A Travellerspoint blog

September 2013

Kaysville, UT (Salt Lake City_

Stop #17 Cherry Hill RV Resort

semi-overcast 60 °F
View Western Loop 2013 on scpurvis's travel map.

Once again, it is with regret that we are leaving this spot. We have to keep reminding ourselves that more good things lie ahead. Yellowstone was just so incredibly beautiful! On to Utah...can't wait to see what we find there. We had a travel time of about 5 hours. Of course, it takes us a little longer pulling the trailer.
Approaching the Salt Lake City area, we ran into our first real change of color. Up in GNP, YNP and GTNP, it was all mostly different varieties of pine so we didn't get much color change. We also ran into the first weather where the temp was over 74º, it actually topped out at 79º and really felt too warm. We are both thinking we better stay gone until the temperatures cool off in Florida because we have really been enjoying the cooler weather. Lucky for us, it would cool off again tonight.
We would be staying at Cherry Hill RV Resort (?) for the next 5 days

Day 1
Catch up day......After over 8500 miles of mountain driving, over half of it, pulling a trailer, it is time for another oil change. They also inspected our brake wear and Bob is doing good, so far, on all that mountain driving in saving our brakes. Not bad for an ol' Florida boy! After getting that done, we went shopping again for Bob's hiking boots replacements. Went to several sporting goods stores and to the mall and found some he liked at a local store AND I just happened to find a 50% off 2 day coupon on all regular priced hiking boots for that store. Success!! I did find a pair I liked at a different store but no coupon. I am still debating on them. Anyway, another run to Walmart, no Publix out here, yet, as we haven't been in a town big enough to have a decent store in a few weeks so we needed to stock up. All this running around took up pretty much the entire day.

Day 2
Up and out early today to ride into Salt Lake City and check things out. We took a swing by the capitol, which is modeled after the U S Capitol, to get a few pics.

It seems the whole of downtown is occupied by buildings of the The Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). This appears to be a government unto itself. We would first take a tour of their conference building, opened in spring of 2000, which is used as the premier meeting hall. The auditorium, which seats 21,000 people is an engineering marvel as their are no pillars supporting the balconies so there would be no obstructed view from any seat, . The rostrom, made up of a 100 modules, seats the church general authorities and other leaders and the choir for conference. The rostrum pieces can be broken down and moved on an air-caster system described as "the air-hockey concept," Only a couple of workers are needed to easily relocate pieces that weigh several tons. Also, housed in the auditorium is a beautiful 7,667 pipe organ. When the Mormon Tabernacle Choir does live broadcasts. this is their performance venue. Included in the 1.4 million sf building is an 850 seat conference center theater which can be used as a dedicated theater or overflow for the main auditorium.

Located throughout the center, are numerous galleries with original oil painting, some dating back to mid 1800's.

The roof is landscaped in about 3 acres of native grasses and hundreds of trees to showcase local foliage. The landscaping is meant to echo the mountains and meadows of Utah.

Following the tour of the conference center, we walked across the street to Temple Square. Located in the 10 acre complex called Temple Square are the Salt Lake Temple, Tabernacle, and Assembly Hall, along with two visitor centers. We would first head to the Tabernacle as we were just in time for the pipe organ recital on the 700 pipe organ. There is a daily recital and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Salt Lake City.

Following the recital we headed over to the "Beehive House" and "Lion House" which were built in 1854 and 1856, respectively, located adjacent to each other. These were the homes of Brigham Young, the Beehive House served as the executive mansion of the Territory of Utah from 1852 to 1855 and was Brigham Young's official residence where he entertained important guests, and Lion House was the home of 12 of Brigham Young's wives and children. Fortunately for us, the Lion House is now a restaurant serving home style fare with wonderfully delicious bread, so, we ate!
P1080120.jpg Beehive House (2 story structure) Lion House (single story)P1080113.jpg Lion House Pantry Restaurant P1080139.jpg Beehive Garden

It was starting to rain, again, and we had just about completed all we wanted to see of the square, so we decided to take a "scenic" ride, then, return to the city for a rehearsel by the 350 person Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Checking out all our notes we had made for Salt Lake City, we decided to do the Skyline Drive north of the city. With the rain, it really wasn't ideal conditions for scenery viewing, but, it was a nice way to spend the afternoon. As it turned out, the drive was very memorable. We got some good shot from the top of Bountiful Peak and on the way up. It was also a little scary as at one point, visibility was zero, the road was narrow, on the side of the mountain, two-way traffic on what should have been one way and unpaved, to boot. We got into a little snow at the top and would have been gorgeous if not for the cloud layer hanging over us. Took pictures anyway.

Back to Salt Lake City for the choir rehearsel.

Day is done.

Day 3
Another rainy day. Guess everyday cannot be perfect. The RV park where we are, is having a "Spook HIll" starting tonight through Halloween. Not sure what it is going to be, but, I'm sure we will find out as they have closed off the park right behind us to set up for this. Hopefully, the weather will clear and they will have a big turnout.

