Monthly Archives: July 2016

Idaho Part I: Ririe

After two weeks of stress reduction in Missoula, I was ready to ride in the passenger’s seat when we bid farewell to Montana. We drove south on I-90 and merged with I-15 in Butte, taking the southbound interstate all the way toward Idaho Falls. The exit to I-15 in Butte was one exit west of where we stayed when we were there a few weeks earlier. This means Mike’s preferences were realized and we never back-tracked… not even for one mile! Lucky for me the route took us through meadows and valleys. No drastic elevation changes, almost zero construction, wide lanes and a respectable shoulder on the road meant I never got close to freaking out. That was nice.

The drive was long, though. We were ready to park and get situated by the time we arrived at Juniper State Park on the Ririe Reservoir. Over five hours of driving is just about the max time that is tolerable on travel day. By the time you factor in the time it takes to get the rig shut down and ready to drive, then set back up at the end, it is a full day.

Juniper campground was very nice. Our spot at C12 was an enormous pull through spot with full hook-ups. Of course, Mike selected this location because it fit his two main criteria… the price was inexpensive and fishing was abundant! Ririe Reservoir was created when a dam was built at Willow Creek in the 1970’s. The creek was in a canyon, so we were situated about 100 feet above the water. The views were great! We were out in a secluded spot in Bonneville County, so we didn’t hear the sound of trains, traffic, sirens or anything for two weeks!

Eastern Idaho is spectacular. The South Fork of the Snake River runs through this area and the scenery is amazing. The landscape is comprised of rolling hills covered in farm fields painted in a precise camouflage that is slightly brighter and more orderly than what the hunters wear. The river meanders through the terrain, giving the illusion of a sapphire band of energy electrifying the earth with power and grace all at once. When you sit back to take in the views, the spirit seems to brim with equal parts vitality and tranquility. We liked it there.

We drove west to Wyoming on two different occasions, once to see Grand Teton National Park and again to visit Jackson Hole. We spent some time in the cute town of Idaho Falls, and the rest of our time was dedicated to chilling out at our park. We couldn’t help but snap heaps of photos during our visit, so I will let some of those images complete the story of our introduction to The Gem State.

The view from our bedroom. Can you spot the windmills in the distance?

The view from our bedroom. Can you spot the windmills in the distance?

Ririe Reservoir.

Ririe Reservoir.

The campground was surrounded by farmlands. Of course there were potato crops, but Anheuser-Busch had signs on many fields... so I guess Idaho grows lots of beer too!

The campground was surrounded by farmlands. Of course there were potato crops, but Anheuser-Busch had signs on many fields… so I guess Idaho grows lots of beer too!

Our spot was C12. It was a VERY spacious pull-through. We didn't have neighbors anywhere near us. The best part, however, was no stickers in the lush grass. All for $18 per night.

Our spot was C12. It was a VERY spacious pull-through. We didn’t have neighbors anywhere near us. The best part, however, was no stickers in the lush grass. All for $18 per night.

We went to the Idaho Falls Farmers Market the first Saturday morning we were there. I was surprised there weren't a ton of local farmers. The vendors were primarily selling things like baked goods, jams, fresh tacos, soaps, honey, flowers... things like that. Only two booths were selling almost all of the vegetables... and to be honest I don't think they were local. I think these families just bought a load of stuff from a wholesaler and set up a tent at the farmer's market.

We went to the Idaho Falls Farmers Market the first Saturday morning we were at Juniper. I was surprised there weren’t a ton of local farmers. The vendors were  peddling things like baked goods, jams, fresh tacos, soaps, honey, flowers… stuff like that. Only two booths were selling almost all of the vegetables… and to be honest I don’t think they were local. My guess is these families just bought a load of inventory from a wholesaler and set up a tent at the farmer’s market.

The paved road leading to the campground turned to gravel after the entrance gate. The gravel road went for miles so we thought it would be a good place for our daily dog walks. Unfortunately, the rocks were painful on the dogs paws, so it was only a one-time thing. Piper and Cessna wanted no part of that road after that afternoon.

The paved road leading to the campground turned to gravel after the entrance gate. The gravel road went for miles so we thought it would be a good place for our daily dog walks. Unfortunately, the rocks were painful on the dogs’ paws, so it was only a one-time thing. Piper and Cessna wanted no part of that road after that afternoon.

We have never stayed anywhere on this trip where the sunsets were so magnificent. Every night was a different show of lights, shadows and colors.

We have never stayed anywhere on this trip where the sunsets were so magnificent. Every night was a different show of lights, shadows and colors.

I already put one Ririe nightfall photo on our "Sunsets" page, but I couldn't feature a singular choice from two weeks at this spot.

I already put one Ririe nightfall photo on our “Sunsets” page, but I couldn’t just feature a singular choice from two weeks at this spot.

Mike watched these two eagles soar over him on most days we was fishing. There were lots of owls too!

Mike watched these two eagles soar over him on most days he was fishing. There were lots of owls too!

There is a riverside trail in downtown Idaho Falls and every few feet features a different creative bench.

There is a riverside trail in downtown Idaho Falls and every few feet features a uniquely creative bench.

Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls.

Life size chia deer on the riverside trail.

Life size chia deer on the riverside trail.

A selfie from the Sandpiper Restaurant. There were only a couple of waterfront dining options in downtown Idaho Falls and we were lucky to pick a good one.

