Year 2 Days 276 and 277 Avoiding The Snow

We had hoped to drive to Rose Lake, Idaho yesterday, where we would dry dock at a pullout next to a boat ramp on the lake. Using Google Earth, the site looked perfect for a quiet last few days in the Rockies. Based on my analysis of the weather, the snowline was going to be more than a thousand feet in elevation above us and we would only be getting some rain. Rose Lake at an elevation of 2500 feet and I was anxious to squeeze some more time in these scenic mountains.

Thus, with this plan of action in the forefront of our minds, we said goodbye to our lovely campsite at Drummond, Montana. This time, we stayed mostly on the freeway, trying to make miles as quickly as we could. Previously, we had been trying to take the more scenic side roads but did mix in a fair amount of freeway miles to avoid the higher passes that the local roads tend to go up and over.

For most of this leg, our journey took us on the down slopes of the Rockies. We crossed the continental divide and started our downward drive. A number of times, the grade was steep and curvy, making us slow LeuC down to 50 MPH so we could take the curves comfortably. Thank goodness for engine braking. Otherwise, our brakes would have overheated going downgrade for so many miles.

Rose Lake is at only 2500 feet in elevation and when we pulled off the freeway to follow the local road to get there, the sun was out and the sky was clear. Looking just at the sky, one would not realize that a snow storm was going to be landing in the elevations above us in a few hours.

The side road we needed to take to get to the boat ramp area was a few miles down the road and when we got there, we gulped. There was no way LeuC could go down that narrow lane without the branches of the pine trees lining the lane scrapping off our side paint. We decided to continue on, looking for a second road that Google Maps showed as an option. Alas, that road was even narrower and was more of a cow path than a road.

Without a clear path to our night’s campsite, we decided to return to freeway and just drive down to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and find a Walmart to spend the night. Along the way we spied a little RV park tucked in amongst the pine trees and decided to check it out. Unfortunately, when we pulled in, we discovered that it was closed for the season and no one was there.

We finally found a Walmart in Post Falls, Idaho, just a few miles shy of the Washington border. As it turned out, it was a nice place to spend the night. The lot was huge and by evening mostly empty and quiet. For dinner, we just walked into the Walmart and bought a rotisserie chicken that we brought back to LeuC.

This morning we decided to continue on to a campground in the Columbia River Plateau about 30 miles south of Wenatchee, Washington. It is called the Ginkgo/Wampum Recreation Area and is located overlooking Wampum Lake, which is really part of the Columbia River.

We were not expected to arrive here until this weekend but given our efforts to avoid being in the Rockies during snow storms, an early arrival seemed prudent. This will give us 6 nights here. During our stay, we hope to explore the area since it is renowned for its petrified forest. Plus, we can rest up a bit from our long drives through the Rockies before our last leg of this journey to the Pacific Northwest. On Wednesday, we will drive to Blaine, Washington, to spend time with my brother, Don, and his wife, Debbie.

Year 3 Days 274 and 275 Clawing Our Way Over The Rockies

Yesterday morning we were greeted with a blanket of thick fog. There was no way we were leaving our site and driving almost 300 miles through pea soup. Fortunately, the NOAA weather site had issued traveling warnings for our route and they indicated that the fog would burn off between 8 and 9 in the morning. By 9, the valley where our campground was located in was clear of fog and the fog that was piled up against and tumbling over the mountains between us and the town of Cody had disappeared also.

Thus encouraged, we bundled up LeuC and headed down the road. To our surprise, when we dropped down into Cody, we discovered that it was still blanketed by the fog and we had to slow down to just 25 MPH to be safe. We crawled through Cody and crept up the rise on its far side. As we did, we worked our way out of the fog that covered that town. Whew!

We worked our way north, getting back into Montana without any difficulty. We then turned north, heading toward Bozeman. Our strategy was to go around the mountains as much as we could, instead of taking the high pass roads through the mountains because they were covered with snow. As we weaved our way between Absaroka Range to the south and the Crazy Mountains to the north, we noted the thick blanket of snow covering the mountains above us. It looked like the snow line was about 5500 feet and we were traveling mostly between 4500 and 5000 feet. At times we did go up to 5500 and we could see snow on the banks of the slopes we were driving past. Fortunately, the sun was out and the road was clear and dry.

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We finally arrived at Bozeman, Montana and were surprised at how large of a city it was. We crawled along its main street at 20 MPH since there was a fair amount of traffic with lots of stop lights, slowing everyone down. We finally worked our way through this town and continued on. Our campground was about 30 miles west of Bozeman, along the Madison River.

When we arrived, we were greeted by an idyllic spot to camp. The Red Mountain Campground is a BLM site with 17 campsites. No utilities are provided so it is a dry-docking site. We also did not have any access to the Internet because its location is rather remote and tucked down in a narrow river valley between the mountains were rising above us.

There were a few trout fishermen in the river, casting for trout. I took a number of pictures of our wonderful site and will share them below.

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This morning, the weather was unstable with dark clouds above us, threatening to rain. The temperature was in the 40s so we decided to press on. We know that a massive snow storm is predicted to move this way coming this weekend so we are motivated to continue west in hopes of passing through the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains before the snow comes.

We drove another 3.5 hours west arriving in the cow town of Drummond, Montana by noon. The town has a little park where people can camp next to their rodeo grounds. It has 3 sites that offer 50-amp power. We were the only one there so we snagged one of the sites with electricity. This meant that we would not have to run our diesel heater to keep warm and would not have to run our generator to keep our batteries happy.

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We decided to drive into town of dinner and stopped at Parker’s Family Restaurant. It was a cozy place and we were surprised at its menu. It offered over 100 types of hamburgers. It was the most comprehensive list of hamburgers you could imagine. I opted for the Mr. Holland’s Opus which was made up with two ¼ pound patties, a sausage patty, strips of smoked bacon, cheese, red onion, and lettuce. It was so big, I did not know how to eat it. Needless to say, I took more than half of it home to eat tomorrow.

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The same could be said for Mary Margaret’s burger. Hers was a more traditional bacon cheeseburger but was still huge.

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We so wanted to indulge in their deserts as the owner’s husband is a pastry chef and what we saw was absolutely amazing. However, we were so stuffed that we sadly have to say no. Sigh.

We would like to stay here tomorrow to go back just for the deserts but it looks like a snowstorm will be hitting this part of the Rockies come Thursday. Thus, by leaving tomorrow, we can reach the western part of the Rockies on Wednesday and drop out of the Rockies on Thursday morning before the snow starts. Our Fingers are crossed.

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.