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Going to Montana Soon

6/27/07 Reluctantly taking leave of Lander we continued northwest on 287 across the Wind River Indian Reservation in the valley between the Wind River Range of the Rockies and the Owl Creek Mountains to the north.  At Moran we turned south on WY-191 along the west face of the Grand Tetons to the town of Jackson where we had thought we would camp for the night.  I had romantically assumed that Jackson would be a pretty little village nestled next to these awesome mountains but now I understand why it is often misnamed as Jackson Hole.  To its credit it does have the world's largest ball of barbed wire, and large arches of shed elk antlers at the entrances to the town square.  Otherwise it is a confluence of almost everything that is easy to dislike and we were glad to escape across the dizzying heights of the Teton Pass and into the pretty rolling hills of eastern Idaho on our way back through Victor, Tetonia, and Ashton toward the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  We finally found an agreeable campground called Buffalo Run in the town of Island Park, ID where we gobbled down a fine pizza and heard our first news about a forest fire that was burning along our ID-20 route into West Yellowstone.

6/28/07 In our regular undaunted way we drove through a thick cloud of smoke and into the very interesting looking town of West Yellowstone, Smoke from Forest FireMontana and found our Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park located right at the edge of the park.  Grizzly very quickly took over first place in our index of campgrounds and we quickly signed up for four evenings to take us through the weekend.  Before hooking up we had lunch at Sydney's Mountain Bistro and then drove east into the park and along the Madison River Valley to Madison where we turned south to follow the Firehole River through the Lower Geyser Basin to see the Old Faithful Inn where Linda had stayed on a previous visit and to watch Old Faithful do its predictable thing.  Then we drove on to West Thumb and along he west shore of Yellowstone Lake to the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center before returning to West Yellowstone through past the Grand Canyon Sydney's Mountain Bistroof the Yellowstone and Norris.  Although the southern half of the park is less mountainous than the northern half it offers many beautiful streams and much opportunity to observe major hoofed fauna action.  While our first sighting was a deer and I began to comment on how I had run into more animals with my car in Maryland than we had seen in all of Yellowstone Park, I was soon devouring my own words as we saw many bison and elk lazily going about their various self-maintenance activities including eating, drinking, dusting, and stool evacuation.

Yellowstone River Elk Eating Bison Crossing Dusting Buffalo

6/29/07 After Diesel had finished biting our site neighbor we drove back into the park to revisit some of the places we had passed on the previous day and to follow the Gibbon River out of Madison to stops at Monument Geyser Basin and Gibbon Falls.  We then followed the northern loop through Norris and a long walk through the Norris Geyser Basin before continuing on to Mammoth near the north entrance to the park.

Monument Geyser Basin Norris Geyser Basin Detail Norris Geyser Basin The road to Mammoth

After a stop at the Visitor Center to photograph some female elk that were grazing on the front lawn, we drove to the Mammoth Hot Springs where Linda took a restorative nap while I made a two mile climb along the lower and upper terraces of the spring where trees have been petrified by the flow of travertine into their water delivery systems.  Words don't do well at describing this melted marble mountain fountain thing so I will just show you a few of the hundreds of angles for looking at it. 

Walkway to Mammoth Hot Springs Mammoth Hot Springs Mammoth Hot Springs Detail of waterfall on terrace

After my return from the visit to the hot spring we were backing in to an empty parking space for turning around in the parking lot when a person quickly seized the momentarily empty parking space and I punished him for his audacity by poking my bicycle rack through the rear window of his rent-a-car.  Although the person was not equipped with English language skills, he was able to show his distress with facial expressions and body language.  We were able to contact the Mammoth Park Ranger who managed the incident report and charged me with a $60.00 violation for my unsafe backing.  I am still suffering some lack of confidence in my piloting skills.  While shaking off the accident jitters, we drove on toward Tower-Roosevelt and as we drove along Phantom Lake we had our first carnivore spotting with a long distance view of a brown bear.  From that point on we were bobbing and weaving through hundreds of people with the longest of lenses who were making evening long observations of grizzly bears including a mother and her two cubs.  With my new-found piloting insecurities I could not find a safe harbor for the great white whale so we had to satisfy our carnivore viewing lusts by craning our necks to see where all the lenses were pointing.  We climbed higher and higher through the now familiar switch-backs and had a couple of stops to look down on the Yellowstone River far below.  At the top of the Yellowstone Canyon their is a line of basalt columns formed from cooled lava that almost looks like a man-made wall in its orderliness.  We stopped for a quick view of the Tower Falls and then made a few more stops for the views lighted by 9:00 PM sunset before a return to West Yellowstone and a bit of the Jamison to punctuate an amazing day.

