|Travels With Mimi www.avita.us|
DESTINATION NORTH DAKOTA
June 9, 2021
Mimi's cousin in North Dakota said, "Mimi, you'd better come up soon as I'm 80 and not sure how much longer I'm going to last". Seeing as the end of Covid was fast approaching, and most people we knew had their shot, we figured it was a good time to take a regular camping trip. There were a few problems though. We just got back from a short trip, and the weather wasn't great. For another, a funeral (becoming more common now) delayed us several days. And lastly, being June, later than we usually go, we were running into crowds and parks being booked up. But the weather looked good for the next week at least so we finally shoved off June 9th having quite a few alternative camping spots lined up in case all the first come first serve spots are taken. Every park and RV campground wants you to make reservations. While we understand the convenience of this, the big problem is when going 1300 miles or so to your destination, you don't know the mileage you're able to make, any breakdowns, change of weather or if you might find a real gem you want to spend an extra few hours at. Now if someone is going to a spot for a week in their 35'er toy hauler and it's only a few hundred miles away, this makes sense. We'd rather travel that sit in one place though.
Wildlife overpass 6 miles north of Wells, Nevada.
The ride though Sacramento was horrible as usual. But once past Reno, it started to thin out and it was mostly trucks and us. As we like to set the cruise control to 65 and the speed limit was 80, we were probably the slowest people on the road. I think we passed only a few fully loaded trucks going up hill the whole day - and cheered when we did. But the reward is much safer handling, especially with strong cross winds and much better mpg. We averaged 16 mpg on this trip. Our last camper being about 3 feet shorter and driven by gas got only about 11 mpg.
Just a pleasant hike near the overpass for the evening.
Wells Nevada has few camping places, and those that it had meant back tracking, so about 5pm, thoroughly tired, we found ourselves within minutes of the free Forest Service rest stop near one of Nevada's wildlife crossings. On this particular highway 93 the carnage has been particularly bad, so the state spent quite a bit installing two overpasses about 100 feet wide and covered with natural vegetation to serve as a wildlife corridor. The second day we camped just below Bozman, Montana in a Forest Service campground for about $10 (senior price) having gotten one of the last two sites. Beautiful little place right along a clean river and cheap compared to California.
As we were trying to make time, we didn't stop much for sites except overlooks and those which took only a few minutes. We both enjoy looking at the scenery as it goes by, trying to imagine what life must be like for some of those lonely looking outposts that serve as farms or ranches. The country was nice though and pretty much everything was green & clean. No city trash or graffiti here.
On our third day we had some camping spots picked out, but had doubts about finding a place there as it was a Friday when Mimi spotted a sign that said 'Sather Lake Campground'. We pulled right in and even though the sites looked odd, we picked a spot as it was getting late. Then a young lady pulled in close to us and also spent the night. We walked around this pristine little park but could find no where to pay. On looking at my online maps it looked like the campground was a bit further east. Sure enough in the morning we discovered we had stayed in the parking lot and the campground was about another 100 feet further down the road - unmarked of course.
The following day we looked over Theodore Roosevelt park north. He saw this during his administration and fell in love with the land. Later on it became a park. About 2 or so we headed for Mimi's relatives who had a good size ranch near Minot, but are now retired. Some of their kids came over plus another couple and we had a very pleasant evening.
Buffalo at the Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park.
One of the unique soil and timber Mandan houses.
The next day we headed back but at a much more leisurely pace taking in a number of museums and sights around Bismark. Many involved the frontier days. We learned a lot about the Lewis & Clark expedition, but never knew that they had been given up for dead or lost after the first year. We got so involved with the sights that we found ourselves still near Bismark by the late afternoon and luckily found a place at the wonderful Abraham Lincoln State park right by the Missouri River, here a clean blue tributary still.
The amazing Wind Canyon Trail in the Southern Theodore Roosevelt Park.
On Monday we took in some of the interesting sights around the park until about noon or so before heading west again stopping at the southern Roosevelt park. To our surprise, they had some camping spots left and we quickly settled in. Then took in what sights we could, most all of them around the 14 mile scenic drive. The next day we some of the best looking hikes we had found while it was cool before again heading west.
One of the creatures at the Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum Pompay's Pillars in Montana. It was too hot out so we toured the air conditoned museum. The building really impressed us.
One of our sights was the Dinosaur Museum in Glendive. Only this one had a twist. They attempted to prove that not only was Darwin wrong, but dinosaurs actually roamed the earth with Man and it all falls in neatly with the Bible's creation model. It's amazing what the omission of some facts and twisting of others can do for your world view. I do give them credit for their displays though. They may not be completely right but the information was very tastefully presented.
