JUNE and JULY 2010

Robert returned from MN on June 8 to join me for more rv adventures together and we stayed at Hart Ranch in Rapid City, SD until the end of the month. During that time, we added 3-4 cubic feet of storage space to Mehitabel. This may not seem like such a big deal, but when you’re living in about 280 sq. ft., it’s really exciting to find a way to add a few more.

Here’s how we accomplished adding this amazing space: we removed the overhead TV that came with the rig – not an easy job, but Robert got it out at last. We measured the resulting space, went to Lowe’s and had some plywood cut for the bottom and back, put them in place, added a shelf half way up, and had a cabinet door made at a local woodworking shop. Voila!

Grizzly at Bear Country, Rapid City, SDGrizzly at Bear Country

While on this rv adventure improvement kick, we installed a piece of pegboard in the shallow tool cupboard, and the indoor tools and odds and ends became much more organized – also, they don’t come spilling out every time I open the cupboard. I ordered two drawers from Camping World; once they arrived, we installed them  under the dinette table, creating a wonderful out-of-sight storage place for all the little things that used to clutter up the top. Neat!

The park’s pool heater stayed broken for the balance of our stay. I  swam one morning when the pool temperature was 70 – did 10 laps, sat in the hot tub for 5 minutes, then did another 10, and finished up with another few minutes in the hot tub. It took me about three hours to finally warm up.

Bear Cubs

We visited Bear Country one afternoon, and saw deer, elk, reindeer, big horn sheep, mountain goats, and lots and lots of bears (some of whom were very occupied trying to create new bears), including a couple of grizzlies. The best part was watching the cubs. They were all together in a big area of their own – so small, active and playful. A handler came in with some treats for them, and they were all over her – trying to climb up her leg, bawling to be picked up and held – such babies.

We had a rip-roaring thunderstorm and tornado warning one night that kept us awake for quite awhile. It felt as though the wind was going under the coach at times, then it banged down on the roof, slammed into the side – I really thought we might go over, but not this time. Some nights, rv adventures are scary.

We had a disappointing visit to Custer State Park one beautiful day. A military group was doing some kind of maneuvers in the park, so we saw very little wildlife. We went back a couple of evenings later and had a delicious dinner at the State Game Lodge, which served as a summer White House for Calvin Coolidge in 1927. By the time we finished dinner, it was pouring rain, so we didn’t see wildlife that trip either.

When we got back to camp, there was a gorgeous double rainbow. The RVs were shining in the sun, surrounded by lots of black clouds, and the rain was just starting. We stood outside and looked up to where the sun was breaking through – we could see all the raindrops floating gently down through the sunlight toward us - a magical moment.

On June 28, we left Hart Ranch and drove to Devils Tower in WY. This time we took exit 23 off I-90, and followed SD-34 West, which becomes WY-24 – a beautiful drive, just two lanes, but very little traffic, the hills all emerald and lime green.

Early one morning, we had a great hike across prairie dog city, up onto the hills at the base of the tower, then down and across the plain again. The prairie dogs stood tall and still, like little statues, then popped down into their holes when we got too close. A couple of very young ones totally ignored us as they nibbled away at some good green stuff. We had seen so many babies during our rv adventures this year: bear cubs, baby pronghorn, colts, fawns, calves, even moose.

View West from the Bighorn National ForestView West from Bighorn Mountains

On July 1 we arrived at the Bighorn National Forest where we found just one site available at the Sibley Lake Campground. (If you’re heading into national parks or forests on an rv adventure during any of the major holidays, it’s wise to make advance reservations.) We spent a week here, enjoying the cooler temperatures at 8200’ – one morning near the end of the week, we woke up to 31 deg. and a little snow on the ground.

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Everything was incredibly green; wildflowers blooming everywhere; the woods so pretty, with sunlight streaming down through tall, skinny lodgepole pines onto a carpet of green grass and huckleberry bushes. Robert had some fun fishing (two delicious dinners of pan-fried trout); we had frequent sightings of deer and moose, and enjoyed an elk burger for lunch one day.

Devil Canyon, Bighorn Canyon NRADevil Canyon, Bighorn Canyon NRA

When we drove through WY to Yellowstone in 2008, we took US-16 over the Powder River Pass in the Bighorn Mountains. This time we took US-14 and we were planning to take 14A down the other side of the mountains. However, on one of our stops at the Visitor Center in Burgess Junction, the rangers advised us strongly against taking that route with the RV as there is a 12-mile stretch with a 10% grade. A rig had been lost on that road last year. That advice may have saved my life.

So… when we left the Bighorns, we took US-14 down the mountain to Greybull, then US-310 up to Lovell, and then to Horseshoe Bend Campground in the Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area. The high point of our three day rv adventure there was driving through the Pryor Mountain Mustang Refuge where we saw several groups of these beautiful wild horses, descended from the Spanish Barb and North African Andalusian. 