Wet Brown Bear Yellowstone River Basalt Cliffs along Yellowstone River canyon Another day in paradise

6/30/07 A much needed day of rest and recuperation began with a long walk in the National Forest in an attempt to exhaust Diesel's jaws on various sticks and trees in the hope that he would lay dormant for the day.  My patience with him has worn extremely thin and I have begun to develop mental movies of throwing him from a high cliff or canyon rim in retaliation for the suffering he has imposed on me and others.  Linda organized our dirty laundry into four small mountains but we were embarrassed to approach the campground laundry with such a demand upon their machines and decided to approach in two, time separated assaults.  My only clean clothes were my bathing attire so I spent the day in loud costume until sunset made it cool enough to put on long jeans.  After a luxurious turkey dinner in Rocinante, we ventured out on the town with Diesel under full restraint.  Nonetheless he made a furious lunge at a brightly painted fiberglass bison when I stopped to photograph the thing.  While I stood guard over Sid Vicious, Linda examined the offerings of the West Yellowstone merchants and then together we ate ice cream at a little outdoor shop while townspeople and other tourists made positive comments about our cute little Mr. Hyde.  We continued walking around town with our ice cream cones and I attempted to get Diesel to establish a better relationship with the town's ubiquitous bison statues, but as soon as he became aware of their interest to me he initiated his attempts to eliminate them from contention for his affection.

West Yellowstone Iconic Bison Expresso West Disel's Nemesis West Yellowstone bison icon

7/1/07 Two long walks along the trails of the Gallatin National Forest plus a bicycle ride around West Yellowstone complemented a second laundry day and a thorough cleaning of our home away from home. 

7/2/07 We completed our morning rituals and paid a $50 fine to the West Yellowstone police for Diesel's violation of the town's peacefulness on the 29th.  We drove north on MT-191 along the Gallatin River through Big Sky and I was reminded again of how important it is for the heart to swell in its response to such visual magnificence.  In our youth, our hearts swell with a certain amount of regularity and there is no opportunity for the shell to harden at all.  But as we age and have met so many people, seen so many things, and been so many places; there are fewer and fewer times when your chest seems to get to small for the body's natural response to awesomeness.  In Bozeman we looked in vain for for an opportunity to visit Wally World and I sorely missed the chance to talk to a bookstore or literary type about Robert Pirsig and the real places in Bozeman that would correspond to places he had written about in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  I didn't  know it at the time but there is a ZMM Road Guide that could have guided me to his classroom at Montana State University, his haunts in the town, and to Cottonwood Canyon and the home of Gennie DeWeese who still lives there and has a website.  As it was I unintentionally followed the Phaedrus voice through towns that he passed through on his way from Bozeman to Missoula including Belgrade, Manhattan, and Three Forks where we had lunch at the fabulous Wheat Montana deli.  The place was originally founded as an outlet for the whole grain flours produced by a farm and then expanded to prepare sandwiches on the breads baked on the premises.  People in RVs were stopping and buying bread in lots of ten and twenty loaves to freeze and eat on their trips.

Contrary to Pirsig's advice to make "good time" by putting the accent on 'good' rather than on 'time'; we took the multiple laned I-90 from Three Forks to Butte where we meandered through historic upper Butte before rejoining I-90 to pass through Deer Lodge, Drummond, Ravenna, and Milltown on our way to our KOA campsite in Missoula.  Nearby we found a much loved Wally World, re-established our larder, and replaced our badly aging charcoal BBQ with a handsome new propane unit of about the same size.  As a way of trying to adjust Diesel's behavior, I notified him that the new BBQ has a grid size and flame adjustment capability to allow it to be used for preparing filet of dog if his value as a pet should continue to decline.

7/3/07  We left Missoula at about noon and drove the beautiful US-93 along the west face of the Mission Mountains through the Flathead Indian Reservation to the town of Polson where we found another Wheat Montana and had lunch.  The location on Flathead Lake was so Flathead Lake, Montanaawesome that we made a quick review of our Woodall's and found a KOA listed as the best in Montana and located nearby.  We got a site located on a hillside overlooking the lake with the mountains in the background and settled in for two days of gawking.  In the early evening we had a swim in the pool, relaxed in the hot tub, and then watched a sunset that seemed destined to last forever as it painted its way across the mountains.   

