we got sprinkled as we watched through the tremendous steam. It lasted several minutes.

What a wonderful way to end our time at Yellowstone National Park! We drug our tired selves back to the RV after a twelve-hour day. Tomorrow, the Tetons!

Home Away From Home, Montana, National Park

Hiking in the Canyon

We headed for the Canyon area this morning and our first stop was the Visitor’s Center. It was a very different center in that it seemed to focus on the volcanic activity more than the geysers. We did get to see the 9,000-pound globe that showed the hot spots in the world. Just by touching it you could move the globe in a different direction.

Our first stop was Lookout Point. We walked down to the observation point where we could have a clear, though distant view of the Upper Falls. They were so beautiful and powerful that against our better judgment we decided to take the Red Rock Trail. It descends about 600 feet and the path is a little rocky at times. But the end result was so worth it. What majesty and power we observed as the falls rushed down the mountain. We took a lot of breaks going back up and in spite of Jerry’s doubts, we made it.

Our next stop was the trailhead for Inspiration Point. Now, in all honesty, I must admit that if we had known that we could have driven just a little bit further and arrived at Inspiration Point we probably would have done that. Instead, we took the trail. After we’d walked just a short distance, I told Jerry it should be called Inspiration Points – with an “s” because there were several spots that had breathtaking views. We continued walking and entered into a forested area. I was feeling really assured because I knew that for once we had the bear spray. Wrong! Jerry had the holster for the bear spray but he had taken the spray out and forgotten to put it back in. Oh well, I just kept making noise. The bonus was smelling the wonderful firs along the way. It smelled just like Christmas.

We finally made it to Inspiration Point after a somewhat rocky path to the overlook. The views at Inspiration Point were indeed worth the hike. Again, we saw the majestic falls tumbling down to the viciously bubbling stream below. We then realized that some of the people we had seen on the trail were only hiking one way with someone in their party picking them up at the end. No such luck for us. We turned around and headed back to the car. Interestingly, neither of us thought the hike out was nearly as far plus it was a lot more pleasant. It took us about 30 minutes.

We returned to the Visitor’s Center and in lieu of a vacant picnic table, we had our lunch in the car – again! We rolled down the windows and there was a very nice cool breeze.

Since we were on a deadline to return to the campground, we decided to ride into Hayden Valley to see if we saw any animals. Suddenly we saw a great many cars parked but couldn’t determine what everyone was looking at. People had chairs set up and some had a long-distance lens. We parked and as we were getting out of the car someone asked if we wanted to know what we were looking for. Certainly, because it surely wasn’t obvious. It was a bear eating a dead bison! With the binoculars, I could barely make it out and only saw the rump of the bison and the bear’s head. It didn’t take too long to decide that we had seen enough.

That was the end of our touring for the day as we had dinner plans for the evening. Our older son Trent had arranged for us to have dinner at the posh Spanish Peaks Clubhouse in Big Sky. It was only 47 miles away but took longer than an hour due to some mountainous roads near Spanish Peaks. It is called “Peaks” for a reason. Our dinner was delicious. Jerry had an elk chop and I had a petit filet. We topped it off with a yummy dessert of flourless chocolate cake and ice cream cover with crunchies and caramel sauce. Wow, I was hoping that the button on my jeans didn’t fly off and hit someone across the room. After dinner, we walked out on the deck to look at the beautiful surrounding. Marring the view but still beautiful in its own right was a crane being used for building. It was boasting an American flag and a Montana flag. Both were floating gently in the wind.

We stopped for gas before we left Big Sky as it is less expensive than in west Yellowstone and we knew we’d be driving a lot tomorrow. The road back to West Yellowstone was desolate, to say the least. We met a few cars but saw none going our way. There was no cell service so if there was a problem we were on our own. Jerry spotted two deer on our way back and despite the warnings, we didn’t see any other wildlife.

Home Away From Home, Montana

Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Basin

Leaving really early is just not in our list of possibilities. Of course, I slept later today too so we ended up leaving a little after 8:00 and then had to stop for gas but really to clean the windshield so we could see the beautiful things ahead of us today.

As we traveled through the park on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs, we passed numerous fumaroles. A fumarole or steam vent is the hottest hydrothermal feature in the park. A small amount of water in fumaroles flashes into steam before it reaches the surface. They are easiest to see in cool weather and today with a temperature of 35 this morning we were blessed with being able to see quite a few. When we passed Terrace Spring steam was on both sides of the road and then just before we reached Beryl Spring the sky was covered with steam and it was rising. It looked like a huge sauna.

