Friday, May 29, 2009

15-2009 Albert Canada

Alberta Canada

Campground: Writing on Stone Provincial Park, $20c primitive. Beautiful campsites on the Milk river valley. Most all of the trees have a crown of fresh spring leaves and the grass is knee high between each campsite. Site with elec. $28c c=Canadian prices

Campground: 8 Flags Campground.
$20c, full hookups. This area near the U.S. Canadian boarder was once under 8 different nations.

Campground: Bridge View Rv Park, Lethbridge. $24c Passport ½ price. Full Hookups, beautifully maintained park with swimming pool and all the extras.

Campground: Oldman River Provincial Park. $10c no hookups. Dump station available. Outside of Fort Macloud on the river. More of a derelict site. Half the picnic tables and grills are damaged. Looks more like what you’d expect the homeless to frequent… though I haven’t seen any in the immediate area.

I’m having a minor delay as I woke up to a rainy day here in Shelby Montana. I don’t travel on rainy days if I don’t have too, so I’ll stay at least one more day till it clears up. I’ve done my research and will be seeing some neat things as I enter Canada. Yesterday, I finally completed my trip ticketing for a Ferry ride from Skagway Alaska to Prince Rupert Canada in late July early August. With a couple stop overs along the way, it should be a fun trip.

I was talking to my Canadian neighbor who’s a heavy machine operator on road construction jobs in Alberta Canada. Told me about how the unions have everything tied up in Canada and can slow down a job horribly. We of course discussed health care and said watch out if Obama gets a health plan similar to the Canadian plan. Albert spends almost 50% of their GDP on health care. He said one of the reasons is that many people will go in for the most minor thing like a cold. Said if they charged at least a $20 co-pay it might stop some of these very expensive health care practices. They’ve had a late spring and farmers are eager to plant their

By 3 o’clock the weather had turned beautiful. I looked around and thought, well, it’s only 38 miles to the boarder and I want to get to the “Writing on Stone Provincial Park” about another 30 miles. Should take less than an hour. Took me all of 15 minutes to pack up and be on my way. The last 38 miles of Montana was stunning plains scenery. A freight train from Canada was winding it’s way through the prairie landscape covered in green which included a number of oil wells near the boarder. You know those one arm pumps that gradually swing up and down.

Well when I reached the boarder, there was a line of about 20 cars and I thought, this won’t be too bad. Over an hour later, I finally got through the line. Only one lane was open for cars and one for commercial trucks. I got busted by admitting I had a can of Mace. It’s illegal to carry mace which would be used on humans in Canada, but you can buy the more potent and longer range bear pepper spray. Hmmmm. I will get some as I like to have it for protection whether it’s used on humans or bears.

All in all it was exciting to cross over into Alberta Canada. The road quickly narrows from a four lane divided highway back to a two lane country road. It‘s being expanded to 4 lanes and looks to be only about a 10 mile stretch. I took the right hand turn onto a truly country farm road which led me to the Provincial park. Found out they only have one tour a day this time of year at 2pm. Luckily check out time is 2pm in the campground as well, so I’ll do that, take in the tour and do a bit of late afternoon driving with the camper in tow onto my next destination.

The first of the Petroglyphs I’ll see is a battle scene that took place in 1866. This would most likely be one of the last Petroglyphs created by the South Peigan or Blackfeet tribe. It depicts horses and guns which were first introduced in the Northwestern Plains around 1730. The Blackfeet defeated a combined war party of Gros Ventre, Crow and Plains Cree with over 300 warriors being killed.

The tour. In the morning, I took the hike to the battle scene. A wonderful hike through hoodoo’s and along the Milk river. A pleasant surprise, the weather is holding up and it’s a very comfortable mid 70’s. Picked up one of the descriptive booklets for the hike and thoroughly enjoyed the hike. Black and white Magpies flew overhead and along the river bank. Blue Pod Lupine and yellow Buffalo Bean wildflowers dotted the hoodoo and river trail landscape. Magical.

