June 6th, 2020

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Roadtrip!!!

Today I had to go to my storage unit to drop off a few things. While I was out I thought I’m gonna head south and go explore a road I have never been on before. I had thought about it for a few days and finally decided today was the day.

It was a gorgeous drive along a river once I got out of the city. I discovered many forest roads and campgrounds so I now know some good spots to get away to for a few days. I usually don’t stay in many campgrounds – not even in the primitive ones like in the National Forest – but it is a nice change every now and then especially with the abundance of bears in the forests around here. Safety in numbers. Having a hard-sided trailer eliminates many bear problems…but not all of them. You should really carry bear spray if you venture very far from your vehicle and it is not advisable to hike alone. It is the one thing I really don’t care for in the forests here – otherwise it is beautiful.

I got down to the turnoff for Big Sky, which is a resort town that wqas made popular by Montana native Chet Huntley (those of you who are of “a certain age”, shall we say, might remember that name from the famous news team of Huntley/Brinkley on the NBC Evening News in the 1960s). I opted to continue on straight south on US 191 toward the junction of US 287, just north of West Yellowstone.

Just past the intersection is The Soldier’s Chapel. I had to stop for a look and it is a small chapel with an incredibe backdrop.

The Soldier’s Chapel – Big Sky, MT

I was actually surprised the amount of people who just drove right by as I was pulling out of the drive. It is a few hundred yards off the highway so it is somewhat hidden.

Driving on south the landscape started to open up…

Along US 191 south of Big Sky, MT

and then a big surprise…

Rider and I at Yellowstone NP (obviously) – US 191 south of Big Sky, MT

I have now been to Yellowstone seven times (including this trip) and I did not realize I would be within the park boundary. I drove into this sliver of the park on the Montana side and saw a truck stop and then back up – probably a chipmunk, I thought since that is what it usually is. I drove past, not planning to stop, and there it was. It has taken me seven trips to this park and finally I got to see a grizzly bear. And it was a pretty big one, standing out in the meadow eating something. I went ahead and thought I should turn around and have a look since this is the only one I have ever seen. I swung around and it walked into the woods just as I got there so I have no picture. Oh well, I got to see one!

I turned around and resumed my adventure, turning onto US 287 to head back north. I stopped and got a picture of my furry travel companion at a roadside historical marker near Hebgen Lake:

Rider enjoying being out of the truck

The historical marker was telling the story about a lake up ahead that was created by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. The lake was named Earthquake Lake. Ironically there were two USGS men who were there in that area and they just happened to witness the slide. I definitely want to go back to learn more about this site and area.

Wetlands along US 287 in MT near Earthquake Lake
Wetlands along US 287 in MT near Earthquake Lake
Earthquake Lake along US 287 in Montana
One of the many interpretive signs about Earthquake Lake
A better view of the slide area clearly shows where the mountain slid

I continued on, pulling in to check out some of the campgrounds, historical sites and trailheads I came across along the way. Past the lake the surroundings opened up into that infamous “Big Sky”:

Heading north toward Ennis it was much different scenery than what I had driven through the past several hours as you can tell by the above picture. I have been to Ennis before and even posted about it, along with Virginia City, in an earlier post, but I came in from the north on that trip so this is all still uncharted territory for me. There is Forest access as well as fishing access on world-class waters along the highway, in the Forest, and on BLM land. An abundance of fantastic recreation!

As I went north I saw a few of those Forest access roads and decided to take one. I took a right turn at a place called Cameron, MT and went back into the woods toward Bear Creek Campground. The road was clearly marked, which was good as I have not gotten a Forest map yet.

When I turned I saw a sign about an old schoolhouse ahead seven miles on the right so that was a bonus! The road was in decent shape, and at the seven mile mark there was the school, still on its original site from 1909:

Bear Creek Schoolhouse near Cameron, MT
A peek into a window…and the past

I went on back to the campground and discovered it was a horse campground for pack trips and hunting – the latter definitely not my thing. I turned around and went back the way I came in. I took a couple of other turns on other roads and found some spectacular scenery and got in a bit of off-roading to boot.

Look out!!! Avalanche!!!

I got back down to the highway and finished up my adventure some eight hours and many new places later. It felt good to get out on an all-day drive and see some new things. I am ready to go again!

It’s finally starting to feel more like a retirement now!