We continued on through Madison and headed toward Mammoth. Again, we encountered more steam. Just before we got to Clearwater Springs the entire side of the mountain had steam rising. We had earlier decided that we wouldn’t stop anywhere but would go directly to Mammoth but we had a change of heart when we saw the volumes of steam rising. What a sight to see.

And then we ran into construction! We were one of many in a long line of traffic that was not moving either way. Just a 30-40-minute delay while they worked on repairing the roads.

We had been advised to drive to Upper Terrace and hike down to Lower Terrace so that’s what we did. The parking lots were jammed but we luckily found a small place to pull the Jeep in. The Hot Springs are amazing, otherworldly, and beyond description. I mentioned that it looked like the land that was forgotten. With cascades of waters streaming down the mountainous rock, it looked surreal. The water is heated deep underground and then rises to the surface. As it rises it penetrates through limestone, dissolving calcium carbonate. Above ground, the travertine terraces are formed. Underground channels sometimes shift or clog causing the water to change course. When that happens springs may slow down or stop thus it is an everchanging landscape.

We walked along the boardwalk in amazement focusing on the various bright colors, some earth colors and some vivid greens and blues. There wasn’t much wind this morning but apparently, it had been windy sometime earlier. We saw several hats in restricted areas.

When we got to the bottom we walked into Mammoth and stopped in a couple of stores. Then we turned around and started the trek back up to the car. Near the beginning to the walk up was the Liberty Cap, a dormant hot spring cone. It stood as a sentinel all alone.

As we were walking someone mentioned that there were elk in a meadow below us so we walked down there and sure enough we saw about seven elk grazing and ignoring the people. All of the elk except one crossed the road while the other one seemed to almost disappear. We returned to the boardwalk to continue our climb and suddenly there she was, right beside the boardwalk.

The walk back up was exhausting whether from the altitude or the climb. We had to stop a couple of times to catch our breath. We chatted with a nice gentleman from France who offered to take our picture. He even offered me some water.

We finally made it to the car and drove into town hoping to find a nice place for our picnic. Parking was at a premium and when we finally found one it was pretty far from the picnic area so again, we ate in the car with air condition.

After lunch, we went to the Visitor’s Center. It was quite a busy place. Since it’s near the North Entrance I would guess some people were in there getting ideas.

Next, we walked to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Our main interest was in the Map Room which contains a large wooden map of the United States constructed out of 15 different blocks of wood from nine countries. We found North Carolina which was made from walnut. We walked in the gift shop but didn’t make a purchase. We went outside the hotel and sat down just to rest a bit and began talking to some other RVers. They are on a Fantasy Tour visiting some of the same stops we have visited.

We continued our stroll in the town returning to the gift shop and there right next to the sidewalk was an elk. We were really too close to her but our choice was an elk or moving cars. We hurried on by.

As we left Mammoth our intention was the Norris Basin but we remembered that yesterday as we passed by there on our way in, the parking lot was full and cars were parked down both sides of the highway in both directions. I really doubted we’d get in but we did and found a parking place in the parking area very near the trail.

The Norris area is described as “a world of heat and gases where microorganism live in such massive numbers they add color to the landscape”. The area is on the edge of a giant volcano, the Yellowstone Volcano, which is one of the largest on earth. And why were we there?

There were two loop trails, the Back Basin Trail and the Porcelain Basin Trail. We started out of the Back-Basin Trail which had a surprising number of steaming geysers and hot springs. There was a very prevalent odor of sulfur.

Our first stop was at Emerald Spring, a beautiful clear pool. “A hot spring’s color often indicates the presence of minerals. In a clear blue pool, the water is absorbing all colors of sunlight except one, blue, which is reflected back to our eyes. The 27-foot deep pool is lined with yellow sulfur deposits. The yellow color from the sulfur combines with the reflected blue light, making the hot spring appear a magnificent emerald green.” We are still amazed at the vibrant colors we see in all of the hot springs and the springs are very prevalent on the Back-Basin Trail.

The two most popular geysers in Back-Basin are Steamboat Geyser which is the tallest geyser in the world at 300-400 feet and Echinus Geyser. Both are acidic geysers which are very rare. We didn’t get to see either erupt although Steamboat was due.

We continued on the trail and were nearly done when Jerry saw the sign pointing to Porcelain Basin. As tired as we were we knew we wouldn’t get back to see these oddities again so we soldiered on. We followed the boardwalk around and through the basin which is totally devoid of trees. It again looked like a forgotten barren land.

As we continued on the boardwalk we saw some people along with a ranger stopping by a small geyser. The ranger told us that it was due to erupt in about 15 minutes so we waited – and waited! It did finally erupt and was amazing. We were so close to it! The ranger advised guarding our phone screens, sunglasses and camera lens as the acidic water and steam would etch them. We could actually feel the water from the steam.