Wild MustangsMustangs at Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Refuge

On July 10, we set off for Cody, WY, and the Ponderosa Campground, a very crowded and noisy RV park. While in Cody we visited the Buffalo Bill Historic Center, really a complex of three museums. We spent our time there in the Western Art section – lots of Bierstadt, Moran, Remington & Russell paintings, along with some by more contemporary painters. We planned to go back to see the Plains Indian exhibits the next day (tickets are good for two days), but didn’t make it – next trip, I guess. On our last night, we went to the Cody Rodeo – held every single night for 90 days in the summer!

Cowboys at the Cody RodeoNice View at the Cody Rodeo

On July 13 we took WY-120 out of Cody, part of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, up into MT where we connected with I-90 West and made our way to Big Timber and the Spring Creek Campground and Trout Ranch. This was, by far, one of the most beautiful RV parks we had ever stayed at. Boulder River runs through it and there are ponds, creeks, lots of cottonwoods, green lawns, big rainbow trout, peace and quiet, the Gallatin Range and Crazy Mountains in the distance, both covered in snow.

The drive, especially the WY portion of it, was really lovely – the Bearfoot Range to the West of us, hills and sagebrush plains everywhere else. All that wonderful empty, lonely space called to something in me, as it always has.

Garden Wall & Mt. GouldGarden Wall & Mt. Gould in Glacier NP

RV Adventures in Glacier National Park

On the 15th, we took off about 9:30 and headed north on US-191, then northwest on US-87 to Great Falls, where we spent the night at a Wal-Mart on Smelter Ave. There was a pretty obnoxious smell here – we were right across the street from a gas refinery, which is not a terrific place to be on an rv adventure. Robert got a new battery for his car and took it in for an oil change, while I bought scads of groceries for our week of rv adventures in Glacier National Park with the WINs (WIN=Wandering Individual’s Network, an RV singles group).

Rafting the Middle Fork, Glacier Nat'l ParkRafting the Middle Fork

It was a beautiful drive the next day, up US-89 then following US-2 along the southern edge of Glacier N.P. and the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. We arrived at the Emery Bay Group Campground, in Flathead Nat’l Forest, on the Hungry Horse Reservoir late on the 16th, the last four miles of the drive on a very dusty gravel road.

We found an absolute mess at this campsite. There were two loops in the group area and the WINs had reserved Loop A, which was totally full, so we went over to Loop B which was holding the overflow from our group – just one “sort of” spot left. This was not a very well-planned rv adventure, but perhaps there was no way to plan it better. There were no assigned spots in either loop – RVs, 5th wheels, trailers and an assortment of towed or towing vehicles were parked helter-skelter, all coated with a thick layer of dust from the drive in.

Glacier National ParkHanging Valley

On Saturday, the group split up and went in several different directions. We chose to drive a forestry road up to Desert Mountain – single lane, dirt track, in pretty good condition, winding up and around and up again, for about 1-1/2 hours. At the top we found wonderful views in every direction, snow-covered mountains, the reservoir way below – it was gorgeous. And, on the way back down the mountain, we saw a mountain lion – the first time either of us had ever seen one in the wild. It just trotted across the road and disappeared into the woods – no time to grab cameras!

Since we were going to have to be moved to a different site in a couple of days, we decided to move our rv adventure to a park on the main road in Hungry Horse, thus avoiding that 4-mile stretch of dusty road every time we left and re-entered the campground. So, after a big, delicious pot-luck breakfast on Sunday, we packed up and headed out.

On Monday the 19th we spent the whole day in the park, driving the Going-to-the-Sun-Road. It was a glorious day – broken clouds, cool, with very occasional sprinkles. The views were incredible: snow-covered mountains in every direction, deep valleys scooped out by long ago glaciers and hanging between peaks; waterfalls, wildflowers – we both agreed it was, by far, the most beautiful park we'd ever seen; we were so grateful that our rv adventures had brought us there.

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Bighorn Sheep

At Logan Pass, the summit, we hiked part of the Hidden Lake Trail, but the altitude (about 6600’) got to Robert, and the second half of the trail was completely snow-covered, so we didn’t go all the way. We saw bighorn sheep in the distance, a hoary marmot, and lots of Colombian ground squirrels.

As we leave Logan Pass and start down the east side, there on top of the retaining wall, posing for all the world as if he were being paid $500/day to do so, was a beautiful bighorn. He just stood there, looking at us, or admiring the distant view, as car after car paused to take photos.

When we reached Rising Sun, we stopped and joined several WINs at Two Dog Flat to have lunch, then started the return trip. There were two bighorns resting near the road at Logan Pass, and just beyond them, we saw a mountain goat and her kid. What a day!

The last morning of our rv adventure in Glacier NP, we took a rafting trip on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. The rivers here are all a beautiful aqua, crystal clear – and cold! A lot of the WINs did the all-day whitewater trip – we opted for the half-day scenic float. I still hope to raft the Colorado River some day.

Middle Fork of the Flathead River, Glacier National ParkMiddle Fork of the Flathead River - Glacier NP

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