I decided today would be a good day to make a pot of soup, so, waiting out the rain, I attended to my domestic duties. Hmm, guess I will end up freezing some of it because by the time I got finished....I could feed a small army.

Day 4
Rain gone....should be a beautiful day with high temp in the mid 60's. Headed out early to Antelope Island State Park, a 42 square mile island located in the Great Salt Lake and accessed via a 7 mile causeway from the mainland. The Island is inhabited by herds of bison, pronghorn antelope, big horn sheep and millions of of birds. There are several good hiking trails on the island up the mountains for spectacular view, but, as we have to be back by 1:30 for the FSU game, we won't do that today.There weren't too many people out there today, a boy scout troop was camping along with a few others willing to do the "primitive" camping and there was a "run" out there today. It would be a great place to run (if you do that kind of thing :-) ).
P1080204.jpg Causeway to Antelope Island State Park
P1080219.jpg Antelope Island State Park 276A06D12219AC6817B3B88830A21915.jpgBison on hill P1010213.jpg

Home in time to watch FSU add another "W" to their scoreboard!

Florida State 48
Boston College 34

Day 5

Heading to Jordanelle State Park today. It is just a short drive southeast of Salt Lake City up near Park City. See you there.

Posted by scpurvis 12:33 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Victor, ID (Grand Teton NP)

Stop #16 Teton Valley Rv Park Sept 19 - 24, 2013

sunny 54 °F
View Western Loop 2013 on scpurvis's travel map.

Short trip from West Yellowstone to Victor, ID which is right across the Wyoming border where we will stay at Teton Valley RV Park. We chose not to go to Jackson with the 10% grades over the mountains and higher prices. View wasn't too bad from here.

We will spend 5 days here and scour the countryside, or should I say mountain sides? There really isn't much to the town. I think the population is 2000 on a good day. Kind of nice though, there biggest political fight in town is which direction the parking spaces should be angled. You see, right now, for whatever reason, the on street parking spaces are angled so you back into them. Strange, but maybe they thought it would be safer to back in then to back out. Business owners hate it and say it confuses the "tourist" so they don't stop. Really? Guess there always has to be something.

Like I said, not much to town.

Day 1
Today we drove around the Grand Teton NP loop to check out the park, take a few hundred pictures of Grand Teton (which I promise I won't bore you with) and check out some hiking trails. Anyone who has been here knows that it just seems, almost every picture you take has Grand Teton in it. Why do I just want to keep taking pictures of the same thing? It is truly breathtaking! I would look up, take a picture, go down the road, decide, oh, this is a good angle, take another picture, go down the road, see another good angle.....you get the picture (lol, no pun intended). See all pictures by looking under "photography" to the right and clicking "more pictures"

Our first "swing by" was Jackson Hole which wasn't as large a place as I had envisioned, but, typical ski resort.

Look closely and you can see the sky divers floating down over the mountains. They were there in celebration of Jackson Hole just being named the top Ski Resort by Ski Magazine.

Our next stop was right outside of Moose, WY at the Chapel of Transfiguration, built in 1925 to serve guests and employees of the local dude ranches.
It was featured in the movie "Spencer's Mountain"; guess I will have to rent that now just to see it there.

In this same area, is Menors Ferry Historic Site. This is the site of the ferry crossing established by Bill Menor in the 1890's and sold to Maud Noble in 1912, who ran it until 1927 when a bridge was built in Moose. She must have been some lady to live out in that wilderness and operate this business.

Maude Noble's cabin

Snake RIver at Menors Ferry

Bill Menors cabin and store

Moving on, we stopped next at the Jenny Lake Visitors Center to get some info as we had read there were several good hikes starting out here. We decided we would take one of these trails tomorrow and make a day of it. Checked out the Jenny Lake Lodge which was nice but when I hear the word Lodge...I am really thinking of something a little more grand. It was very nice though with a nice big fireplace with a roaring fire!

Our next stop would take us up a narrow winding road to the summit of Signal Mountain where we found beautiful views of the valley with the Snake River meandering through it.

Leaving Signal Mountain, we were headed to Coltor Bay but lots of road construction on that route so we decided to forgo that. That is also the road that takes you over to YNP. I am sure we are out of the main tourist season but there is still a lot of people. I can't imagine what it would be like in the real tourist season...not sure I would like it. It would be great to have these hiking trails all to yourself but I'm sure it could be worse. Trying to get out of the "pack" we decided to take a little gravel road back into the "wilderness area". Definitely gets you away from the traffic as I think no one but "locals" want to go down those roads. It really turned out very nice, nice drive back in the forest, although we didn't see any wildlife. Since the road seemed to have no end, we decided we better turn around and head out the way we came in. On impulse, we decided stop and hike up one of the smaller, but steeper, "hills" for the view and to get a little exercise. Hmm, sure didn't look that steep from the ground but nice view with no people around when we got to the top. The sun was warm, it was quiet, just perfect up there in our own little world. A lot can be said for making your own path.

