Year 2 Days 272 and 273 Thar’s Snow In Them Thar’ Hills

Yesterday was football Saturday so I just laid back in our soft, comfy recliner, clicker in hand, and spent the day watching football. I love college football. Fortunately, the two teams I am attached to, Michigan and Michigan State, both won. However, their wins were not very impressive and if either team wishes to be national force, they are going to have to develop some mental toughness. Too many mistakes, missed blocks, dropped passes, too many penalties. Sigh.

We were going to leave our campground this morning and start making our way through and around the Rocky Mountains. However, it rained here last night. Thus, Mary Margaret suggested that we wait a day since tomorrow’s weather will be improving. My inspection of the weather impacts on the route we will be taking shows that the roads only received rain but, with temperatures hovering in the low 30’s, bridges and overpasses could be slippery, especially until the temperatures slowly rise as the day progresses.

The higher elevations did get a dumping of wet snow. Originally, we were going to push up, over and then through the mountains surrounding Yellowstone to get to our next campground, called Red Mountain, near Manhattan, Montana. However, after our drive a few days ago exploring Yellowstone, we decided not to do so. There was a very bad section of road that was all torn up and under repair. That section was 4 miles long and you could only drive 10 to 20 miles an hour on it. Plus, we would have to go over passes that cut through the Absaroka Range that reached up to 8500 feet. Instead, we decided that we will be driving due north to go around the Absaroka Mountains before heading west to Bozeman, Montana. This would avoid going over the higher mountain passes keeping our elevation below 5500 feet. This morning, Red Lodge, Montana, whose elevation is about 5600 and is only about 30 miles from our route, did have a few inches of wet snow that as of 8 AM still had snow on the ground. This webcam photo demonstrates this.

Red Lodge Mt Webcam

With this eye on the weather and the potential impacts on road conditions, we have decided to stay put here at our campsite near Cody, Wyoming for one extra day to let the road conditions improve before we head out.

Year 2 Day 270 and 271 What A Relief

We must admit, yesterday we were riveted to the TV, watching the Senate’s Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Dr. Ford’s and Judge Kavanagh’s testimony. It was heartbreaking to watch and this morning we were so very depressed knowing that our political system is so broken. The thought of having such significant allegations of sexual abuse by a potential Supreme Court Justice not being investigated by an independent institution, such as the FBI, was horrific to us. We understand the politics involved in all of this, including the Republican’s desire to get this nomination done, and the Democrat’s desire to delay in hopes of capturing the Senate before Trump can put another conservative person on the Supreme Court.

Dr. Ford’s testimony rang true and honest to us. Kavanagh’s testimony was a bit shocking as he put forth a conspiracy theory that sounded a bit extreme and then he was belligerent in a manner to avoid answering questions. Plus, he sounded angry and very partisan, which Justices are supposed to be. Now, to be fair, he did make some points in support of his position but he left too many questions unanswered such that he did not come off very credible to us.

We hope that whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you also believe that the political goals of each respective party need to be put aside and the truth of this matter be uncovered. The ends do not justify the means. We are a country of laws and due process and each of these need to be followed before we rush to put a person on the Supreme Court with this baggage on his back. Whether Kavanagh is guilty or not, a Justice needs to be above question regarding his/her ethics and moral standing. We must demand and get to the truth behind these allegations for the future decisions of the Supreme Court to be respected and honored and its esteem position protected.

With this in mind, we left LeuC this morning in a depressed state of mind as we had heard that Senator Jeff Flake had issued a statement that he was going to vote to move Kavanagh’s nomination to the floor of the Senate. He was the key vote on this matter. Sigh. We then spent the rest of the day trying to find a way we could restore our faith in our political system by getting out and about. We decided on touring the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

It was not until we returned to LeuC that we discovered that Senator Flake, on his way to vote, had been approached by a couple of women, two who had had been molested, pleading with him to have the allegations investigated by the FBI. They, apparently, had an impact on him and he worked a deal within the Senate’s Judiciary Committee to move the nomination forward but delay the final vote for a week while having the FBI investigate this further during the next week. Yea! Our faith has been restored. Politics have taken a back seat to due process and an independent investigation would happen. Non-partisan, factual information will be forth coming. The facts and information that this investigation will uncover should bear weight, one way or another, on whether this nomination passes or not.
By the way, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Buffalo Bill Center. It is the home of 5 museums: the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Plains Indian Museum and the Cody Firearms Museum. They are too massive and interesting to take in during just one day. Thus, we only visited three of them (Buffalo Bill Museum, Draper Natural History Museum and the Plains Indian Museum). They were wonderful and we encourage you to visit them if you even come to the Yellowstone area. While there, we also sat in on a raptor demonstration where we met and learned about a Peregrine Falcon and a Turkey Vulture.

We finally had an early diner at a Chinese restaurant and while we did, we were surprised to see a small-town parade march by our window seats. It was the local high school’s homecoming and its marching band, cheerleaders, flag team, the school’s Homecoming King and Queen were followed by the football team and simple floats made by the school’s Senior, Junior, Sophomore and Freshman classes. The main street had been closed off by the police and people had lined the street to enjoy the parade. What a hoot!

