Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday, May 24, 2019, WY

Well, the shitty, shitty, and more shitty weather continues although we have seen small patches of blue sky and breaks in the clouds the last two days.

Yesterday, we ran some errands in the morning and then we walked into town to the highly recommended Wyoming Rib and Chop House where Peter D had presented us with a coupon for a free appetizer of their special fried green tomatoes stuffed with cream cheese and crabmeat (a $12.99 value) and they were quite tasty. Tom had never tried them before, I knew that I liked them, but the add-ones really made them special.  We shared a rack of baby back ribs, baked potato and Gumbo and left there feeling quite satisfied and of course, stuffed.

On our walk back to the RV park, we stopped at the Koltiska Distillery, sampled their wares, chatted with the gal that was working there, and walked out of there with a bottle of 90 proof liqueur for Tom and a bottle of Vodka and Wintermint for me.


This morning, we were on the road by 10:00 and headed east on US-14 to Gillette, then I-90 to Sundance (168 miles) to Mountain View RV Park where we will stay put through Memorial Day (not that we every stay put, but we will stay parked).  The terrain was beautiful with rolling green hills, a few patches of snow on the distant mountain tops, and only one car behind us for a short while, then we had the road to ourselves until we got close to Gillette.  I spotted a few herds of antelope as we neared Gillette.  We also had some spotty clouds and occasional blue skies once near Gillette, but then managed to get right under the stormy clouds between there and Sundance. 


Tom hooked up in the rain and it took some extra time as he found the electric cord to be knotted up in its compartment and it had to be straightened before he could pull it all the way through.  And now the sun is shining (probably not for long) and it is about 50 degrees out but quite windy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wednesday, May 22, 2019, WY

Nothing to write about yesterday except some house cleaning, an oil change for my car, filling the cars up with gas, and a bit of shopping. It was a cold and rainy day, we avoided the outdoors as much as possible.

Today is another story.  Tom hooked up in the cold and rain while I did the dog walks and secured the inside of the trailer (I had the easy part, for sure). We were on the road by 10:30 with only a 140-mile drive ahead of us. We saw the weather prediction for the most direct route and knew that we might be hitting some snow in the high passes of the Bighorn Mountains on US-14 between Cody and Sheridan. Three miles out of Cody, we started to see snow buildup on the ground and the hilltops, although the temperature raised up to near 50 degrees and we could no longer see any snow on the roadsides. It was beautiful for the first 70 miles of the drive. 


And then we started climbing in elevation and seeing more and more wet snow on the road and it was coming down hard all around us. As we were climbing a hill at Granite Pass (9,000 feet), and lots of switchbacks, we passed two snowplows going in the opposite direction and then Tom started slipping and sliding and could no longer move without the trailer jack-knifing, he was stuck on the wrong side of the road.  Another RV, a Class C motorhome with a toad came along behind us and he got stuck too. We waited, figuring that the snowplows would radio for help, as we had no cell service whatsoever. Finally a plow came by and they had me go back about a mile where another plow was keeping people off the road. When I got there he was communicating with others on the east and west side of the pass, who had decided to temporarily close off the pass until the two RVs farther east could be cleared (Tom and the Class C). I sat and waited with about 6 other cars and 2 tractor trailers and the snow plow.  A few of the cars turned around and headed back toward Cody, as the roads were perfectly clear in that direction.

After about 1.5 hours of waiting, I got word that the road had been cleared and I could go meet up with Tom who had moved on to a pull-off on the road and was waiting for me.  The cars and tractor trailers made it through and Tom and I headed out once again. The road was decent, but still snowy in some places and sure enough, Tom and the Wildwood got stuck again where the snow was packed up  on the road.  Again, we had passed two snowplows heading in the opposite direction, so we just waited, this time for about 30 minutes. The snow plows showed up, shoveled sand and salt in front of Tom’s tires and that gave him enough traction and we were back on the road in no time. Tom followed the lead snowplow with me behind him and the second snowplow followed me until we got lower in elevation to where the road was clear of snow. Again, we saw the temperature go up and as we approached the town of Dayton, we were seeing a beautiful green valley off in the distance.  MANY, MANY THANKS TO THOSE GUYS for saving us from spending the night on the mountaintop.

Today’s sequence of views from the road.

We settled in at Peter D’s RV on the west side of Sheridan, a very nice and tidy park with a very friendly owner who checked us in. We got hooked up as the raindrops fell - again.  We’re tired and hungry but so glad to be where we are. 




Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019, WY

It’s another cold and dreary day in Cody, I even saw snow flurries when I walked Frisco this morning. Last week, we were only able to see parts of Yellowstone National Park, so we drove there again today, this time entering from the east.  The drive along the Shoshone River and through the Shoshone Canyon was gorgeous with dark, craggy rock walls.  We had to go through two short and one long tunnel along the way. The road was dotted with herds of deer and elk.

Shortly after entering the park, we came upon a jam of folks looking off toward a hilltop and Tom spotted the grizzly bear first and then I caught a glimpse of it. There wasn’t enough time to get a photo.  There were lots of Bison along the roadside too. We headed to Fishing Bridge, along the northeast shore of Yellowstone Lake, then on to the geyser basin at West Thumb which skirted the western shore of the lake.  The views are gorgeous! 

Driving back north past Fishing Bridge and on to Canyon Village, stopping along the way to see the Mud Volcano and Sulphur Cauldron, incredibly stinky spots with pools of muddy, bubbly liquid flowing out of them, steamy and warm.  One of them was a cave called the Dragon’s Mouth Spring and it sounded just like there was a snorting dragon inside. The snow was really coming down and the steam blocked the view and made it so you couldn’t get good photos.

Near Canyon Village, we had the opportunity to walk along the cliffs of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and see both the Upper and Lower Falls, another incredible sight.  Walking back to the car, I saw and heard a Raven behaving in a strange way. There really is no describing it, so I took s video and I hope you can see it here.

On the way back out of the park, we pulled off at the Lake Butte Overlook and there were several people with their giant lenses taking photos of a Grouse.

On our way back from Yellowstone, I saw this strange building on top of a hillside, I scurried to grab my phone and take a photo.  Atlas Obscura tells me that it is the home of Mr. Smith who built it out of logs and wood that he collected and hauled to the site in his small pickup truck.  It started out as a normal home and then he became obsessed in adding on to it, and that resulted in a divorce from his wife.  He died in a tragic fall from one of the upper levels.  




The drive was more than 200 miles and we were both tired of riding and hungry when we got back to Cody, so we stopped at the Proud Cut Saloon and had a beer and a bison burger, both were quite yummy. It was another nice day of sightseeing, although the weather could have been better. We did see blue sky and the sun shining for a little while.

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.





Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019, MT

What an adventure we had today! It was almost noon by the time we got started, we then stopped at Costco for gas, then took a wrong turn and spent 10 minutes getting on to the right road. We were heading for Garnet Ghost Town, Montana’s best preserved ghost town, about 30 miles to the east to the forest road turnoff and then 11 miles south on that road.  We climbed in elevation and as we got to the 8-mile mark, there was quite a bit of snow on the road, so we drove through the ruts made by vehicles that passed through before us.  


Up ahead, there was a car that had been stuck and a guy named Josh rushed down to tell us that he had gotten stuck, had to do quite a bit of pushing but finally got unstuck. His car was an all wheel drive RAV4. We talked a bit and since mine is a 4-wheel drive, we decided that we would go through and then they could follow in our tracks, as he was able to get far enough that he could see gravel road beyond the snow. Nope. Not to be.  We got stuck in the soft, wet, icy stuff too, not even getting as far as he had, and then it took the 4 of us (including his friend Ashley) to get ours unstuck - a real pain in the butt. Pushing, placing the floor mats and wet, soggy gravel from the side of the road, under the tires, and even hooking up tow ropes and trying to get it to move that way.  The pushing seemed to work best, getting a few feet at a time, cleaning up the slippery wet snow that built up under the wheels and then trying again. FINALLY, we made it through.  We loaded all of our wet, muddy stuff into the car, thanked our new friends and headed down the hill - probably never to see Garnet Ghost Town.  It sure did feel good that some complete strangers were willing to help us out and we all worked together to make it happen.  Many thanks to Josh and Ashley for sticking around until we got unstuck. They even waited at the bottom of the hill to make sure we made it - we waved and went in opposite directions. This was truly another reminder that this world is full of good people.





I really wanted to see bison, so we drove toward LoLo where our server at Famous Dave’s last night suggested that was a good place to see them. She was right, because just past LoLo there was a huge herd, but they were pretty far away from us and we couldn’t get closer to get a good look. We drove a little farther out of town but they were the only ones that we saw.


Our next stop was at Maclay Flat where we took a very nice 2-mile hike along the Bitterroot River. On that interpretive hike, we learned that the Bitterroot River flows into the Clark Fork River, then into the Pend Oreille Lake and River and finally to the Columbia River where it all flows into the Pacific Ocean. Cool!