Hiked up to the pines on the top
Our truck parked in the distance

Next stop was at Cunningham Cabin site but since a wedding was going on....no pics of cabin this trip

Just moved on down to the Snake River Overlook

Next, we would turn off the main road onto Antelope flats where we did see some Pronghorns, but, we didn't even take pictures of these anymore because we had seen so many. On this road, we came upon Mormon Row which is a line of Mormon homestead complexes built in the early 1900's.

John Molton Homestead

Other homesteads and buildings

Leaving Mormon Row, we followed the road around coming out at the Elk Refuge. Still looking for some wildlife, but, we are either too early or too late. Oh well, time to head back to Victor, maybe another day.

Day 2
Hiking day....Jenny Lake up to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and out along the Cascade Canyon. The hike would turn out to be more like an uphill obstacle path, it being VERY rocky in a lot of places, but very beautiful, of course. It turned out to be about a 5 hour hike which we would have made a little longer but we wanted to catch the boat to get across Jenny Lake....heaven forbid we should hike around it. lol.

Jennhy Lake

Hike up to Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls

On up to Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point

Through the Cascade Canyon

Lunch and then headed back to catch the boat....PBJ......now, where are those bears?

We met some people on the trail who saw a small black bear and a moose..........we DID NOT. :-(

Made it back to boat dock with minutes to spare before the last boat, thanks to a very fast pace. Of course, coming down the rocky side of the mountain wasn't quite so fast, but, we made it!

We left Jenny Lake very tired and with sore feet but lovin' every minute of it. On our way out, we passed by the small Jackson Hole airport just in time to see a private jet coming in. Thought it was kinda cool to see this jet coming in by the mountains.

Returned over the mountain, first passing through Jackson. Just outside of Jackson, we spot some, what it turns out to be, "moose watchers" on the side of the road and we pull over.

Moose Watchers

And then we saw the People Watcher

Hooray!!!!! We finally saw some wildlife in Grand Teton! We can go back to camp now.

Day 3
Day to rest, recoup and clean......laundry, AGAIN. I keep asking myself why I brought so many clothes when I keep wearing the same thing over and over. Live and learn.

But, we did have an amazing sunset today.
P1010088.jpg Is that just not absolutely incredible?????

Day 4
We decided to ride back over to Jackson and walk around town, check things out and do some shopping.

BUT, on the way into Jackson, we did spot a couple Elk up on the hill, so stopped for a photo op!

Bob is looking for some new hiking boots as the soles on his current ones are about done for and I am looking for something I can't live without. So you ask yourself, who in their right mind would go to a resort town looking for something practical at a reasonable price. Well, neither of us found what we were looking for.

Not much luck in the shopping area so we decided to check out the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar which is suppose to be famous although we had never heard of it.. it was interesting
P1010123.jpgP1010120.jpgP1010116.jpgYes, those are "saddles" at the bar.....not that comfortable, so we moved on
P1010124.jpgP1010126.jpgThe sign reads, “Knobbled Pine: This unique wood formation came from western Wyoming forests. It is caused by a growth stimulus of individual wood cells in young twigs. Research is being continued to determine the exact cause of the growth disturbances.” Lots of it in this bar.

We ended up on the balcony at the Tavern on the Square which was a good spot to people watch and watch all the traffic going to Grand Teton NP as we had a bird's eye view of the intersection that leads to the park.large_P1010139.jpg
That is really a square "square", panarama distorts.....sorry

arches made of elk antlers on each corner of the square. Interesting fact I did not know is the elk shed their antlers every year. You ask how the antlers get so large? Well, according to my favorite source, wikipedia, they can grow .98 inches A DAY!

Headed home (home away from home) to watch us some Breaking Bad! We are addicted to that show but only one more episode left after this!

Day 5
A new day dawns
Moving day....headed to Utah, the 13th-largest, the 34th-most populous, and the 10th-least-densely populated of the 50 United States. So there!

Posted by scpurvis 05:07 Archived in USA Comments (4)

West Yellowstone, MT

Stop #15 Rustic Wagon RV Park Sept. 14 - 19, 2013

overcast 51 °F
View Western Loop 2013 on scpurvis's travel map.

It was about a 3 hour trip from Helena to West Yellowstone and was uneventful, thank goodness. We have been very fortunate so far (hope this doesn't jinx us) in our travels with no problems. We will be staying in West Yellowstone, which is located right at the West entrance to Yellowstone National Park, for the next five days. So much to see, so little time. Oh yeah, our time is only limited by the limitations we put on it. We have an intense itinerary planned for the next few days and I can't wait!

Day 1
Yellowstone is made up basically of two sections, north and south. We have opted to do the southern loop first for whatever reason. Started the day out early hoping to catch some wildlife on the way in. I am worried about missing some wild animal, grazing out in the valley or wondering through the pines on the mountainside.......needless worry........just look for the 50+ cars stopped on the roadside and when there is not room on the roadside, the other 50+ will stop in the middle of the road. Okay, that is a little exaggerated but you get the picture, or, in case you don't
Well, really, this was later in the day when the bison were taking up the whole road actually backing up traffic for about 3 miles.