In the afternoon, I took the
Petroglyph tour, $8.00c, led by a Blackfoot Indian by the name of Jeannine. The tour lasted over 3 hours and included an astonishing amount of insight into the Blackfoot Nation. The Petroglyphs being merely a backdrop to the telling of their story. Stories of the Table Rock formation on the other side of the river and how it was used by the native Indians as a place for fasting and seeking Vision Quests. These would often then be etched into the sandstone walls along the river. How the coulees (ravines leading into the main river) were used during winter months as Indian camps. Tipis lined up and down the coulees for protection against the winter storms. We learned that spirits were given faces on the Petroglyphs and that regular humans always had a blank face. Over 50 sites each with over 1,000 images are now protected at Writing on Stone Provincial Park. One of the last etchings to be done was by Bird Rattle. He had not been to the Petroglyphs site in many years and after visiting it, he drew two Model T-Fords to commemorate that visit. That was in 1924, but many of the Petroglyphs go back possibly 900 to 1,000 years ago. And the land in this area has been inhabited by Native Indians for as long as 9,000 years. No wonder they consider it such a sacred place. Did you know that they also used domesticated dogs to help carry and transport goods from one encampment to another? Janetta our guide finally told us how many in her tribe were at one time over seven feet tall. And today, many of the men are well over the six feet height. And finally the discrimination she still feels today, much of it derived from members of her clan who are burdened with alcohol abuse, drugs and crime c
ausing other to lump them all together. And how the charter schools tried so very hard until recently to erase their heritage from the children going to those schools.

These were only some of the stories she told us including a long description of the creation of earth and it’s inhabitants. Much too long to share with you in this report, but something I will keep close to me for many years to come.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to actually be in Canada. The subtleties of being in a foreign country and the discoveries of the littlest differences are even though we have many things in common including language, eh.

Traveling along the Queens Highway 2 (someone correct me if I have the name wrong), I’m heading towards Banff Alberta. My first stop will be Lethbridge. The third largest city in Alberta. Although the city was started back in 1885, it looks to be almost a completely new city. The main draw being the Lethbridge itself. The largest bridge of it’s kind in the world. With a length of one mile and 47 feet and a height of 314 feet. This rail bridge is big and impressive. Crossing the deep Oldman River gorge. I had a chance to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden as well. $7c Many of the flowering trees were in bloom including the crab apple with it’s stunning pinkish red blossoms and my favorite lilacs. They sure bring back memories of my youth growing up in Northern Michigan.

I was even going to do some shopping as they have all the big department stores including what else, Wal-Marts but to tell the truth, I didn’t need anything and just decided to forgo the “shopping experience”. I’m sure in a couple more weeks, I’ll remember that when I’m traveling in the boonies further north of here. But I will tell you I did stop at a Tim Horton’s for their great coffee and yes I even had a cinnamon roll. Life is good with even the simplest pleasures. Eh Chip?

I did go to a Safeway and got a few groceries, tried to use my debt card, but would work only as a visa charge card and they wouldn’t let me get any cash back. May try an ATM later.

Now I apologize if this becomes a bit rambling, but I want to have a record of some of the things I’ve done and seen. Like the prairie dogs that are found skirting in and out of traffic on the highway. Or at my current campsite. I have to watch where I walk because there are so many holes in the ground. Oh and speaking of highways, they are not “limited access” as in the states. Roads and railroads cross just about anywhere they’re needed, so one does have to watch out for vehicles and trucks crossing or entering the highway from these side roads. Even saw a brown fox run across the highway the other day.

Now sometimes while on the road things just don’t seem to be going your way and the last
couple of days have pretty much been like that for me. Little things like my first stop at the Japanese garden, they couldn’t break a hundred dollar bill so I had to come back later. Went to have lunch at a local “Humpy’s” restaurant. Now I should have known just by the name of the place, but it was by far the worst meal I’ve had in many months. Dump the Humpy. Got to the campground I’d decided to stay at and thought I’d read the requirements in my Passport America ½ price club book. But instead of two nights stay, it was limited to just one night. At $50 a night full price, I stayed just the one night at ½ off. The day continued in this not quite right mode, as I got lost on the circle routes throughout the city numerous times. Went to the Woop Up Fort for a tour,,,, it was closed till 1pm. Finally, when I headed out this morning from the Bridge View Rv Park, right next to the hwy 3 entrance, the entrance to the highway was barricaded. Construction. Ahghhhh.

But then the day just flows into a beautiful day on the highway heading towards Fort Macleod and all those little problems just melt away. The prairie is such a peaceful setting to be driving in. The gentle rolling landscape with the occasional deep ravine or coulee as they’re called out here and the miles and miles of grass lands that seem to go on forever are almost hypnotizing.

Now to be honest the tour of Fort Macleod, $8c was a bit disappointing. More for children as many of these museums are. They did tell a bit about the Mounted Police and the First Peoples museum was lacking in informative information as well.

