Heading into Cody, WY

We found a city park in the town of Columbus, MT, called Itch-Kep-Pe City Park and decided to call it home for a couple of days. This park is run on donations only, no hook-ups, a real bathroom (albeit rustic) with flush toilets, dumpster, and a central water faucet. The park is right on the Yellowstone River and is a popular boat launch area. The main drawback we found was the amount of yahoos barreling down the dirt roads in their “Bubba” trucks, stirring up dust. We were able to find a “site” open enough for our solar system to function at full force and obtain satellite reception for the “tube”. 

Our one big excursion from Itch-Kep-Pe Park was to drive the Beartooth Scenic Hwy. into Silver Gate at the northeast gate to Yellowstone N.P. It was a spectacular 220 mile round-trip drive up and over the Beartooth Pass Summit at 10,947 feet of elevation. We saw some beautiful mountain views, a little bit of snow, and some scenic water falls and lakes along the way. We pretty much got skunked on our main focus of attention – critter watch – with the exception of a small group of mountain goats grazing near the road. A midday stop at the Beartooth Cafe managed to get us fed and ready for the return trip home. I do say, they had some tasty Elk tacos. Some pics have captions, some speak for themselves…

We packed up and made it to our next stop, Cody WY. On the way we did our darndest to get hooked up with an RV campground with hook-ups, but wouldn’t you know it, nobody had space for us except for some dry-camping at the Buffalo Bill State Park. Since that park was a bit outside the town of Cody, we found the local Walmart instead. We had 2 days to kill before we could get a spot at one of the local RV parks. I will admit, we cheated just a tad, and stayed both days in the Walmart lot. This particular Walmart is an extremely popular RV-welcoming business. They have a sign posted directing RVers where dumps are located. They also have a water faucet in the “back 40” for RV use. It averaged about 20 rigs staying there both nights we stayed. We spoke with one employee about the length of stay for RV’s and he said despite the “1-day only” rule, many RV’s stay for “weeks”. Even though we “cheated”, we made it well worth Walmart’s while, going on a shopping binge both days there. To kill time while here, we took a drive up to the Buffalo Bill Dam & Reservoir. Just before we arrived we had to pass inside 3 tunnels into the mountains in an area popular for mountain climbing. At the dam we did a walk through of their visitor center. The dam is not wide, but very tall. It was completed in 1910 and at that time was the tallest concrete-arch style dam in the world, measuring in at 325’ tall.

After our Walmart stop, home became the Absaroka Bay RV Park in downtown Cody. That park is a tightly packed lot, but had FHU’s and was only $39/night. 

First up on our agenda was the scenic Southfork Drive along the south fork of the Shoshone River. It is about 84 miles round-trip and purports to offer frequent sightings of  bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk, and deer. In fact the Southfork Drive lays claim to one of the largest herds of bighorn sheep in America. Now, how could we pass that one up? Alas, we got skunked again, as far as bighorn sheep sightings go. But we did manage to see some deer, a couple of large herds of elk, some pronghorn antelope, and what Iooked to be a golden eagle. Great mountain/river views also reward the intrepid traveler who takes on this dead-end drive, part pavement and part dirt/gravel out to the end, including views of Carter Mountain and Castle Rock. Carter Mountain is a 30 mile stretch of various peaks and is touted as one of the largest in the Yellowstone system of mountains. Bonehead me, I was so mesmerized looking at all the mountains I failed to get a photo of the bulk of Carter Mountain. I am truly as sharp as a marble…

The City of Cody puts on concerts in the park during the season, so we packed up Woodrow Wilson and a couple of chairs and headed to the park for a gig put on by a local band named Beacon Hill. They were a kinda bluesy, rockabilly, country mix and drew a good crowd considering Cody also puts on a nightly rodeo at the fairgrounds which competes for an audience. We also would have done a very good job feeding the local mosquito population, except Jeanne found a lavender bedtime lotion for babies by Johnson & Johnson which we doused ourselves in and voila! No mosquito issues! It was better than reeking of deet…