Year 2 Day 269 Yellowstone National Park

In anticipation of a long day, we left LeuC and headed up toward Yellowstone National Park this morning at 9 AM. Our anticipation was spot on as we did not return to LeuC until 5 PM, making our day of driving and touring 8 hours. We were exhausted! Nevertheless, it was worth it because the day was chocked full of unique sights that makes Yellowstone so special.

One of the things we discovered is that Yellowstone is huge. You can not take it all in during just one day. It is over 3400 square miles in area and completely covers the northwest corner of the state of Wyoming.

I had studied various recommendations regarding what to see and decided that our best choice was taking what is called the lower loop. There are two loops, a lower and upper loop, that wind through the park, taking you to a wide variety of sights to see and things to do. The lower loop includes a number of geysers, mud pots, steaming vents, scenic views of both the Yellowstone River and the Gibbon river (both famous for the trout fishing they offer), wide open grassy meadows with buffaloes grazing, and the huge Yellowstone Lake that dominates the basin within the huge caldera of this volcanic area.

Instead of writing about what we saw, I will let the photos do the talking.

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We arrived at Old Faithful too late to watch that geyser erupt. Its eruption lasted for over three minutes so that meant the next eruption would not be for another 90 minutes. Since it was so late in the afternoon, we opted not to wait for it. If you have never seen it, I have embedded a video of it that I have taken from YouTube. Just Click Here

We ended up driving over 250 miles today taking  8 hours with stops but it was worth it. The park is very special with all of the neat things to see and do.

Tomorrow will be a day of rest and then we will drive down the mountain to Cody and spend the day taking in the great western museums that town has to offer.

Year 2 Days 267 and 268 Buffalo Bill State Park

Yesterday, we left the Little Big Horn and headed west toward Yellowstone. Our goal was the Buffalo Bill State Park just west of Cody, Wyoming. It is on the route that takes you to the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. We had tried to make a reservation at one of the campgrounds inside of Yellowstone but discovered that all but one campground closes after Labor Day. The one campground that is still open had been booked full for over a month. Thus, the closest campground we were able to get into was Buffalo Bill State Park, which is still an hour’s drive from Yellowstone.

The drive to our new park was easy but took 4 hours with a stop to refuel LeuC. When we arrived, we discovered that I had made a mistake in making this reservation over a month ago. I had it down that our reservation was to start on the 24th but in reality, it was to start on the 25th. Ugh!

While all of the camping sites that had electricity were full, the park still had sites available to dry dock. Whew! We happily snagged a beautiful site and settled in for the day. Since it was supposed to get down to near freezing during the night, I prepped the diesel heater option that we have and ended up running that overnight. It kept us nice and warm and only uses a gallon of diesel overnight.

Our views of Buffalo Bill Reservoir, the mountains surrounding it and our campsite were fantastic as you can see below.

Today, we moved over to our reserved site once it was open. Now plugged into 50-amp power, we can run our heat pumps during the day to keep warm and rely on our diesel heater only during the night. It is important to run the diesel heater whenever the air temperature can get down to freezing to prevent the heat exchanger on the diesel heater from freezing and bursting delicate tubing. Being plugged into power also means that we can keep the house batteries fully charged without running our generator. With two refrigerators, a dishwasher and a washer and drier, we can be just as hungry for electricity as a house.

After moving into our new site, I drove back down the road a few miles to explore the Buffalo Bill Dam and its visitor’s center. I had read that the dam was built in 1909 and when it opened, it was the tallest dam in the world. It cost about a million dollars to build which, over a hundred years ago, was quite a sum. Now, it is just a drop in the bucket.

I took a number of photos while there and will let them show you what I saw.

Tomorrow, we will go up the road and spend the day exploring Yellowstone.

Year 2 Day 266 Little Big Horn Battlefield National Memorial

This morning, Mary Margaret and I drove the very short distance over to the Little Big Horn Battlefield Memorial. It is the location of the last great battle that was fought between the Native American Indians and the white man where the Indians won. However, the Indians now share with us that it is where they won the battle but they lost their land.

The history and events that lead to and then during this battle are complex but I have found an excellent YouTube video of a National Park Service Interpreter giving a presentation of these events and the battle. Instead of trying to paraphrase what I learned from watching it along with what we learned at the Memorial’s Visitors Center, I am embedding that video into this blog. I strongly suggest that you watch it as what you will learn is amazing. The watch the video Click Here

Here is a map of the battlefield that shows the movements of the battle.

Map Of Little Bir Horn

I will post the many photos that we took while walking and then driving throughout the battlefield.

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Tomorrow, we leave our campsite here and continue west with our destination being Buffalo Bill State Park, that is in the eastern shadow of Yellowstone National Park.