The Bitterroot River

Tom had to wrestle this gator that we saw next to the path on our hike.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monday, May 6, 2019, WA,ID, MT

The alarm went off at 7:15 and we were up and having coffee then getting ready to pull out. After breakfast, dog walks, and hooking up, we were on the road by 10:00 - we’ve got it down.  Our route started out on US-2 to Sandpoint, then on ID-200 that became MT-200 all of the way to Missoula where we will stay at the KOA for the next 3 days. We are now in the Mountain Time Zone, so we lost an hour today.


There sure was some beautiful scenery as we drove along the eastern shore of Lake Pend Oreille and then as we got farther to the southeast we had the Clark Fork River off and on.  The road going  through the Coeur d’Alene National Forest is surrounded by grassy fields, is fairly flat, and we had scenic views of beautiful pine covered hills or rocky, sometimes snow capped mountains the entire drive.

Along much of the road, there were warning to watch for Elk, Bighorn Sheep, and deer.  We came upon a construction area that had us going on a dirt road for about 3-miles. Just as we were getting on the rough road, I spotted a herd of Elk on the right side and a few Bighorn Sheep on the left , but that was it for the entire drive.

At one of our rest stops, I spotted these pretty little wildflowers, just had to snap a photo.  None of my other photos from the car turned out - I really shouldn’t be doing that anyway.







Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sunday, May 5, 2019, WA

It has been a week of hanging around the park, doing laundry, taking nice walks and enjoying this place. We even extended our stay for an additional day.  Tom went to see an old friend, Jim, from his days back in Long Beach but I stayed here.

Yesterday, we took a drive through the panhandle of Idaho, going through the towns of Newport, WA and Priest Lake, Sandpoint, and Bonner’s Ferry, ID.  Along the way, we stopped at Albeni Falls Dam, a place where the dam on the Pend Oreille River outside of Sandpoint has replaced the original falls, still an interesting stop along the way. At Sandpoint, we learned that it is a popular place for train enthusiasts to visit, as there are up to 50 trains going through the town each day. It seems like a very nice small town of about 7,000, backed by the Pend Oreille Lake that made the drive interesting and beautiful.

On to Bonner’s Ferry, we stopped at the Kootenai River Brewing Company for a burger and some samplers of beer - yummy stuff. It just wouldn’t be right to not see some waterfalls in this part of the country, so Moyie Springs was our next stop, a short distance out of our way to the east.. We followed the directions we had and they led us to a barricaded street. I got out of the car to ask a lady who was tending her garden, if we were in the right place. She said yes, gave us permission to park next to the road and said we could walk down a fairly long hill to see the falls.  As we got closer, we could hear them long before we could see them and what a spectacle it was.  Moyie Falls is one of the highest volume waterfalls in Northern Idaho and the Moyie River blasts out of a slot in the canyon and explodes 70 feet into a gorge then cascading another 25 feet. The falls flow year round, but were quite impressive right now.


Today was a hanging around camp day, catching up on phone calls, and making plans for our next few stops as we continue to meander in an easterly direction. We did take a very nice walk through the woods and Tom pointed out a footprint that he had discovered earlier. After checking Google, we confirmed that it was a bear print (dried out since the last rain) and I was a little reluctant to continue on. I am really glad that we did not see one on this walk. 


After a nice steak dinner, we sat around the campfire tonight and enjoyed our last night in this beautiful place.




Thursday, May 2, 2019

Wednesday, May 1, 2019, WA

Yesterday morning, it was hard to leave the beautiful spot that we were in for the last two days, but there are more beautiful spots to see down the road.  It was 10:30 by the time we were gassed up and heading east on US-2.  For the first 50-60 miles, the hills on the sides of the roads were  covered with apple, cherry, pear, peach, and apricot orchards and every few miles was a fruit stand or a processing plant.  As we headed east, the terrain changed, opened up to low, rolling hills and many wheat fields and a few small towns along the way.  Spokane was not a lot of fun to drive through, as US-2 is a main north/south route and traffic was heavy and there were a lot of stop and go lights.





The KOA-Newport/Diamond Lake is about 35 miles north of Spokane, about 90 miles south of the Canadian border and about 15 miles west of the Idaho border. It is a Thousand Trails park with a KOA franchise and we have one of the six full hookup sites that is spacious and tucked back in the pine trees.  We walked around the park and took one of the nature paths to the lake and it was a very nice walk.


I am in desperate need of a haircut, so I made an appointment at an Ulta beauty salon in North Spokane, so we combined that with grocery shopping and a few other errands today.