A selfie from the Sandpiper Restaurant. There were only a couple of waterfront dining options in downtown Idaho Falls and we were lucky to pick a good one. They even let Piper and Cessna join us on the patio. When we asked how we got them around to the back, they said bring them in the front door and through the restaurant. What? No problem.

I call this one calico sunset.

I call this one calico sunset.

Alive After Five was a free summer concert series at a park in the middle of downtown Idaho Falls. The music was great. They actually sold beer and wine. And, the people watching was superb.

Alive After Five was a free summer concert series at a park in the middle of downtown Idaho Falls. The music was great. They actually sold beer and wine. And, the people watching was superb.

When we took a daytrip to Grand Tetons National Park, we drove over the Teton Pass. The Honda did not like that. The pinnacle of the pass is 8,431 feet. The grades are about 10% going up and back down. When I got out of the car to take this picture, our little 4-cylinder engine was very smelly! It sure was pretty, though!

When we took a daytrip to Grand Tetons National Park, we drove over the Teton Pass. The Honda did not like that. The pinnacle of the pass is 8,431 feet. The grades are about 10% going up and back down. When I got out of the car to take this picture, our little 4-cylinder engine was very smelly! It sure was pretty, though!

Our first good look at the Tetons.

Our first good look at the Tetons.

A plaque inside the Chapel of the Sacred Heart near the Jackson Lake Dam says it was built by a family of New York and Wyoming after the tragic events of 9/11.

A plaque inside the Chapel of the Sacred Heart near the Jackson Lake Dam says it was built by a family of New York and Wyoming after the tragic events of 9/11.

The only wildlife we saw during our day in the Grand Tetons.

The only wildlife we saw during our day in the Grand Tetons.

This was the view from our picnic in the National Park that day.

This was the view from our picnic in the National Park that day.

Colter Bay on Lake Jackson. I think Eagle's Rest Peak is in the distance - 11,258 feet up into the sky.

Colter Bay on Lake Jackson. I think Eagle’s Rest Peak is in the distance – 11,258 feet up into the sky.

The surface elevation of Jackson Lake is 6,772 feet.

The surface elevation of Jackson Lake is 6,772 feet.

Summertime in the Grand Tetons.

Summertime in the Grand Tetons.

Dogs are only allowed on paved sidewalks or parking lots inside the park. We still found a way to get these two their exercise for the day.

Dogs are only allowed on paved sidewalks or parking lots inside the park. We still found a way to get these two their exercise for the day.

The Grand Tetons from Hwys 191/26/89.

The Grand Tetons from Hwys 191/26/89.

The Snake River.

The Snake River.

The Park Road dumps directly into downtown Jackson Hole, and the traffic was horrible when we got to town. It had been a long day and we were overwhelmed by the crowds, so we decided not to stop for a look around. We agreed we would drive back to Jackson on another day to explore this resort town when we were fresh and more tolerant.

The Park Road dumped directly into downtown Jackson Hole, and the traffic was horrible when we got to town. It had been a long day and we were overwhelmed by the crowds, so we decided not to stop for a look around. We agreed we would drive back to Jackson on another day to explore this resort town when we were fresh and more tolerant.

A panorama of the South Fork of the Snake River near the Swan Valley of Idaho.

A panorama of the South Fork of the Snake River near the Swan Valley of Idaho.

We had a family of rabbits living with us in our campsite. The dogs spent their evenings watching the critters and wishing they could catch them for a little after dinner treat.

We had a family of rabbits living with us in our campsite. The dogs spent their evenings watching the cuddly creatures and wishing they could catch them for a little after dinner treat.

Yellow sunset ball.

Yellow sunset ball.

Mike and I drove over to Cress Creek Nature Trail for a quick hike one afternoon. It was hot and the trail went straight up, so the dogs waited at home. It was a good move. Piper wouldn't have liked it... would have been too strenuous on is old bones.

Mike and I drove over to Cress Creek Nature Trail for a quick hike one afternoon. It was hot and the trail went straight up, so the dogs waited at home. It was a good move. Piper wouldn’t have liked it… would have been too strenuous on his old bones.

The Snake River from the Cress Creek Trail.

The Snake River from the Cress Creek Trail.

He drives the bus. He grills the dinner. Is there anything this man can't do?

He drives the bus. He grills the dinner. Is there anything this man can’t do?

Our campground fire pit was a good distance from our rig and all of our stuff, so we used our own with some wood scraps underneath to protect the grass. So far, this is the one and only campfire we've had in Idaho.

Our campground fire pit was a good distance from our rig and all of our stuff, so we used our own with some wood scraps underneath to protect the grass. So far, this is the one and only campfire we’ve had in Idaho.

Some rolling farm lands in the Swan Valley.

Some rolling farm lands in the Swan Valley.

We took another route when we returned to Jackson Hole. This time we drove Highway 26 along the Palisades Reservoir and then through the Bridger National Forest. The Honda was happier with no dramatic passes to conquer.

We took another route when we returned to Jackson Hole. This time we drove Highway 26 along the Palisades Reservoir and then through the Bridger National Forest. The Honda was happier with no dramatic passes to conquer.

The Snake River in the Bridger National Forest.

The Snake River in the Bridger National Forest.

Antlers galore.