Another long day and an even longer ride back to the campground as we ran into an elk jam. We just waited patiently and ate potato chips!

Home Away From Home, Montana, Wyoming

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and the Beartooth Highway – in One Day!

We started our morning headed for the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and scenic it is. As we wound our way up to the peak we stopped often to take pictures that are beyond description and our pictures just can’t do the panorama views justice. As we stopped at one overlook we began chatting with some bikers, two from Australia and the rest from Nebraska. As we continued up the mountain we met them again and again.

The highest point was Dead Indian Hill, 8,000 feet above sea level. The views are incredible. We moved on down about 200 feet and again amazing scenery. Among the snow-capped mountains, we saw a flat plateau that looked like it had been carved and set down in the lower valley after cutting the top off. The temperature was 59 with high winds. It was cold! I would love to know what the wind chill was but we had no cell service so no way to find out. We saw a sign for “cattle crossing” and indeed we saw numerous cows along the roadside as we traveled. There were all tagged. It was a 7% downhill grade. Glad I was not in the RV although we met several trucks with tagalongs.

Jerry saw a graveled road leading off of the main highway so he took it. It actually led to a trail down to the canyon. It looked like it might have been a great trail to hike but since we didn’t have bear spray we opted not to do it. I think we’ll put the spray in the car and leave it. We had taken it out because we had been cautioned that it would explode if it got too hot.

Further down we stopped at another overlook where we could actually see the Clarks Fork River. There are three classes of rivers: recreational, scenic and wild. This was classified as a wild river and I can certainly see why. We tried to get some pictures but it was 300 feet down and fenced off so we couldn’t get too close. We did wander down a bit and as Jerry walked ahead of me I thought I heard the tell-tell sound of a rattlesnake. I tried to caution him but he couldn’t hear me and he didn’t appear to be in any danger. I stopped and took another route and the sound faded away. We have seen numerous warnings about bears but nothing about snakes.

As we continued down we saw signs indicating “open range” and “cattle on the road” and we soon found out why as we met cows several times. The road straightened out some and the curves were gentle, no drastic u-turns or switchbacks. We were still at 7000 plus feet though and only slowly descending. We passed by several ranches, some advertising “open”, possibly dude ranches. There was a rolling stream escorting us part of the way, a perfect place for our picnic lunch but inaccessible.

When the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway ended we turned to the Beartooth All-American Highway. Of the 838 things to see in Montana according to TripAdvisor, Beartooth Highway is number one and I can certainly see why.

Our first stop was at 8900 feet and we continued up in elevation and down in temperature! It was 58 degrees. Beartooth Highway reminded me of the Going to the Sun Road with its narrow roads and twists and turns. At one stop we saw a lovely waterfall cascading through the trees and suddenly we were at Beartooth Lake. We followed the signs to the camping and picnic area and there we had our picnic lunch. I wish I could say we sat on the side of the lake and had lunch but alas, it was cold and windy so again we ate in the car. We didn’t even have a good view as cars were parked in front of us. We did walk down to the lake but again it was so cold and windy we didn’t tarry long.

Up and up we continued to climb above the snow line and the tree line to over 11,000 feet and 49 degrees. The views were incredible and we stopped at nearly every overpass. Put on the coat, take off the coat, put on the coat. I hope I don’t ever take another trip no matter what season that I don’t bring my warm Patagonia jacket. What on earth was I thinking? I know – trying to conserve space and surely I wouldn’t want it in August. Wrong again! Jerry said that he could feel a difference in his breathing but I didn’t notice anything. I can’t imagine trying to hike at this altitude though. Suddenly we crossed a state line and were in Montana.

We continued on the highway and realized that we were 76 miles from Cody. We had a long way to go to get back to Cody but what a wonderful last day in the area. As we rode along we saw what looked like an abandoned mine. We later discovered that it was the Smith Mine which exploded in 1943. The Smith Mine Disaster was the worst coal mining disaster in Montana. Since it occurred on a Saturday there was a small crew, only 77 men working but only three survived. A rescue worker later died.

As we traveled back to Cody we could see the Beartooth Mountains in the distance, a memory of a grand and unexpected adventure.

When we got back to Cody we parked the car – we have had no trouble finding parking anywhere in the city – and walked up and down and in and out of the various stores. We tried to find some “Cody” t-shirts but after going to three stores, two of them twice, we decided that we couldn’t really find what we wanted. It was time for the “shootout” at the Irma hotel so we walk over to that. Since it was 30 minutes long Jerry paid the $4 for us to have seats. We were seated right next to a couple from Asheville. We chatted for a while exchanging ideas on where we had been and where we were going. She assured me that we could easily go from Cody to East Yellowstone and then through the park to West Yellowstone. While there Jerry talked with someone who had just left Yellowstone and he said it was very crowded and to expect long delays. That’s pretty much what we expected to hear.

