Home Away From Home, Wyoming

A Full Day in Cody

We started our day with a tour of Old Trail Town which shows the old West as it really was. It was a sunny but cool day, perfect for wandering in and out of the authentic cabins moved to Cody. This was where the original town of Cody was located. There were over twenty buildings, some we could enter and some roped off. All had authentic items in them and nearly all had either a bison head, a pronghorn head, a deer head, antlers from various animals or animal skulls. Each cabin is unique in its own way.

Bob Edgar, a Wyoming native with an interest in archeology realized that old historical buildings were rapidly disappearing so in 1967 he began the work of gathering the buildings and relics that are now located at Old Trail Town as this was where Cody had chosen for the first townsite of Cody in 1895. Many of the buildings were taken completely apart, moved and then reassembled. Among the relics at Old Trail Town are horse-drawn vehicles, memorabilia from the Wyoming frontier and Indian artifacts. While much of the memorabilia is in the various cabins the majority is housed in a very extensive museum viewed at the end of the trail.

The first cabin we entered was “Curley’s Cabin”. Curley was an Indian scout for Custer and luckily was able to escape the carnage at Little Bighorn as he was on the outside circle of the Sioux and Cheyenne. Many believe he was the first to bring the news of Custer’s defeat. The cabin was originally built near Crow Agency, Montana.

In 1882 some of the first sheep arrived in Central Wyoming brought by Luther Morrison. Morrison originally came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and built this cabin in 1884 located at the foot of Copper Mountain east of Shoshone, Wyoming. As in the other cabins, the walls were encircled by mounted animal heads but in addition, there was a two-headed calf! There was also a lovely old organ. Talking about juxtaposition.

Hole in the Wall cabin is a two-room cabin which was built on Buffalo Creek in the Wall Country, west of Kaycee, Wyoming by Alexander Ghent. It was known as the rendezvous place for Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and other outlaws of the famous “Hole in the Wall Gang”.

Our next stop was the graveyard where five of the more infamous folks were buried. The first grave we visited was that of Jeremiah Johnson or better known as “Liver-Eating’ Johnson. Johnson was a trapper, hunter, wood hawk, army scout, marshal and Civil War veteran. He got his nickname because reportedly after he killed someone, he would take a bite of their liver. Yuk! Johnson’s body was moved to this location and one of the pallbearers was Robert Redford who played Jeremiah Johnson in the movie.

Other graves were those of Jim White also known as Buffalo Hunter, Jack Stilwell known as Frontiersman, Phillip Vetter, a trapper killed by a grizzly, W.A. Gallagher and Blind Bill, cowboys who were murdered and then the famous or more likely infamous Belle Drewry, the Woman in Blue. Supposedly she was involved in the murder of Gallagher and Blind Bill. She was buried in a blue dress.

Next, we visited a tribute to the famous Mountain Men including James “Old Gabe” Bridger, a hunter and trapper and Jim Bridger. Possibly the first man known as a Mountain Man was John Colter, a trapper who worked for Lewis and Clark. During his journey, he found “Colter’s Hell” which is where a tribute to him is now located. Although it cannot be accessed from Old Trail Town his monument can be seen in the distance. Legend has it that when captured by the Blackfeet he was forced to run for his life. He outdistanced the entire tribe for seven miles and survived, naked and weaponless but alive.

One of the last places we visited was the Rivers Saloon. It was frequented by Butch Cassidy, W.A. Gallager, Blind Bill and many other colorful cowboys of the old west. It is the oldest remaining saloon in northwest Wyoming. I saw bullet holes in the door!

Last but certainly not least is a museum filled with artifacts of the Old West including a horse-drawn hearse from the late 1800s. Initially, I didn’t realize what it was and then – wow!

We had decided to picnic again today so we went to the park at the Cody Visitor’s Center and had a nice lunch on the grounds. We still had two more museums to visit at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West so we returned there. We immediately went to the Plains Indians museum because we knew we would spend more time in there.