Ahhh… Home Again

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Travel, Uncategorized

I am starting this post sitting on a ferry heading back home after a weeklong road trip. I was heading toward the ferry and the first glimpse of the water was a sense that my trip was finally over. It was really good to see the water again.

I went to South Dakota to visit my youngest daughter and pick up some of the few possessions at her storage unit that I have left (wow… I sure have a lot less stuff than what I thought I had left…). It was great to see her, and we had fun (as we always do). I was hoping to get to Colorado for a day or two on this road trip, but with the floods I just did not want to take a chance. I was disappointed to not be able to go to CO, but I thought it was for the best to not go. I could not take the chance on getting stranded.

I love road trips because you can actually SEE the country and all of the quirky and cool things there are to see. When I travel I mix up my routes. My adventure getting up here to Washington was just going where I ended up by whatever road I took, and it was fun (see my first several posts on this blog). If I am going to a destination and returning where I started sometimes I stay on the interstate highways just to get there faster and then I can take my time coming back to where I started. That is what I did on this trip. I made a beeline for SD so I could get there and take my time getting back and stopping to see a few things and take a different route home.

I left Seattle a little later than I wanted to. I stopped to get a AAA membership to save on hotel costs, and the discounts I got paid for my membership plus I got maps as well. It was money well-spent, as it is good for a year so I can save even more on hotels. I left and headed across Washington. It is a fairly nice drive, but the eastern part of the state is considerably less forested than the west. That night I got to Coeur d’Alene and stayed there.

The next day I drove across Idaho, as well as most of Montana. The drive across ID is beautiful, and most of MT was too. In the center of the state it gets to be more plains. I spent the night at Billings.

The next day I went south toward Wyoming and got to Little Big Horn and then went SE towards Spearfish, SD. I had no cell phone coverage for hours and it was rather odd but nice. It took me through some pretty out-of-the-way towns.

I got to Spearfish and immediately went to get food at Culver’s. Culver’s is an upscale fast food place with great food. Their burgers are awesome, and before the weekend was done I ate there three times before I left Spearfish.

I got to watch the BHSU football game while Meghan was at her rockclimbing class near Custer. It was a nice day to be outside watching the game. Later on after Meghan got back to town we met up at my hotel and decided we would go out and have a few drinks with some of Meghan’s friends. We had a really good time, and it has been quite a long time since I closed a bar.

The next day Meghan was off work and school so she showed me around. We went out to the lake near Belle Fourche. On the way there of course I just had to stop and see the Geographic Center of the U.S. Wait, just a damn minute… there is a big marker for it in town but the actual site is outside of town. It seems the vandals would not leave the markers alone so they had to put it in a park in town.

We went got to the lake and met up with a couple of her friends that we were out with the previous night. They were really cool people to hang out with and I hope to do it again! After they left we drove around and looked at wildlife, but it was mostly birds. The coolest thing was we were driving sown a dirt path to look around, and we saw a huge Great Horned Owl sitting on a fencepost. Just as we spotted it we were close enough to spook it so we stopped but it was too late. It took off ahead of us and landed in the top of a tree. We got out of the car and walked along and I kept snapping pictures of it until it flew away.

We left to head back toward Spearfish and hung out a while. I was leaving the next day so that was a bummer, but she had to get back to real life and I needed to do the same.

The next morning I got up and it was raining. Dammit… I KNEW I should have loaded the boxes into the car the night before. Oh well, it worked out fine anyhoo. I went and loaded up the boxes and decided that since she had only one early class I would just hang around and leave late so I could see her and Michael one more time before I left. So we went to Culver’s! Yay!

I took out west on the interstate after saying bye. That always sucks – saying bye to family. I wasn’t sure of my route past Sheridan, WY so I had time to ponder it. I decided to head through Yellowstone, and I could stop at the Medicine Wheel National Historic Site since it was on the way. After Yellowstone I was thinking of cutting over toward Boise, ID via Craters of the Moon and up toward home from there.

Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time on a long road trip. On the way to SD I listened to the George Carlin biography audiobook. The guy was absolutely a comedy genius and it was interesting to hear about how he came to be such an important comedian and one of the all-time best. I started listening to the Pete Townshend biography audiobook when I left Spearfish. I was a big Who fan back in the 70s, but have liked them since the 60s and still do. It has been a really interesting book so far, but I still need to finish it up as of this writing.

