Monday, August 22, 2016

Bighorn Canyon NRA

I was excited to move on to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, which straddles the border of Montana and Wyoming.  This was the location of my very first WIN gathering as a new member in 2001.  However we had been at the north end of the canyon and Ron and I went to the south.

Horseshoe Bend Campground was a huge surprise with half of the large sites having water and electric ($10 with the Senior Pass or $5 for the non-electric sites.)  If we had known that, we wouldn’t have waited out the heat wave in Billings!

(No, we didn’t get a new rig.)

After a windy night that kept me up half the night thinking the RV was going to blow over, we awoke to a cloudy day.  We drove to the Devil Canyon Overlook.

Wow! Nice view looking north.

And maybe even better the other direction. 
We were also on the lookout for the wild horses reputed to be in the area, but only saw signs of them.

I had to wonder if my pictures would look better with sunshine, so the following morning I returned.  Well, the river isn’t as noticeable,

But the sharp cliffs are certainly more dramatic.

And, best of all, I did see a couple of the wild horses in the distance during my drive back.

I had to slam on the brakes for some scenic shots, too.  Good thing the road wasn’t busy.

Meanwhile, back at the RV, Ron was being his usual industrious self.  While we were staying at the Billings Moose, the lodge had some new carpet installed.  With permission, we dug some of the remnants out of the dumpster and my perfectionist guy cut it perfectly to fit over our vinyl flooring.   He wouldn’t even let me touch it because he knows it wouldn’t be as perfect.

He even did the steps.

Since then he’s done some of the shelves in the cabinets too.  What a guy!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

More Montana

When we left our spot below Libby Dam, we wanted to return to US 2 and continue east.  To accomplish this, we could drive 12 miles west on a nice 'red' road or take a 'blue' one which was more direct.  The map legend said the blue roads were paved, so we thought, "How bad could it be?"

It was nicely paved, although without a center line and only about 1 1/2 lanes wide, but we happily followed the pretty Fisher River for the first 2/3 of the drive.

But, oh, that last third.  We knew we were in trouble when the sign warned us about the narrow (narrower), twisty road ahead, but they didn't say anything about the steep drop-offs.

As always, Ron was amazing and, luckily, we didn't meet any vehicles coming towards us.  However, I don't recommend this route.   LOL

After a quick overnight in Kalispell, we headed south on MT 83 past lots of pretty lakes.  I don't remember which one this is.

The mountains just west of Helena seem to be the division between the lush green of western Montana and the drier plains of the east.

We stayed in one of the many Bureau of Reclamation campgrounds on Canyon Ferry Reservoir, east of Helena.  When we arrived, it was so windy, we had waves on the lake.

From reading their blog, we knew that Sandie and Jim were also in the area and invited ourselves to join them and Sharon and John for a fun meal.  Always great to get together with fellow RVers and bloggers.

Just north of Helena is the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, where you can take a very reasonably priced boat tour.  We did it three years ago (blog post here), but I feel it's worth another mention as a 'must do' activity.

After Canyon Ferry, we continued east on US 12.

We stopped at a city park in tiny Harlowton where we were joined by some four-legged friends.

Proving my theory that every town has something worth seeing, Harlowton has the last of the original 84 engines built by General Electric for the Milwaukee Road's 656-mile electrified railroad. The railroad ran from 1915 to 1974 when this engine was stopped at the Harlowton roundhouse.

They also have a lovely veterans war memorial with the names of all the Wheatland County veterans and gorgeous plaques memorializing each major war.

We drove into Billings along the cliffs north of town.

Luckily we had toured the Billings area in 2013, because it was hot, Hot, HOT.  (For our previous trip to Pictograph Cave and Pompey's Pillar, click here.)  We waited out the heat wave at the Moose Lodge, where we paid the outrageous amount of $25 a night for very poor electricity.

But we got our city fix (groceries, restaurants, laundry, gas for $2.02 at Costco) and found Riverfront Park along the Yellowstone River.  The gulls certainly enjoy it there.

Next stop, Bighorn Canyon NRA.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Back into Montana

Beginning our trip south and east (we have to be in Denver area on August 26 for a reservation - yes, I know, hard to believe that we made one), we took US 2 into Montana as far as Libby.  On the way, we stopped at the pulloff for Kootenai Falls.  After a short walk, we were wowed by the amount of water pouring over the falls.

To get the full effect, turn up the volume on your computer and check out this short video.


The rippled rock is a sign of an ancient lake or ocean shore.

As the river cut through the rock, it left some interesting cliffs.

Nearby is a very cool swinging bridge (maximum 5 people).
 (See Ron waving?)

And once again, I was stopped by an unusual tree trunk.