Jerry had remarked earlier that most of the photographs that we see of the Native Americans are either of children or men. Why not women? We asked at Old Trail Town but they were mystified as well. When we entered the Plains museum the very first and very large photograph we saw was of a woman. The first part of the museum emphasized the important role that the women played in their everyday lives.

“We women had our children to care for, meat to cook, and to dry, robes to dress, skins to tan, clothes, lodges and moccasins to make. We not only pitched the lodges, but took them down and packed the horses and the travois, when we move camp. We were busy, especially when we were going to move. I love to move, even after I was a married woman with children to take care of. Moving made me happy.” Pretty Shield, Absaroke (Crow)

Continuing on through the museum we saw life-sized women and men mounted on horses. Interestingly, before horses arrived on the Plains, dogs were essential to maintaining the season rounds. Dogs were not only family pets, but they were also used to carry the lodge poles and covers when families moved. After horses arrived the poles became longer and bigger so dogs were no longer used for that purpose.

One of the most interesting exhibits consisted of a life-size buffalo hide tipi. As buffalo disappeared from the Plains, women began making tipis from canvas so very few buffalo hides tipis exist today. This tipi showed evidence of many patches and repairs as well as hands and circles painted in red pigment. The audio that accompanied the exhibit explained the life of the Indians throughout each season.

The last museum we visited was the Cody Firearms Museum. It houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world with over 7,000 firearms and 30,000 firearms-related artifacts.

By this time, we were getting a little weary so we returned to the campground for a little rest as we knew we had an exciting night ahead.

After a little respite, we went to the Cody Cattle Company for dinner and a show before the rodeo. We were assigned seats for dinner and unfortunately, we were at a table with four people from Denmark. I chatted with the lady sitting next to me briefly but other than that neither of the others spoke to us keeping to themselves. I’m not sure they could speak English as I never heard them say anything in English. Dinner was beef brisket and/or chicken served with a choice of salad, slaw, vegetables and cowboy beans. It was good but the best part was the outstanding show. The band, The Three C, played a varied selection of old and new western songs. The guitarist was absolutely outstanding and has won several national titles. Watching him strum each of his guitars was mesmerizing.

Immediately after the show, we walked over to the rodeo. A PBR rodeo, it features all of the usual contests: bull riding, bare bronc riding, barrel racing, roping, and others. The rodeo started with a salute to the flag and prayed to our Lord and Savior. What a nice way to begin an evening. Someone had told us to take a jacket as it might be cold and when the wind started blowing it did indeed get a little chilly. Jerry and I have watched rodeos on television in the past but the real thing is a little different. The cowboys and cowgirls are a brave bunch and from the junior contests we saw, it looks like the future of the rodeo is on solid ground.

What a great day!

Home Away From Home, Wyoming

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Today was day one for the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a museum that can’t possibly be covered in a day, at least not by my feet! We visited three sections today plus went through the Raptor Experience.

Our first stop was the Buffalo Bill Museum, the flagship of the entire museum. Its focuses on the life and times of Buffalo Bill from birth to his death. Upon entering this section, we were greeted by a large diorama featuring two large standing bison, a calf and a wallowing bison, very impressive. We were also able to watch a riveting video about bison and I learned still more about the fascinating creatures. Bison give birth in the spring and wean their calves within the first year. Although the calves rest and play among themselves they stay close to their mothers. Bison have few predators but wolves and grizzlies will attack the young, the old, the injured or the sick. Part of the video showed a wolf trying to attack a bison. He must have been a brave wolf because the bison kept kicking him away and he continued going back for more. Then it showed a pack of wolves chasing one bison. It was all shown on camera but there was enough that I surely knew what was happening to the bison. In another clip, it showed a calf running along with his mom and then a bear began to chase the calf. Try as she might the cow could not protect her calf.