7/4/07  Slept late and then consumed enormous quantities of pancakes at the KOA so that a nap was immediately made necessary.  After waking from the nap I played 'tire' with Diesel for a while and then rode my bicycle into Polson in search of potatoes and celery so that we could follow family protocols for eating potato salad on the fourth of July.  I rode along the edge of the lake until I found Main Street and rode along it in the hope of finding a grocery store.  Instead I found the Polson Museum whose curator was a man from Maryland who had successfully avoided "going postal" for 29 years in the US Postal Service and then returned to Montana for his golden years.  I nearly forgot the main purpose of my biking adventure while he regaled me with tales, but I finally yanked myself out of history and back to current events and rode on to the Super 1 market and achieved my goals.  I returned to the KOA and played another vigorous game of 'tire' with Diesel before going back to the swimming pool and hot tub.  After our "burger and dog" dinner we watched another great sunset and a huge display of amateur and professional fireworks.

7/5/07  Diesel and I soaked ourselves in the lawn sprinkling devices as I stumbled around half asleep and un-lensed to try and lead him toward the Pet Walk corral.  Then after the romantic pleasures of the dumping station we continueRed Busd to travel north along Flathead Lake on US-93 to Kalispell where we turned east on US-2 to follow the Flathead River through Evergreen, Columbia Falls, and Hungry Horse to our KOA Campground about one mile west of the west entrance to Glacier National Park.  After signing up for a next day Mountain Majesty Tour in one of Glacier's famous red buses and a quick eyeball of our new campsite, we drove into the park and along the south shore of Lake McDonald to the Lake McDonald Lodge where we boarded a perfectly preserved 1930s era boat for a cruise around the lake.  Lake McDonald is about ten miles long, one mile wide, and 472 ft. deep and resulted from the melting of the original glacier that gouged its way down from these mountains.  Its waters are made an almost magical aqua color from what is called glacial flour, the remains of the rock dust scoured from the edges of the streams that feed the lake.

DeSMET Lake McDonald Mt. Vaught from Lake Mconald Mt. Reynolds from Lake McDonald

7/6/07  After breakfast at the campground restaurant and the completion of my regular animal husbandry rituals with Diesel, we met our guide Glenn ( two syllables because he is from Texas) and hopped aboard the refurbished 1936 White touring bus #99 that was destined to take us and two other passengers on an eight hour tour of the park.  We picked up Warren and Rosalie at the Lake McDonald Lodge that we had visited the previous day and they prove immediately to be good touring companions with lively humor and an appropriate degree of irony.  We folded down the convertible top of this touring bus made for 20 and the five of us jaunted along the south shore of Lake McDonald past the rushing Sprague Creek and then followed the shore of what the Blackfeet called Sacred Dancing Waters (McDonald Creek) through a rain forestMt. Reynolds thick with ancient cedar trees.  Then we began a long exciting climb up the narrow Going to the Sun Road which had just been cleared of winter snow and avalanche blockage on the first of July.  We stopped for many views of glacial arêtes, waterfalls, mountain goats, and big horned sheep before crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass and continuing down the eastern side of the mountains into Rising Sun where we dined before returning along the same Going to the Sun Road as the sun began to set and additional fauna made their appearance.  Back at the KOA we had our first experience of "dry camping" (no hookups) and discovered that we are now fully tolerant of what we once considered to be desperate circumstances.

Snowfield at Logan Pass Going to the Sun Linda and Bill at St. Mary's Lake Big Horned Sheep

7/7/07   We left the West Glacier KOA and made a brief stop at the Alberta Visitor's Center to find out how to get into Canada without disguising Diesel as a dwarfed and disfigured daughter.  We were given some telephone numbers to which we could send a fax of Diesel's shot record so that he would not be regarded as a canus non grata by the border authorities.  Then we followed the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway (US-2) southeast along the middle fork of the Flathead River through Pinnacle, Essex, and the Marias Pass before turning northeast to East Glacier Park where we took a look at the lodge where Linda had stayed on an earlier visit to the park.  From the lodge we furtively passed a sign denying access to vehicles that were more than 21 ft. in length and continued along a climbing and winding MT-49 past Two Medicine Creek to its junction with MT-89 at Kiowa.  I need not remind my long suffering readers of what a play of expressions was taking place inside the cockpit of Rocinante in the form of a symphonic dance between the magnificent and the truly horrifying.  I was trying to make a case for the fact that a thirty foot vehicle was but a minor transgression of the 21 ft. rule and Linda had an impression that the violational 9 feet might be a significant factor in blocking our passage at some dangerous point where a turnaround would be impossible or extremely difficult. 

After passing up a couple of highly touted but unattractive campgrounds at Saint Mary we drove on into the Many Glacier entrance to the park and found our trip's best campground inside the park on the banks of Wilbur Creek at the tip of Swiftcurrent Lake.  We were closely surrounded by sheer, glacially sculpted mountains and arêtes with Grinnell Point rising directly in front of us so that we could watch the play of sunlight and clouds across it from sunrise to sunset.  There really are mountains to die for and this is one of them.