It didn't take long. About 3 miles into the drive, we notice a huge bull elk out in the Yellowstone plains with a small calf.
The calf started coming towards us, getting closer and closer. Next thing you know, it is right there on the side of the road right by us! It starts making these really strange sounds, just standing there.

All of a sudden, it starts across the road and when we turn around, lo and behold, there is the mother. What happens next is truly amazing; the calf begins to nurse right there in the middle of the road. If the cars weren't stopping before, they definitely are stopped now because the elk are in the middle of the road.

Moving on, we stop at beautiful water falls, which there will be many on our tour of Yellowstone.
Yellowston..adison_Rvr3.jpgYellowstone_-_Madison_Rvr.jpgYellowston..adison_Rvr2.jpg Madison River

Proceeding around the loop, we come upon about 20 cars parked along the side of the road, giving us our first indication we needed to stop. A big ol' black bear decided to pick some berries and then have a drink in a nearby stream.

Onward to the geyser basins. There is just no real way to describe these geothermal areas or really, for amateur photogs like ourselves, to capture the true picture. These areas occur where rainwater and snowmelt seep into the ground, get indirectly superheated by the underlying volcanic region which heats the rocks above and then erupts at the surface as geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles or what I call steam vents, depending on type of rock in the area, the amount of water and if hydrogen sulfide is present.
BC9060772219AC6817D8D0CE154EDE19.jpg Lower Geyser Basin
BDB607F32219AC6817B2EA73014EA800.jpg Midway Geyser Basin

The "hot springs" are formed when the water, way below the grounds surface is heated by the rocks, and bubbles up through unrestricted channels to form pools of hot water. The steam bubbling through these pools will form the hot spring.
Yellowston..atic_spring.jpg Giant Prismatic Spring
Yellowston..aliente_Spg.jpg Ojo Caliente Spring

A geyser is essentially a hot spring where the channel to the grounds surface is somewhat restricted. Thus, the water does not flow up until enough pressure builds up underground to cause an "eruption" forcing the water upward under intense pressure, creating the geyser.
Yellowtone..Dome_Geyser.jpg White Dome Geyser
Yellowtone_Old_Faithful2.jpg Old Faithful
Yellowtone..tain_Geyser.jpg Great Fountain Geyser
Many people, but not these two people, will take chairs and setup in the vicinity of geysers waiting for them to erupt. We waited on Old Faithful since it is very faithful about erupting on a given time, give or take 10 minutes.

The third phenomenon occurring is the "mud pots" which occurs in areas of "soft" rock, limited water and where hydrogen sulfide is present. The hydrogen sulfide reacts with the water to form sulphuric acid which corrodes the rock and breaks it down into silica and clay. This creates an area of hot, boiling and bubbling "mud".
Yellowtone..n_Paint_Pot.jpg Fountain Paint Pot Yellowston..n_Paint_Pot.jpgYellowstone_-_Mud_Volcano.jpg Mud Volcano

Around noontime, we stopped in at the Old Faithful Lodge, Bob for beer, I had a Bloody Mary which was bloody good and very POOR service. We split some wings and called that lunch. I really couldn't believe the bartender (we sat at the bar for faster service, lol); he served Bob his beer, chatted with his fellow workers, washed some glasses, chatted some more, and right when I was about to lose it, about half way through Bob's beer, he proceeds to fix my drink. We were about ready to tell him to forget the whole thing. Well, he fixes my drink and then just lets it sit there on the bar....NOT in front of me! When he finally brought it over I just remarked that I thought he had forgotten about me, very nicely, of course. I have never done this before, but, NO TIP!! It really was incredible. I told Bob not to tip him so he left ME with the bill which was fine with me.....he got $0.00! Probably didn't matter to him, but, I felt better.
Yellowtone..thful_Lodge.jpg Old Faithful Lodge

Continuing on around the loop, we came upon Yellowtone Lake and the historic Lake Hotel which they are in the process of refurbishing. The lake covers 132 square miles. I guess because we were having overcast weather and it was a little chilly and windy, didn't see one boat out on the lake, although we had seen several flyfishermen in the rivers.
Yellowstone_Lake.jpg Lake Yellowstone Lake_Hotel__at_Yellowtone.jpg Historic Lake Hotel

Moving on around the loop, we came upon the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone which of course is not even close to the size of the real Grand Canyon but it was really beautiful. We drove down along the south rim first and walked out to what is called Artist Point and I am only assuming it is because of all the colors in the canyon walls which is a result of hydrothermal alteration. It is said the canyon changes color during the year depending on the rainfall where the water reacts with the iron in the canyon wall. In other words, the wall is rustsing.
F7FB699C2219AC681729FFC052A8327D.jpg upper falls viewed from Artist's Point
We then crossed over to the north rim where they have a nice hike along the canyon but, it was starting to rain so we just drove along and stopped at the various lookouts. Sure can't complain about a little rain as our weather has really worked for us.
Yellowstone_Glacial_Rock.jpg Glacial Rock

It was a great day on loop 1 of Yellowstone. Headed back to West Yellowstone and this is where we encountered the backup with the bison headed to who knows where.

