Montana Part III: Big Timber

We had to drive on a gravel road out of Cooney State Park for about three miles before we came to a paved county road. We waited to hook up the Honda until we got to the pavement so the rig wouldn’t spit rocks out onto the front of the car. After we were all in the same vehicle we took the narrow county road  to a slightly larger state Highway and eventually got onto I-90 at Columbus. From there we drove for a short while until we reached our next campground in Big Timber. The drive was pretty and quick, so it was an easy travel day.

Our reservation in Big Timber was only for one week and it turned out to be a good one. Big Timber is a small town of less than 2,000 in Sweet Grass County. The rolling hills of farms, livestock and sweet grass wave their way along the Yellowstone and Boulder Rivers toward shiny white mountain ranges on a nearby horizon. The Absaroka Mountain Range was to our south. Crazy Peak and Loco Mountain were to the north. I did not make that up. The Spring Creek Campground and Trout Farm was about 20 miles north of the Gallatin National Forest, just far enough off of I-90 for both easy access and peaceful quiet. The Boulder River bordered the eastern edge of our campground, and the roar it continuously emitted was enough to drown out the sound of birds when the water rushed strong enough. In the background it sounded like wind. The campground was immaculately landscaped. Most of the guests were there for one or two nights, but a couple of other campers were like us and were there for more than a quick stop. They also had cabins that guests could rent, and a tent camping area was on the far side in a grassy area close to the river. The dogs loved it because there were fields of pristine lush green grass to sniff and roll around on.  There was even a camp cat named Cookie.

During the times that we weren’t enjoying our campground, we kept busy with daily excursions. We went to see a waterfall in the National Forest. It is the first one I recall seeing that goes through a chute and explodes out the bottom of a rock. We went to mass at the Catholic Church, but the website was wrong so we were 15 minutes late. We met some friends for lunch (as if I can say that every day, ha). We found an ultra cool local bar called Holly’s Roadkill Saloon. In fact, we liked it so much when we visited on a Friday afternoon, that we went back on Saturday! We had dinner in the saloon of the Grand Hotel in downtown, and took the dogs to walk in one of the municipal parks on the river. As I said, it was a good week!

Our spot at Spring Creek Campground & Trout Farm. It was pretty tight. We never had any neighbors in the open space beside us, so it worked out just fine.

Our spot at Spring Creek Campground & Trout Farm. It was pretty tight. We never had any neighbors in the open space beside us, so it worked out just fine.

The Boulder River was the eastern border of the campground.

The Boulder River was the eastern border of the campground.

When we were at Cooney State Park we didn't have internet or phone service. By the time we arrived in Big Timber, I was starved for a "connection". We were down in a hole by the river, so our ATT signal still didn't work. However, the campground was supposed to have free wifi. We couldn't log on to the park's signal from our camping spot, and when I told the lady at the front desk about the problem her answer was "it should work". But it didn't. So for the first couple of days I hauled my laptop to the pavilion by the office to get online and work on my blog. It finally dawned on one of the staffers to reset the signal that pointed in the direction of our site. After he reset the switch we were good with a signal in our coach and I didn't have to go to the pavilion in the mornings with my coffee and laptop.

When we were at Cooney State Park we didn’t have internet or phone service. By the time we arrived in Big Timber, I was starved for a “connection”. We were down in a hole by the river, so our ATT signal still didn’t work. However, the campground was supposed to have free wifi. We couldn’t log on to the park’s signal from our camping spot, and when I told the lady at the front desk about the problem her answer was “it should work”. But it didn’t. So for the first couple of days I hauled my laptop to the pavilion by the office to get online and work on my blog. It finally dawned on one of the staffers to reset the signal that pointed in the direction of our site. After he reset the switch we were good with a signal in our coach and I didn’t have to go to the pavilion in the mornings with my coffee and laptop.

Cookie the camp cat. He helped me work on my laptop on the mornings that I worked in the pavilion. Later in our stay he ambushed Piper from under our picnic table by the Monaco. The dog came out of it with a scratch on his face and a renewed fervor for the destruction of all things feline.

Cookie the camp cat. He helped me work on my laptop on the mornings that I worked in the pavilion. Later in our stay he ambushed Piper from under our picnic table by the Monaco. The dog came out of it with a scratch on his face and a renewed fervor for the destruction of all things feline.

The trout farm part of our campground.

The trout farm part of our campground.

Natural Bridge Falls in the Gallatin National Forest was about 26 miles down the road from our campground. It was easy to find... just turn into the parking lot where the paved road ends.

Natural Bridge Falls in the Gallatin National Forest was about 26 miles down the road from our campground. It was easy to find… just turn into the parking lot where the paved road ends.

The Boulder River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. It rises in the Gallatin National Forest in the Absaroka Mountain Range and flows north to Big Timber, where it hooks up with the Yellowstone River.

The Boulder River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. It rises in the Gallatin National Forest in the Absaroka Mountain Range and flows north to Big Timber, where it hooks up with the Yellowstone River.

