Day 261 – Travel Day

A six hour travel day to Wanatchee, WA….my last state to visit of the lower 48.  Need to find a cache!

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Day 260

I spent a rest day in Bigfork with SueNell and Norm.  We walked around town and enjoyed another gourmet dinner!

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Day 259 – In Flathead Indian Country (Part 2)

Day 259 – In Flathead Indian Country, September 1, 2011

Petey and I pulled into a campground at Seely Lake late last
night and spent part of the morning chatting with the campground hosts who were
from Huntsville, Texas.  They were
staying through the holiday weekend and then touring around the northwest
before heading back to the hot south.

We headed north up 83 to Holland Lake where we took a
leisurely three mile hike along the edge of the lake to Holland Falls.  I coaxed Petey up the 750 elevation change to
a rock outcropping that provided a panoramic view of the glassy lake to one
side and an inspiring waterfall scene to the other.  We chilled out on the rocks for a few minutes
just taking in the beauty before heading back down to VANilla just before it
began sprinkling.

We continued north along the Swan River to Swan River
National Wildlife Refuge which is supposed to be a prime place to spot
wildlife, but I suppose hitting there in midday once again was not
optimal.  I saw more wildlife at Holland
Lake than here.

From the refuge we arrived at Bigfork to visit another one
of my dad’s cousins, Suenell, who I hadn’t met.
Suenell and Norm recently moved from southern California to Montana full
time.  They have a fantastic house
overlooking Flathead Lake where we enjoyed a gourmet dinner: golden trout; rice
with almonds and mushrooms; broccoli soup; and a pear, fig and cheese
salad.  Melinda, my friend I stayed with
in Kalispell last week was also able to join us.  It was lovely.  ETB

Day 258 – Salmon – Bitterroot Country (Part 2)

Day 258 – Salmon –Bitterroot Country

We spent the day around town to catch up on emails, to blog,
and to pamper VANilla with an afternoon of maintenance.  Before we killed time at Firestone, we took a
long walk around Greenough Park and found a few geocaches.  In addition, we tooled around historic
downtown to admire the old courthouse and a few historic buildings.  A down day before we travel to Big Fork to
see some relatives tomorrow…ETB.

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Day 252 – In Flathead Indian Country

Day 252 – In Flathead Indian Country, August 25, 2011

Relative to yesterday, we had a slow day, including a slow
start.  I was blessed with a marvelous
migraine and had to take Petey to the vet for a puncture wound.  Once we finally got going, we took Highway 93
south along the western shore of Flathead Lake, which is lovely, but not very
conducive to dog activities, so we made our first stop at its southern tip in
Polson.  I had lunch at Pop’s Grill, one
of a few choices in the small town.  The
owners and staff were quite friendly.

After lunch, Petey and I took a stroll through town and down
to a park on the lake’s edge before returning to VANilla.  The highway took us to Ninepipe National
Wildlife Refuge and National Bison Range, but given it was mid-afternoon, I
opted not to stop.  It was a reasonably hot
day and wildlife viewing in the middle of the afternoon generally isn’t great.

I eventually made it to St. Ignatius Mission.  Jesuit missionaries, known to Indians as
black robes, came to the area in the 1840s.
St. Ignatius Mission was established in 1854.  The mission included a school, a sawmill, a
printing press, a flour mill, hospital, farm, and a red brick church.  Inside the church, some 50 murals and frescos
adorn the walls and ceiling.  They were
painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, the mission cook, in his spare time.  With no formal training, he completed the
paintings in 13 months…truly remarkable.  People surely can make time for what’s important to them.