Year 2 Day 265 Home, Home On The Range

…Where the deer and the antelope play… As we made our way from Devils Tower, Wyoming to The Little Big Horn in Montana, I felt like we were living that old song that I grew up with as a kid. We were crossing the wide-open range lands of Wyoming and Montana and, as we were, we saw herds of deer and antelope roaming across the rangeland. For a while, I felt like we were back on safari in Africa with the wide open, grass-covered savannas and herds of wild animals roaming free. It was pretty cool!

Antelope

Along the way we passed places with such names of Powder River, Crazy Woman Creek, Prairie Dog Creek; some were the sites of battles during the Indian Wars. I have copied a description of one such battle so you can get a flavor of the history of this area:
“The Battle of Crazy Woman Creek, Wyoming By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2018.
Crazy Woman Creek (July 20, 1866) – Another clash occurred by Indians resisting travel on the Bozeman Trail when Sioux and Cheyenne warriors attacked a small wagon train at the trail crossing of the Crazy Woman Fork of Powder River on July 20, 1866. Escorted by Lieutenant George M. Templeton and a detachment of 29 soldiers, the train was heading north to Fort Phil Kearny. The party passed by Fort Reno before following Dry Creek to its junction with Crazy Woman Creek.

Scouting ahead, Lieutenants Templeton and Napoleon H. Daniels were attacked by more than 50 warriors. Daniels was killed and Templeton took an arrow in his back and was wounded in the face. However, he was able to make it back to the wagon train, which he ordered corralled. The situation was desperate as of the 37 people in the party nine were women and children and only ten of the 19 enlisted soldiers had guns. A battle raged from early afternoon through sundown, at which time the soldiers were getting low on ammunition. Two men including a soldier and the Chaplain Reverend David White volunteered to ride back to Fort Reno for help. However, before they were on their way, another larger wagon train came along the scene. Comprised of 34 wagons and 47 men, under Captain Thomas B. Burrowes, approached from the northwest on its way to Fort Reno. Burrowes quickly took command of both parties and the Indians left the area. One of Burrowes’ men, Private Terrence Callery, who had been hunting ahead of the wagon train was killed. The next morning the soldiers found the body of Lieutenant Daniels stripped, scalped, and pierced with 22 arrows. Both wagon trains then returned to Fort Reno.”

We were driving due west across Wyoming until we smacked into the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. Then we turned due north and followed the flanks of the Rockies until we entered Montana and continued on until we reached the Little Bighorn River, flowing through the Crow Indian Reservation. We will be staying at the only camping place that is near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. It is a RV park but it’s saving grace is that it is the off season and is mostly empty.

Tomorrow, we will explore the battlefield and a museum before continuing on to Yellowstone National Park on Monday.

Year 2 Day 264 Devils Tower

As soon as we got up this morning we rushed over to the local supermarket to reprovision. Last night, Jeannie and Ed gave us a heads’ up as to where we should grocery shop in Custer. Since it will be not be until well into next week before we will be seeing another market, we wanted to restock our fresh vegetables and fruits.

Once we returned to LeuC and had put everything away, we bundled her up and started goin’ down the road again. This time, our destination was Devils Tower, Wyoming. If you ever watched the 1977 Steven Spielberg classic alien movie: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” starring Richard Dreyfuss, you are familiar with Devils Tower. If you have never watched this movie, the chances are you have never heard of it.

Devils Tower is actually a national monument thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt. Geologists are not quite sure how it formed as there are many different theories that have been put forth to explain it. As of today, it is still a mystery.

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On our drive from Custer to Devils Tower we dropped down the western side of the Black Hills and entered Wyoming. On the way, we saw all kinds of wild animals. While we were at a gas station filling up our diesel tanks, Mary Margaret watched a mountain lion crossing a hill in front of her. Then, as we were driving down the road, she spied a couple of mountain goats forging on some grass. We stopped and she took this picture.

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Mountain goats are very skittish creatures and getting so close to one is a rarity. I remember my dad and his brother trying to spy them up in the Cascades of northwest Washington and taking such great pride in spotting one only to discover that it was only a rock. They grew up and lived in the Pacific Northwest and shared with us kids that mountain goats are very hard to find.

Later on, as we were driving down the road, we had to stop as a fawn was in the middle of the road. As she crossed, another fawn and then their mother sprang from the brush and crossed also. Once we reached the Devils Tower, we saw some more deer grazing in the shadows of a large tree next to the road.

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We also stopped to watch a community of prairie dogs. They are common in the plains grasslands here and are so cute. They live in burrows underground but love to come out during the day to sun. They also stand guard over the entrance of their burrow to warn the community of approaching dangers.

We have a lovely campsite here at the National Monument. It is dry camping which means there are no utilities or hookups. We will be running our generator to charge our batteries and using our diesel furnace to keep us warm. It will be getting into the low 40s tonight.

We would love to stop and spend more time here since the campground is so lovely. However, we have miles to make in order to cross the Rockies before the snow season begins so we will be leaving tomorrow morning. Our next destination will be the Little Bighorn battlefield, where Lt Col. Custer died at the hands of the Crazy Horse and the Sioux Indians.