What would a visit to Cody, WY be without a run through the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The museum is divided into 5 basic sections that a couple of hours would normally be sufficient to cover. However, the section “Cody Firearms Museum” contains an extensive historical gun collection, with numerous pull out cabinets and drawers which you could probably spend one full day going through, especially all you gun nuts out there (you know who you are!). They also put on a short program about raptors where we got to learn about and see a couple of the “residents” of the museum, a golden eagle and an eastern screech owl. All of the “residents” of the museum are rehabilitated, previously injured (many hit by cars), but now unable to return to the wild due to their injuries. It was a nice program…

So Jeanne has to get kudos for digging up all these activities we do, she is a genius at social media apps. Our next outing was another scenic drive Jeanne found in a flyer “Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country Scenic Drives”. The South Fork Drive previously described was found in this same flyer. This next one is called the “East Yellowstone Loop” and encompasses the northeast corner of the Yellowstone “figure 8” and Lamar Valley. Going out the gate at Silver Gate/Cooke City, it connects with the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and heads back into Cody. In total, it runs to about a 224 mile loop trip. Even though the sun did not want to cooperate with us, we still got some spectacular views and got some critter watching in as well.

Cody considers itself the rodeo captial of the world, and during the tourist season they feature a nightly rodeo at the rodeo grounds. Off we went for a night of country music, clowns, and rodeo stock. Sorry, but I do not even rise to the level of amateur photographer, so my rodeo action shots are quite a bit less than average. We managed to stick it out for about 90 minutes-until a hellacious wind kicked up and we left under our own power before we would have left under wind power.

The ghost town of Kirwin is found about 62 miles south and outside of Cody in the Wood River Valley. It was a mining town (silver/gold) founded in the 1880’s until about 1907, when a massive avalanche gave some of the shacks new addresses and killed a few miners. Attempts to continue mining ran into the 1940’s, but now Kirwin is just a few buildings still standing with secrets yet to be told. A plus, we got to see a few critters on this trip, too. We topped it off with a stop in the megalopolis of Meeteetse, WY, for a cold one and some chow at the Elkhorn Bar & Grill. We both ordered, of all things, here in beef/elk/bison country, their hibachi fried rice. I had shrimp on mine and was amazed at the quality of the meal! I washed it down with a Jeremiah Johnson Scotch Ale (!) and I would highly recommend this place to anyone bold enough to drive all the way out here.

Well, tomorrow the jacks go up and it is onward and upward. Not sure where we will land, just “shut up and drive”. Until next post…

Yippee kayayyyy, the blog post is done!

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Great Falls, MT

One of the recurring issues we have is with how NOT well locals tend to have accurate knowledge of their towns and surroundings. We got ready to hit the road out of Glacier N.P. headed for Great Falls. We planned on heading down Hwy. 89 straight into Great Falls, but got dissuaded by some of the local folk who said the construction on Hwy. 89 was horrible, with excruciatingly long waits. So we altered our route, circling around about 60 miles out of our way further south before hooking up with Hwy. 200 into Great Falls. When we got set up at our destination we ran into a couple of fellow RVers who had also just left the W. Glacier KOA. They did take Hwy. 89 and it was clear as clear can be, smooth sailing all the way. Harumph! Harumph!

Our new homesite was Dick’s RV Park, Great Falls, MT. The park was not great, but had level gravel roads and sites with FHU’s, albeit a bit beat up. Many of the water spigots looked to have lost battles with RV’s, and ours leaked from it’s handle. But the price was half that of the local KOA, with not much else around to choose from.

There was a bicycle trail just outside the driveway for the RV park, which hooked up to the River’s Edge Trail. That trail is paved to Crooked Falls, then dirt/gravel to Ryan Dam. We gave it a go for about 20 miles, round trip, out to Crooked Falls and back. Black Eagle Dam/Black Eagle Falls, Rainbow Dam/Rainbow Falls, and Crooked Falls were scenic views, all kinda parts of the “Great Falls” system of falls on Big Muddy (the Missouri River).