From St. Ignatius, we continued south to Missoula for the
night.  ETB

Day 251 – Going-To-The-Sun Road

Day 251 – Going-To-The-Sun Road

What a wonderful day in Glacier National Park!  I started off following the St. Mary’s Falls
trail through the forest along the aqua blue river to numerous waterfalls.  It was such a pleasant surprise as I was
expecting only to see St. Mary’s Falls and Virginia Falls.  There were two other multi-tier falls in
between.  I actually started getting
confused…surely I haven’t walked seven tenths of a mile yet, I kept thinking
each time I got to a falls in between the two that were listed on the trail
sign.  In fact, the two that weren’t
named were my two favorite.  Water
cascaded over the rocks as the river bent around cliffs like a backwards
“C”.  A handful of folks wondered if they
had made it to Virginia Falls yet too…everyone seemed pleasantly surprised to
stumble upon so many waterfalls.

After the three mile out and back hike through the waterfall
filled forest, I thought I would take a short walk along a boardwalk that winds
through an area named Hanging Gardens surrounded by cliffs home to the shaggy
mountain goat.  I expected to stroll a short
boardwalk path that looped through ferns and trees.  Boy was I surprised.  The boardwalk led straight up the slope.  The posted sign claimed a portion of Hanging
Gardens was closed due to bear activity and the trail to Hidden Lake was 1.5
miles one way.  I was standing behind the
visitor center completely ill-prepared…my bear spray, backpack and water were
all in the car.  All I had was my camera
in hopes to snap a photo of the famous shaggy mountain goat.  I looked around at the hundreds of people
meandering along the slope…a few were in my position.  I figured I’d just walk for fifteen or twenty
minutes and return to the car.  My stroll
ended up being an hour hike, partly running up the boardwalk, balancing on
countless patches of snow, tromping up a rocky trail to enjoy an awesome hour
of wildlife!  I may have to look into
becoming a wildlife photographer as it really gets my adrenaline pumping.  I just love seeing the animals.

First I came upon three big horn sheep, and they were
enormous.  Two of them started butting
heads!  Naturally, I missed that shot,
but it was fun to see them.

Shortly, thereafter, I watched a marmot sunbathe on a rock
as another one posed on the ledge for a picture.  As I was standing there snapping some photos,
I heard a kid say to his mom, “Is that a mountain goat way up there?”  His mom asks, “Where?” and he replies, “You

decided not to post the “speck”

see the tall peak…look down to the right…it looks like there is a small patch
of snow, but I think it’s a goat.”  I
used the zoom lens on my camera to pick up the speck.  Low and behold, it was!  I was so excited that I saw one despite it
being hundreds of feet away and above me!
I told, “Good eye”.  A passerby
chimed in, “If you are feeling energetic, there are a bunch up there.”  Goodbye marmots!

I sprinted up the rest of the stairs to the boardwalk,
passed several folks stopped for air while I was just heaving, kept from eating
it on the snow, and asked some other hikers if they saw the mountain
goats.  They pointed to some trees a few
hundred yards away and said there is one up there.  Oh, I just kept thinking to myself, please be
there when I get there.  Don’t get hidden
in the trees.  That mountain goat was
just chomping away at the grass as fifteen people stood there taking
pictures.  It was so great!

I had been gone a decent amount of time and, of course, Petey
had been stuck in VANilla so I returned to the parking lot relatively quickly,
but not before  I stopped to watch the
marmots once more.  This time one marmot
scampered toward the other one and they began rubbing necks and noses like they
were mating.  It was so great!

I left Logan Pass on a mission to take one more hike near
McDonald Falls and to a marshy area where moose are known to root around for
food.  Well, I was not lucky enough to
find a moose nor was it easy to happen upon the loop trail.  Regardless of feeling slightly lost the whole
time, the scenery was magnificent!  I
meandered through the dense forest with many fallen trees that lined another
aqua blue river, crossed a bridge over McDonald Falls, and continued through
the woods to John’s Lake.  John’s Lake,
covered in lily pads was tucked in the woods and the closest thing to marshy
that I could find on the trail…but no moose!

