Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019, WY

Yesterday was ‘moving on’ day and it was our 3rd day of rain and cold, so getting ready to move on wasn’t a lot of fun. We have had nothing but cold and gray days and it is forecast for the entire next week, with temps in the 30s and low 40s. It is definitely affecting my temperament and I so want to see sunshine again SOON. 

We drove the 152 miles to Cody, WY via I-90 heading back west and then south along US-310, MT 72, and WY 120 to the Absaroka Bay RV Park on the east side of town. 

We were in need of some groceries, so headed into town for some shopping. A stop at O’Reilly Auto was also in the plan, as my wipers were torn and wearing out, and I walked out of there with $45 worth of new wiper blades.  I just didn’t feel like cooking dinner, so we stopped at McDonalds for a bite.

Today, we went to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a cluster of five museums that are affiliated by the Smithsonian and celebrates 100 years of history of this area.  We were unable to see the Cody Firearms Museum as it is being redone and doesn’t open until June 1 (Tom was sad, I was glad). We started at the Draper Natural History Museum that focused on the geology, animal life, rivers, mountains, and the lands of the Yellowstone area. We then went outdoors (burrrrrrr) and heard a presentation on raptors where we met a Red-Tailed Hawk, a Kestrel, and a Golden Eagle and their handlers. I never tire of learning more about these fascinating creatures. Since we were near the Buffalo Bill Museum, we explored that next, followed by the Plains Indian Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum and then back to the parts of the Natural History Museum that we had missed earlier.  It was a full day of looking and learning and we both truly enjoyed it.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019, MT

There were 2 more things we wanted to see in this area, so we headed out this morning toward Bighorn Canyon, near the small town of Fort Smith where the shops were mostly outfitters for hunting and fishing and cabins and lodges for them to stay in. We knew that the road only went as far as the Afterbay Dam but we did get a glimpse of the steep-walled, red rock canyon where the Bighorn River flows into the 71-mile long Bighorn Lake.  At the dam, we watched 7 boats launch. They looked like a cross between a rowboat and a canoe with steep sides, no motors, only oars.  I stopped to talk with some fishermen and learned that they were fishing for trout, as there are several species in this river. Next week, from Cody, we will access the canyon from the south and see what we can see, the road is much longer and there are several areas where you can hike back to points of interest.

When we got back to Hardin, we stopped at the Farmer’s Daughter (recommended by Gina, the owner of the KOA), a great little general store with some antiques, unusual home decor and Montana souvenirs. At the soda fountain, we had an ice cream and chatted with the owner, a young gal who bought the store from her grandmother and seems to have a pretty good thing going here. We had an interesting conversation about music, life in this area, small town living, and great places to visit in the US. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019, MT

Pompey’s Pillar National Monument was on the list for today, a drive of about 35 miles with 3 of them on a rough, gravel road. The rear window of my car was covered with dust.  The national monument is a massive sandstone outcropping along the Yellowstone River that was discovered by William Clark on his return trip from the Pacific Ocean on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  He carved his initials on the rock and wrote in his journals about it. The huge rock was discovered by earlier people’s, as there were petroglyphs on it when he discovered it in 1806.  The grounds and monument building are beautiful and the views from the top of the rock (after climbing about 200 steps) are extraordinary.

We stopped at Tractor Supply in Billings to pick up some dog food and treats for Frisco.  We wanted to take Old US 87 back to Hardin but missed it and ended up back on I-90 until we got to the Fly Creek exit and took that. Another stretch of gravel had to be driven before we got to Old 87 and that took us into Hardin where we filled up on gas and headed home.

It seemed like a good night for a campfire, so Tom got one going while I heated up leftover stew for dinner and fed Frisco.  And then we heard thunder and barely got started eating before the rain came.  It was light but ruined our intentions to sit around a fire.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tuesday, May 14, 2019, MT

We had an easy 3.5-hour drive yesterday, about 175 miles straight down I-90 heading east as far as Hardin, MT.  After the drive and getting setup, we hung around the campground and enjoyed the warm 83 degrees where we could sit outside barefooted, in the shade, and just relax.

After a leisurely morning, we decided to head for the Little Bighorn Battlefield, formerly known as Custer’s Last Stand.  The first stop was to see a recent monument dedicated to the American Indians who stood up for what they believed in and won the battle on June 25-26, 1876. 260 American soldiers and attaches personnel met their death that day including the famed George Armstrong Custer. His troops were met by some 7,000 (a gross mis-calculated number by Custer) Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors, led by Sitting Bull. About 5 miles away, another battle took place with Major Reno and Captain Benteens troops where 53 were injured and 52 lost their lives. The Indians lost no more than 100 warriors.