When I took off west on the two-lane Alt 14, I discovered a beautiful drive. I do remember driving that road years ago but it was so foggy we could not see anything during the last part of the drive headed east. We really missed out on a gorgeous part of the drive.

I drove along and got to the Medicine Wheel. I got off the highway and drove up a gravel road to get to it only to find that the signs are of no help because many signs are missing for some damn reason. Very frustrating since I have wanted to see this place for years and now that I am here I cannot see it. Back to the pavement.

Westward I am heading once again, and the sun is racing me to the horizon and winning quite easily. My goal now is to get to Cody, WY for the night, then in the morning head out north to go into Yellowstone through the NE entrance.

I got to Powell, WY and stopped at a rest area. I saw some touristy signs inside and suddenly realized I was looking at some pictures of some serious history and it was on my way to Cody. I absolutely had to stop and see this.

Heart Mountain was an internment camp for Japanese citizens during WWII. It is located between Powell and Cody, WY. A few of the original buildings are still there and the visitor center (which, of course, had just closed) looked to be a reconstructed barracks area with a guard tower and fenced-in prison yard. There is a memorial there, as well as an interpretive trail to walk around. It was a very interesting stop and it really brings up many different feelings visiting a place like this. These places need to be preserved without a doubt.

I got to Cody and got a room at a mom and pop hotel. I went and got Chinese food at what was called something like “One of the 10 best Chinese buffets” by some magazine. Wow… imagine finding a gem like this in, of all places, Cody, WY!!! I shoulda known better seeing that, but I did it anyway. Nothing special, and pretty much average. I need to remember to add them into my Trip Advisor ratings.

I got a good night’s sleep and got on the road early – before sunrise. I needed to make some time after the beautiful yet slow and winding drive the day before. I gassed up the car and hit the road. Another incredibly beautiful drive on highway 296 going to Yellowstone. There were scenic vistas, mountains, rivers, valleys, twisty highways… a diverse area.

I got into the park and went south along the eastern side once I got to the first junction. I headed down toward Fishing Bridge thinking I would see some wildlife, but there was virtually nothing except a couple of what looked to be herons. Driving through the road construction was slow and had very little payoff. It was getting late in the day and I needed to re-think my travel plans to get back home in time for the volunteer picnic I had to cook at. Boise was going to have to wait it looks like.

I decided to head across the center of the road loop, then go north along the NW part of the road and head out the north entrance. On the way I stopped for a few animal sightings and one was a pair of trumpeter swans. I went on out of the park north up to Livingston, MT to the interstate, and then west toward home. This was yet another beautiful drive. Montana is a beautiful place and the sky really is quite big there.

I was glad to be out of Yellowstone because they were expecting a snowstorm that I did not want to get caught up in, especially since I had to get back. This was, I think, my sixth trip through there. I can say that this time of year it was a bit busier than I thought it would be, but thousands less than the summer. This was a good time of year to go through there, albeit a bit risky with the weather.

I did have to drive through some rain and wind on the way back once I got back on the interstate. Again, it is a fairly pleasant drive and the scenery is good. I drove well into the night and stopped in Ritzville, WA for the night after eating at a “Zips” restaurant next door to the hotel. It was a pretty good burger and fries, but at 9:30 at night I usually do not eat like that so it laid in pretty heavy. I would definitely eat there again, and I believe it is a chain.

The next day was the push for home. My sense of adventure took me off the direct route, of course, so after I stopped at Ellensburg, WA to get a salad and a Pop-tart Ice Cream Sandwich (Hey… I had a salad so it was okay) at Carl’s, Jr. I headed north on highway 97 heading towards highway 2 and Leavenworth, WA. Man… another beautiful drive through mpountains and along a river, but it was an hours-long drive that ended up getting me back much later than I wanted to get back. It was well worth the sacrifice, though.

This brings me back to the start of this post… the ferry at Edmonds heading back over to the Olympic Peninsula and going home. As I stated in another post, I am going to start using Flickr to post my photos instead of using WordPress. I just uploaded my first album and it is so much easier to do it this way. The photo album that corresponds with this blog posting is at this link: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjKE48gM. Please feel free to have a look at my pictures, but please remember that they are copyrighted and cannot be used by anyone other than myself.