Posts tagged: Montana

Glacier National Park

By , June 16, 2010 8:49 pm

After Dasy went back to Northern Virginia and the Star was done with it’s major work, I headed up to Glacier National Park.

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I was hoping to spend a fair amount of quality time on the TW-200 (motorcycle), but the weather wasn’t cooperative.  It wasn’t bad weather, just highly unpredictable. 

Glacier is probably the prettiest of the national parks I’ve been to so far.  Everything was so green and the plant life and terrain was so varied.  Most of the other parks seem to have a couple types of trees (or no trees), but Glacier seems to have a little of everything.  I’d have to say it’s possibly my favorite so far. 

The first day, I got the Star checked in and set up around 5pm.  That left me only a couple of hours to run up the Going To The Sun road to see the park.  Unfortunately, the road was closed after about 15 miles, as they haven’t finished snow plowing yet.  Since that’s the only road that goes through the park, that left me able to only see a portion of it.  It remained closed throughout my visit and is only scheduled to open about now.  Maybe I’ll take Dasy with me and we’ll see the rest of the park on the way back from the west coast.

Glacier is pretty much lots of lakes, streams, forests and mountains.  Most of the streams contain a number of waterfalls, of varying sizes.

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On the second day in the park, I’d bumped into Jennifer of LivingInMyCar.  We talked a little about some of her RV problems, and made arrangements to do a short tour the following day.  I ended up caulking what we thought might be leaky spots in her roof, then we spent the morning on the Going To The Sun road.  Jennifer only has her RV and didn’t want to uproot and drive it out there.  So, I volunteered the Jeep as transport and we spent an afternoon taking pictures on the road.  Luckily (for me), on the way there, I spotted a black bear and a ranger promptly showed up to “deal with it”.  This involved shooting it with a bean-bag cannon, which didn’t work at all.  The bear simply ran up a tree. ;)  I didn’t hang around to watch the aftermath, as there was quite a bit of traffic building up to watch the show.  I also saw a grizzly bear later, but didn’t have the camera handy, so no pictures of him (sorry).

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IMG_1537The next day, I took the Jeep out to Polebridge, via a gravel road in the park.  The ride out was pleasant, but long.  It also rained for about half the drive.  I decided to go back on the TW when the weather was decent, as it would handle the potholes much easier than the Jeep would.

IMG_1538I also checked out the local national forest and found a trail up there that I thought the Jeep could handle.  Unfortunately, I ended up sinking the Jeep in snow up to the bumper, which is where I turned around.  I might have attempted to go further, but the surrounding trees in that area were too small to support the Jeep if I needed to winch through any deep snow or mud.  But, it was a nice drive and I got to see a few of the more out-of-the-way streams and waterfalls.

IMG_1552 IMG_1553I spent a couple days in the RV due to the weather and work needing to be done.  But, when I had a decent day, I took advantage of it.  IMG_1579One of the trips I made was out to East Glacier, which is a small town at the entrance on the opposite side of the park where I was staying.  Normally, I would have taken the Going To The Sun road, but since it was closed, I took highway 2 around the south end of the park instead.  It’s a nice scenic drive if you’re in the area for a while.

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IMG_1584For my last day in the Glacier area, I managed to get good enough weather to go back to Polebridge.  There’s exactly two stores there, one of which is a well known bakery; Polbridge Mecantile.  I waited a bit for some particular lunch bits to come out of the oven.  I was rewarded with one of the best turnovers I’ve ever had…  Chicken with ranch dressing and bacon, stuffed in a flaky crust and baked to near perfection.  It was pretty awesome and was worth the 40 miles on bad roads I took to get there.  I got a roast-beef with grilled onion and horseraddish to go, which would be lunch for another day. 😉

While waiting, another set of motorcycle guys showed up on very well equipped (farkled) BMWs and KLRs.  They wanted to take the park road back instead of the main pothole-riddled road.  Since I’d done it a few days ago in the Jeep I offered to guide them/requested to tag along. ;)  The TW is still fairly new to me and it has a few “quirks”, so I prefer not to be in the middle of nowhere without some kind of possibility that someone can send for assistance if needed. 

We arrived back at the park entrance an hour or two later, said our goodbyes and then I headed out to pack up the Star.  My next stop would be somewhere in Washington state.  I would be heading past Tacoma towards the west coast to spend some time with my sister and her family.

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Going Underground

By , June 10, 2010 11:50 am

IMG_1475On Thursday, while the Star was waiting on a new control module, I decided to head out to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park to check out the caverns.  It was one of the few days that it didn’t rain (well, it didn’t rain on the way there).