Reflection on Swiftcurrent Lake Bishop's Hat Grinnell Point Horizontal

7/8/07  I wanted to sleep late but Diesel sensed the beauty of the morning and insisted on making the rounds of the campground in search of new angles for looking at the mountains.  I will always see mountains differently since reading Pirsig as he mused on the wonder of our deduction of the existence of a single continuous mountain out of all these visual angle-shots from different perspectives.  The glaciers are like blue-ice mirrors at certain angles of the sun's passage.  After breakfast we reviewed the many trail possibilities and chose a short (3.6 miles) and not too steep trail to Red Rock Falls.  As we walked the trail we met many hikers who spoke of having seen bears within a short distance and that notice encouraged hikers going in our direction to begin vigorously jingling their bear bells and whooping at the top of their lungs so that any sensible bear would avoid them and they did, much to my annoyance.  I long to see more of these amazing animals and these noisy people seem intent on limiting their observations to those obtained through the long lenses of a television or movie camera.  We could hear the roar of the falls long before we could see it but we finally emerged from the trees at the edge of Red Rock Lake with the falls descending into the far corner.  As advertized, the falls charge through many channels and many tiers of maroon colored rock as they churn  their way into the lake and I wanted to climb out onto every pinnacle to look at them.  The water twisted into a powerful curl as it accelerated over the brink and each smashing plume displays the aqua tint of the glacial silt in the water.  Very well worth a walk of any length.

As evening came, we drove to the beautiful Many Glacier Lodge where Linda continued her quest for a perfect trout and I enjoyed a finely prepared Bison Stroganoff.  We explored the lounges and the views from the lodge and its many porches before returning to our campsite to watch another sunset on Grinnell Point. 

Reflection on Glacier Red Rock Lake Red Rock Lake Many Glacier Lodge

 7/9/07 We very reluctantly said goodbye to our Many Glacier campground and reversed our direction on MT-89 to return through St. Mary and Kiowa to Browning where we rejoined US-2 to follow the Cut Bank River in its eastward flow to Havre where we backed into a fine campsite at the Havre RV Park, Emporium, and Casino. 

7/10/07  Since we had received many "Buy one, get one free" tickets for local casinos and pubs; we decided to stay another night in Havre in order to catch up on some overdue house cleaning and to visit a concept called Havre Beneath the Streets and the Frank DeRosa Railroad Museum.  Diesel and I reconnoitered the town in the morning and he examined several locations where he thought that p-mail might have been sent to him.  Then we walked around the old Northern Pacific passenger station before finally discovering the point of entry for the Havre Historical Underground and we then hurried back to the campground to inform Linda of its location within walking distance.  In the afternoon Linda and I returned to the location and she made a challenge of my assessment that the place was within walking distance.  Like many towns, Havre claims to have been 'instrumental' in the taming of the west.  I like the word because it allows many orchestral positions for the great symphonic progression.  As an important railroad town Havre must have at least qualified as a significant woodwind as it blended an ethnic melting pot and provided rest and recreation for the rough and tumble.  In 1904 the town burned to the ground and was temporarily re-established in the foundations and cellars of the incinerated buildings.  Glass blocks were arranged in the sidewalks to allow the bright Montana sunlight to filter its way through the sidewalks and down into the lower city passages.  When materials arrived for rebuilding the town above, the underground stores, barbershops, dentist's offices, bordellos, apothecary, repair facilities and the Sporting Eagle Saloon were so well established in their new 'low-cations' that they chose not to return to the surface as the town was rebuilt.  Our guide steered us through this underground museum maze and introduced us to many of the historical figures who played their roles in the town's evolution.  At the conclusion of our tour we took our parched throats to Murphy's Irish Pub where we ironed out any of the day's minor painfulness with a bit of the Guinness.  

Havre Post Office General Store Sportin Eagle Saloon The Apothecary

7/11/07   After concluding my animal husbandry tasks, we gassed up and departed Havre to continue our long trek across Montana on US-2 following the Missouri River on its way downstream.  We were continuously amazed at the number of people who bicycle this route from Portland, OR to Portland, ME.  Even with a prevailing westerly tailwind it would be an awesome task, but when you see so many others doing it, the ideas begin to dance in your head.  I have often speculated about what the entrance exam questions are for a heavenly afterlife and if one of the questions is "Have you ridden your bicycle across the US?" I would hate to be denied access because of a negative response.  In the town of Wolf Point we turned south onto MT-13 into Circle where we found a better southeast path on MT-200 through Lindsay into Glendive on the banks of the Yellowstone River.  We re-established our umbilical roots at the Glendive RV Park and Campground after restoring our larder at the local Albertson store that we have come to hold in high regard because of its bakery.

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