Day 2
Started out a little later today as we wanted to be at Lamar Valley late afternoon for the wildlife. Supposedly, this is the place to see it. This time we headed north as we got into the park toward Norris and the Norris Geyser Basin. Just north of Norris is Mammoth Hot Springs where the combination of different minerals, mainly limestone in this case, and the hot water create terraces which are constantly changing above the town.
Yellowston..g_Terraces4.jpg travertine terraces Yellowston..pg_Terraces.jpg travertine terraces overlooking Mammoth
Yellowston..g_Terraces2.jpg Stalacite formation at terraces Yellowston..Hot_Springs.jpg Mammoth Hot Springs Liberty_Ca..Hot_springs.jpg Liberty Cap Mammoth Hot springs

Leaving Mammoth, we headed towards Lamar Valley for the wildlife viewing. Since we were a little early, we decided to go on up to the Northern entrance of Yellowstone , stop in Cooke City, and have a bite to eat to pass some time. We were remarking how strange it would be to grow up in these little towns out in the middle of nowhere...no cell phone service, no cable tv, etc.
F87317DD2219AC6817EFAE43AE2C491B.jpg Cooke City Beartoothe Cafe
Yellowston..alley_storm.jpg Rain over Lamar Valley

With the time approaching 4pm, we decided to head back to Lamar Valley. On our way through the first time, it was so strange as people were setting up on the side of the roadway with their chairs, binoculars and some really, really expensive cameras to catch some shots of the wildlife (if they show up). When we got back there, the number of people had like quadrupled. As we were passing by the hordes of people, scanning for wildlife in the valley, all of a sudden, we saw it, or I should say them. We could not believe our timing because we were just going to pass through, not sit there for hours waiting for "something" to show up; anyway, it was a mama grizzely and her 3, yes 3, little cubs walking down to the river. It is like they just wanted to come down and cool off for a few minutes.
Lamar_Vall..ith_3_cubs6.jpg Then mama bear decides it is time to go...so off they go
How awesome was that!!!!

After the excitement of the grizzleys, we headed back to W Yellowstsone which was going to take us a good 2 hours. Another good day! And a terrific sunset to boot.

Day 3
Wet, rainy and cold today. Will hang around camp and catch up on the blog today. This afternoon, we braved the rain and walked around W Yellowstone. This town is made up mostly of t-shirt shops, motels and campgrounds with a few unremarkable restaurants thrown in. We didn't buy any t-shirts but we did find a decent BBQ place for dinner, Beartooth BBQ, hmm, lunch yesterday at Beartooth Cafe....guess they like the beartooth around here. When we got in the truck to go home, Bob noticed it was snowing, but melting fast.

Day 4
No rain today but very cold and windy. It is suppose to get down to 29º tonite and I don't think it is going to have that far to go. The wind, of course, makes it even worse. Spent some time this morning putting some chili in the crockpot so dinner will be ready when we get back tonite.
P1070615.jpg see, I do cook!!!!
Then headed out to Harriman State Park outside Island Park, ID, looking for some moose. The campground owner had told me this is their rutting season and we should see some up there. Well, NO MOOSE, in fact, no animals at all except some range cows and some grouse that flew up and away before we could get a picture. Headed back to camp, we had a beautiful view of the snowcapped mountains where it had snowed last nite and this morning. Upon arriving back at camp, we heard there had been road closures in Yellowstone today because of the snow and chains required on other roads. Someone was looking out for us, again.

Another successful day.....

Day 5
Packin' up, headin' out.......to Victor, ID and the Grand Tetons!

Posted by scpurvis 20:57 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Helena, MT

Stop #14 Lincoln Rd Rv Park Sept. 11 - 15, 2013

sunny 76 °F
View Western Loop 2013 on scpurvis's travel map.

Left Kalispell this morning with a touch of sadness to be leaving Glacier NP. It has been so awesome and there was so much we wanted to do that we didn't get to do. We are already talking about trying to make a return trip to visit Banff (which we didn't get to) and back to Glacier in the late spring or early summer when the waterfalls and creekbeds will be flowing. We were headed to Deer Lodge, MT but on arrival at the RV Park behind the truck stop, we decided to travel on to Helena, and so glad we did.

Day 1
We took a ride into "downtown" Helena to check it out and first thing we saw was this beautiful Cathedral. How could we miss it, you can practically see it from anyplace in town. The Cathedral of Saint Helena was built in 1908 with funds provided by miners who had struck it rich.

Helena, like so many other towns in the west , was originally a mining town. In 1864, four prospectors finally found gold in what they would eventually dub Last Chance Gulch which is now the main street of Helena. Supposedly, the remains of the creek bed still flows under the street. In 1894, Helena became the state capital but would continue to suffer the boom-or-bust economics for many years. We were amazed that a state capital would be so small but of course with only just over a million people in the whole state, what should we expect?

Below is a picture of the "Guardian of the Gulch" firetower, built in 1876 after a fire destroyed the city, to give watchmen a 360º view of "the gulch". which is now Helena.