Bison survive the harsh winters by growing thick winter coats which they shed in the warmer months by wallowing on the ground. They also wallow because of biting insects and itching. During the winter they burrow their heads in the thick snow to find food. It was amazing to watch them doing that. They are truly magnificent creatures.

The Buffalo Bill Museum is filled with originals and replicas of items representative of his life. He was unhappily married to Louisa with whom he had four children. In fact, in later years he tried to divorce her saying she was trying to poison him. This was very detrimental to his reputation as everyone sided with Louisa. They reconciled some years later and were together until his death. Sadly, she outlived all of her children, two of them having died in childhood. Their only son died of scarlet fever which he contracted when his father took him back east. Louisa blamed Cody for his death and that created even more fractures in their relationship.

Cody had many professions: guide, scout, frontiersman, showman, actor, entrepreneur, town founder, and American icon. During the 1860s and 1870s, he served as a civilian scout for the US Army. There he faced hostile situations, difficult terrain, and scarce resources. His sharp eyesight and ability to read the landscapes plus his riding ability made him a very valuable resource for the army. In fact, these very attributes led him to be a rider for the Pony Express. He wrote his mother telling her how much he liked the exciting life and her response was to ask him to stop as it would surely kill him. He agreed saying fifteen miles an hour on horseback would surely shake any man to pieces. He lasted two months!

Cody was also a professional buffalo hunter but did so to provide meat for the Kansas Pacific railroad workers. He also sold fresh meat to army forts in central Kansas. He never participated in the trade of killing buffalos for their hides and strongly disapproved of their slaughter. He said “People have the idea that I was a crack shot, and used that talent to kill for the buffalo hide. I never killed except for food and I never had any patience with the vandals of the plains”.

Another interesting fact: As a scout, Cody kept his hair long because the scouts who were out in the open, rain or shine, found that the greatest protection to the eyes and ears was long hair. Those who were prejudiced against long hair had “sore eyes, pains in the head, and loud ringing in the ears. We who wear our hair long let nature have her way in the matter, and profit from it”.

Cody’s sentiments toward the American Indians mellowed as he got older. Initially, as a boy, he played with them. As an adult, he feared them and considered them enemies but as his show developed and he incorporated them into it he began to soften and to treat them with respect. He also demanded that everyone else treat them with due respect.

One of the displays showed a map of the United States and had red pins on each of the cities that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show visited. How surprised I was to learn that he went to Kinston!

In the mid-1890s Cody began to realize the value of water in the Bighorn Basin so he led the effort to seek funding and support for irrigation projects in the Bighorn Basin. This led to the Shoshone Irrigation Company which led to the Shoshone Dam, later renamed the Buffalo Bill Dam which is still in service today.

Fannie Sperry Steele
We continued our tour of the museum by going downstairs and reading about the history of the Cody Rodeo. This exhibit chronicled the growth of the rodeo from its beginning. There were many pictures, memorabilia and bronze sculptures depicting the various participants. One such sculpture was of Fannie Sperry Steele, a World Champion bronc rider and trick rider on her horse Sultan. She was the first woman inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame and was also inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She was a Montana native.

We continued our tour with the Draper Natural History Museum. We were constantly amazed at the variety of exhibits and videos. The very first exhibit was of the gray wolf, a much larger animal than I realized. The wolf was a top predator in Greater Yellowstone for many years before they were nearly eliminated in the 1930s. In 1995 the US Government reintroduced them to Yellowstone National Park where the pack has enlarged dramatically. Now the reintroduction becomes a hot topic as there are many who are opposed to it. While the wolves certainly serve as a tourist attraction and bring money to the area, they also cause problems for ranchers killing livestock and game animals, in particular, the elk.

Wolves are raised in dens and stay close to home. The adults mate in February and then by April the females start looking for den sites. There are usually four to five in an average litter and they are usually born in early April. The pups will leave the den at 10-14 days but stay close by for up to 10 weeks.