After the shootout, we headed to Walmart to restock our freezer, fridge, and pantry before we go to Yellowstone and the Tetons. We decided today to change our route a little bit. I had scheduled two days in Arco, Idaho to visit the Crater of the Moon but since we need to return via Lawrenceville, Ga to NIRV for some motor home work we decided to cut the trip two days short. Not much but it may make the difference in our being able to get the work done while we are there and not leaving the coach.

After a very exciting and exhilarating day, two very tired people returned to our little home away from home.

Home Away From Home, Montana

Little Bighorn National Monument

If I had known what I know now I would have planned our stay here for only one night. Little Bighorn National Monument though nice does not take a long time to visit. We could have easily done part of it yesterday, checked out of the campground, gone by RV to the monument this morning – they have RV parking – and then gone on to our next stop. Little did I know.

The address of the campground is Garryowen and as we were driving over today, I mentioned that I had not seen Garryowen so Jerry drove over there. It is a privately-owned town and consists of a couple of gas pumps and one building that is a gift shop/museum combined. We went in and browsed the shop for a few minutes but didn’t see anything that was interesting to us. The most striking part was the monument outside that honored the unknown soldier. It was definitely the smallest town I’ve ever been to.

Before we left the campground this morning, we had stopped by the office and to ask where we could get a loaf of bread – Hardin, 20 miles away, too far for a loaf of bread – and if there was a restaurant nearby. There was a restaurant plus a gift shop, recognizable by the teepees in the front located very near the monument. Thinking of going there for dinner tonight Jerry pulled in to check it out. While browsing I saw some bundles and asked what they were – sage, cedar, and sweetgrass. They are used for smudging.

Native people use herbs in a sacred manner to be helped into the sacred realm. The smudging ceremony occurs when they burn certain herbs, take the smoke in their hands and then rub it all over their body. The sage is burned to drive out ill feelings or influences, protecting the place of the ceremony. Cedar is burned for cleansing and while praying. The prayers rise on the smoke of the cedar to their creator. Sweetgrass is the most sacred of the plants and is frequently burned after either the sage or the cedar to bring positive influences and energies.

After deciding that we’d have leftovers for dinner tonight and save going out to eat for our next stop, we headed on to the monument. Since we had already been in the Visitor’s Center, we headed to the Deep Ravine Trail, a self-guided ¾ mile hike to the site that leads to the ravine where the remains of soldiers from Company F were found. The trail is a dirt path dotted with white monuments indicating where a soldier died. There are also a few red monuments which indicate that an Indian died there. The trail was liberally sprinkled with plentiful grasshoppers plus some type of no-seeums, or at least that’s what we call them in NC. My white Tee was dotted with black specks and they bite!

After that very hot walk – who takes a walk in 90-degree weather with no shade, I told Jerry I surely would like to see a few of the cottonwoods that we had seen elsewhere. We walked back to the cool museum for a few minutes and then to the car to take a tour of the battlefield.

Riding the five-mile road through the battlefield emphasized the difference in the two cultures. The Native people were fighting for their right to continue living as they had. Sitting Bull did not want to live on a reservation. Rather he wanted to be free to go as he pleased. The Calvary was on a mission but were so outmanned. What made them think with such a small number they could defeat a force of almost two thousand? Very definitively the Lakota and Sioux won the battle but as the old saying goes they won the battle but lost the war.

Of course, the center focused on Lt. Col. George A. Custer who was the 7th Calvary commander but equally vital in the battle were Maj. Marcus A. Reno and then Capt. Frederick W. Benteen who was credited with outstanding leadership. Custer had divided his regiment into three battalions, five under his immediate command and then three each to Reno and Benteen. Benteen was ordered to scout the bluffs while Custer and Reno headed toward the Indian camp in the valley of the Little Bighorn. When they neared the river, Custer turned toward the north and Reno was ordered to cross the river and attack. Reno had no idea what he would be facing as he was sorely outnumbered so was forced to retreat to the bluffs. He was joined by Benteen who was bringing orders from Custer to “Come on; Big Village, be quick, bring packs”. No one knew exactly where Custer was as his precise movements after he left Reno have never been determined. Indian accounts tell of his command being surrounded and destroyed. Custer did lose his life there.

Word of the crushing loss got back to the president and with anger, he increased the effort and thus the Northern Plains Indians lost their way of life, their culture. What a travesty.