On the recommendation of our good friends Bob and June, we decided to do the Gates to the Mountains boat tour. We took the 2pm boat ride which wasn't too crowded and it was perfect. The weather was right on being around 73º, and not a cloud in that Big Montana Sky. The Gates to the Mountains ... as described by Meriweather Lewis on his discovery .... "this evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. these clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of [NB: about] 1200 feet. every object here wears a dark and gloomy aspect. the tow[er]ing and projecting rocks in many places seem ready to tumble on us. the river appears to have forced it's way through this immence body of solid rock for the distance of 5¾ miles and where it makes it's exit below has thrown on either side vast collumns of rocks mountains high. the river appears to have woarn a passage just the width of it's channel or 150 yds. it is deep from side to side nor is ther in the 1st 3 miles of this distance a spot except one of a few yards in extent on which a man could rest the soal of his foot". The passage appears today much as it did when M Lewis made his discovery in 1805.

Maybe you can see the "opening of the gates" ; taken as we were going up river.....

Also, we passed the site of the Mann Gulch Fire, where in 1949,12 smokejumpers and 1 fireguard were killed while fighting a fire in the gulch. Because of dry conditions and very high winds, the fire roared out of control. Later. estimates were 3000 acres were burned in 10 minutes. The result of this fire would be more emphasis on fire research and behavior with more specialized training changing wildland firefighting forever.

Day 2
Another day for laundry. If I had known we would do laundry so often, I could have left half the clothes I brought. We have no room to store a bunch of dirty clothes, so it is a "must do". Also had some errands to run and found out about a community theater which was highly recommended, so, we made plans to attend the play tonite.

We decided we would have dinner at an historical restaurant previously known as "Big Dorothy's", now, the Windbag Saloon. Big Dorothy's was owned by Dorothy Baker, the last of a long line of Helena madams. She ran her brothel on Last Chance Gulch from 1955 to 1973 when it was raided on orders of the County Attorney. Dorothy had kept in the good graces of the local community by catering to powerful individuals and donating to children's causes and alerting police to drug activity.
P1000516.jpg Ready for a night on the town

Following dinner, we strolled around the pedestrian mall and ended up at the Grandstreet Theater where we saw an amazing performance of Steel Magnolias. The cast and acting were excellent. The theater, built in 1905 was originally the Unitarian Church, which is supposedly haunted by the preacher's wife who died during his tenure there. (We saw nor heard any ghost)

Day 3
Early start...on the road to West Yellowstone. We need to get there in time to FSU slaughter Nevado!

Posted by scpurvis 19:23 Archived in USA Comments (4)

Kalispell, MT

Stop #13 Spruce Rv Park on the River (E8) Sept. 6 -11, 2013

overcast 70 °F
View Western Loop 2013 on scpurvis's travel map.

We left St. Mary for the 2 1/2 hour trip through the Marias pass to the west side of the Rockies, destination Kalispell. Unfortunately, the navigator, that would be me, missed the turn and we were half way to Canada before we realized my error, we missed the turn. Okay, Canada was only about 10 miles away from where we started, so, we didn't go THAT far! The bad part about it, was turning around....Bob had to pull in a driveway and back out onto the highway to turn around. Now, there isn't that much traffic in MT so it should be easy, right? Well, it just so happened, every car in MT decided to come over that hill about this time. Anyway, we got turned around thanks to Bob's great maneuvering skills and we were back on the right road in no time.

Arrived in Kalispell at the Spruce RV Park on the River and actually got a site "on the river" (lucky us, again!)

Day 1
Today we would check out the town of Kalispell, which is one of the larger cities in the area, large city by Montana standards, ie, population around 20,000 and is the largest city in NW Montana. Of course, we made a run to Walmart for more water which we are now buying 2 cases at a time. This afternoon, we headed to Big Fork, population 4500, where we had reservation for some community theater, a production of 50's and 60's music. It was entertaining and a nice change although, they did not do ONE BEATLES song! How can you have the 60's without the Beatles? Big Fork sits on the north end of Flathead Lake which we would tour around on another day.

Day 2
Today we took the drive around FLathead Lake which is 28 miles long and 370 feet deep (I thought Lake Harris was big). So beautiful. It is very overcast today with some sprinkles of rain every now and then so we won't be doing much hiking today. On the north end of the lake is the city, Polson, MT, , which is known for its cherry orchards. Of course, our timing is off again, as the cherries were in at the beginning of the summer. Sure sorry we missed out on that. Out from Polson, we traveled to the Kerr Dam which is 204 feet high, 54 feet higher then Niagara Falls. Even with the threat of rain, we decided to walk down the 1000' boardwalk to right above the falls to enjoy the canyon view. Short hike, but steep climb coming back up.
Kerr_Dam__Polson__MT_dam3.jpgKerr_Dam__Polson__MT_dam4.jpgKerr_Dam__Polson__MT_deer.jpgdeer on road to Kerr Dam

From Polson, we traveled about 30 miles more south to do the 19 mile loop on the National Bison Range which is a National Wildlife Refuge established in 1908 to provide a sanctuary for the American bison. FYI, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, we don’t really have buffalo in North America. The true buffalo are the Cape buffalo of Africa and the water buffalo of Asia. Guess no one from F&W has been to the Villages!
Bison_Range_vistas1.jpgBison_Range_vistas2.jpgBison_Range_vistas.jpgBison_Range_Pronghorn.jpgBison_Range_Elk.jpgBison_Range_Bison6.jpgBison_Range_Bison5.jpgBison_Range_antlers.jpgantler stack
Even though the weather was not that great, we saw some great wildlife, including a beautiful elk who was so nice to pose for a picture.

