Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wyoming Sights

Continuing south from Big Horn Canyon, we made a quick stop at Thermopolis to view the hot springs.  Although we are not fans of soaking in hot springs, we do enjoy the colorful terraces created by the flowing mineral water.  We had missed Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone, so this would be the next best thing.

They have built up Hot Springs State Park with water slides and pools to encourage visitors to shell out the bucks, but it’s free to drive in, park, and just walk around.  It wasn’t quite as fantastic as I had hoped, but the ‘Tepee Fountain’ in the parking lot was pretty interesting.

The core was built in 1909 to vent steam from the hot mineral water that was piped throughout the park.  As the water flowed over the structure, it deposited interesting layers of travertine

Here’s the original ‘teepee’.

Here’s a close up.  (You can tell I was fascinated.)

We walked on the boardwalk along the terraces.

We saw the colorful pool

And where the mineral water runs into the river.  Cool.

But the highpoint of my day was the drive through Wind River Canyon.  Here’s my shot out the front window as we entered the canyon.

After that, I either stuck my camera out the window or Ron pulled into one of the many pulloffs.

Besides being a beautiful drive, it’s an optical illusion.  The river runs north, but as you drive south through the canyon, you really feel like you’re going downhill.  It’s eerie.

Although the canyon is Native American land, I’m not sure why these teepees are there.  Maybe they're a reminder.

We saw evidence of landslide activity and later were told it occurred just last year after unusually heavy rains.  It even closed the railroad tracks.

There are three tunnels along the way to add to the excitement.

We stayed the night at Lower Wind River Campground at the narrow south end of the canyon.

This was the site of the original dam built in 1908 by Asmus Boysen who had a dream to provide water and power to Central Wyoming.

The dam was 180 feet high, 124 feet across and created a lake 14 miles long.  Unfortunately, flash floods deposited tons of silt causing the turbines to shut down and the water to back up behind the dam.  It had to be destroyed.  However when the new dam was built a couple miles upstream in the 1940s, both it and the created lake were named for Mr. Boysen.

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.