Antlers galore.

A panorama from the National Elk Refuge on the edge of downtown Jackson Hole.

A panorama from the National Elk Refuge on the edge of downtown Jackson Hole.

Family selfie at an arch of antlers.

Family selfie at an arch of antlers.

The National Elk Refuge looking into the Teton National Forest.

The National Elk Refuge looking into the Teton National Forest.

There was a crazy vertical garden on the side of the garage where we parked the car when we returned to Jackson Hole. It was like a big ferris wheel of vegetation!

There was a crazy vertical garden on the side of the garage where we parked the car when we returned to Jackson Hole. It was like a big ferris wheel of vegetation!

This silo outside the Snake River Brewing Company was covered in stickers. We were wishing we had a couple of Longhorn decals to leave behind.

This silo outside the Snake River Brewing Company was covered in stickers. We were wishing we had a couple of Longhorn decals to leave behind.

Beer Selfie.

Beer Selfie. Cheers, y’all!

Montana Part VII: Missoula

By now you know I’m not a good passenger in the Monaco. The weather was awful on the day we were supposed to leave the West Glacier KOA. There was no color anywhere. Everything was grey. It was foggy and raining. Not good for a travel day. I decided the best way to make the 2+ hour trip from West Glacier to Missoula was to follow behind Mike in the Honda. I had looked at  google maps and it was a narrow road for most of the route. There was no way I would be able to hold it together on the twists and turns, especially when the roads were slick and visibility was bad. Mike agreed. The only problem was that I am usually the one that helps with directions so our Captain can focus on the road ahead instead of trying to analyze a map at the same time. We got the walkie talkies out of the drawer and decided we would try to communicate via those tools if the need arose. Mike had already memorized the roads and turns, so he felt comfortable navigating our path. The Honda was full of all of our outdoor stuff like dog kennels, the ladder, folding chairs, etc… so Piper and Cessna loaded up with Mike and we pulled out about 9:30, with me following. I was still nervous, but I was functional.

Highway 35 runs the length of Flathead Lake’s eastern shore. It is a two-lane winding road with no shoulder and STEEP drop offs to the water below. It seems like we were on that road FOREVER. Every time I saw the break lights go on I rejoiced. We were only driving 45 MPH, but I would have been happier crawling along at a 25 MPH pace. When we arrived at our destination campground I asked Mike if the drive was easier for him without me freaking in the passenger chair. He hugged me and told me it was “intense”. Then we high-fived because we made it safely with no problems. Looks like that drive wasn’t much fun for him either. Let’s just say I was overjoyed that we were staying in Missoula for two weeks. I would finally have a chance to let my nerves settle before we had to drive the rig again.

The Jellystone RV Park was on the northwest side of town just off of Interstate-90. The sites were not spectacular, but the place was clean and convenient. We were a quick 10-minute drive to downtown. Most of the guests at the campground were overnighters. There were only a few of us there for extended stays.

Missoula is a GREAT town! First of all, it is beautiful. Five mountain ranges converge where the Clark Fork River meets up with the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers. There is a beautiful view in every direction. It is a college town with the University of Montana positioned right next to downtown. There are great restaurants, cute shops, lots of live music, plenty of outdoor activities, and throngs of friendly citizens. We enjoyed every day of our visit!

One of my cousins, John, lives near Spokane and Coeur D’alane in Rockford, WA with his wife, Katie, and two kiddos, Kenna and Jake. They recently purchased a plot of land and are living the good life with chickens, pigs, bees and an enormous vegetable garden. From our spot in Missoula they were only three hours from us due west on I-90. Since we were so “close”, I decided to drive over and see them on our first Saturday. Mike stayed at the coach with the dogs. It was a long day for a short visit, but totally worth it. The scenery on my drive was majestic and their house-barn on the top of their hill in the middle of 50 acres is awesome! We will be visiting them again in the future because we will stay in Spokane for a couple of weeks during our stop in Washington. I can’t wait for Mike to see their set up!

As for our time in Missoula, we made the best of it. We spent lots of time in downtown and on the trails in and around the city. We ate at several good restaurants. I did some shopping. Mike found a fishing hole at a state park down the road from us. We went to see Clint Black in concert at the Wilma on a Saturday night. After two weeks of exploring and good times, my stress levels were back down to zero and I was prepared to ride in the passenger seat when we finally left Montana to begin our visit in Idaho.

You might remember the beautiful green mountain that dominated our front view at the West Glacier KOA? Well this was what it looked like the morning we left for Missoula. Please note, this photo is not a black and white picture. Everything was grey that day.

You might remember the beautiful green mountain that dominated our front view at the West Glacier KOA? Well this was what it looked like the morning we left for Missoula. Please note, this photo is not a black and white picture. Everything was grey that day.

I had such mixed emotions while following Mike and the dogs. I was so glad NOT to be inside that coach, but I sure didn't want to watch anything bad happen either! My nerves were still frayed, but it was better I was not a passenger in the Monaco on this leg of the trip.

I had such mixed emotions while following Mike and the dogs. I was so glad NOT to be inside that coach, but I sure didn’t want to watch anything bad happen either! My nerves were still frayed, but it was better that I was not a passenger in the Monaco on this leg of the trip.

A double rainbow appeared as we were setting up in Missoula. The universe telling me I worry too much.