Periodically along the road were numbered signs indicating what had happened at that particular place. We were able to call a specific phone number and listen to recordings that more fully explained what occurred at each stop.

Though it was a very nice national monument and we learned a lot it is certainly off the beaten path. In fact, we will have to backtrack tomorrow back to Billings to get to Cody. In hindsight, I’m not sure that we should have taken two days out of our trip for this visit. Garryowen is located between Billings and Sheridan and I can’t help but wonder if it is on the road to something more special. It appears that the campground has been full every night and other than Little Bighorn there really is nothing else around.

We used the afternoon to clean the motor home both inside and out. Jerry washed it and the lady at the office was right. You only need half the soap. Soap scum is obvious everywhere. A good rain would help!

This was our last night in Montana for a while until we get to West Yellowstone next week. It is truly a beautiful state with wide-open skies, open land and the ever-visible mountains in the distance. The roads are some of the best we’ve traveled on. In fact, roads in the west do seem to be better than the roads in the east. Wonder why?
Leftovers for dinner and reading as our attempts at surfing the Internet failed due to poor connectivity. I think the connectivity is good around 5:30 in the morning!

Home Away From Home, Montana

Garryowen, Montana

Jerry turned the generator off last night before we went to sleep and for just one minute, we had wonderful silence – and then a truck pulled in right next to us. Oh well. Jerry got up this morning a little after 6:00 and turned the generator back on. Unfortunately, our electric problem continues as the breaker on the generator keeps flipping turning off one of the heat pumps. Given the situation, we just decided to forego showers until we arrived at our next campground so by 7:30 we were pulling out of the rest stop.

Although it got down to 49 degrees last night, I was never cold. I guess being sandwiched between two large semis has some advantage.

We woke up early and decided to hit the road quickly. I knew we were going to arrive at our campground, 7th Ranch RV, a couple of hours before check-in but hoped it wasn’t going to be a problem. It wasn’t. We were welcomed and the only condition was that the bathrooms were closed for cleaning between 11:00 and 1:00. That was not a problem for us at all. The lady in the office also told me that we could wash our coach but to be mindful that the water here was really soft so it only took half as much detergent. Several of the campgrounds we have stayed in have given permission for washing the coach and that was surprising to me. You don’t usually see that when traveling in the East.

After we got settled and had lunch, we decided to ride over to the Little Bighorn National Monument to get the lay of the land and decide what we were going to do tomorrow. We visited the museum which I thought was nice. It’s small but still had a good representation of the Battle at Little Bighorn. We then watched a 20-minute video on what actually happened and then heard a ranger speak about what REALLY happened. The ranger is from Texas and only works at this site during the summer and has been coming for 30 years. During the “off” season he is an art teacher. He is definitely a teacher! If I had had a history teacher like that when I was in school, I would probably remember a lot more from that time period. He emphasized that Hollywood was not at all factual. In fact, most of the time they were in error.

Afterward, we went to the local Conoco to go some gas and possibly some bread. Nope, just gas and it was mighty busy.

When we got back, we noticed that there were people sitting outside their campers across from us so we went over and chatted briefly. They are from California and were here for fishing.

All in all, a good day.


Home Away From Home, Montana

Boondocking at a Rest Stop

We did something today that we’ve never done before! We had received an email from the KOA advising us to avoid Browning on our way in due to bad roads and construction. Jerry talked with a fellow last night who had a diesel motor home and he had just come in through Browning. He said he had shaken him so badly. Our route to our next stop called for us to go through Browning so I got the atlas out and started comparing directions with that and the GPS. We decided to go toward Duck Lake and take 464 to 90 hopefully avoiding construction. It worked! Yea, maybe I’m becoming a better navigator. There’s always hope!

We stopped just before noon at Sam’s in Great Falls, Mt where we went shopping for necessities, got gas and had lunch. It took over an hour but we got everything accomplished. Jerry kept suggesting that we drive on to our next planned stop in Garryowen and wanted me to call the campground to see if we could come in early. Driving through would have put us there at nearly 7:00 which was much too late so I just kept waiting knowing Jerry would want to stop sooner.

Around 4:00 we pulled into a rest stop in Harlowton, Mt incidentally where I had tentatively planned to spend the night in the only campground available. We couldn’t ask permission as the rest stop was not manned but there were already a couple of trucks there plus an RV. We decided that the rest stop would be our overnight stay. Little did we know that it was a very popular place used by truckers as the large parking lot completely filled up during the evening.