Now for the BEST museum I’ve gone to in a long time, Head-Smashing-In Buffalo Jump. $9c. It’s just outside of Fort Macleod. It’s a Unesco World Heritage Site as well. From the very stunning 5 story building which is embedded into the side of the hill, to the unique displays, like messages from the Blackfeet Tribe projected onto large rocks, a couple of first class movies to tell the story of how the First People would heard the buffalo along runs that led over the edge of this cliff, killing hundreds if not more buffalo at a time, providing food and supplies to the tribes. This practice went on over 6,000 years, except for a period of a couple thousand years in between, when they stopped the practice. The last one occurring in the early 1800’s. With the advent of horses and guns, the Blackfoot no longer needed to kill as many buffalo at a time to survive. Wish I could give more details of this amazing archeological site, but it’s something you should experience for yourself.

Traveling tip: I’ve already experienced a bit of the Chinook winds which can reach 200kms/hr. I’ve found traveling throughout the west and now hear in Canada on the prairies, that traveling in the early morning can be a big advantage in getting to my next destination before the winds pick up too much. Why get crappy gas mileage driving into a heavy wind when you can avoid it most times. By the way, diesel is currently .79 cents a liter. Or approx. $3.16 a gallon.

Thursday and I’m heading out again through Calgary and into the Banff National Park. I decided to take hwy 2 to Calgary and then onto hwy 1 which leads right into Banff. Why not enjoy a good highway for part of the drive. Kind of interesting how the highway goes from open access to limited access the closer one get to the city, with overpasses etc. Then suddenly, I’m in the heart of the city and the hwy is now a regular city street which I wind my way through until I finally reach hwy 1 and head west. The prairie landscape quickly transforming into foothill landscape covered with evergreen and Aspen trees with their fresh spring growth of light shimmering green foliage.

BANFF NATIONAL PARK. The excitement of traveling towards this majestic Rocky Mountain Park looming ahead of me continues to build. These are huge mountains. So impressive that it almost takes my breath away. I drive up to the entrance to the park and pay for the yearly entrance pass, $67.50c. They do have a cheaper daily pass but since I’ll be in the area for approx. two weeks, it was better to get the yearly pass. It’s a short drive to the town of Banff where the park campgrounds sit on the outskirts of the town. Now we’re talking park setting here and even the town feels like it’s an integral part of the park. They have three park campgrounds, one for tents, one with electric only and the third is full hook-ups. I’m in the elec site at $32.30c per night. Awesome mountain views.

Well since this report is going on way too long, I’m going to report on Banff in the next report and send this out a bit early. Just know that my heart is soaring with excitement at having arrived in Banff.

With a huge smile on my face and joy in my heart, until the next episode… have an inspired day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

14-2009 Butte to Shelby Montana

Choteau Mt

Shelby Mt

Campground: Choteau City park. Grassy sites with Cottonwood trees and a small stream.
Water, dump station and restrooms available. Part of city park with baseball diamond etc. One block from main street.

Campground: Lake Shel-Oole, Shelby City Campground. $18 a night, Elec. & Water. Dump station available. Nice grassy sites with picnic tables and some trees. At the base of the earthen dam. No Tv reception digital or analog.

COMPUTER STUFF: As you may know, I use my computer quite a bit. To draft these roving reports, check on destinations on the Internet, online banking and do my e-mails etc. As with most computers, they tend to slow down after a while, so I went onto which is one of my favorite web sites to get free software.

I found a program called “Advanced System Care” on the website and downloaded it.
Needless to say, after downloading the program and running it, my computer is running much faster. Under Maintain Windows, it cleans up Spyware, Registry fix, Privacy Sweep and
Cleans up Junk Files. It literally found thousands of things to fix and over 1,000 spy ware files. The free version requires you to re-do the clean up occasionally on your own. Where as the paid version will run in the background and make corrections as they occur. Free is good for me.

Thought this information might be of value to some of you folks who might need to have your computers checked out and cleaned up. I love sharing information. Hope you find the information helpful.

Choteau Montana. The drive north on hwy 15 through Helena (Capital of Montana) was a pleasant drive over a mountain range and then down into the rolling prairie lands that make up the north eastern section of Montana. Wonderful expansive ranches with black angus cattle grazing on green pastures that undulate for miles in every direction. A heard of prong horn Antelope were grazing as well, some running and leaping others lying down and resting on a carpet of green after a harsh winter. I had to stop at a propane station for a fill-up and to fix one of my propane hoses. The older “mature” guy who took care of me said he is really over the harsh winters. Said it was down to minus 30 degrees a number of times this past winter and lots of snow. We were talking about the lake I’d seen on the scenic route 1 this past week. He was saying that it has about 16 inches of ice still on the lake. Shouldn’t be any ice this time of year.

