Archive for June, 2012
Not much to report today. Just a 300 mile uneventful travel day between West Yellowstone and Missoula. Uneventful except for the fact that we ran into road construction which seemed like 20 miles of 30 mph travel. More 20 to 30 mph cross and head winds. We are sure getting tired of driving in the high winds and getting bounced from lane to lane on the highway. The cars in the lane beside us would probably appreciate it also. It also doesn’t help the fuel economy when you are driving into a head wind going up over a mountain pass and have the gas pedal all the way to the floor and you are only going 40 mph. ugh! Oh! After being so excited about getting to wash the motorhome and setting off this morning with a bright, shiny clean windshield, we hadn’t gone very far before we met up with a huge herd of flying grasshoppers. Splat, splat, splat, splat, etc. and more etc. (Dryer sheets really do work for taking BOB’s off the front of the rig. Thanks for the hint Al)
As we were passing Whitehall Montana, a little town between Bozeman and Butte, we saw the smoke from the “Pony” forest fire south of I-90. It was so close to the highway that you could probably see the red glow of the flames at night.
After 6 hours of driving through wind, grasshopper herds, road construction, wind, mountain passes, wind, fire smoke, wind and more wind we finally pulled into a very nice RV park in Missoula. Very nice – but there are a few things missing here: Dust, Dirt, Cactus, Lizards, and other crawly things. After spending 6 weeks in the desert it is sure nice to be in the land of green, trees and sub 80 degree weather. This is probably the first day since we left that we didn’t have to run the AC unit and could have a window open without having to worry about having 30 yards of dust and grit being blown in. We sat in our chairs outside in the nice green grass and enjoyed the great weather. Heard someone setting off a bunch of fireworks just before we went to bed. Sure hope they don’t start another fire.
Saturday is a travel day to Spokane. There is another casino calling Dianne’s name and a Buffet calling Wayne’s.
Gave the cameras a day off, so no pictures today.
Another cold night (high 30’s)but today was very nice. Around 80 degrees and just a little breeze.
Our first adventure this morning was visiting the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Our senior entry cost of $9.75 was good for 2 visits in two days. When we got to the bear area there were about 15 kids wandering around inside the fenced area. Our first thought was that the Center couldn’t afford to buy bear food and that these were human sacrifices. We were relieved to find out the kids were just having fun in there hiding bear food (apple slices) under rocks and logs. After the kids came out, two bears, who knew exactly how to play the game, came in and immediately began shoving the rocks and logs out of the way and eating the food. This provided some great photo ops and some very excited kids yelling, “He found mine! He found mine”! The wolves were all stretched out in the sunshine sound asleep but we found some raptors to photograph.
As we were leaving Wayne spotted a Delaware license plate. We now are missing only Rhode Island – just like last year’s trip. We have been to Rhode Island and we know their cars have license plates. Maybe they aren’t allowed to travel outside the state borders? But then again how many cars can Rhode Islandhave?
Next we headed into town – a whole 3 blocks away. There are an amazing number of hotels, motels and cabins in this town – some look very nice, others not so much. One is named the “Hibernation Station”. We did some shopping, had a great pizza for lunch and Huck Finn sundae for dessert. Yummy huckleberry ice cream!!! Went back to the motorhome for showers and Dianne took a nap. Back to the Discovery Center in the evening. A different group of kids were hiding bear food but we were more interested in the wolves this time. They were awake and while they were being fed in a locked area in the back, a staff member was putting meat out in the viewing area for the wolves to find. A wolf hade and seek. Got some great pictures of them eating and doing some other “natural” things (see the pictures).
Tomorrow we head for Missoula.
It got cooold overnight. Had to use the furnace this morning and we wore long pants for the first time on the trip. After packing our picnic lunch and picking up our free cappuccino at the RV Park office, we headed NE to Earthquake Lake.
Around 11:30 PM on August 17, 1959, a 7.5 earthquake struck the Madison River Canyon causing a massive landslide that, in only 20 seconds, sent over 80 million tons of rock crashing into the canyon and part way up the other side. The slide blocked the Madison River and water backed up creating Earthquake Lake – 190 feet deep and 6 miles long. It took the US Army Corps of Engineers 3 weeks to create a huge spillway across the slide allowing water to flow downstream so the lake would not continue to rise. Hebgen Lake is just upstream from Earthquake Lake and the landslide. In a matter of seconds the earth’s crust dropped 19 feet. The land under Hebgen lake tilted upwards and cabins on the north shore were immersed in water while portions of the south shore lay high and dry. Hundreds of people were camping in the area at the time of the quake. A Forest Service campground lies under 100 feet of water and 19 people are still buried under the landslide. In all 28 people lost their lives and many others were injured. Memorial Boulder, weighing 3,000 tons, is one of the largest chunks of the southeast side of the canyon that was shoved to the northeast side. A picture of the boulder is attached. Note the size of the boulder compared to the two people near its bottom right side.