Some crazy rocks in the Natural Bridge Falls Recreation Area.

Some crazy rocks in the Natural Bridge Falls Recreation Area.

Wikipedia says the Boulder Rivers flows through a cataract under a natural bridge. So you are looking at a cataract.

Wikipedia says the Boulder Rivers flows through a cataract under a natural bridge. So you are looking at a cataract.

Taking it all in.

Taking it all in.

During late spring for about 4 or 5 hours (only), when the snowmelt is just right, the waterfall will go OVER the rocks as well as through the chute.

During late spring for about 4 or 5 hours (only), when the snowmelt is just right, the waterfall will go OVER the rocks as well as through the chute.

Mindy dog at The Kill. You might notice her collar says PLEASE DO NOT FEED ME. I don't think she can read because that doesn't stop her from asking anyone nearby to share their lunch.

Mindy dog at The Kill. You might notice her collar says PLEASE DO NOT FEED ME. I don’t think she can read because that doesn’t stop her from asking anyone nearby to share their lunch.

The view on the road into our campground was a good one.

The view on the road into our campground was a good one.

A sign behind the bar at The Kill.

A sign behind the bar at The Kill.

I thought Mike was taking a photo of me... but he was really capturing a picture of this immaculately restored 1940's Peterbilt.

I thought Mike was taking a photo of me… but he was really capturing a picture of this immaculately restored 1940’s Peterbilt.

The Max has the reputation for being the best band in Montana. They've been playing together for 30 years and they were GREAT!!!

The Max has the reputation for being the best band in Montana. They’ve been playing together for 30 years and they were GREAT!!!

A selfie from the summer bash at The Kill.

A selfie from the summer bash at The Kill.

Those are our friends that we met during the summer bash party at The Kill. Jerry, Vicki, Deb and Jim were passing through on their way to Chico Hot Springs. We struck up a conversation and enjoyed visiting with them until they got back on the road and drove west.

Those are our friends that we met during the summer bash party at The Kill. Mike, Vicki, Deb and Jim were passing through on their way to Chico Hot Springs. We struck up a conversation and enjoyed visiting with them until they got back on the road and drove west.

Even the band had an exceptional view on that fun Saturday afternoon.

Even the band had an exceptional view on that fun Saturday afternoon.

A drone was at the party. We all waved. A couple of girls (and by girls, I mean ladies in their early 60's) lifted their shirts!

A drone was at the party. We all waved. A couple of girls (and by girls, I mean ladies in their early 60’s) lifted their shirts!

Mike spotted this bald eagle on a fence post while we were driving back to our campground. It was gazing out at a pasture full of sheep. It started flying right as I snapped the photo.

Mike spotted this bald eagle on a fence post while we were driving back to our campground. It was gazing out at a pasture full of sheep. It started flying right as I snapped the photo.

Where is Cookie the camp cat???

Where is Cookie the camp cat???

My friend Nancy and her husband live in Houston (with their sweet pup Aro), but have a summer home in Sand Point, Idaho. They were literally passing through Big Timber on their way up north, so they stopped to have lunch with us. What a fun treat!

My friend Nancy and her husband, Wright, live in Houston (with their sweet pup Aro), and have a summer home in Sand Point, Idaho. They were literally passing through Big Timber on their way up north, so they stopped to have lunch with us. What a fun treat!

A small group of pronghorn antelope lived on the "hill" across from the entrance into our campground. This mama had two babies with her. We got to see them every day!

A small group of pronghorn antelope lived on the “hill” across from the entrance into our campground. This mama had two babies with her. We got to see them every day!

A typical view from Highway 89 driving south toward Gardiner - and the northern entrance into Yellowstone.

A typical view from Highway 89 driving south toward Gardiner – and the northern entrance into Yellowstone.

Chico Hot Springs Resort was a little over one hour's drive from Big Timber. I went on a solo daytrip to see the resort and soak in the hot springs.

Chico Hot Springs Resort was a little over one hour’s drive from Big Timber. I went on a solo daytrip to see the resort and soak in the hot springs.

The tourist literature says something to the effect of "guests ask us if we can turn down the temperatures in the pools, but we cannot because it comes from the ground".

The tourist literature says something to the effect of “guests ask us if we can turn down the temperatures in the pools, but we cannot because it comes from the ground”.

Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa was established in 1900. I want to go back and stay there! In addition to the mineral pools, they have rafting, fishing, hiking, horseback tours, a spa, two restaurants and a bar with live music. In the winter they have skiing, snow shoeing and dogsled treks!

Chico Hot Springs Resort and Day Spa was established in 1900. I want to go back and stay there! In addition to the mineral pools, they have rafting, fishing, hiking, horseback tours, a spa, two restaurants and a bar with live music. In the winter they have skiing, snow shoeing and dogsled treks!

Is this not the best neon sign you've ever seen on a bar!

Is this not the best neon sign you’ve ever seen on a bar!

 

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