After a lovely day in Glacier National Park, I made a quick stop at Hungry Horse Dam that was nothing to write home about, and then I met up with
Melinda, another horseback riding friend from back in the day.  She is my friend Cat’s mom.  We enjoyed a great dinner, and it was nice to
catch up after twenty years!  I spent the
night at her house which was home to a small petting zoo…not really, but she still
has Cherokee, her horse of 29 years.  AMAZING!!!  ETB

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Day 250 – Charlie Russell Country (Part 2)

Day 250 – Charlie Russell Country

Well, I don’t know where the time went today.  By the time I reached Glacier National Park,
about 150 miles away from my starting point, it nearly 4 pm, and I can’t say I
have much to show for it.

My first stop was at Choteau, the home of novelist A.B.
Guthrie, Jr. who is the author of The Big
Sky. 
Choteau is known for its
abundant wheat and barley harvests evidenced by the rolling fields of yellow
and black (grain and fallow soil).  The
town’s courthouse, on the south end of town, required a $40,000 bond issue which
was very controversial, though it passed by about 50 votes.  All I can think is…inflation!

Outside of town, is Egg Mountain which has yielded the
largest cache of dinosaur eggs, embryos, and baby skeletons found in the
Western Hemisphere.  The site has also
yielded one of the largest concentrations of adult dinosaur skeletons found
in the world.  The mass accumulation of
Maiasaura (a duck-billed dinosaur) led scientists to believe they died from a
catastrophic event like a volcanic eruption or hurricane.

I actually found Egg Mountain by mistakenly turning down the
wrong road…I was trying to find Pine Butte Swamp Preserve.  When I didn’t find the turn a second time, I
kept going to Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area.  This posed a slight challengeblackleaf as well.  It wasn’t in my GPS and the road didn’t exist
on my paper map.  Since the town had
about six buildings, I took a gamble and turned on the biggest dirt road
around.  It was the right one…I
eventually found a sign.  VANilla had to
bounce along 17 miles of rocky road before reaching the Preserve and then she
had to keep bouncing through stunted trees to Blackleaf Canyon.  The canyon was beautiful, and I probably
should have hiked, but I was truly in the middle of nowhere.  I was concerned just about getting a flat
tire, much less hiking through bear country.
We turned around and bounced another hour back to the main road.  It was quite a long scenic drive!

Eventually I made it to Glacier National Park where I took
an evening drive on the eastern side.  I
was hoping to spot some wildlife, but was unsuccessful.  I did, however, enjoy some fantastic views
and a very short hike.

First, I stopped at Triple Divide Peak.  From a distance it looks like any other peak
and it looked like the shortest one of the bunch as well.  Due to its three-sided pyramid shape, the
rain and snowmelt flows to three oceans as opposed to the normal two.  Water goes to the Atlantic, the Pacific, and
to the Arctic through Canada.

Next we stopped at Wild Goose Island Overlook for a
spectacular view of St. Mary’s Lake and its surrounding peaks.  The small island poking through the lake’s
surface was named Wild Goose Island for geese that once nested on its shores.

My final stop before returning to camp was at Sunrift
Gorge.  It was beautiful.  Sky blue water tumbled down the rocky creek
between narrow cliffs patched in moss.
Definitely serene!  ETB

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Day 249 – Charlie Russell Country

Day 249 – Charlie Russell Country

We returned to Livingston this morning to visit an old train
depot, to see world famous Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop, and to find a geocache in
Montana. The old depot displayed a
variety of old train paraphernalia and some fantastic western paintings and
black and white frontier photographs. I
just window shopped at Dan Bailey’s. It
was full of flies and rods and a variety of other fly fishing gear. The visitor’s center was a nice place for a
geocache. I have now found a cache in 46
of the lower 48 states. Two more to go…then
I’ll have to make a trip to Hawaii and Alaska.