We ventured further north to Virginia City – a big disappointment. It was small and mostly made up of old and made-to-look-old buildings that could not be entered. Some had old things that you could look in at such as carriages, a reconstructed store and a blacksmith’s shop. Touristy shops and expensive places to eat were intermingled here and there. It took us about 15 minutes to walk down one side of the street and back up the other side – and that includes stopping in some of the shops. In 1864 Virginia City was a Gold Rush town that had a population of over 10,000 and was the largest city in the inland Northwest. It now is called home by only 132 hardy souls. A few miles further down the road is Nevada City which is about 10 times smaller than Virginia City. We found a shady place to park there and ate our lunch in the truck.
On the way back to our camp we checked out some of the other campgrounds in the West Yellowstone area out of curiosity. Nothing we saw was anywhere near as nice as where we are staying. So glad we had reservations. This place has 290 RV sites, a dozen cabins plus 16 tent sites and is full each night. The online campground reviews and Google Earth have been very effective in helping find good places to stay. In some places there isn’t much to choose from but so far we have picked the lesser of the evils in those cases. After arriving back at camp we noticed some people washing their motorhome. This is a huge no-no in most campgrounds but this one says it is okay. While Dianne fixed dinner, Wayne washed about 250 pounds of dirt and bugs off the truck and motorhome. We should get much better gas mileage now!
So sad to see places we visited in Colorado, including the Air Force Academy, now being evacuated because of the fires. We have a couple of fires north of us that we will go by on I-90 as we head towards Missoula day after tomorrow but the freeway is open as far as we can tell.
Tomorrow we plan to stay around town, do some shopping, geocaching, sightseeing and start getting things ready for leaving the next morning.
“Who’s peekin’ out from under a stairway
Calling a name that’s lighter than air
Who’s bending down to give me a rainbow
Everyone knows it’s Windy”
Today we explored another loop in Yellowstone. Lovely sunny day but verrrrrrry windy. The Yellowstone hat gods will be very happy today. Everywhere we have gone in the park we have seen hats that have blown off heads and landed in areas that are too dangerous for the owners to retrieve them. Lots and lots of hats sacrificed to the hat gods. Talked to a ranger who said they use fireproof boots and long sticks to retrieve and throw away as many of them as they can safely reach. Bet that doesn’t set well with the hat gods! Does the attached picture of the lady hugging her hat to her head give you some idea of how windy is was? When we drove past large cliffs alongside the road the wind would blow dust and pieces of rock onto the truck. It was windy! We passed many picnic areas but ate our picnic lunch inside the truck to prevent the food from blowing away before we could get it to our mouths. We saw several lovely waterfalls and spent quite a bit of time at the Mammoth Hot Springs on boardwalks and climbing up and down stairs built over the huge hydro-thermal area. When we were returning to our truck we found 6-7 elk that had come down off a hill and got some close up pictures. Our last stop was at the Norris Geyser Basin, one of most active earthquake area in the park and home to one of the hottest and most acidic hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone. It sits on the intersection of three major faults. No shaking today.
We have seen lots of animals, mostly bison, but so far there have been no road blocks due to animals crossing the roads.
Not sure what’s on the docket for tomorrow, maybe Jackson Hole, or Quake Lake, or maybe just staying around the homestead. We will make that decision tomorrow.
Will be home soon.
We didn’t do a blog update yesterday. Left Lander, WY at 9 AM and headed northwest. Drove through miles and miles of what we decided should be named a National Sagebrush Forest. We crossed the Continental Divide 4 times with the highest pass at being 9600 feet above sea level. We have been above 7000 feet for about 90% of this trip so far. We hadn’t realized how much we missed lush green grass and trees over 6 feet tall until we were driving down the west side of the Divide with the Tetons looming in the distance. We saved another $25 with the Old Geezer pass when we entered Grand Teton National Park and headed north. Thought we might save another $25 when we approached the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park but they said the $25 paid to be in both parks for 7 days. We would not choose this time of the year to visit Yellowstone but it was on our route back home so we decided to stop here anyway. Driving a motorhome through all of the people parking on the road to check out the local animals was not a pleasant experience but we eventually arrived at Grizzly Bear RV park in West Yellowstone about 2 PM. Really nice park and very full. So glad we made reservations last April. We had a late lunch and at 4:00 we went back into the park to catch the 7:00 showing of Old Faithful. Our hope was that people would be heading to where ever “home” was for the night to feed the kids. It seemed to work. We enjoyed watching the eruption, checking out the information center and gift shop and exploring the Old Faithful Inn without crowds. The Inn is very rustic but the prices to spend a night are not. We got ice cream at a shop in the lobby and found some rocking chairs calling our names to relax in while eating it. A very enjoyable evening but – we didn’t get back to the RV until 9:30. After a 12 ½ hour day we had some salad for dinner, relaxed a bit and went to bed.