Helena looks like a wonderful new town/city out on the open range of Montana country. Plenty of space to not feel closed in. Many of the homes and big box stores all looked new. A young city in the heartland with plenty of space to grow.

I took one of the country roads, 287 on my way to Choteau. A one light (blinking) town. A neat clean little town with the courthouse at the center of a circle round road then about 3 blocks of stores and shops. The towns Grain silos are behind the main street, next to the railroad tracks and behind that is the city park that I’m staying in for a night. I was going to explore their history and Dinosaur museum, but it hadn’t opened for the season yet. Usually opens on May 1st.

The town seems to have all the basics, small hospital, Clinic, Retirement home right on main street. Swimming pool, tennis courts, basket ball and baseball fields. The usual small town stores and restaurants. No fast food chains or stores. As a camper, it’s a pleasant change of pace to be able to walk into town, yet be in a nice park setting.

One knows they’re in Montana when the first news on the radio and early morning Tv is about the price of cattle, feed and Agri business. True country living. Making a living off of the land.
The Lewis and Clark Forest and Rocky Mountains off to the west. Snow capped peaks bordering those rolling green prairies. And then there’s the ugly side of life peaking out from billboards and signs painted on walls and barns. Meth. That horrible drug that is infecting even the country side. It’s not right. It shouldn’t be out here. But it is. Destroying lives, one at a time. And the rural folks are scared of it.

I left the little town of Choteau with it’s clean neat main street and courthouse on the center lawn, surrounded by huge old pine trees, headed out along a rural country road, 220. Past acre upon acre of pasture lands, occasionally dotted with small patches of snow still in the hollows and crevasses. A narrow country road with little traffic on it. Driving along back roads like this, with miles in between each farm house, with it’s barns and silos punching the sky above this almost flat landscape. Listening to music on my MP3 player through the trucks stereo, Jimmy Buffet, Pasty Cline, George Straight. My thoughts wonder with the landscape, my eyes searching the patterns made by the fields of rectangles, stripes and circular plowed fields merging in with the endless miles of prairie lands. Skies so expansive with there wispy cloud formations slowly drifting from west to east and beyond the horizon. I love the solitude of drives like this. Not concerned about the next destination, just enjoying the moment as it passes by, following the road and the endless line of telephone poles as they march over the next rise and onto a long stretch of plateau before descending into the next shallow valley below.

No purpose other than to see what’s around the next bend or over the next rise. It’s an awfully simple life I’ve made for myself. No obligations or pressures of life to hold me down. I’ve truly become the vagabond, the gypsy I’d envisioned so many years ago. I remember being at a Sunday brunch probably 20 years ago now and someone at the table asking everyone “if you didn’t have to every work again and had enough money to do what ever you wanted to… what would you do?” I remember my answer and it was to travel and be free of any permanent place, to be a beach bum, a gypsy and vagabond. To explore the world and find out how the rest of the world lives. How lucky, how fortunate to make the dream a reality. So if you think my lifestyle is lonely or sad in any way, know that my heart is filled with a peaceful joy that surrounds me as I drive along those back roads. Meeting interesting people along the way. And even more so, I get to share it all with you.

Shelby Montana. What, maybe about an hour and a half down the road and I arrived in Shelby. A boarder town not far from the Canadian border. A Train depot, highway gas stations and a small farming town. Like Choteau, I can see horses and cattle off on the edges of town. You don’t have to drive far to be back out in the country in places like this. I’ll finish up some business while hear, trying to get my debt card renewed and mailed to me before heading into Canada, exchanging some U.S. dollars for Canadian currency. Deciding on which path to take into Canada. The biggest decision I have to make each time I set out on the road. Which direction to take next. The pressure….

Really windy this afternoon. Heard on the radio the next day that they clocked the winds at 85 mph and that a semi-truck tipped over just outside of Shelby on hwy 15. Glad I wasn’t on the road. Now I know why there is a wind mill electric generating farm not far from here.

I almost forgot, I did drive over to Glacier National Park. My niece Kelly had told me this was one of her favorite parks to visit. The mountain range, what I could see of it was stunning. Unfortunately this time of year is a bit early for much touring of the park. Only about 12 miles of the “Going to the Sun Highway” were opened, the rest of it still covered in a heavy blanket of snow. Because the mountain range is so high, it creates it’s own weather pattern and the day I drove over to it, it was shrouded with clouds. Still worth the scenic drive.