We walked the paths and read the markers that gave the details of the battles. After hearing a rustle in the grass, I did see a small rattlesnake along the path when I was up ahead of Tom. Yes, I screamed and backed up, then tried to get a photo. It slithered into a hole in the ground, thankfully. There also is a National Cemetery on the grounds. The whole place gave you a sad and uncomfortable feeling.

The Indian Memorial

The Battle Memorial

Before heading back home, we stopped at the trading post and cafe and had an Indian Frybread taco - tasty, but I am stuffed after eating it - didn’t even eat a third of the flatbread.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday, May 12, 2019, MT

Mother’s Day - my day started with a call from Pat and it wasn’t long after that, I got a call from Ben. Perfect, I couldn’t ask for more. I also got wishes from Tom, my siblings, and several friends.

We took care of some housecleaning and car cleaning (Tom had to get all of those bugs off his radiator and grill of his car) and I vacuumed, wiped down the floors, and cleaned the rugs (Tom spilled dishwashing liquid this morning). We couldn’t dissolve it enough with just blotting, so we hosted them down and used the spilled soap to clean them.

We headed off to hike the Pine Creek Trail, about 5-miles from us. The hike was a rather rocky path that was a gradual hill up to the falls, about 1.25 miles.  It is a popular hike, as there were several cars in the parking lot and we met quite a few folks of all ages on the trail. It took us almost an hour to get to the falls and once we did, it was worth the climb. It was possible to get views from many angles and we walked across the strange, narrow bridge to the other side and discovered another waterfall on that side. It actually came down in two streams, then flowed around a huge rocky area, and then joined the creek.

It felt so good to spend an entire day wearing a t-shirt and not requiring another layer on top of it.

As we were out walking this evening, I saw a huge dark bird perched in the tree above. A gal who was driving by stopped to look and said that she had seen brown eagles here in the past. So I scurried home and grabbed the binoculars and headed back there. It turns out that it was a pair of vultures - so no big thrill of seeing a Golden Eagle.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Saturday, May 11, 2019, MT, WY

What a lovely day it was today, visiting Yellowstone National Park for the third time in my life and seeing it from a different perspective with Tom (his first) this time.  We hit some of the big attractions: Mammoth Hot Springs and the Travertine Terraces near there, the Norris Geyser Basin, Gibbon Falls, the Midway Geyser Basin, and the biggie - Old Faithful.  It went off about 10 minutes later than the predicted time and was spectacular.

This is a buildup of minerals left behind by a geyser - crazy, huh!

This guy and his buddy were blocking the road, causing a 15-20 car backup. I think they were just there for photo ops.

On the 210 mile round trip, we saw a lot of wildlife too: lots of elk, deer, and bison and a diamondback rattlesnake.  We had a 10-minute slowdown on the road because of bison thinking it was their road and then, on the return trip it may have been the same two that were slowing things down.  We did not see any bear on this trip.

As we were leaving the park, we drove through the Teddy Roosevelt Arch and drove the gravel Old Yellowstone Trail road that paralleled Hwy-89 and we saw hundreds of elk and deer and several bison too. So glad we took the back road home.  After intersecting with 89 again, we picked up so many mayflies along the road that they practically covered the windshield (it was getting a bit hard to see) and when we got home, the grill and front of the truck was just loaded with them. I guess it is the season of the mayflies hatching.   I learned that the fly fishermen use them for bait. It was a long day but a very enjoyable one. 

It’s a good thing I put a stew in the crockpot this morning before we took off - it was a very nice welcome home as was the little Frisco who was on guard duty today (too many restrictions in the park).

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Thursday, May 9, 2019, MT

I was feeling like a getaway, some girl shopping and since a small shopping center was within walking distance of our park, that is what I did yesterday morning. I stopped at TJ Maxx, Ross, REI, and Famous Footwear. It was just what the doctor ordered and felt good to just browse around. While I was gone, Tom took my car to the car wash (it needed a cleanup after getting stuck on the mountain road toward Garnet Ghost Town), gassed up his car at Costco and ran some errands.

Today was moving day, a 245-mile drive east along I-90 to the KOA at Livingston, the northern gateway to Yellowstone National Park. We made a reservation for four nights, as they had a special deal for Saturday night ($20), a good break.  We have mostly stayed at KOA’s on this trip as they are consistent and conveniently located, although a bit pricey. We usually consider other options and many times the prices of others are comparable, especially with the 10% discount. We are cumulating points rapidly and might even get a free night soon.  I can see the fast moving Yellowstone River through the trees near our campsite.

The Rocky Mountains to the East.

The Yellowstone River with the Absaroka Mountains in the distance.