A double rainbow appeared as we were setting up in Missoula. The universe telling me I worry too much.

There is a locks of love bridge in Missoula. There are actually tons of locks of love bridges all over in random places. Every time I see one I wonder if the structure of the bridge is compromised with the weight of the locks like the original one in Paris was.

There is a locks of love bridge in Missoula. There are actually tons of locks of love bridges all over in random places. Every time I see one I wonder if the structure of the bridge is compromised with the weight of the locks like the original one in Paris was.

Mount Sentinel

Mount Sentinel – Home of the M Trail.

Our site number 43 wasn't anything special, but we had enough space to spread out, the price was okay, and it was convenient to get into town. We had no complaints about the Jellystone RV Park.

Our site number 43 wasn’t anything special, but we had enough space to spread out, the price was okay, and it was convenient to get into town. We had no complaints about the Jellystone RV Park.

Interstate 90 headed east somewhere between Idaho and Missoula. If you look very closely you might see a rainbow coming out of the trees into the clouds about midway through the photo.

Interstate 90 headed east somewhere between Idaho and Missoula. If you look very closely you might see a rainbow coming out of the trees into the clouds about midway through the photo.

Wacky hills somewhere on Interstate 90.

Wacky hills somewhere on Interstate 90.

www.roteltours.com I think these folks came out of Alaska and were heading east... but I actually have no idea.

www.roteltours.com
I think these folks came out of Alaska and were heading east… but I actually have no idea.

Full moon from our nightly dog walk.

Full moon on our nightly dog walk.

Starting up the trail to the M.

Starting up the trail to the big white M on Mount Sentinel.

M Selfie

M Trail Selfie

The trail back down: eleven switchbacks. Compared to the Manitou Incline in Colorado, it was a cake walk. We were up and down in less than an hour.

The M Trail back down: eleven switchbacks. Compared to the Manitou Incline in Colorado, it was a cake walk. We were up and down in less than an hour.

Missoula from the M.

Missoula from the M.

In all of the downtowns we have visited on this trip, I can honestly say this is the only time I've watched a guy surf in the city center.

In all of the downtowns we have visited on this trip, I can honestly say this is the only time I’ve watched a guy surf in the city center.

Inspecting the catch of the day.

Inspecting the catch of the day.

Mike landed the largest and smallest trout he's ever caught both on the same day.

Mike landed the largest and smallest trout he’s ever caught both on the same day.

The X's by the depot in downtown Zootown.

The X’s by the depot in downtown Zootown.

I love a farmer's market!

I love a farmer’s market!

The Missoula Farmer's market is set around the historic depot area and these classic trains are the backdrop for the vendors. When you add the brick streets into the mix, the atmosphere is very charming.

The Missoula Farmer’s market is set around the historic depot area and these classic trains are the backdrop for the vendors. When you add the brick streets into the mix, the atmosphere is very charming.

Random street piano between a parking lot and an alley. I can't tell you how many times I walked by with someone different playing a tune.

Random street piano between a parking lot and an alley. I can’t tell you how many times I walked by with someone different playing a tune on its keys.

In addition to the downtown farmer's market, Missoula has a People's Market that showcases arts and crafts merchandise.

In addition to the downtown farmer’s market, Missoula has a People’s Market that showcases arts and crafts merchandise.

One of the lovely historic buildings in downtown Missoula.

One of the lovely historic buildings in downtown Missoula.

We had dinner at the Iron Horse Brewpub in downtown before the Clint Black concert. They had a fantastic patio with lush landscaping everywhere. The food was yummy too!

We had dinner at the Iron Horse Brewpub in downtown before the Clint Black concert. They had a fantastic patio with lush landscaping everywhere. The food was yummy too! During our stay we also enjoyed meals at Tamarack Brewing Company, MacKenzie River Pizza Company (twice… and bought a t-shirt), and the Big Dipper for some righteous ice cream.

Clint Black's bus.

Clint Black’s bus.

This guy is the person who handed Mr. Black a new guitar after each song.

This guy is the person who handed Mr. Black a new guitar after each song.

The Wilma was a wonderful music venue. We had balcony seats, but the bar was right next to us... so it worked out great!

The Wilma was a wonderful music venue. We had balcony seats, but the bar was right next to us… so it worked out great!

We stumbled upon these Texas Longhorns while exploring Traveler's Rest State Park in Lolo.

We stumbled upon these Texas Longhorns while exploring Traveler’s Rest State Park in Lolo.

We went for a short hike when we got to Lolo Hot Springs. We wanted to tire out the dogs so they would nap during the time they had to wait for us at the pool. It tired us out too!

We went for a short hike when we got to Lolo Hot Springs. We wanted to tire out the dogs so they would nap during the time they had to wait for us at the pool. It tired us out too!

Rocks in the woods on our hike.

Rocks in the woods on our hike.

The good thing about hiking straight to the top of a hill is the great view when you get there.

The good thing about hiking straight to the top of a hill is the great view when you get there.

Lolo Hot Springs had a big pool with cool water and a smaller covered pool with hot spring water. I think we paid $10 per person. We hijacked a picnic table outside the fence and covered it with a blanket to make shade. The dogs waited for us under the table.

Lolo Hot Springs had a big pool with cool water and a smaller covered pool with hot spring water. I think we paid $10 per person. We hijacked a picnic table outside the fence and covered it with a blanket to make shade. The dogs waited for us in their “tent” under the table.

