Sunday, June 29, 2014

Another Day Trip

We decided to go down to the Huckleberry Patch in Coram last night and have a piece of pie.  Ohhhh,
I cannot begin to description the scrumptiousness of it.  It is a little piece of heaven.
This morning we got up late, had breakfast and headed to the east side of Glacier National Park to see how far we could get up the Going To The Sun Road in the other direction.  It isn't very far.  There is a lot of construction going on as the road looks to be taking a major beating from all the traffic that is on it daily.  After talking to one of the flaggers at the construction site it sounds like it maybe a couple of years before all the work is done and only if nothing more happens.  We spent the day working our way up as far as we could and enjoyed the overwhelming beauty of nature.  In fact, I would venture to say that what we saw would be very hard to duplicate with a camera but here is an attempt with some of the 335 pictures I took today.

The vastness of it all just can't be seen in the pictures.

As we drove up Highway 2 towards the east entrance we encountered an Elk cow alongside shoulder looking like she wanted to cross the highway.  We slowed down and Honey caught a glimpse and got really silly watching her as we passed.  For awhile Honey would look back to see if the Elk was still there or look forward to see if there was more.  Later in the day we encountered open range cattle on the road and she did the same thing.  This time she nearly climbed out the window on the passenger side in what appeared to be play because her tail was wagging violently.

We have had a great trip with Zach.  I don't think he was all that interested in the east side of Glacier Park until we got there and the he, like me, saw the vastness of the scenery that surrounded us.  I hope he has had a good trip.  He has been very helpful explaining all kinds of things.  He even got out and picked up some garnet to explain to us how it is made as we waited in the construction zone.  Pretty damned cool.

Hope all is well.  Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Glacier National Park

Sadly the Going To The Sun Highway is still closed.  After looking over the brochures we got on hiking in the park it was decided that Zach would attempt Huckleberry Lookout which is a good 12 mile round trip.  Mia and I dropped him off at the trail head and decided to go out to a place called Polebridge.  On Friday we spoke to another camper who indicated that the road was unpaved, muddy, washboard and full of potholes and he had tried to go up earlier in the week but gave up after a couple of miles.  While it had all of the above, it wasn't that tough to navigate and we made the roughly 15 mile trip without issue.  And it was worth every pothole.

The main paved road ends and you find yourself on the red dirt road.  More mud than dirt this day.  You travel a good distance into the woods until you come to another paved section of the road with signs warning that you are passing though private property.  Pristine ranches dot the sides of the road as you travel another few miles.  Wild life, mainly deer, is obvious.  Log cabins, barns, out buildings dot the landscape making you wonder who would want to live way out here.  Then you leave the paved road for a couple of more miles and suddenly find yourself in Polebridge, named after the bridge built over the Flathead River linking the North Fork Road in Glacier National Park to Montana Secondary Road 486.  There is a ranch along the way called, "A Little Piece of Heaven" and you soon see why.

Arriving at Polebridge there is a sign pointing the way to the General Store and when you turn the corner you are greeted by a large red building with Polebridge Mercantile written across the facade.

 As you travel down the road to the store you are reminded that there are other people here by some rather amusing signs.

The Mercantile is a treat.  The inside is covered with old antiques but the best is a bakery as well as a store and what a bakery it is.  If you like Huckleberry anything you can get it here.  I strongly recommend the Huckleberry Bearclaw.  Be sure to take some of the other delights with you as this place isn't easy to get to.
We left Polebridge and drove down through the park and up the Going to the Sun Highway as far as we could.  On the return trip we stopped by the McDonald Lodge which is a really beautiful place even in the pouring down rain.

Zach, remember Zach, sent me a text that he was starting down the trail after an encounter with a bear who was going the same direction as he and had't noticed him yet.  Apparently Zach was very close to the summit but thought it better to remain un-noticed.  We picked him up and have been enjoying the rest of the day with dinner and relaxing at the trailer.

Hope all is well.  Thanks for stopping by.

Into Montana And North To Glacier

We got on the road early Thursday morning after a nice stay in the Arco Craters of the Moon KOA.  Driving north to Butte, Montana we stopped at the local Walmart and restocked our empty pantry so we could make it a few more days.  No need to starve.  We got into Deer Lodge where we had a reservation at another KOA park.  It is a small park next to the river and within four blocks of downtown.  Deer Lodge has several buildings on the National Registry and a group of citizens who want to revitalize the downtown area but they really have their work cut out.  Unfortunately, as with a lot of U.S. small towns, business isn't exactly booming.

It is the home of the Montana State Prison who just happens to be the towns biggest employer.  The city is surrounded by large areas of grass lands, prime area to raise cattle.  At one time Deer Lodge was division headquarters for the Chicago, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad.  The last or "golden spike" of the first transcontinental railroad through Montana was driven at Gold Creek in 1883.  The Northern Pacific Railway was completed with spike.

Small towns thrived when the railroads came.  Business was good.  It was easy to get products from the surrounding areas to market and just as easy to get what the town needed.  During the cold war there was thought to be a need to move men and equipment quickly from one side of the country to the other and the interstate freeway system was built.  Unfortunately for small town America, moving troops and equipment quickly meant bypassing cities and towns.  Instead of a highway through town there was a freeway around town and that coupled with the loss of the railroad in 1980, Deer Lodge has suffered some of the same economic issues as other small towns.  There are some things that still survive but better than 30% of the buildings are empty.  One building housed a leather shop that is now closed, however it appears they just up and left because there is product in all the windows.  Belts, saddles, boots.

While Mia visited the local quilt shop I found the local bakery and they had my favorite, maple bars.