After visiting Livingston, we traveled north on Highway 89
which is surrounded by national forest;
Helena National Forest to the west, Gallatin National Forest and
Lewis and Clark National Forest to the east.
I hadn’t stopped at a roadside historical marker for a while, so since I
had a long drive ahead before my next stop, I took a break near the Shields
River Valley. The river was named by
Clark (of Lewis and Clark) in honor of John Shields, a member of the
expedition. The team camped at the mouth
of the river on July 15, 1806.

As I continued the drive, I passed several turnouts for
campgrounds and then ran across a sign pointing to a trailhead. The scenery around the trailhead, high cliffs
and a babbling brook was enough to peak my interest. I pulled VANilla into the parking lot and
found out there was a short hike to two waterfalls…can’t beat that! I don’t recall the name of the falls, but we
enjoyed a lovely hike which followed the creek with a steady ascent through
piles of rocks resting on both sides of the trail.

After our hike we visited Giant Springs State Park, home to
one of the largest fresh water springs in America and home to one of the
shortest rivers in the world. Over 150 million
gallons of 54 degree water flow from the springs into the Roe River. The Roe River, only 201 feet long, flows into
the Missouri River, the longest in the country stretching 2,540 miles, 200 more
than the Mississippi. The park also has
a fish hatchery with some healthy trout swimming around in the clear water.

Nearby Giant Springs Park was the Lewis and Clark National
Historic Trail exhibit. The park service
describes Lewis and Clark’s expedition. The exhibits include examples of boats
and clothing and wall signs describing their trials and tribulations throughout
their journey. Specific to Great Falls,
Montana they had received word that there was only one waterfall and they would
only have to portage their gear for a mile and a half. Instead, there were five waterfalls, many
dams now, and they had to portage 18 miles across cactus covered land and
ravines.

From this museum we moved to the Charles M. Russell Museum. I’m not the biggest museum person, so I just wandered around the grounds surrounded with bronzes and didn’t even go inside. The complex with a grassy lawn that showcases the house as well was very nice.

It was a rather warm afternoon, so Petey and found some
shade and addressed real life on the computer for a while before taking an
evening drive at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve been driving
through the fields and by the lakes in the heat of the day recently, so this
time I tried to improve my chances at spotting some wildlife. We saw a variety of birds, deer, and
pronghorn…though the sunset stole the show.
The pinks and purples reflected in the glassy water as ducks floated through
the image! ETB

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Day 245 – Beartooth Country

Day 245 – Beartooth Country

We spent most of today traveling across Beartooth Highway, a
68-mile stretch of road that opened in 1936 which zig-zags through Rock Creek
Canyon and climbs over almost an 11,000 foot pass, making it one of the world’s
highest.  As one would expect, the views
were spectacular, as evidenced by our first stop at Rock Creek Vista Point,
9,190 feet in elevation.

Our next stop was at Twin Lakes Headwall, where a long slope
is permanently covered in snow.  Olympic
hopefuls can be found skiing here on the 58 degree slope.

We continued stopping in many turnouts along way as we
traversed the highway above the tree line.
Eventually we descended to Gardner Lake where we took a walk on the
Beartooth Loop National Trail.  It led us
through fields of wildflowers, across narrow creeks and past a lake before we
turned around.  The whole trail is ten
miles which Petey and I opted out of.

The road was under construction near Beartooth Lake and the
road to Clay Butte Lookout and firetower was closed, so we continued on to
Chief Joseph Scenic Highway where we weaved through the foothills laced with
several beautiful blue streams and peppered with campgrounds and across a 1,200
foot gorge before reaching a dirt road turnoff to Sunlight Basin.

Sunlight Basin’s 50,000 acres were supposed to be home to an
array of wildlife.  We criss-crossed the
fields on gravel roads only to find one deer hiding out.  I supposed late afternoon wasn’t the right
time of day.

We ended up at a great campground just outside of Cooke City
and Yellowstone National Park for the evening.
The campground posted a sign, “Caution, known grizzly use…hardsided
camping only…no tents.”  I slept with
VANilla’s top down.  ETB

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