We met up with our friends Zane & Theda Shaulis, whom we met at the Allegro Rally in Casa Grande, AZ, a few years ago. They are residents of Great Falls and showed us around during our stay. Their son-in-law Zack works at Jeremiah Johnson Brewery in town and we got a tour of his facilities. Jeremiah Johnson Brewery is a microbrewery for the area, not widely distributed (yet), and their flagship brew, Mountain Man Scotch Ale, is very tasty. They brew a vanilla porter that is also a must-try.

Great Falls holds a pretty large Farmer’s Market downtown on Saturdays, so we met up with Zane & Theda and strolled the market. It was a spread out affair, occupying several closed streets. They had all kinds of crafts booths besides a large contingent of produce booths, but the strange ones were a couple of booths selling “wands” and spell related things, I didn’t get the gist of them. I had no idea sorcery or witchcraft were popular themes in Montana of all places, I would have thought them more suitable for somewhere in Oregon or San Francisco…

Next stop on our Great Falls tour was a free car show at Giant Springs State Park. There were a couple of dollars on display there, here are a few pics.

Zane & Theda had charge of their young grandson, Hunter, so we stepped across the road from the car show to the Giant Springs and the fish hatchery they have there. Jeanne & Hunter fed the fish at the hatchery and we got to check out Giant Springs. The springs are the source for the Roe River, one of the world’s shortest rivers at 201’, emptying into Big Muddy. The springs water could not be any clearer, with a whole lotta green shrubbery growing under water.

We took Woody out for a walkabout along the Northshore trail near Ryan Dam & the Great Falls of the Missouri, namesake for the town. I can only imagine what all these falls we have seen here would have looked like before civilization put in all the hydroelectric dams. Even with the dams, they are quite scenic. At this dam there is an “island” area (Ryan Island) with nice viewing areas, picnic areas for families, and a sway bridge to access those areas. It was pretty cool.

Well, tomorrow is moving day. Still not sure where we will land, somewhere between here and Cody, WY. A very BIG thank you to Zane & Theda for all the good times and the steak dinner they hosted at their home. As usual, stay tuned until next post…

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Glacier National Park 2019

Boy, howdy, this will be a very short narrative. Pictures do little justice and words do no justice to the spectacular scenery found at Glacier National Park. I’m just gonna post pictures, some with captions and some without, and let that tell the story. Before I get to that, a couple of things…We got here the week after the 4th of July and met with a little disappointment in that rangers informed us that several of our intended hiking trails were only partially open because of snow. It looks like if you want to visit here, best be done around August or later. The traffic was horrible, just like Yellowstone. The parking areas for popular places like Logan Pass, Many Glaciers and Avalanche Creek fill up extremely early in the day, Logan’s was full by 8:30 daily. And we tried to get into the Many Glaciers area at noon one day but there was no parking available in the whole state of Montana (or so it seemed)! But we did get a hike or two between sightseeing. The park really recommends and encourages use of the free shuttles but for us that would be tough having to coordinate with leaving Woody in the bus and getting back to let him out. So without further ado, here’s some photos…

Hope you enjoyed them. Until next post…

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Kalispell 2019

Our stay in Kalispell took us to the Kalispell Elks Lodge. They have several W/E gravel sites (30A) and the lodge has a gym like I have never seen at any Elks Lodge so far. There are 3, count ‘em, 3 racquetball courts, a room with stationary bikes/treadmills, etc., and a pumping iron room with free weights. A real locker room offering lockers, showers, a dry sauna, even a trainer’s table. Rustic, at best, but my kinda gym, not for yuppies to be strutting around, flexing for the mirrors and looking suave and “dee-boner”. 