Jerry went outside and tried valiantly to get the windshield free of bugs AGAIN. My side was so covered that I could hardly see through the bugs! While out there he chatted with the woman in the other RV. I went out and in the course of the conversation asked where she was going. She wasn’t sure. I asked where they had been. She wasn’t sure. OK….

Before we left this morning, I had put a roast with potatoes and onions in the crockpot for dinner. I nuked some broccoli and we had a good dinner with plenty of leftovers for another night.

Though a convenient and free place to stay it was a bit noisy with our generator plus the truck that pulled in just as we were going to bed was a bit loud. I didn’t think I’d sleep very well but guess I did!

Now we’ve boondocked at a campground in Arizona (yep, no hookup and limited generator), boondocked at a Cabela’s in West Virginia, boondocked in a lot of Walmart parking lots and now a rest stop. Guess we’ve been a little adventurous today with map skills and a rest stop. On to Little Bighorn!

Home Away From Home, Montana, National Park

Hidden Lake Trail

Well, believe or not we got up and out before 7:00 this morning. We knew we had to get to Logan Pass early to snag a parking place and we were right. We arrived a bit after 7:30 and only got a place because someone was pulling out.

We decided to do the Hidden Lake Lookout trail and then decide if we wanted to do more. Since it was 44 degrees when we got up this morning I dressed for the weather – long pants, long-sleeved tee plus a coat. Jerry had on shorts and a shirt. Guess who was dressed for the weather?

The mile and a half hike to the overlook was a little warm in the direct sun and with no breeze, I was wondering if we’d make it. Shortly after we got started, we saw four longhorn sheep. They just grazed as though we were not there, only occasionally glancing our way. Although there were no benches there were occasional rocks where we could rest and catch our breath. We finally decided it was not the altitude causing us problems as we have acclimated fairly well. It’s the uphill climb that gets us.

About halfway up though we began to feel a slight breeze and that helped cool things down some. We saw a couple of marmots and a squirrel or two. We don’t have marmots at home so that was a treat for us.

The overlook is indeed an overlook looking into the valley as the mountains rise in the background. There are many wildflowers speckled around with lone trees standing sentinel. All in all, it was a very beautiful sight and well worth the hike.

As we descended (yes!) on the return trip to the Visitor’s Center the path was much more crowded. There were many families, some with very young children. I don’t know how they did it!

On our way back to the campground so I could change into cooler clothes, we saw cars parked on the side of the road. Obviously an animal alert. We couldn’t park so we passed by, turned around, passed by again, turned around and then found a spot. It was a big grizzly bear across the road probably a hundred and fifty yards from us so we were safe. He stayed down on all fours as he was grazing but we could definitely tell it was a grizzly.

After changing clothes, we headed back to Many Glacier and guess what the first thing we saw was. Of course – cattle in the road. They let us pass without moving an inch. We followed the bubbling stream as far as we could go occasionally sharing the road with the cattle and trying to dodge the potholes in the road. That was not easy!

It turned cold!
With signs indicating that the parking lots were full, we decided to pull off of the road beside the beautiful Lake Sherburne. I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to have lunch. The wind was blowing and we could see the white caps and hear the waves tumbling to the shore. After we ate, we walked down to the shoreline over rocks – exquisite. With the wind blowing it was now much cooler. Why did I change clothes? How grateful we are to be able to enjoy God’s creation and if this part of the earth is this beautiful can you imagine what heaven will be like?

What a wonderful place for a picnic.

We went on up to the Park Check-in only to find out from a ranger that Many Glacier was full and there was no parking at all even for people with reservations. We returned to the RV disappointed but so glad we got to go yesterday.

This morning was early for us so we both collapsed and very quickly fell asleep! Naps are good!

After our naps we started doing preliminary Tasks for breakdown tomorrow. Jerry tried valiantly to clean the windshield and the front of the coach. It’s a tireless job and perhaps fruitless. With such low humidity the water, i.e soap dries almost before you can remove it ending up with streaks and water spots.

We met Pam and Brian at Johnson’s for dinner. It was delicious. As we were walking in someone mentioned that the soup was delicious. What kind of soup? On the FAQ on the menu, it just said “good soup”. We found out that it was vegetable and beef and came with every entré. I’m a little picky about my vegetable soup but this was indeed delicious. We thought about buying some to take with us but elected not to. Mistake!

I have been reading some books where the characters talk about how good walleye is. Never having had walleye I decided that would be my entré and now I know why they write about it. It is good!

After dinner, the four of us rode to Two Dog Flat where we had been told we could see Elk and Bear at dusk. No bear tonight but we did see elk. A gentleman Jerry had talked to at the restaurant was parked next to us and he had his iPhone connected to some type of magnification spotting scope so we got a good look at the elk while they grazed and then wandered away.