Lolo Peak, 9,096 feet.

Lolo Peak, 9,096 feet.

Lolo Brewery selfie.

Lolo Brewery selfie.

Planes on a train, from Mike's fishing spot at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

Planes on a train, from Mike’s fishing spot at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

You can see the RV Park was functional, but nothing special. Our neighbors had this flying eagle flag. I kept giving it a second glance before I remembered it was just a kite.

You can see the RV Park was functional, but nothing special. Our neighbors had this flying eagle flag. I kept giving it a second glance before I remembered it was just a kite.

Our last hike in Montana was to the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Dogs were allowed on a leash for certain portions of the trails, so we took advantage and drove over to get our exercise for the day. I think the trailhead was literally less than five miles from the center of downtown!

Our last hike in Montana was in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness. Dogs were allowed on a leash for certain portions of the trails, so we took advantage and drove over to get our exercise for the day. I think the trailhead was literally less than five miles from the center of downtown!

Part of our Rattlesnake trail. It was the perfect place to burn some calories and breathe some fresh air.

Part of our Rattlesnake trail. It was the perfect place to burn some calories and breathe some fresh air.

Montana Part VI: West Glacier

I had been dreading the trip to West Glacier since Mike made the plans to drive there in the Monaco when we were way back in Cody. I wanted to see Glacier, no doubt. I just didn’t want the Monaco to see Glacier! To be honest, I had never really settled down after the stress of being the passenger in the coach when we drove over the pass into Butte, or when we drove through the narrow construction lanes to Great Falls. I was doing my best to hold it together as we pulled out of Dick’s RV Park and back onto the northbound lanes of  I-15. Everything was fine on the big highway. I was a bit more nervous when we turned west on Hwy 44 and north on Hwy 80. Those roads were two lanes, but they had a shoulder, so it was bearable. That last leg of the drive was 55 miles on Hwy 2 along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. The scenery became more beautiful with every mile, and my anxiety became more acute at the same rate. I will have to admit that I pretty much lost it for the last nine miles. But, of course, Mike did a great job of driving the rig and we arrived safely with no incidents.

We stayed at the West Glacier KOA, which wins the award for nicest campground we’ve ever stayed in. The facility was amazing. They had RV sites available with differing lists of amenities and prices. They also had tent sites, cabins and cottages laid out in the most magnificently landscaped environment I’ve ever seen. There was a family pool and an adult pool (complete with two hot tubs). They even had a small restaurant that served breakfast and dinner, and an ice cream shop that opened in the evenings. It was more of a rustic resort than a campground. I would recommend this lodging option to anyone, regardless of whether they are in a motorhome or not!

We were in West Glacier for two days and three nights, so we decided we would spend one of our days in Whitefish and one of our days in the National Park. We picked the rainy day to visit Whitefish and we saved Glacier for the sunny day. When we met Jim, Deb, Mike and Vicki at “The Kill” in McLeod they told us to go to Casey’s Rooftop Bar when we got to Whitefish. The charming town has about 7,000 residents – or less. The quintessential downtown is set against the backdrop of a mountain and ski resort. The community has lots to offer with its quaint architecture, outdoor activities (including a lake within walking distance of downtown), art, food and shopping. We spent a couple of hours walking through the local shops and galleries. At one point we found a fabulously eccentric grandfather clock that a gentleman had built of out birch and other pieces of wood collected from the forests in the area. However, it was $26,000 and we would have to build a stately cabin in the woods complete with an entry that could facilitate its grandeur… so we decided to pass on the purchase. If I ever win the lottery I’m going back to Dick Idol Signature Gallery to buy something. We did go to Casey’s but the weather was not conducive to spending time on the rooftop bar, so we settled for a drink at the luxurious interior bar instead. After that we walked over to the Craggy Range for another drink and a light dinner. The Craggy Range was hosting a Grand Re-Opening Party after an extensive remodel of the interior and their menu. It was a fun atmosphere to enjoy during happy hour!

We got lucky when the weather forecast actually held true and the day we set aside to visit Glacier was beautiful. The temperatures were brisk and the sky was a clear bright blue. The environment was nothing less than perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Dogs aren’t allowed on most trails in the park, so we walked Piper and Cessna down the road from the KOA to Hwy 2 and back, and then left them at home when we went to Glacier. The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road was not open for the season, so we were only able to drive 16 miles into the park before we had to turn around.  We parked  where the road ended and walked past the barricade for a little while, then we turned around and hopped onto The Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. This was a popular and easy trail, and since it began and ended at the place where the road reached a dead-end, it was packed with humans running the spectrum of ages and nationalities. The crowd factor meant we had to spend a little less time marveling at nature and a bit more energy maneuvering around hopeless individuals with absolutely no cognitive awareness of anything around them. Other than that it was an enjoyable excursion.  We also stopped at McDonald Lodge to have a look at the lake and enjoy a drink and snack in the tavern. The historic lodges in our National Parks are all so wonderful in and of themselves!

Since this was such a quick stop, the rest of our time was spent enjoying the wonderful environment of our campground. I’ll just let the pictures finish off the remainder of the West Glacier story for me.

The drive became very scenic when we turned onto Highway 2. This means my blood pressure increased as the roads became more narrow and winding... not to mention the up and down factor.