The weather was not all that great during our 8-day stay in Kalispell. Most days had rain, overcast, and/or thunder & lightning, but at least it was not cold. Between rainstorms we did manage to get out and “see stuff”. We spent a couple of days checking out Whitefish, MT, home to Whitefish Lake & Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort. We walked around downtown old town and fought the crowds at the Whitefish Arts Festival. We also paid a visit to the Bonsai Brewing Project, a local micro-brewery, and sampled their wares, adult beverage-wise. Sorry, BBP, nothing to write home about.

One day we took a walkabout around downtown old town Kalispell. They like their “climbing” art in Kalispell, there were a few “climbers” on the sides of some of the old buildings. We stopped in at Kalispell Brewing Co. for a taster (sorry Kalispell Brewing, nothing to write home about here, either). We tried Bias Brewing Co., also in the downtown old town area, also an underwhelming experience. Jeanne found the Wheat Montana Bakery and Deli where we just HAD to try one of their huckleberry cinnamon rolls. What a big ol’ gob of gooey goodness that thing was, it was HUGE!

Another road trip took us out to the Libby Dam and Kootenai Falls, a roughly 90 minute drive out of Kalispell. There was about a 6 mile stretch of Hwy. 2 where they were tearing it up for reconstruction, so the going was slow through all that gravel & dirt. I’d hate to drive the bus through there, although it is passable as evidenced by all the big-rig truckers going through. The Libby Dam creates Lake Koocanusa on the Kootenay River. Kootenai Falls is a little farther west on Hwy. 2, between Libby and Troy, MT. Near the falls there is a swinging bridge which I enjoyed watching Jeanne nervously navigate. The falls were very scenic with a deep green color to the Kootenay River. 

Kalispell put on a 4th of July parade through Main St., so we leashed up Woody, grabbed our chairs, and hoofed it down to Main St. to set up for the parade. The parade drew quite a crowd and lasted for about 90 minutes. The parade participants threw candy to all the kids, creating quite the scramble amongst the little ones.

One of the few fairly clear days we grabbed Woodrow Wilson and headed out to hike to the Foy’s Overlook, one of many trails found at Herron Park near Foy Lake. It was a moderate uphill hike that got Jeanne a-huffin’ and a-puffin’, but some of the views were very nice and the downhill return was a plus. My experience with Murphy’s Laws is, if I got to hike uphill to get there, then I have to hike uphill to return as well! 

Kalispell, like many towns here, does a Farmer’s Market every week. We ventured down, daring the rain, and did a little produce shopping. This was a real farmer’s market, albeit a smaller version, with many “grown product” booths to choose from.

The town of Kalispell lays claim to the Conrad Mansion, in which they sell guided tours but we passed on the tour. From the looks of the outside, a tour of the interior would pale in comparison to some of the antebellum mansions we saw in Natchez, MS. But we did walk the exterior and learned from signage that it was built in 1895 for the Charles Conrad family, he being the founder of the town of Kalispell. The mansion, now museum, is situated in a neighborhood of historical older homes that reminded us a lot like the old McDonald mansion district in Santa Rosa, CA (for those of you back there that actually read this blog!)

We took a drive, again daring the rain, out to the Hungry Horse area to scope out the Hungry Horse Dam, areas of the Flathead River, and the Hungry Horse Reservoir. The 4 mile drive out to the dam from Hwy. 2 was very scenic, with some spectacular views of the Flathead River. The dam was supposedly the 2nd highest concrete arch dam in the world when it was completed. It was certainly huge. A quick stop at the visitor’s center and it was off to do a little Jeepin’ on some of the USFS roads. We got some pretty nice “bird’s-eye views” of the reservoir and surrounding mountains, even with the limited sun.