I find it very sad that many small towns have seen prosperity from the railway and desolation from the interstate highway systems.  Yes ,I use the interstate but I much prefer to use other routes whenever possible so I don't miss some wonderful memories as I fly down the freeway at 75.

We left Deer Lodge on Friday morning heading for Coram, Montana and North American RV Park.  We chose not to stay at the KOA park here due to the amount they charge.  While we would likely have cable and other amenities we are happy with basics and wi fi for much less money.  The park is nice, clean and well kept.  We arrived late afternoon on Friday and had time to visit Glacier National Park to see what was available for us to do.  After a short discussion with a ranger at the visitors center we were on our way back to the trailer with brochures in hand to make decisions as to our Saturday.

Hope everyone is well.  Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Clean Up, Pack Up Day

Our final day in Arco will be a quiet day for clean up, pack up and load up for an early morning start heading to Dear Lodge, Idaho on our way to Glacier National Park.  Unfortunately we have learned that Going To The Sun Road is still partial closed due to a late snow storm.  We will be able to go up the west side to the road closure and then take a trip back around the park to the east side to visit the other open part of the road.   But we have come this far and it doesn't seem like that big of a drive when you consider what we did on this past Monday.  We have totally enjoyed our stay in the KOA park.

Arco is small town America with a total census population of 990 according to the 2012 census.  There are no big stores in town.  They have two small markets, one locally owned and one recently added chain store.  Three fuel stations, a truck stop, two r.v. parks, a couple of motels, a bar (local watering hole) and a couple of restaurants.  There is no fast food here.

This town is the crossing point for just about any place in Idaho.

Some might say it is the town where satan lives.  On Highway 20 is the conning tower for a nuclear submarine that was decommissioned in 2000.  The USS Hawkbill (SSN-666) was the last of the Sturgeon Class attack submarines to be decommissioned.  Because of the towns long association with the Navy and their nuclear fleet the conning tower of the "Devil Boat" was installed along the highway in 2003.
They have a torpedo and special instructions for those who may choose to park in the area.

There is constant traffic through town.  Most of it involves what appears to be the cash crop in this part of Idaho, hay.  18 wheelers with as many as three trailers move down highway 20/26 and turn down highway 93.  Not sure where they come from or where they are going but there is a steady stream of them from sun up to sun down.
The town appears to be laid back as witnessed by the sign in the Butte County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

The town is small and Main Street is a highway.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Pickles.  While we didn't eat there, they claim to have a really great burger, the Atomic Burger.  Oh, and a big chair for Mia to relax in.

We hope to get everything set for an early morning pull out tomorrow.

Hope all is well and thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

One Awfully Long Day Of Fun

Our day started at 5 a.m. as we rose and left Arco for Idaho Falls and then up the highway to cross through three states (Idaho, Wyoming and Montana) and cross the Continental Divide four times during the trip.  Call us crazy but we decided that 450 miles plus for a day trip wasn't a big deal.  I can honestly say we all enjoyed ourselves but we were very tired when we got back to Arco.  The destination?  Yellowstone, West Entrance.
We entered the West Entrance and did the entire lower loop as seen on the map bringing us back to to the same entrance.  Since we only had the day we went through the park rather quickly stopping at several places along the way to allow our resident geologist to explain what we were looking at.  He started off by telling us that we were actually crossing through a volcanic caldera created by three super volcanoes the last being around 640,000 years.   So under us, hiding from all the beauty of nature around, lies a hotspot of molten rock.  And above ground, Yellowstone reminds us with mud pots, steam clouds and constant earthquakes.  Earth plates are moving and magma is flowing constantly.

While all of that is going on underground, above ground hundreds of people admire the beauty of nature and the wild animals that inhabit the park.  It is amazing how pristine the park is considering the 3.5 million people are inside the boundaries on an annual basis.  It was hard at times to move or find a place to park but it was worth all of the inconvenience.  We all had an amazing time and learned a lot.  I'll let some of the pictures we took speak about the beauty of the park.

I took over 500 photos while in the park.  Obviously we wouldn't suggest that anyone do it this way and I am sure the next time we come back, we won't.

More Fun From The Graduation Trip

We spent Sunday driving down south to the town of Shoshone.  Named after Native Americans the town was first laid out in 1882 in anticipation of Union Pacific and the railroad being built.  In 1883 Union Pacific set up camp near town and Shoshone claims to have the longest main street in the country due to four sets of railroad tracks that run right through the center of town.

We aren't much on tourist attractions but couldn't resist the Shoshone Ice Caves just out of town on our way to Ketchum and Sun Valley.  This is a privately held roadside attraction that cost a couple of bucks but is an interesting venture into the ice caves.  According to our guide the caves were discovered by a 12 year old chasing a goat.  No idea if he found the goat.  Apparently during a volcanic eruption a lava tube was formed creating what is billed as the largest underground refrigeration unit in the world.  Nearly 1,000 feet long, 30 feet high the cave has 15 to 30 foot deep ice across the floor.  The temperature was thirty degrees the day we visited.  In the past Shoshone was billed as the only place for hundreds of miles that you could get a cold beer.

We drove up to Ketchum and Sun Valley mainly to say we had been there.  As we drove we noticed that everything along the route seemed to get more expensive looking and by the time we got to Sun Valley we were well outside our league.  It is no wonder that those that work in and around this area choose to reside in Shoshone where things are a little more economical.  We got home fairly early and spent the evening resting up for a big day on Monday.

Between Ketchum and Sun Valley into a strange looking RV.  Wonder what they were thinking?

Hope all is well and thanks for stopping by.