The drive became very scenic when we turned onto Highway 2. This means my blood pressure increased as the roads became more narrow and winding… not to mention the up and down factor.

The drive would have been lovely in a regular car.

The drive would have been lovely in a regular car.

Mike kept telling me to look at the scenery and let him watch the road. You mean look at the beautiful river hundreds of feet below where we would pummel into cold rocky waters if we ran off the road? Looking at the scenery did not help my nerves.

Mike kept telling me to look at the scenery and let him watch the road. You mean look at the beautiful river hundreds of feet below where we would plummet into cold rocky waters if we ran off the road? Looking at the scenery did not help my nerves.

The West Glacier KOA had several "tiers" of RV spots which ranged in price. This is one of the Patio spots. They came with their own grill and 6-piece dining table - umbrella included. Luxurious.

The West Glacier KOA had several “tiers” of RV spots which ranged in price. This is one of the Patio spots. They came with their own grill and 6-piece dining table – umbrella included. Luxurious.

The landscaping around this KOA complex was amazing. Each cabin had its own landscaped patio. Everything was immaculate.

The landscaping around this KOA complex was amazing. Each cabin had its own landscaped patio. Everything was immaculate.

We had a spot at the lowest tier level: no patio, grill, table, concrete, or flowers. Just a skinny patch of lush grass. We were only there three nights, so we didn't mind saving the money. The accommodations were still very nice.

We had a spot at the lowest tier level: no patio, grill, table, concrete, or flowers. Just a skinny patch of lush grass. We were only there three nights, so we didn’t mind saving the money. The accommodations were still very nice.

Our view.

Our view.

It was so nice that the sidewalks in Whitefish were covered because we could still browse through the shops and not get drenched in between stores. The rain was no factor for us that day!

It was so nice that the sidewalks in Whitefish were covered because we could still browse through the shops and not get drenched in between stores. The rain was no factor for us that day!

Wonderful art is everywhere in Whitefish.

Wonderful art is everywhere in Whitefish.

The roof top bar at Casey's in Whitefish was closed because of the wet weather, but we went upstairs to take a look around anyway. Definitely one of the coolest open air bars we've seen! I'm sure evenings up there at sunset with all the lights aglow against the background of the individual table top fires is something to cherish.

The roof top bar at Casey’s in Whitefish was closed because of the wet weather, but we went upstairs to take a look around anyway. Definitely one of the coolest open air bars we’ve seen! I’m sure evenings up there at sunset with all the lights aglow against the background of the individual table top fires is something to cherish.

Downtown Whitefish from the rooftop. The rain cleared and the sun came out in time for the farmer's market!

Downtown Whitefish from the rooftop. The rain cleared and the sun came out in time for the farmer’s market!

Whitefish selfie at the Craggy Range Bar & Grill

Whitefish selfie at the Craggy Range Bar & Grill

My new favorite number.

My new favorite number.

Glacier.

Glacier.

Selfie at Glacier National Park.

Selfie at Glacier National Park.

The water in the streams was crystal clear.

The water in the streams was crystal clear.

Going to the Sun Road was not open for the summer season yet. We drove 16 miles into the park from the West Glacier entrance. At that point we parked the car and roamed around a bit.

Going to the Sun Road was not open for the summer season yet. We drove 16 miles into the park from the West Glacier entrance. At that point we parked the car and roamed around a bit.

I've not been to Hawaii yet, but if you told me this photo was taken there I would believe you.

I’ve not been to Hawaii yet, but if you told me this photo was taken there I would believe you.

Mystical purple rocks.

Mystical purple rocks.

We heard rushing water and meandered off the road to find this beautiful sight.

We heard rushing water and meandered off the road to find this beautiful sight.

The boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail took us through a magical alley of hemlocks and red cedars. Some of these trees were 500 years old!

The boardwalk on the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail took us through a magical alley of hemlocks and red cedars. Some of these trees were 500 years old!

The roots on this upended tree looked like a perfect work of art to me.

The roots on this upended tree looked like a perfect work of art to me.

Green.

Green.

How's this for beautiful?! Glacially melted water rushing down a gorge.

How’s this for beautiful?! Glacially melted water rushing down a gorge.

These red wagons in Glacier were so charming.

These red wagons in Glacier were so charming.

Lake McDonald looking at Stanton Mountain (7750 ft), Mount Vaught (8850 ft), and Mount Brown (8565 ft). I think.

Lake McDonald looking at Stanton Mountain (7750 ft), Mount Vaught (8850 ft), and Mount Brown (8565 ft). I think.

McDonald Lodge.

McDonald Lodge.

Inside the McDonald Lodge.

Inside the McDonald Lodge.

Our KOA had a family swimming pool and a separate adult swimming pool with two hot tubs!

Our KOA had a family swimming pool and a separate adult swimming pool with two hot tubs!

Dogs are waiting for the potatoes to bake.

Dogs are waiting for the potatoes to bake.

 

Montana Part V: Great Falls

The route to Great Falls from Butte was north on I-15 the whole way. We drove through a canyon leaving Butte, and by the time we reached our destination the landscape began to widen into grassy rolling hills. I didn’t know what to expect when we got to Great Falls, and we ended up spending a nice weekend in the cute town. We were able to take advantage of walking trails near our campground, I visited the local farmer’s market, we explored two museums, and had dinner out at a local restaurant chain called Jaker’s. By the time we finished those excursions, it was time to get back on the road.