We were able to get some great pictures but it is ironic, everytime you try to get a picture of wildlife they turn their rear end to you.....a camera might work better the bear spray for those grizzleys!

Heading back north along the edge of Flathead lake, we stopped at a lakefront restaurant for liquid refreshment and some nourishment. As their season is really over here, there were very few patrons but someone did come up by boat while we were there. We even saw a few people coming from the lake in their bathing suits...it was about 65º and overcast.

Day 3
Headed up to Big Mountain at Whitefish for a hike today. This is the only ski resort in this area and they have numerous trails you can take to the top and ride the ski lift down. Upon arriving, we discovered the ski lift only operates on weekends in the summer, so, we would just do the hiking part. The hiking path would crisscross the the ski trails several times before reaching the top. (I still want to try that snow skiing!)
It was a nice hike and we did get to see a couple of deer up the mountain.
Whitefish_..ain_Resort2.jpg Whitefish Mtn Resort at Big Mtn
Big_Mtn_at_Whitefish3.jpgSki trail - looking down from path
Big_Mtn_at_Whitefish2.jpg ski trail looking up from path Big_Mtn_-_Deer2.jpgP1000422.jpg

Day 4
It's my birthday!!! And, for my birthday, we will head over to West Glacier and do a hike down the Trail of Cedars and on up to Avalanche Lake. This lake receives meltwater from the Sperry Glacier making it very clear, very blue and very cold! The first part of the trail (Trail of Cedars) is actually a boardwalk winding along Avalanche creek through the cedars and is absolutely spectacular. This is one of the few trails that is handicap accessible and is just less then a mile.
8760C63D2219AC681731BF3D7A41F5AF.jpg It is amaziing to see how the water carves out the rocks as it gushes down the creek.

We continue on past the Trail of Cedars up to Avalanche Lake. This is supposed to be one of the busiest hikes in the park, but, I guess we lucked out because, although, there were plenty of hikers, it wasn't really that busy. The grade wasn't too terribly steep on this hike and you continued on through the cedar forest so it was very cool and refreshing.
Trail_of_t..__tree_root.jpg tree root of big cedar Trail_of_t..lanche_Lk15.jpgTrail_of_t..lunch_spot2.jpgwhere we stopped for "lunch" (crackers and water)Trail_of_t..lanche_Lk13.jpgTrail_of_t..lanche_Lk12.jpg
Trail_of_t..er_lakeside.jpg this little guy wandered out to the lakeside while we were there

After our hike, Bob took me back to Lake McDonald Lodge which was on our way out of the park for an early dinner. Very nice way to cap off my birthday and our stay on the west of GNP. When we got back to camp, we found these guys "hanging" around over the river.

And a nice little surprise from our daughter.......

Day 5
Packing up, movin' on

Posted by scpurvis 18:27 Archived in USA Comments (3)

St. Mary, MT (East Glacier Nat'l Park)

Stop #12 Johnson's of St Mary Cmpgrd

semi-overcast 72 °F

Traveled from Great Falls to St. Mary, MT. The roads out here can get very interesting, to say the least. We try to avoid the interstates if we can and we have found the Montana roads can just suddenly turn into gravel roads; or they might decide to repave a road and tear up 20 miles of road so you are driving on more gravel. We have also paid the most for gas to this point, $4.24/gallon.
P1060885.jpg saw a lot of these on the hillsides along the way P1060888.jpg road construction for miles

Arrived in St. Mary to cooler temps, lots of wind and spectacular scenery! The view from our campsite is just incredible; looking out, we have St. Mary Lake on our right, Flat Top and Single Shot Mtns directly in front of us and Divide Mtn furthest to our left. St. Mary Lake is 9.9 miles long, 300 feet deep and very cold!

Our campground is right outside the park entrance at the Going-to-the -Sun Road. Our first full day, we decided we would just do the 110 mile, round trip drive on the Going to the Sun road. Unfortunately, it is the same 55 miles twice but we did get to see it in different light. When we got to the west side, we stopped in for a drink and nourishment at the Lake McDonald Lodge, a beautiful old lodge built in 1913.
P1000005.jpgOne of the 33 restored 1930 tour buses in Glacier.

P1000006.jpg Lake McDonald Lodge
Going to the sun Road

Day 2
This would be the day for the hike on the 12 mile Highline Trail. We started off about 7am, temperature about 45, driving over to the Loop trail-head where we would leave our truck and take a shuttle to Logan Pass, to start the hike from there and then hike back to truck. The trail would take us on some very narrow paths along the side of the mountains where they actually installed cables to hold to for the faint of heart. The trail follows the Continental Divide most of the way. Starting out, I was thinking what a perfect day for this hike, cool, sunny, just beautiful!