On our last day in Kalispell we needed to do some forward recon for doggie day care for the time we will be in Glacier N.P. There are numerous trails for hiking (no dogs) throughout that park, a few of which will be in the 8 hour (or better) range. That puts a strain on our “leaving Woody in the bus” time frame, he is generally good for 5-6 hours before we have to get back and let him out to do business. So we found Columbia Mountain Kennels in the Columbia Falls area, which we were able to set up a  couple of days for Woody for the exhorbinant price of $15 per day, 0700-1900 hrs. Since we were in the area…Columbia Mountain Trail was calling our names. We let Woodrow Wilson lead our excursion up the mountain to the tune of a 6+ mile hike. We’re already up here in the clouds, but this hike took us up another 1600’ in elevation. We were rewarded when we came upon one of the waterfalls on the mountain (I don’t think the waterfalls are named). And after the hike we stopped off at the Sacred Waters Brewery for a taster and some “linner”.

Our time in Kalispell done for now, tomorrow it is onward to the West Glacier KOA for our tour of duty at Glacier N.P. Until next post…

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Lolo Hot Springs and Rollins, MT

Lolo Hot Springs is a tiny little nowhere about 20 minutes outside of Lolo, MT. They have created a small resort area along the Lolo Creek with a restaurant/bar, the hot springs and pool area, a lodge for those allergic to camping, horse riding trails, and the RV/tent area across the road. The RV sites leave a lot to be desired, rutted grass/mud and not delineated at all, with W/E only (30A) and a dilapidated dump station on site. Prairie dogs are everywhere! But it is a very scenic canyon area with a great possibility for critter sightings. We passed a herd of Elk on our way out from Lolo.

We took the opportunity to soak in the hot springs. They built a concrete pool around the natural springs and enclosed it in a wood frame structure. The water was definitely hot and relaxing on those tense neck muscles…

The only place to ride bicycles here was along Hwy. 93. We quickly ruled that out based on the way the locals drive out here – you would think they are racing at the Daytona 500!  So we settled on a road trip into Lolo & Missoula for some urban exploring. In Lolo we found the Lolo Peak Brewing Co. for a little brew tasting. We were underwhelmed there, but made up for it at our next find. The Lolo Creek Distillery is a new venture and right now they are producing gin and vodka in various flavors. Their honey-huckleberry vodka was very tasty, I could use it as a “sippin’ vodka”. While there, I just had to try the “Rip ’N’ Lips”, a Lolo Creek Distillery relative to a Moscow Mule. Tasty, not too much jalapeno…

Another road trip day for us took us farther west along the Lolo Creek and the Lochsa River to the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. As usual, scenery was not lacking, and we got fleeting glimpses of a moose and a black bear…so fleeting we had no time to snap a photo. They did a nice job on this visitor center, there are some displays, a short nature trail, souvenir shop, and overall rest stop. The ground squirrels were colorful and plentiful. On our way back we stopped at the DeVoto Memorial Cedar Grove and took the short walk through the cedars and along the river.

Moving day we headed back north on Hwy. 93 to the megalopolis of Rollins, MT, which is right on Flathead Lake. Rollins Restaurant & RV Park was home for a week. It was a very nice facility, not real big (43 RV sites, 7 tent sites), with the restaurant and a meat shop on site. The meat shop offered, among other things, various meats (beef, buffalo, elk mostly), varieties of jerky, and varieties of cheese curds. 

Not a lot of bicycle paths around here, but Jeanne did manage to find a section of The Great Northern Historical Trail, part of Rails To Trails of Northern Montana, that runs from Somers to Kila (22 miles one way). We got a clear day and got ready to load up for a bike ride, but I got tangled up with a bicycle pump and my low air front tire & wouldn’t you know it, brute strength and awkwardness led me to rip the stem from the tube. Minor change in plans, time for a road trip to the nearest bicycle shop which happened to be all the way into downtown Kalispell, Wheaton’s Cycle. If you ever happen to be in the area and in need of anything bicycle related, the folks at Wheaton’s are outstanding as far as customer service. They got us right in for an inner tube change and “bada-bing, bada-boom”, problem resolved. We hooked up with one of the Kalispell trailheads for the Great Northern Historical Trail and proceeded out along Hwy. 2 to the big city of Kila, about 11 miles one way. The trail was OK, paved at least, but I was kinda hoping for a little more wilderness and a lot less civilization. They do a nice job on their bicycle trails here, there were plenty of benches for rest stops, a picnic area, a port-o-potty and a pit toilet along the way. If we were expecting some wildlife sightings, we got disappointed in a big way. But hey, the blood got pumping and the air was fresh.