We drove north on I-15 from Butte to Great Falls. It was only a two-hour drive, but there was construction on much of the route and Mike had to deal with a rude Semi Truck driver that cut us off at a lane change, so we were happy to get set up at Dick's RV Park.

We drove north on I-15 from Butte to Great Falls. It was only a two-hour drive, but there was construction on much of the route and Mike had to deal with a rude Semi Truck driver that cut us off at a lane change, so we were happy to get set up at Dick’s RV Park.

Our spot at Dick's RV Park was nothing to remember, but the water pressure and location were both good.

Our spot at Dick’s RV Park was nothing to remember, but the water pressure and location were both good.

I went downtown on Saturday morning to check out the Farmer's Market. I bought some brownies, cherry strudels and grilled pork on a stick!

I went downtown on Saturday morning to check out the Farmer’s Market. I bought some brownies, cherry strudels and grilled pork on a stick!

We weren't allowed to take photographs inside the C.M. Russell Museum, but it was a highlight on our stop. The facility houses an amazing amount of art by Great Falls' Charlie Russell, as well as other notable western artists.

We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the C.M. Russell Museum, but it was a highlight on our stop. The facility houses an amazing amount of art by Great Falls’ Charlie Russell, as well as other notable western artists.

Another amazing museum in Great Falls was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Another amazing museum in Great Falls was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Giant Springs State Park is located adjacent to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center beside the Missouri River. It was a lush spot with lots of walking trails in each direction.

Giant Springs State Park is located adjacent to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center beside the Missouri River. It was a lush spot with lots of walking trails in each direction.

The water near the Giant Springs was crystal clear and shimmering with the neon green plants beneath the water's surface.

The water near the Giant Springs was crystal clear and shimmering with the neon green plants beneath the water’s surface.

The Missouri River in Great Falls.

The Missouri River in Great Falls.

The Great Falls were always there, and the man-made dam came later.

The Great Falls were always there, and the man-made dam came later.

This shot of the Missouri River is from one of the main roads in town.

This shot of the Missouri River is from one of the main roads in town.

Montana Part IV: Butte

We had always planned to see Glacier National Park while in Montana, only we had two different opinions on how to get there. Since I’m a panicky passenger and terrified on the winding mountain roads, my suggestion was to drive on I-90 to Missoula and stay in one spot for two or three weeks. We could leave the rig parked at the campground and take the Honda on a little side trip up into Glacier. We’ve done this before on our American Adventure, to the Outerbanks of North Carolina, Mackinac Island in Michigan and to downtown Boston. The problem with my proposal was that when leaving Missoula we would have to backtrack east on I-90 to Butte to get onto I-15 and head south into the next state of Idaho.

Mike didn’t want to backtrack, so he devised a different plan. His idea was to drive on I-90 from Big Timber to Butte and stay two nights (one full day). Then from Butte, drive north on I-15 to Great Falls and stay three nights. After Great Falls we would eventually leave the interstate and drive west on a winding Highway 2 along the southern edge of Glacier National Park, and end up at the KOA by the West Entrance into the park. We hadn’t even left Big Timber and I was already having anxiety about that last travel day in the mountains of the northern part of the Treasure State. Mike is the driver, so his idea prevailed.

It was only about a two-hour drive from Big Timber to Butte, so we got parked and set up early in the day. We took advantage of the city’s walking trail beside our campground and tuckered out the dogs after we arrived. The next morning we took a trolley tour to learn about the historic parts of town. I didn’t know Butte was a mining town with such a rich history and diverse cultural population. We were thoroughly entertained as a history teacher from the high school drove us around town pointing out significant buildings and telling stories about the local characters associated with them. After our tour we took Piper and Cessna on another long walk along the city’s recreation path, and then I went back to downtown to take some photos of some of the buildings I had seen. That night we went to eat dinner at a sports bar that operates from an old downtown bank building. We were only in Butte for a short stop, but I feel like we learned lots of stuff during our time there.

I-90 heading into Bozeman on our drive from Big Timber to Butte. It was a beautiful drive with a big pass at Goldflint Mountain near the end of the trip that had my nerves frayed. Semi trucks were going downhill in the opposite lanes at about 20 miles per hour because the grade was so steep. We were going about the same speed in the climbing lanes.

I-90 heading into Bozeman on our drive from Big Timber to Butte. It was a beautiful drive with a big pass at Goldflint Mountain near the end of the trip that had my nerves frayed. Semi trucks were going downhill in the opposite lanes at about 20 miles per hour because the grade was so steep. We were going about the same speed in the climbing lanes.

Piper looked so perfectly uncomfortable as we rolled down the highway.

Piper looked so perfectly uncomfortable as we rolled down the highway.

We arrived in Butte early enough to have a good walk along a city trail that skirted the KOA campground.

We arrived in Butte early enough to have a good walk along a city trail that skirted the KOA campground.

Our spot was tight and narrow, but we weren't there long enough to worry too much about it.

Our spot was tight and narrow, but we weren’t there long enough to worry too much about it.

Mounts of wildlife from the area in the Visitor's Center.

Mounts of wildlife from the area in the Visitor’s Center.