We visited the display of bighorn sheep and mountain goats where I learned that the major predators for both of those were the golden eagle, cougars, and humans. The bighorn sheep often butt heads to establish dominance to get to mate with the ewes. They launch themselves at each other, each weighing up to 300 pounds, and repeat until a winner is determined. They butt heads with enough force to kill any other animal but because of their flat, broad heads, they can absorb the hits from each other.

As we traveled through Custer State Park and Glacier National Park, we saw many fallen trees due to lightning strikes, insects (more specifically the pine beetle), disease or fire. We wondered why the forest was not cleaned up but learned today that a dead or dying tree is called a snag. Snags often serve as habitats, providing shelter and food long after the tree is gone. Cavities in the tree may be excavated by birds or other animals so that nothing in nature is wasted.

By this time, we were both getting hungry. We discussed going back to the campground for lunch but instead decided to eat at the museum. We both had salads in their cafeteria-style restaurant and they were very good. As we were eating, I noticed that Cody’s boyhood home was located right outside the door so as soon as we finished our meal we walked over. It is a partially recreated home of just two rooms although there were more in the original house.

We continued on and stumbled upon the Raptor Experience. A staffer had just finished a talk on the short-haired owl she was carrying. There are eleven birds in the area and all are there because they are unable to live in the wild. The owl has only one wing and the bald eagle also has a damaged wing.

Our next stop was the Whitney Western Art Museum which neither of us thought we would enjoy. How wrong we were. As we walked along, we were amazed at the display of art. Huge sculptures and large paintings that invited you right into the paintings were abundant. Our short time in the gallery turned into a remarkable visit.

At this point, we decided to cut out visit today short and finish up tomorrow since we were planning to go to the rodeo tonight. We walked into the gift shop and as we did we suddenly heard a loud clap of thunder. Thinking we could beat the storm Jerry went to the car to drive over to pick me up. Unexpectedly it began to pour down rain with some hail. Needless to say, Jerry sat out the storm in the car while I waited in the museum. I chatted with another RV couple on their way to West Yellowstone too. He told me it was only 100 miles away. Wrong! 300 miles. East Yellowstone is less than 100 miles away but we too are headed to the west side.

Jerry navigated the flooded streets quite well and we returned to the campground safely. Either Cody got a lot of rain during that storm or the downtown area has a drainage problem. We discussed going to the rodeo but decided that we might wait until tomorrow night as the weather for the evening was still unpredictable. We later learned that the rainfall was very unusual for this area thus the over-run streets.

Dinner at Cassie’s
We kept discussing what to do for the evening. The choices were Cassie’s for dinner or the rodeo. Since the weather had been so bad this afternoon we decided to wait until Sunday to go to the rodeo so off to Cassie’s we went. Cassie’s was established in 1922, a historic house of ill repute and is now a restaurant with a western flair for sure. Since we didn’t have reservations, we had to wait about 30 minutes so we sat at the bar and watched couples dance the two-step. At least I think that’s what they were doing. I really want to learn how to do that. There were a couple of interesting signs on the wall. “Not responsible for ladies left overnight” and “Act respectable. This is a high-class joint.” Of course, the requisite antlers were displayed in various places. I had an eight-ounce filet and oh my goodness. It puts NC filets to shame. By the time we had eaten fresh homemade bread slathered with honey butter plus a salad with a dressing made in-house, I couldn’t begin to finish my steak. Jerry got a ribeye and he too had some left over. Oh boy, dinner later this week!

After dinner, we ran by Walmart to see if they had a band for my FitBit. Mine had broken when I took my spill in Glacier. My FitBit is an older model and I really didn’t expect them to have one and they didn’t so I’ll continue to carry it in my pocket while we wander around.

The temperature had dropped significantly after the rain so it was a cool evening. Bet it’ll be some good sleeping tonight!