Final Note on what’s in the Newspapers out west: The Great Falls Tribune. Front headlines included, “Highland Cemetery Flagpole Fixed”, “DEQ Seeks more pollution data on gas-fired plant”, “Man admits stealing from Charity” (40K from the Shriners), “Man sentenced for his 11th DUI”, “Car strikes, Kills man’s longtime companion” (about a local homeless veteran loosing his dog). Interesting that the two headline stories where the person was convicted, in both cases the DOC gets to determine weather to give probation or prison time. Both will probably get probation.

That’s all the news for now,

Friday, May 15, 2009

13-2009 Butte Montana

13-2009  Butte Montana

Campground: Butte MT.  2 Bar Lazy H  Rv park.  Weekly rate $97.00. Nightly, $24.00.  Full hook-up with all pull thru sites.  Off of highway, but little noise at night.  Clean and neat sites.   Note:  If you stay longer, they will prorate for each day at the lower wkly rate....

New Web Sites:  Big news, I’ve listed two new web sites on the Blog.  Woodall’s Campgrounds listings and Trailer Life’s Campground listings.  Wow, now you don’t have to buy those huge books to find a campground, go online to do your searches using Trailer Life or Woodall’s.  Woodall’s does require you to sign up, but it’s free.  As Ellen would say, Your welcome….

And Another Web Site:  I’ve added a link to my Favorite Web Sites (right hand column) for checking out what digital channels are available in your area.  Could be helpful especially for all of us Rv’ers who travel around so much.  Check it out.

I think you could say I’m well into Montana right now.  Butte is or was the richest mining area in the country at one time.  It still has a large open pit mining concern going today.  And although their unemployment level isn’t all that bad, around 5.9%  I can tell that the majority of folks living in this area aren’t doing all that well.  

The mining town of Butte is built on the sides of
 a couple of hills and gives the first impression of being similar to San Francisco.  Except it’s heyday has long since passed it by.  Most of the homes are smaller mining town homes and from what
 I’ve seen so far, many of them are in a run down state.  Kind of sad to see an area gradually sink into despair.  

One of the first things I noticed was all the mini casinos in the area.  As I understand it, Montana permits gambling, but with a limit on how much you can win.  Therefore they have only two slot machines that are legal, keno (which I still don’t understand) and poker machines.  Virtually every bar or restaurant is also a casino and none of the food is that good.  

Also the area only has a few big stores.  Super Wal-Mart, K-mart and Herbergers.  It’s there
 version of a Macy’s I guess.  Restaurants, forget any large chain restaurants, just the usual small fast food and local fair.
Oh, they do have some local places that sell pasties.  Which is a Cornish dish (we always associated them with Finns and Swedes).  If you’ve never had a pasty, you should give them a try.  It’s a whole meal wrapped in pastry and was what the miners used to take down into the mines with them.  

One of the neat things the city is doing, is it’s lighting up all the old mining “head frames“.  8  of the 14 remaining have been strung with red rope type lights outlining their shapes.  A testament to the numerous mines that were once in operation in the area.  They no longer mine in underground tunnels, the town still has hundreds of miles of abandoned mine shafts and tunnels.  Now it’s all done in large open pit mining operations.  

There was once a large Chinese population here.  Wonder if I’ll find a good Chinese restaurant?

I took a scenic tour on US 1  past  Anaconda, Opportunity,  Porters Corner and Philipsburg all
 rural towns where life seems to be a lot better than in the city. 

 Passing close to some of the Rocky Mountain range in the area, I found myself climbing to higher elevations where some snow still was on the ground and a number of lakes were still covered with a sheet of ice and snow.   Passing the famous “Tallest smoke Stack in the World”,  (see more photo's on my Picasa site) the Sapphire gallery in Philipsburg where you can mine for sapphires and become rich….  And well, just pretty scenery and a pleasant drive.

In town I visited the Copper King Mansion, built by William A Clark.  A man who built himself up to become the Copper King with holdings throughout the west, building the first power company, first bank in the area and buying up mines throughout the area, including Jerome AZ where I’ve now visited a couple of times.  Interesting to meet up with the men who made history across the land and see how it was all interconnected.  
The house sits on a corner lot on the side of the hill.  I climbed up the two flights of stairs to the ornate corner porch.  One does not just walk into a mansion, so I rang the doorbell for entry.  A short woman dressed in a long black dress with a light jacket of the same flowing material only dotted with sparkling diamonds answered the door.  

After introductions, I had a private tour by the current owner, Mrs. Cote.  Her grandmother bought the mansion after it had been
 closed for about 12 years, previous owners were Catholic nuns.  The building is unchanged and in it is original condition.  Many of the walls had there original paint and plaster.  Still in very good condition.  About 20 % of the furnishing, maybe less are original to the house as the Grandmother and Mother spent endless Saturdays going to garage sales and auctions furnishing the place.