On our last day at Rollins, it just happened to be the best weather day for our whole stay, temps in the 70’s and low wind. KAYAK TIME!!! I say “low wind” before we ever set oar on the water at Flathead Lake. But once we got our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak under way, we quickly found out the “swirly” nature of the winds over the lake. After spinning a few donuts (not by choice), we figured out the rhythm and spent the next couple of hours cruising the shoreline between Rollins and Lakeside. It was a nice counter to the leg workout we got on the bikes the day before.

So tomorrow we suck up the jacks and we’re off to Kalispell. Until next post…

(Tech notes, part dieux…I have no idea how I did it but it looks like I replaced my missing photos from some of those earlier blog posts 2014-2015-ish. I still need to continue through to ensure no further pix are missing. Granted, my sharp-as-a-marble memory may have replaced some of the original pix with different ones, I just hope I did not post photos from Nevada that were actually from Wyoming!)

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Into Montana We Go…

Success! We managed to fill in all the gaps (even during the dreaded 4th of July week) with reservations for our stays leading up to our time at Glacier N.P. From St. George it was north for a few days’ return stay at the Springville KOA (Provo, UT). We wanted to drive the Alpine Loop and check out some of the trails off the loop, but weather gods were not looking favorably upon us, the Alpine Loop was actually closed (snow). So we settled on a little bicycle riding through downtown (the Provo/Orem area has very nice bike paths throughout the downtown areas). In fact, the trail along University Av (Hwy. 189) continues as the Provo River Trail. This takes one through Mt. Timpanogos Park, Canyon View Park, Canyon Glen Park, Nunn’s Park, Bridal Veil Falls, and into Vivian Park. We broke it up into 2 rides, about 25 miles and 10 miles respectively. Bridal Veil Falls was very scenic, as usual, and the Provo River was raging pretty good on this visit. Provo had a farmer’s market one day which we just had to attend. It turned out most of the “farmer’s market” was food tents (of the cooked/prepared type) and crafts. Jeanne managed to find the only booth that actually had produce for sale and appropriately ordered up some of their lettuce & kale.

Northward ho and into Jerome, ID for a couple night’s stay at the Snake River Elks Lodge while we waited to pick up our general delivery mail. The Elks Lodge is on an 18-hole golf course, very green, but otherwise the Jerome area is kinda dumpy, tons of farmland, not much to do. We had already checked out the Snake River area a few years back and this was mainly just a mail stop for us.

Next stop…Dillon, MT at the Countryside RV Park for a few days. Dillon sits in a big bowl surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The area is very large and green, with cattle ranching seemingly the big agricultural endeavor here. We are starting to see more interesting critters now. Near the ID/MT border we saw a massive Golden Eagle take off from its perch on a fence. We saw what we both agreed was a badger scooting along near the roadway. And we are now in the middle of prairie dog country where the little yappers go non-stop. Pronghorn deer are also becoming more common sights. Jeanne also identified our avian neighbors as Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

Our big outing for this stop we decided to visit Bannack State Park, home to the ghost town of Bannack, the first territorial Capitol of Montana. The state does a nice job of maintaining the 50-60 buildings still remaining. We the people are even allowed to enter many of the buildings, some of them still containing artifacts from the mining town days. It was an interesting experience, however the state does such an outstanding job of maintaining the town, it was “too clean” as far as ghost towns go. The ghost town of Bodie, CA, is still at the top of my all-time favorite ghost towns, nationwide.

Our last day here we drove the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway between Wise River and Dillon. It was very scenic, however we missed out on the little side trip to the ghost town of Coolidge and the Elkhorn Mine & Mill due to the road closure. Oh well, we got to see critters (badger, pronghorn, deer) as well as receiving a very light dusting of snow.