Our time at Glacier National Park has come to an end as we are leaving in the morning. It goes without saying that it is an absolutely beautiful park and I wish we could have stayed longer. We saw a lot but there was so much more to see. We didn’t see a lot of animals, in contrast to Custer State Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park but we did get glimpses of deer, one grizzly bear, elk, marmots, and squirrels. I’m quite sure we’ll see more wildlife sightings as we continue our journey.

We made it!
Home Away From Home, Montana, National Park

Two National Parks in One Day

Today was our day to visit Canada so off we went to Waterton National Park. Although we have loved Glacier National Park Jerry remarked that there were no animals. I had seen one squirrel and I think he had seen three. As we rode along suddenly our dearth of animal sightings was ended and what did we see? A cow, and then another cow who bellowed at us as though we were in the wrong place – she was standing in the middle of the road – and then a herd of cows. They were all tagged and various breeds.

The drive to Waterton on the America side is lined with trees so views, for the most part, were hidden. Occasionally we would see mountain topped glaciers ahead of us.

We crossed into Canada via the Chief Mountain International Highway with no problem, just the usual questions about alcohol, weapons, where we were going and how long we were staying. The gentleman wished us a good day and on we went.

We rode on to Waterton and saw some of the prettiest mountains I have ever seen. The view was spectacular, the glaciers more prominent than on the American side. Once we got into Waterton lake there was a lake right on the side and the reflection of the mountains was lovely. Jerry tried to get a picture of that but reflections are difficult to photograph.

We entered the park and went straight to the Visitor’s Center. OK, we wandered around a bit before we found it. We got some information and some maps but quite frankly though the young lady spoke English she talked faster than my brain could process. As we walked out Jerry said he hoped I understood her because he got nothing. We got back in the car and by this time Jerry started feeling weak with a sugar drop. We were lucky to find a parking place in the village and finally found him some orange juice and a bar which made him feel somewhat better.

We headed to Bertha Falls and started on a 2-mile hike to Lower Bertha Falls but Jerry realized that he just couldn’t do it so we returned to the car. He ate some M & M’s and as he was still feeling shaky we found a parking place in a shaded picnic area and had our lunch.

We rode back to the Cameron Falls which demanded no walking at all. They were quite pretty and soothing.

Jerry began to feel better so we headed into the village of Waterton and wandered around. We made a couple of purchases and then made someone’s day when we gave them our parking place.

Our final stop in Waterton National Park was the Prince of Wales Hotel. Since we had already eaten, we didn’t take advantage of the restaurant and it was too early for tea so we sauntered through the gift shop and then made someone else’s day by giving them a parking spot.

Waterton is a pretty village with hanging baskets on many of the shops, plenty of gift shops and restaurants and on a Sunday afternoon in August, lots of people. As we were leaving the park around 2:00 there was a long line of traffic trying to enter the park. There are a couple of lakes and beaches within the park and they were quite busy. Parking was at a premium with many cars circling blocks just waiting for someone to pull out so they could quickly slide in. No one was showing any polite manners, just grabbing a parking spot!

Re-entry to the United States was very simple. They just asked how long we’d been in Canada, where we were going and if made any purchases. Then with a “welcome home”, they sent us on and we entered back into treelined forest. We did see a Watch for Cattle sign and wondered if there were free-roaming cattle on the highway. We did see more cattle as we headed back to St. Mary.

Since we went right by the entrance to Many Glacier we decided to go there. The approach to Many Glacier is possibly the most spectacular, most beautiful sight I have ever seen. The turquoise water of Sherburne Lake with the glacier topped mountains were absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Of course, we got a few pics.

We continued up the “rough road ahead” and finally reached Many Glacier Hotel. We rode around the parking lots but as has been our lot this week the lots were full. Just as we were leaving someone pulled out and we snagged a space. We walked around a bit over the bridge and then climbed some of the boulders there. Amazingly we looked down and here came three mountain goats crossing the bridge and headed for the high lands. What a sight.

Ready with the bear spray!
Since Jerry was feeling better, we decided to take the Swiftcurrent Lake Trail. It was a 2.6 loop trail along a lot of vegetation. At times we were so surrounded by fir trees that I could image the days of Christmas coming. Several times we got a sniff of “Christmas”.

We returned to St Mary where we had to get gas for the car. Thank goodness it was for the car and not the RV. Gas was $3.49 and they were the only game in town!

Headed back to the campground and a restful evening as we are planning to be up early in the morning to hit Logan Pass.