To learn more check out:   It was a personal tour of memories growing up in the house and seeing the changes to the town.  A house with personal memories, historical memories all held in the pictures, mementos, toys and furnishings.
Back outside in the sunshine and crisp air I headed over to Pork Chop John’s, it‘s a local favorite.  They have two stores, one in Uptown and the other Down on the Flats.  Been in business since the 40’s and the current owners have had it since 1969.  The porkchop sandwich was pretty good and definitely a local favorite. I had it with the usual onion, pickle and mustard, but you can have it any way you like.  Glad I got there a little early, they only have seating at a counter.  15 minutes after I got there, the place was filled two deep with high school kids and local workers in for lunch.  There was even a line outside at the outside order window.  

I was told that at one time Butte had a population of over 100,000.  It then went to a low of 13,000 and is now has around 30,000.  The Berkley Pit mine (now closed down) and the active Continental Pit mine has gradually eaten away almost 1/3 of the town of Butte.  

And the following day was definitely an indoor day.  A snowstorm came through and blanketed   everything with the white stuff.  Sure hope spring arrives soon.  Now I remember why I moved from Northern Michigan to Florida back when I was barely 20 years old.  

The campground I’m staying in is just west of the Truckers exit outside of town with it‘s Flying J and Up-Town gas station.  I notice everyday that I go out, that there are always hitch-hikers on the ramp leading up to the highway.  Drifters on their way to someplace better, or just on there way because their restless.  In town I see more homeless waiting on street corners with signs saying, “I just need a little help” or “Will work for food” or "Pregnant and Homeless".  A harsh climate to be homeless in.    

One of the last things I did in the Butte area was to go check out the Berkley Pit.  Didn’t take long to view it.  It is after all a big hole in the ground now filled with water.  An interesting note, all that water is contaminated with iron, copper, silver, gold, mercury and a whole lot of other bad stuff.  

They say it won’t hurt the ground water in the area unless it rises above a sea level.  It’s getting close, so now they drain off all run-off water and keep the lake below the danger line.  All that water is treated and then used in the newest pit mine in the area (contaminating the water all over again).  You have to wonder how long it will take before it contaminates the local water supply.

Health Note:  Some of you may recall I’ve been taking vitamin D for the past two years or more.  It has continued to improve my joints, back and muscle tone.  My back feels great, I have no joint pain and I just feel great overall.   What a natural wonder drug.  Vitamin D is recognized by every cell in your body.  Scientists are continuing to find out how it is of benefit to your body.  I take 1,400 IU’s of vitamin D a day (400 in a multiple vitamin and 1,000 IU’s in a separate supplemental pill).  I get plenty of calcium in my diet and along with the Vitamin D, my bones and joints have really benefited.  Do your own research online to find out the wonders of this simple vitamin.  

Friday, May 8, 2009

12-09 Pocatello Idaho to Butte Montana

Pocatello to Ashton ID

Ennis Montana 

Butte Montana

Campground:  Ennis MT. Riverside Motel & Rv park.  Half price, $14.00 full hook-ups.  No cable Tv. The cable company was bought out.  The 
new owners didn’t want to fix it (bad reception), so they just turned it off.  Passport America limited to two 
night stay.

Campground: Butte MT.  2 Bar Lazy H  Rv park.  Weekly rate $97.00. Nightly, $24.00.  Full hook-up with all pull thru sites.  Off of highway, but no noise.  Clean and neat sites.   


I had a nice stay in Pocatello even with a few days of overcast skies and some rain.  It was a joy to see all the flowering trees.  One, near my camper, was a plum tree with it’s tons of small light purple and white flowers.  I’m also back to an area that has grass.  Gosh, I hadn’t seen real grass in over six months.  

I’m taking a scenic route, east of the
 main highway 15 heading north.  It’s highway 20 and parallels the Idaho and Wyoming boarder.  I’m taking this route to be able to see the opposite side of the Grand Tetons, which this time of year are all powdery white with the past winters snows.  A beautiful sight even at almost 50 miles away.  

I had planned on staying at one of my Passport America parks in Island Park (now isn’t that a wonderful name for a town), but when I called, they told me the park hadn’t opened yet, as it still had 5 feet of snow in the campground.  Yikees, I keep forgetting to check altitude for some places that I’m planning on going to.  This is the transitional period out here and I was told by a waitress that last year they had to refund lots of peoples reservations on memorial day
 because they had a huge snow storm.  