We continued to follow the Kootenai River about 15 miles east of Libby to Lake Koocanusa where we stayed in a FREE Corps of Engineers campground.  Of course, you don't get anything but a dumpster, but that's all we need!  We were at the southernmost campground along the river.

Although you can't see it in the previous picture, there's a white head in one of the trees on that island.  At first I thought it was an osprey, but no . . .

It's always a thrill to see an eagle.

The visitors center at the dam was very elaborate and interesting.  You could tour the dam, but we declined.

Lake Koocanusa, named for the Kootenai River, Canada, and USA, is 48 miles from the dam to the Canadian border and extends 42 miles into British Columbia.

Now THAT'S a lake!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Wrapping Up Idaho

We have certainly had a wonderful time in Idaho, although I haven't been taking many pictures to show it.  After leaving our BLM campground near Orofino, we drove 162 miles to Coeur d'Alene.  Wow!  That's four miles less than our daily driving record for the summer.  Since it was still hot, we stayed at the Elks for the electric.  Coeur d'Alene is a special town situated on a gorgeous lake of the same name.

Our next stop was along Pend Oreille Lake outside of Sandpoint.  We came into a Corps of Engineers park on a Monday thinking it would be no problem to get a site.  Wow!  Were we wrong.  All 67 sites in Riley Creek campground were taken.  Luckily somebody came into the office as we were standing there and said they had decided to abandon their two spots.  The campground rules are that you have to be ON the site before you can pay for it.  You can imagine Ron racing the RV around the campground loop.

We met up with one of Ron's many cousin there and went out for a fabulous dinner.  Although we stayed for three days, I forgot to get a picture of the lake, but this is the small arm next to the campground.

Our last stop in Idaho was Bonners Ferry, just 25 miles from the Canadian border.  We just happened to turn around in the fairgrounds parking lot and noticed a beautiful sight - signs saying, "72 hour parking limit."  Great!  It was right near railroad tracks, but, despite all the things that annoy me, trains don't bother me a bit.  I wanted to get a picture of a train going past this very cool-looking grain elevator (at least I think that's what it is), but I kept missing the engine.

Diana had been there a few years ago, so we just copied what she did then.  First was a short hike to Myrtle Falls.  Hum,  Not the best for pictures.

We were fascinated by the sap stalactites on this tree.

And Ron made friends with a moose at the visitors center.

Then we were off to find the trailhead for Pyramid Lake.  The trail begins at over 5000 feet, so it was a good hike to do on a warm day.

The bear grass was in glorious bloom.

After an easy 1.3 mile climb, pretty Pyramid Lake is everything an alpine lake should be.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Moving On

We went through a hot spell when we didn't do much worthy of pictures.  We got our city fix in Missoula (groceries, laundry, Applebees, the critical stuff,) then headed west on US 12, up and over pretty Lolo Pass, back into Idaho.  This is generally the route taken by Lewis and Clark on their incredible scouting trip to the west coast.  Imagine arriving at the top of the pass to see this before you.

We stopped at the DeVoto Memorial Cedar Grove which we luckily saw on our way past.  The giant Western Red Cedars were gorgeous.

I love the look of cedars from the base of their trunks with roots reaching out to grab hold . . .

To the feathery tips of their branches.

These cedars are slow growing, reaching maturity in 400 to 500 years.  They can live for as long as 3000 years.

I don't know how tall they can grow, but here's a video to give you some idea.

Some of the trunks had worn patches, maybe from bears scratching?

For the second time, we found a National Forest campground with electric!  This was appreciated since it was pretty hot and we could then close the windows and turn on the air when all the campers lit their fires.  Or as I like to call them, their smokes.  Although it looks like we had to really squeeze into the space, there was about 25 feet of parking area behind us.  We had to hug the front to get TV.  LOL

Powell Campground, like all the campgrounds coming down from the pass along US 12, is along the Lochsa River.

In fact the whole drive is designated one of Idaho's Wild and Scenic River Corridors.

After the Lochsa runs into the Middle Fork of the Clearwater and the Middle Fork joins the South Fork, the Clearwater River continues through some drier land.  This is a deep section so you can't see it, but there's a LOT of water pouring down the river.

We stopped near Orofino in Pink House Recreation Area, a BLM campground with FULL hookups!  You could have knocked me over with a feather!  The cost was a whopping $8 a night with the Senior Pass.  We stayed four nights during the hottest part of our summer travels.  Our air conditioner has never gotten such a workout.  In fact I'm sure we've run it more this year than all the other years combined.

Near Orofino is Lewis and Clark's Canoe Camp, where they built five canoes, four of which were 50 to 55 feet long, out of large Ponderosa Pines.  Although this must have been an improvement over trudging overland for hundreds of miles over the mountains, I don't see how the heck they kept them upright.