On heading west it got hotter and hotter with the thermometer well into the 90's, so we looked for an RV park, something we're loathed to do normally but we needed the power for our air conditioning. Around 4:30 we spied two of them and rushed right in. Both had a few spaces left but at $75 for a KOA and $78 for the other one I refused. You can get a hotel for that and we're only asking for a 10X25' space with electrical. There were only two other slim possibilities I had scoured out online and they were yet miles away. On top of that, we noticed a huge yellowish cloud which we found out later on was the Dickenson Fire right in our direction, and we needed fuel. In desperation we spotted a diesel sign and rushed right in. While pumping up I asked a local about the fire and he said to our relief that it was one hill over from where we were going. About 10 miles south of Billings we got an additional surprise, our Garmin didn't recognize the road. Apparently it was a new one after finally pulling over and consulting my cell map instead. We pushed on and couldn't find the first campground in this small run down looking neighborhood, and had little hope of finding the last one. And even if we did it's 6 sites were probably long taken. It was with little hope that we turned down one of the 4 streets of the tiny town of Bridger to the small park to find a vacant spot right in front with complete electrical, water and sewer hookup for only $20!! We were elated and enjoyed the rest of the evening, though with a cloud of smoke hovering about 100' above the town. Smoke at our Bridger Campground.
A typical 'countryside' view of rural southern Wyoming.
The following morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before pushing off for Cody Wyoming.
Somehow coffee and a simple meal of leftovers seems great when camping. Cody was a kick being a combination of western and chic strip city. They had an amazing Cody museum there but it was too big to see with the time we had, so onto the little "Old Trail Town' museum which was an eclectic collection of original frontier cabins brought to one place to resemble a town. The 'sheriff' ticket taker was as interesting as the old town with his real job being a western story writer of which he just happen to have some of this books for sale right in front of the counter.
One of the many small original cabins. Decaying frontier relics in Old Trails Town
One of the many artifacts at the Old Trail Town Museum. We thought this one was a little macabre. Nearing Yellowstone we spotted these Mountain Sheep far up on the mountain side. I was lucky to get a shot at all.
Then we headed for the Grand Teton's with the scenery getting more and more spectacular. By some small miracle there wasn't a huge backup through Yellowstone and we only stopped briefly at some of the overlooks. We took one hike in the Teton's and figured as it was getting late we'd better secure a site. We headed for the Gros Ventre campground miles out of our way but we liked it and it had plenty of space. Well, it was also full, the first time ever! So was every other campground including the Forest Service 'dispersed' campgrounds, which weren't really disbursed anymore but now numbered. Finally we talked to a service worker who said there was an open site in a gravel pit about a mile down the road. It was dusty, scenically challenged, hot, on a hill and no services, but we had a spot. No leisurely walk around the campground after dinner this time.
The amazing Schwabacker hike.
In the morning we took some of the hikes we came for but early hoping to avoid the crowds. Schwabacker's landing next to the Snake River was a real gem and I just kept taking picture after picture. Unfortunately due to heat we felt we had to keep going and not risk trying to hike during the afternoon. We enjoyed the scenery from the Teton's heading west and stopped at a few more places for short hikes. This time we opted for checking campgrounds on the way but had little hope for Massacre Rock, one of our favorite having been here twice before. But with some luck they had a few spots and we snapped one up. Then did a nice little hike but it was far too hot to go any distance. The following morning was cool though and we enjoyed another great hike along this section of the rock lined blue meandering Snake River.
These irrigation 'monsters' are as much as a quarter mile long sometimes.
Midwesterns do have a sense of humor. This was around Jackpot Nevada I think.
Our next to last day didn't start out well with our ramp entry being blocked by construction. The lady said it might be a while so advised us to go around. Well, after a few miles of following her directions down a dusty dirt road it dead ended. We finally got on the road for a very long day to Reno, as it was way too hot to do anything outdoors. To add to this problem, every RV park we came across was full. So about 6 in the evening we found a place in the parking lot of Cabela's, a huge sports store in a hill. It was very clean though with a little shade and some breeze, so we felt lucky. And the price was right - free. With our fans going we actually enjoyed the evening as it was cooling rapidly.
Massacre Rock Campground. Relative unknown, low key and bucolic desert scenery Just our kind of place.
On Saturday it was an easy straight shot home without too much traffic. Overall we had cut our trip 2 days short due mostly to heat. We would have really regretted making reservations at some place turned hot with nothing to do. We've learned something. We're spoiled being able to go early spring or late fall. Great weather and no crowds. And this trip was a good reminder! Yet we both really enjoyed the trip in spite of the problems.