So instead, I’m staying in a little rural town called Ashton.  The area is surrounded by rich farmlands and Ashton is noted for being the potato seed capital of the world.  Now you know.  With rivers full and running fast and deep, the land around here can be irrigated easily.  I’ve seen lots of those huge circular sprinklers in many fields and elsewhere, canals filled with water heading towards all those farm fields.  Grain silos are scattered throughout the region indicating that they have huge crops each year.  

I’m on the west side of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons and rather than visit them this time around, I’m exploring the areas just outside of each of these awesome parks.  I plan on staying in the Teton area in the next couple of years for the entire summer.  

I’m getting so good at setting up and breaking down for my next leg of my trip that this morning after hooking up the camper to the truck and closing up, I kept thinking, what have I forgotten?  Well I headed out and gradually drove north 
on hwy 20, increasing in elevation until I reached Island Park.  To my surprise, it was just high enough in elevation that instead of getting rain last night, they were blanketed with more snow.  Besides the evergreens being covered in puffs of snow and the ground as well, there was a heavy blanket of fog.  The black pavement being the major contrast against the pure white snow.  Driving along, seeing only about a quarter of a mile ahead of me, it was a white wonderland without dimension or sharp edges.  Like going through a snow globe.  The land and sky seemed to be one as they mixed in with the fog and clouds.  Occasionally globs of snow would tumble from the evergreens branches, creating a soft bombardment onto the snow covered ground below.  Oh and when I stopped at a turn-out to take a few pictures, I heard my furnace running in the camper.  I’d forgotten to turn off the furnace before heading out this mo
rning.  Dahhhhh.


Entering Montana.  Descending into a valley on the western edge of Yellowstone, I turned left onto 86 and was greeted by a heard of buffalo grazing along the side of the road.  One of the interesting things about being in this area is that there are so many other things to see besides the National Parks which of course are always a must see.  Along 86 is an area called Earthquake Lake.  The whole area experienced the most powerful earthquake ever in North America, 7.5 on the Richter scale in 1959.  From a couple miles away from the epicenter of the earthquake, an entire side of a mountain came tumbling down, blocking a river and creating a new lake, now called Earthquake Lake.  What’s even more surprising is that another lake Hebgen Lake which was created by building an earthen dam and was very close to the epicenter, survived the earthquake.  With some damage of course, but it was repaired and still stands today.  Even after one end of the lake rose 20 feet and at the other end the land sunk 20 feet.  Being so close to Yellowstone, one can see why the earthquake occurred in this area as Yellowstone is the largest active volcanic region in this hemisphere.  Just learning about the geology and dynamics of our earth up front and close is exciting, but to see the evidence right in front of me makes it all come alive.  Check out more pictures on my Picasa web site.

Here are some other observations as I entered Montana.

The mountain ranges appear dark and foreboding.  That’s because they are covered with spruce and fir trees creating large black patches on the sides of the mountains, along with the requisite snow capped summits.  

The ranches and homes are almost always log cabin designs.  You won’t see many mobile homes or standard stick built homes up here. I definitely know I’ve gone from Idaho into Montana.

The range land is covered in native grasses.  This time of year the grasses haven’t turned green yet and are still a faded yellow.  Many of the rolling hills and buttes appear to be covered in this golden velvet making the land look soft with rounded edges and plush as can be.  

In the western town of Ennis Montana, trucks, semis, and mining rigs pass through town, one after the other in a steady stream of transporting goods between Butte Montana and Idaho Falls and beyond.  

Folks are friendly and easy to talk to.  I drove over to Virginia City Montana.  It’s a restored ghost town with many intact historical buildings.  The town is maintained by the State of Montana as a living museum.  One of the new owners of a small store, that he’s renovating stopped to talk with me.  He was a former construction worker and later worked at a state prison.  Now after some health issues, he’s retired but not just sitting at home.  We talked about changing ones pace of living once a person retires.  Realizing that it’s ok to take a break once and a while.  He realized it recently when he woke up and saw a foot or more of snow outside.  He started to get all upset, thinking about having to shovel it.  Then it dawned on him that it just didn’t matter.  A big smile came across his face as he realized he didn’t need to go out in the snow if he didn’t want to.  Changing ones perspective.  Giving yourself the privilege take a break from the hectic day to day activities and give yourself the time to slow down observe what life is really all about.  To enjoy that second cup of coffee.  To read the paper from cover to cover or even take a nap in the afternoon if you feel like it. It was a joy to meet a fellow retiree who was enjoying the good life.