Today we left about 8:30 and stopped at the RV park office for free coffee, cappuccino or hot chocolate on our way to the park. Walked over 3 miles while we saw all kinds of interesting things, found a bunch of geocaches, had lunch, took a lot of pictures and arrived back at the RV about 6:30. Took showers, fixed dinner and now we get to put titles on the millions of pictures we took today.
Tomorrow we will do the Mammoth Hotsprings loop of the park.
Awoke to the promise of another HOT day and it didn’t let us down. 94 yesterday and 95 today. This should the last of the mid to upper 90’s temperatures for us. Yellowstone will be in the mid 70’s according to the Weather Channel. We need to start getting used to lower temperatures to be ready for the high’s in the 60’s back home.
Had a great conversation with a couple from Illinois while Wayne cleaned BOB off the front window before it got too hot this morning. For those of you who tuned in late, BOB is Baked On Bugs.
We then headed out for Riverton and the other casino in the area. What a disappointment. We were each supposed to get a free $10 credit on our player’s cards but due to a computer glitch we only got $5 apiece. They said to come back in awhile and they could put the rest on our cards. When we needed to leave so we had time to see the local attractions they still didn’t have it fixed. The bad news is we left around $9 there but the good news is we got 4 big, yummy cinnamon rolls with coupons they gave us.
After eating our picnic lunch we headed north and found Sinks Canyon State Park. At first we thought we were supposed to bring our dirty dishes along but that wasn’t the case. Sinks Canyon is so named because the Mild Fork of the Popo Agie (believe it or not it is pronounced po PO shuh) River flows down the canyon and into a large limestone cavern. The water “sinks” into fissures and cracks at the back of the cave and travels underground, emerging ¼ mile down the canyon in a large calm pool called “The Rise” before continuing into the valley below. Dye tests show that, mysteriously, the water is underground for over two hours before reappearing in The Rise. Geologists speculate that while underground the water circulates up and down and through many narrow, winding passages and pools before it resurfaces. We hiked the ½ mile round trip trail between the Sink and the Rise in the 90+ degree weather and Wayne got a great picture of Mabel the Marmot along the trail. The Rise is teeming with hundreds of huge Rainbow and Brown Trout – the larger ones weigh up to 12 pounds. The Rise is not stocked but the fish arrive naturally and stay because it is a protected area with an extensive food supply. These are smart fish because they have obviously read all of the “No Fishing” signs posted in the area. Not only was entry into the state park free but we found 2 geocaches here.
Our next stop was the Sacajawea Cemetery. There is a large statue of her here and, according to local history, her burial site. She was the only woman in Lewis and Clark’s Expedition and her presence, along with that of her infant son, Jean-Baptiste, prevented the expedition from being attacked. The Native Americans they met believed the expedition was peaceful since a war party never traveled with a woman and a baby. She had many other skills that were invaluable to the expedition including being a translator and negotiator and using her knowledge of native plants to provide nourishing food. Her life after returning from the expedition is shrouded in mystery with several versions of how many children she had, her age when she died and where she was buried. She is one of the most famous women in American history and has been honored with more statues, monuments and landmarks than any other woman in the US.
In the nearby Fort Washakie (WASH a key) cemetery we found the grave of Chief Washakie (means gourd rattle). He was born in 1798 and learned English and French from fur trappers. Recognizing early on the futility of trying to stem the vast tide of emigrants from the east, he used his language, negotiating skills and friendships with frontiersmen such as Kit Carson to move the Shoshone Indian bands away from emigrant migration routes and form alliances with the army to leave the routes uncontested. When Washakie died in 1900 at the age of 102, he was accorded a full military funeral, the only know military funeral for an Indian Chief. The cavalry from Fort Washakie provided the escort and the procession was nearly two miles long.
On our way back to the RV we did some more geocaching. We couldn’t find one we hunted for but did find 33 cents on the ground while looking. We later found out the geocache has gone missing and we couldn’t have found it anyway. So we added a total of 5 new ones today. Have lost count of how many we have found on the trip but our total finds now is 629.
Tomorrow we head for Yellowstone and cooler weather.
The word for the day is wind. We packed up this morning and headed northwest to Lander, Wyoming. As soon as we hit Interstate 80 the wind came up and didn’t stop. There were signs on the highway warning of gusts of 35+ MPH. It was more of the + than the 35. The gusts were from the side, the front, the back and sometimes it felt that the gusts were coming from all sides at the same time.
The other word for the day is nothing. That more or less describes what we saw in this part of Wyoming. Nothing. Lots and lots of nothing. For 300 miles all we saw was rolling hills, a huge wind farm that reminded us of home, sage brush a few cows and 3 antelope. There is a reason why Wyoming is the least populated state. There is nothing here. There are more pronghorn antelope than people.
We blew (literally) into Lander around 2:00 this afternoon. After setting up camp guess what we had to do??? Give up? Let me give you a hint. “Casino” Yep, we visited one of the local casinos. A friendly lot they were. They actually gave each of us $20 seed money to play with and we actually walked out with $40.28 of their money.
Tomorrow we will check out the Sinks State Park and probably another casino.