Trolley selfie. I usually go on these excursions alone, so I was astonished when it was Mike's idea to buy tickets for the local tour. A history teacher from Butte High School was our guide, and it was a very informative hour!

Trolley selfie. I usually go on these excursions alone, so I was astonished when it was Mike’s idea to buy tickets for the local tour. A history teacher from Butte High School was our guide, and it was a very informative hour!

Most of the town is oriented toward the mine. It isn't pretty, but it generates a strong local economy.

Most of the town is oriented toward the mine. It isn’t pretty, but it generates a strong local economy.

This is water that has seeped out of the underground tunnels at the Berkeley Mining Pit. It is toxic. It's levels are eminently approaching catastrophic depths. No one can decide how to handle remediation of this problem. So it sits. The mining company has to keep the birds away because the last time a flock of geese landed on the water, all three hundred - or so - of them died. The local government blamed the dilemma on a farmer in a nearby county. Said he had poisoned the flock and they all happened to die just as they flew over the "pit".

This is water that has seeped out of the underground tunnels at the Berkeley Mining Pit. It is toxic. It’s levels are eminently approaching catastrophic depths. No one can decide how to handle remediation of this problem. So it sits. The mining company has to keep the birds away because the last time a flock of geese landed on the water, all three hundred – or so – of them died. The local government blamed the dilemma on a farmer in a nearby county. Said he had poisoned the flock and they all happened to die just as they flew over the “pit”.

Immigrants from all ethnicities and cultures came to Butte to work in the mines, making the historic architecture of the city remarkably diverse. This wonderful building was built by the Irish.

Immigrants from all ethnicities and cultures came to Butte to work in the mines, making the historic architecture of the city remarkably diverse. This wonderful building was built by the Irish.

Montana Tech of the University of Montana (with the M on a Butte, no less), an old mine shaft and one of the dozens of churches in the small town. A tidy summary of the community's personality.

Montana Tech of the University of Montana (with the M on a Butte, no less), an old mine shaft and one of the dozens of churches in the small town. A tidy summary of the community’s personality.

The wealth generated from the local mines is evident in the historic neighborhoods near downtown.

The wealth generated from the local mines is evident in the historic neighborhoods near downtown.

The Hennessy Building was built in 1898 to house Montana's first department store. Over 100 years later it still stands proudly in all of its glamour and elegance. The department store is gone, but a market occupies the ground floor and offices still conduct business on the upper floors.

The Hennessy Building was built in 1898 to house Montana’s first department store. Over 100 years later it still stands proudly in all of its glamour and elegance. The department store is gone, but a market occupies the ground floor and offices still conduct business on the upper floors.

The Dumas Brothel was a bordello founded in 1890 to "service" the workers from the area copper mines. The business operated up until 1982 - making it the longest operating brothel in the United States. The building is now restored and operating as a museum. Several ghosts are also believed to occupy the structure.

The Dumas Brothel was a bordello founded in 1890 to “service” the workers from the area copper mines. The business operated up until 1982 – making it the longest operating brothel in the United States. The building is now restored and operating as a museum. Several ghosts are also believed to occupy the structure.

If you look closely, you will see that Mother Mary protects the City of Butte from a mountain high above the community.

If you look closely, you will see that Mother Mary protects the City of Butte from a mountain high above the community.

Inside the historic Metals Bank building - turned sports bar in downtown Butte. When the building was being constructed, this safe arrived into town by train. After it was off- loaded from the tracks, it took a team of horses TWO DAYS to get it up the hill of downtown and into the bank lobby.

Inside the historic Metals Bank building – turned sports bar in downtown Butte. When the building was being constructed, this safe arrived into town by train. After it was off- loaded from the tracks, it took a team of horses TWO DAYS to get it up the hill of downtown and into the bank lobby.

As we were preparing to leave Butte and travel to Great Falls, we heard a loud explosion and looked out the window of the Monaco to see a giant cloud of dust hovering over a group of tent campers sprinting toward the walking trail. An 18-wheeler loaded with cherries was traveling eastbound on I-90 when he stopped paying attention to driving and reached down to pick up something he had dropped (or so he says... was probably texting or working on his laptop). He immediately lost control, crossed the center median, clipped a mini-van in oncoming traffic (and sent it onto the shoulder of opposite lanes of the interstate), and came to rest upside down in a creek beside the walking trail next to our campground. Emergency workers had to cut the driver out of the cab. By the grace of GOD no one was killed. Needless to say, this did not put me in a relaxed state of mind as Mike rolled the Monaco out onto the interstate.

As we were preparing to leave Butte and travel to Great Falls, we heard a loud explosion and looked out the window of the Monaco to see a giant cloud of dust hovering over a group of tent campers sprinting toward the walking trail. An 18-wheeler loaded with cherries was traveling eastbound on I-90 when he stopped paying attention to driving and reached down to pick up something he had dropped (or so he says… was probably texting or working on his laptop). He immediately lost control, crossed the center median, clipped a mini-van in oncoming traffic (and sent it onto the shoulder of opposite lanes of the interstate), and came to rest upside down in a creek beside the walking trail next to our campground. Emergency workers had to cut the driver out of the cab. By the grace of GOD no one was killed. Needless to say, this did not put me in a relaxed state of mind as Mike rolled the Monaco out onto the interstate.