Home Away From Home, Montana, National Park

Going to the Sun Road

We have gotten up every morning and pushed for three weeks so last night Jerry told me not to wake him this morning. He was going to sleep in no matter what we needed to do. Yeah, right, he was up by 7:00. He suggested we skip out usual breakfast and go over to the KOA pavilion for pancakes so we did. They were really good and a nice change.

Back at the coach we showered, dressed and were soon on the road to the park. We decided to just ride the Going to the Sun Road today and stop whenever we wanted to. We wanted to stop at Logan Pass for a hike but we were afraid we were probably too late to get a parking place. As we got to the park, we got the usual picture with the National Park sign, got the newspaper and then stopped at the first overlook only to discover that there was no chip in Jerry’s camera. I had downloaded yesterday’s pictures earlier this morning and had forgotten to put the chip back in. Plus, we had forgotten the bear spray and we thought we definitely needed that so back to the motor home we went.

Gathering what we had earlier left behind we started again. The park was already quite a bit busier. We stopped at an overlook for a pic then continued on to Goose Island Viewpoint. Oh, how very beautiful. Jerry discovered another setting on his camera that allowed him to take a picture that seemed to define the depth of the glaciers. Hopefully, that will work because our normal pictures defy the surrounding beauty.

We stopped at still another and the glaciers are beautiful but the dead pine trees from an earlier fire cast a pall over the view. We stopped at Jackson Glacier Overlook where we learned that the fire started possibly by human hand on July 21, 2015, just four years ago yet the evidence of burned trees is still very obvious.

We stopped again, took some more pics of the faraway glaciers and then I turned around and looked across the road. Wow, just wow. We were right next to the foot of a mountain and it was most impressive. We need to remember to look at both sides of the road. I took a picture but again the dept was not apparent.

We rode through the parking lot at Logan Pass but we were indeed too late as every parking space was filled and there were many cars slowly driving around looking for a spot.

We continued on the Going to the Sun Road entering onto the curvy, narrow road that leads to West Glacier. I can see why they limit the size of vehicles traveling the road. The views are all so mesmerizing, so captivating, so indescribable, so amazing, so different and varying as the sun and shadows move through the skyline. Green growth, wildflowers of various colors juxtaposed with glaciers, some close enough to touch. At this point everywhere we looked it was green, no fire this far. 59 degrees and breezy so a pretty cool morning. We passed by the Weeping Wall but could not stop for a picture. By this time, 11:30, traffic was steady and heavy.

Our next glorious view was the Bird Woman Falls. We stopped at an overlook that looked over the vast expanse of forest and there among the growth tumbling down the mountains was Bird Woman Falls.

Continuing on we came to Lake MacDonald. What a beautiful area where the Lake MacDonald Lodge is located. There was also a picnic area where we had our picnic lunch.

A little bit further up we stopped and walked down to the lake. Jerry took off his shoes and stuck his toes in. I had stuck my finger in and surprisingly enough it was not that cold.

We rode on to Apgar Visitor’s Center where we heard an interesting talk by a ranger on the animals in the park. She even demonstrated how to use bear spray should the need ever arise. We actually learned a lot from her brief talk.

Turning around we headed back toward the Eastside to catch some other things we had bypassed on the way in. Parking is at a premium at many of the overlooks making it difficult to stop everywhere we wanted to.

But our first stop on the return was so much fun. We snagged a parking spot at Sacred Dancing Cascade after three passes by. A short trail led down to a bubbling creek with a bridge and strewn rocks, big and small. Of course, I had to scamper over some rocks. Jerry quickly found a seat, pulled off his shoes and socks and stuck his feet in the 40-degree water. After some urging, I did the same and I must admit it felt good! Sort of like a hot tub except cold swirling waters instead.

We wanted to stop at Avalanche Lake but there was no parking so we went just a bit further, found a space and were able to hike the Trail of the Cedars. The trail was one of the first accessible trails completed by the National Park Service. The majority of it is a wooden walkway so it was not difficult and only .9 miles. A lot of it was shaded too. We saw some huge trees, possibly the oldest trees in the park.

We made a few more stops, one so Jerry could get a picture of the stunning Heaven‘s Peak and then one so he could actually walk up and touch a glacier, one of two that we passed that were touchable if you were willing to cross a busy road, make a few steps on crumbling rocks, gravel and dirt to touch it. I didn’t! One fall was enough for me.

Our last stop was Logan Pass where we easily got a parking spot. By the time, it was after 5:00 so the parking lot was emptying. We went into the Visitor’s Center and then walked around the gardens. After deciding that it was too late to take a hike we walked over to the Continental Divide, had our picture taken and then headed back to the car.

We finally got back to the campground around 6:30, a little tired but having had a wonderful day wandering around Glacier National Park.