I could probably ramble on ridiculously about the cave system and what makes it different from the majority of other caves, but if you’re not into caves (and I’m not really) it probably wouldn’t mean much.  You can do some research on the internet if you really want to know about the caves.  What I can tell you about is how the trip was and what you might want to know if you decide to go.

IMG_1346First, the caves aren’t horizontal or vertical.  They’re tilted, at about 55 degrees due to the mountain shifting a long, long time ago.  The entrance is up on the side of a mountain.  The exit is several hundred feet below it on the same mountain.  You’re looking at about a two mile hike, with a lot of elevation changes.  You’re also looking at climbing up and down a few tight and dark passages.  Plan to spend at least two hours in the cold and dark.  It’s 50 degrees and it is damp (I found several puddles the hard way).  You should be in relatively decent physical shape and you shouldn’t be claustrophobic or afraid of the dark.  Now that all the nasty disclaimers are out of the way… 😉

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The cave tour is very interesting and worth the effort.  Unfortunately, I’d have to take an entire lighting rig down there to get decent photographs, so I have only mediocre ones, at best.  Near the end of the tour, they’ve upgraded the lighting to multicolor LED projection bulbs.  They approximate sunlight, but I’m pretty sure they added a few filters for effect. Still, it’s better than the standard incandescent bulbs in the rest of the place.  Any pictures that have a lot of color (like the one below) were taken near the LED lighting.  Anything that looks mostly orange or brown were taken near the incandescent lights.

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Umm… it’s a cave.  IMG_1395It’s neat, but it’s definitely a cave.  I’m sorry, but I really don’t know how to describe a cave.  It’s such an alien place.  The pictures will have to do my talking for me.  I can tell you that this particular cave system is known for it’s formations, which are quite interesting and varied.  Some are strange enough to appear to defy the natural laws of physics.

Oh, expect to get a little cozy with others if you end up in a large tour group.  Some of the rooms and the passages are quite small. 😉

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Walking Around A Volcano

By , May 28, 2010 4:19 pm

West Yellowstone, MT and Yellowstone National Park, WY

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We arrived in West Yellowstone, Montana about a week ago and got the RV set up while waiting for friends from Virginia to join us.  The first day was a nice chance for Dasy and I to run around West Yellowstone and do some basic exploring before hitting Yellowstone itself.  To make it less confusing, let me define West Yellowstone and Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone is the town in Montana that is just outside of Yellowstone National Park.  It’s one of the closest areas you can stay in outside the park.  It’s located in Gallatin National Forest and serves as the “gateway” to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  We’re staying at Wagon Wheel RV park while we’re here.

Yellowstone National Park is located mostly in Wyoming, although small parts of it are also in Montana and Idaho.  I’ll refer to Yellowstone National Park as YNP from here on.

IMG_0706West Yellowstone is a neat little frontier town.  It’s not hard to imagine someone pulling up with a wagon full of skins at a traders store.  There are even bison wandering around!

The next morning, our friends (Rob and Lara) and us headed into YNP itself.  There were a number of road closures, due both to weather and bear activity.  We were in the park a little before the prime tourist season and it was still quite cold and weather was somewhat unpredictable (most people would definitely describe it as winter).

IMG_0710We saw a number of wild animals in the park, which for some reason generally makes us happier than scenery.  One of the first we spotted was a pair of golden eagles nesting near the road.  We stopped briefly and watched from a distance and took a few pictures.  There was a 1/4 mile “quarantine” zone that people weren’t supposed to stop in, so we were still a fair distance away.

We were also lucky enough to spot a wolf, presumably looking for food, near the Gibbon River.  Unfortunately, my camera lens appears to be getting worse and I only got one shot that was anywhere close to being in focus.  I think the sand in Moab did a number on the lens and it doesn’t like to focus any more.  I’ll clean it and see how it does over the next week or so.IMG_0725

One of the notable things that happened would turn out to be a recurring theme.  Even though it wasn’t really tourist season yet, we’d have to deal with traffic jams in the park.  But, unlike most traffic jams, these were usually caused by bison. 😉

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We also were lucky enough to spot some elk when we stopped for lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs in the park.  It would turn out that the bison and elk were pretty common and were generally found all over the place, but it was nice that we spotted some on the first day in the park.

IMG_0826After lunch, we checked out the springs and then headed back out for West Yellowstone.

It’s really easy to forget that Yellowstone is the largest active volcanic system in the world.  It’s such a beautiful place and really good example of how big this country is.  But then, you find some geologic feature that’s spouting steam and smells like sulfur and it sinks in a bit…

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…we’re walking on a volcano… a really BIG one! 

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