We felt very fortunate as we did get to see some wildlife along the first half of the hike...a few mountain goats, lots of what looked like small prairie dogs to me and even walked around the bend to find a grizzly up on the mountain eating some berries. He was not too far off the path ahead of us so we waited patiently while he finished his lunch and watched him amble up the mountain over the rocks. It was really kind of surreal because it seemed like we were just looking at a big ol' grizzly at the zoo, no threat at all. (I did have my bear spray handy, though)

After almost 8 miles, we arrived at the Granite Park Chalet which is a hiker's hostel of sorts. You can make reservations to stay overnight here in some primitive cabins and bring in your on food and water, or you can make arrangements to have food/water brought in by mule which is how all the supplies are brought up the mountain, 4 miles, from The Loop. (those poor mules!) I believe the term "chalet" is a little misleading in this instance, the facilities being very rustic, no running water and no electricity.

Following a brief respite, we continued our journey, supposedly, the remaining 4 miles which would be 95% downhill. I was thinking we had completed the difficult part, but, boy was I wrong. I never knew going downhill could be so hard. The terrain was mostly a rocky, uneven trail with no shade. Ironic that on the morning part of the hike when it was cool, we were on the shaded side of the mountains and even went through some pine forests on the mountain and on the afternoon part, no shade, full sun, rock on the side of the mountain absorbing all that heat....like hiking in an oven . One hiker passing by told us the temperature was over 90 at that point.

Finally, we got to the sign marking the trail to the parking area but the sign indicated the trail was closed. We trudged on down the mountain thinking this was just another trail to the lower parking lot. NOT! At least we were now hiking in the shade again so it wasn't quite so bad and actually came upon a waterfall coming down the mountain. After about a mile, about the time we started thinking we must be on the wrong trail, we came upon another sign indicating Packer's Roost 1 mile in one direction and some other destination 4 miles the other way....we opted for the one mile. This worked out to be the right decision at this point as, at least now, we started hearing sounds from the highway. We were joined by a couple of young ladies who had taken the same turn as us, so we had some company along the way.
ECA6C7912219AC68176EAE46BA93E3A2.jpg Packer's Roost

Packer's Roost turned out to be the location (about a mile off the main road) where the mules were brought in to carry the supplies up to the Granite Park Chalet. Too bad for us, no one was there. My hero, Bob, volunteered to continue on, hike the road up, up, up to The Loop, get our truck and return for me. The young ladies were going to try to find a ride back to St. Mary. It all worked out, a family came down to the Roost in their car to check out the area, offered to squeeze me in their car as they were PACKED but, I asked them to go back up and pick up Bob instead since he had already started out and had the keys to the truck. They were just so nice because he left his wife and son on the road, picking up Bob and the young ladies. Bob soon returned with our truck, thanks to the ride from the good Samaritan, and we would take the ladies back to St. Mary.
ECA814EE2219AC68174E218988A5B7EC.jpg this fellow came to visit while I waited for my ride

ECA7752A2219AC68171D0B554321A7A1.jpg end of the trail at Packer's Roost.

We made it back to the campground safe and sound....it was a very full day.

Day 3
Nothing for today except recouping from yesterdays hike! OMG, I feel muscles I forgot existed in my body and my poor toes from all the pressure on going downhill for 4 miles. I don't know when I will be able to put my boots on again. Time for ibuprofen.

Day 4
It is a good thing we took the long hike on the day we did; it has been overcast with a little rain yesterday and today. We rode over to the Many Glacier entrance to check that area out. Although it was still cloudy with an occasional sprinkle, it was a nice, short drive and got us out a little today.
P1000231.jpg Grinnell Glacier from the highway
P1000128.jpgP1000132_copy_copy.jpgP1000133.jpgP1000140.jpg Many Glacier Hotel

Day 5
The day started out with some rain and clouds are over the mountain so we won't chance a hike. We rode up to Waterton National Park which is just across the Canadian border. Very beautiful and very remote although there is a little village in the center of it on a beautiful lake and they have the Prince of Wales Hotel, built in 1927, which is very beautiful, on the lake.
P1000160.jpgP1000162.jpgP1000183.jpgP1000191.jpgP1000198.jpg Prince of Wales Hotel

Although they have "free range cattle" here, which is odd because some cattle are free range and some are standing next to them in the fence, we did find some bison in one area of the park. It was a small herd and they weren't interested in us at all.
P1000209.jpgP1000210.jpgP1000218.jpg they were actually rolling in the sand here, I am assuming to get rid of some kind of varmin or flies which there were a lot of them.

Day 6
Heading out today to the west side of Glacier Park, to Kalispell. We will have to drive down and around the south end of the park to get to a pass in the Rockies that we can traverse. See you on the other side of the mountains!

Posted by scpurvis 15:22 Archived in USA Comments (4)

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