Home Away From Home, Wyoming

On to Cody, Wyoming

We were up and on the road by 8:30 this morning headed to Cody, Wyoming. We had to backtrack to Billings but then headed west toward Cody. I got a call from home and chatted with my cousin for a while and suddenly Jerry indicated he needed some navigational help. I hung the phone up and quickly realized that both GPSs were lost. Both indicated that the RV was in a field! I brought up the good old standby Waze and recognized that we were going in the right direction. At one point, Waze and the Clarion sent us one way while the Garmin was sending us another. When that happens, I always like to defer to the Garmin as it is set for an RV. I pulled up my route from RVTrip Wizard and saw that it agreed with the Garmin so that is the way we went. It was a very easy drive and I can’t imagine where the other GPS’s wanted to send us.

We arrived at Abrasoka RV around noon, quickly checked in and got settled. As Jerry was setting up the outside I quickly went to work on the inside concluding the cleaning that I had started yesterday. It doesn’t take long to vacuum a 300 square foot motor home! The next order of business was a loaf of bread! We had passed a grocery store as we came in so we went back there to pick up enough for lunch and burgers for dinner. We’ll worry about the other meals later.

After lunch, we rode into Cody to get a feel for the town. It really is not a very large city with a population of just under 10,000 but they have 500,000 visitors each year! It is definitely geared to tourists but not kitzsy at all. In fact, it’s laid out in such a way that very quickly we could find our way around.

Outside the Irma Hotel
We parked right on the Main Street, got out and started walking. We had heard of the Irma Hotel and there it was so we walked over. We had already talked about the possibility of taking a trolley ride to familiarize ourselves with the town and the “station” was at the Irma Hotel. I so wish I had taken a picture of Ray, the gentleman manning the ticket booth. He had a handlebar mustache that wouldn’t quit plus he called me Jerry’s daughter and a hottie trottie! A man after my heart – and a man ready to sell some tickets!

We ended up buying tickets for the trolley ride and tickets for the Buffalo Cody Museum which we’ll visit tomorrow. We had about 30 minutes before the trolley ride so we continued our walk. Jerry ran back to the car to change his hat and on the way met two graduates from NC State. Go Pack! What to do with a few extra minutes? Why get ice cream of course! We went into Annie’s located right across from the hotel and had some yummy ice cream.

The trolley ride lasted an hour and took us all around Cody plus out to the Buffalo Bill Dam. We got lots of ideas about what we wanted to do for the next few days. In fact, after we got off of the trolley we headed for the dam. Wow, what an impressive sight. We had to go through three tunnels to get to the reservoir, one so long it had its own ventilation system. Just past the Visitor’s Center to the dam, we saw a fence that had been put up for protection from falling rocks or boulders. Unfortunately, before the fence could be completed the boulder fell and the fence was crushed.

The Resevoir
The view of the reservoir is quite lovely with its red and yellow banks. The yellow is where the hot springs are located and of course, the red is caused by the rust. It makes for a beautiful background.

Ah, the force of water
We arrived at the Visitor’s Center, rather the pickup point for the center. Cars are not permitted at the center but staff with golf carts are there to take you to the center. The Visitor’s Center is quite enlightening with information posted all around. In addition, they show a video that chronicles the construction of the dam. Three companies were used throughout the construction, two were dismissed and the third suffered severe financial difficulty because the dam came in double the initial proposed budget. The dam could not be worked on from April through the summer because of the floodwater from the snowmelt so the work had to be done during the bitter cold winter with temperatures sometimes down to -15. Yes, that is minus fifteen! Can you imagine? It was finally completed in 1910.

Prior to the completion of the dam, the Bureau of Reclamation was formed in 1902 to provide water for the development of the West. Heavy snowfalls and spring rains resulted in flooding that was followed by hot, dry summers with too little moisture for farming. There needed to be a way to store the surplus water not only to prevent flooding but also for use during the dry months. President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation in 1902 to create the Bureau for this purpose. Thus, the beginning of the Shoshone Dam later renamed the Buffalo Bill Cody Dam in honor of all that Cody had done for the town.

After touring the Visitor’s Center, we were able to go out on the walkway to view the spillage. I had read that it would be windy and oh my, it was. In fact, at one point the wind pushed me a bit. I was certainly glad there were rails all around.

We caught a golf cart ride back to the car and headed back into Cody. On the way out we had seen a Walmart and what day is complete without a stop at the local Walmart? I couldn’t believe the number of RV’s in the parking lot. Apparently, they do allow overnight parking. There must have been 20-25 of all kinds, Class A’s, Class B’s and pull behinds. Glad I had a site for the night!

After grilling hamburgers for dinner, we sat outside for a while and enjoyed the beautiful, cool evening. Tomorrow will be a busy day with a trip to the museum plus dinner, a show and then the rodeo tomorrow night! YeeHaw!

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.

Home Away From Home, Montana, National Park

Our First Day in Glacier National Park

Our plan was to get up about 6:30 and be on the road by 8:00. Well, we woke up at 7:15 and as badly as I hated to get out of bed I did. We quickly got ready and since we didn’t have any breakdown, we were on the road by 8:10. Again, an uneventful ride. There were very few gas stations and we were down to a half tank since we had to run the generator all night. I don’t like to get below a half tank because you never know when you might see another station. We finally found an accessible Exxon in Shelby, Montana and filled up there.

Then we began to see pretty vistas. Up until then, it had been pretty much miles of land and crops on either side. After Shelby, we began to see snowcapped mountains in the distance. How far away? No clue. I had earlier received an email from the campground advising us to take an alternate route from Browning as there was construction and long delays on 89 leading to St. Mary. I was a bit concerned that we might miss the turn to 464 so I had my Garmin, Waze and Google Maps all going simultaneously. We easily found the turn so no worry but 464 isn’t the greatest road for an RV. I don’t know what the grade on these ascensions – hills, mountains, whatever they are as they are not marked but at one point we were struggling at 35 mpg to get up one. We did reach 5000 feet above sea level.

We arrived at Glacier KOA a little after 12:00, checked in and set up fairly quickly. After a quick lunch, we rode over to Johnson Campground where Pam and Brian were staying. Soon after we all headed to the Visitor’s Center. We got some ideas of things to do for the next three days and then decided to take the free shuttle to the Going to the Sun Road. The road is 50 miles long and takes about two hours to drive it. We decided the shuttle would be better today and perhaps we’ll drive it another day. The view from the shuttle was absolutely amazing as we rode along the beautiful St. Mary Lake with the mountains in the background. Our pictures could never do it justice.

After discussing the various hikes, we decided on the St. Mary Falls hike. Actually, there are three falls on the hike but only two in the direction we were going. Things were going fine until I tripped and fell. Yep, gravel on the hand hurts A LOT! I jumped up, brushed myself off and soldiered on.

The first fall we saw was St Mary. It was beautiful, to say the least. There were right many people there and some were actually jumping into the water. Wow, it must have been so cold. We took some pictures, enjoyed the scenery and then headed on to the next fall, Virginia Falls which if possible was even more beautiful. We went through sunshine, shade, warmth, cool and occasional breezes. It was not a difficult hike at all but when I looked at my FitBit at the end we had hiked five miles!

We took the shuttle back to the Visitor’s Center where our car was, took Pam and Brian home and headed back to the KOA. I had planned on tenderloin for dinner but Jerry wanted something else so Plan B. Before we left home, I had browned and frozen some hamburger so we pulled it out and made spaghetti sauce. Actually, Jerry did all of that because my hand was so sore. After dinner, he went out and bought some big band-aids to cover the worst of the injuries. Boy, I hate being a klutz but a tree root will throw me every time if I am not paying attention. In fact, Jerry and I had talked earlier about not being able to look around when we are hiking on some of these trails because we need to watch where we are walking. Obviously, I wasn’t doing that. Oh well, I’ll heal and live to hike another day – like tomorrow!