There are many open range areas and much land is set aside to permit the wild animals a place to roam and be free.  Besides the buffalo I mentioned earlier, I saw a large herd of prong horn antelope on the open range.  What a site.

Oh and the minute I got into Montana, signs started appearing for fly fishing.  Ennis appears to be a hub for fly fishermen and I know my Canadian friend Gary would really enjoy being in this area right now.    Though I don’t know what kind of sport it would be as the rivers seem to be teaming with trout making it a no brainer to catch one.  

Home prices are really high in the Ennis area.  I saw realtor listings averaging in the area of $300,00 - $600,000 for the price of a home.  Many in the million dollar range as well. Maybe they come with a lot of land. This is very rural country.

Other tech Notes:  

As you may know, I’m a big fan of Google’s Gmail.  It’s a great e-mail program that has many great features with unlimited storage for all your e-mail.  

The other day I downloaded their small program called Google Chrome.  It’s a simple Internet Browser program that makes your connection to the internet scream with speed.  It took a little bit of work to get it to look like my usual Internet Explorer (which really isn’t necessary), but now, anytime I log-in to look at e-mails or other web sites, the sites pop-up faster than every.  It’s like having a super high-speed connection.  Love it.  

I also check Google Finance and Google News… yes I really am a fan.

I’ll report on Butte next week. For now, just know that after I set up in my new campsite… I saw snow flurries and it’s expected to get down to 29 tonight.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

11-2009 Ely to Jackpot to Pocatello Idaho

Ely to Jackpot: 209 Miles

Jackpot to Pocatello ID: 162 miles

Campground: Cactus Petes Saguaro Rv Park. $13.00 a night, Full hook-ups w/cable Tv. If you make reservations ahead, they will put you in the back of the park with nice grassy lines campsites with evergreen shrubs and trees. The front is basically a concrete Rv park.

Campground: Sullivan’s Mobile Home and Rv Park. $10.00 Passport America park. Full hookup. An older park with old MH’s on one side and old Rv’s. About 10 sites for people just passing thru. Owners are friendly and they have square dancing weekly.

I just couldn’t get started on Sunday to head out to the next destination, so I stayed one extra day in Ely. Finally planning my next destination, I decided I would go to Wells Nv, about 130 miles north of here.

Well after getting an early start, driving through the northern end of the Great Basin, passing a sea of sagebrush valleys and snow capped mountain ranges some already devoid of snow, I reached Wells.

It’s a small town in the NE corner of Nevada and had had an earthquake about a year ago. Stopping at a crossroads gas station, I decided to check out another town called Jackpot. It was another 65 miles north and I really enjoyed driving today and since it was only about 11:00 in the morning, I decided to go a bit further.

209 miles total and I was in Jackpot, right on the boarder of NV and Idaho. Not really a town, more a community of casinos on the boarder of Idaho, but I found a casino that has an Rv park costing only $13 a night. You know, having an internet connection, I’m able to research a site on the spot. When I got to Wells and decided to check out Jackpot, I did a search on the internet sitting in my truck for “Jackpot campgrounds”. Within seconds I had a listing of sites for campgrounds in the Jackpot area. Made a call to Cactus Pete’s and had a site reserved on the spot.

Wednesday and I’ve headed out to Pocatello Idaho. Driving north on hwy 93 and west onto 86. Gaining elevation gradually, the sagebrush valleys gradually have changed to irrigated farms. Finally turning east onto 86, the farms become extensive with over 50% of them already showing rich green fields planted with potatoes, canola and wheat and the rest are just being prepared for planting. The Snake River is the main source of much of this irrigated farm land. Trees are budding and light green leaves have recently come out. The land is well maintained, the towns leading to Pocatello all appear well thriving.

Pocatello appears to be immune to the countries downturn in jobs. Houses are inexpensive, I’ve seen many listed in the local paper for 100K to 140K being the norm. Rent is low as well, about $345 for a two bedroom apartment. This is a college town with a vibrant town filled with many shops and restaurants. I’ve seen very very few empty or closed buildings. The current unemployment is 5.4%. Not bad for town of 55,000.

I had lunch at the “Food for Thought” restaurant today. One of many local restaurants in Pocatello. As I was enjoying their famous “Cobb Salad”, I chatted with two elderly ladies sitting next to me. We discussed the recession and she was wondering how it affected the rest of the country. I told her, it has been pretty harsh, as I’ve seen many stores in other towns go under. I mentioned I’d seen a billboard in town that stated that 1 in 5 Idahoans, lived under the poverty level. Her take on it was, that may be, but the cost of living in Idaho is much less than in other parts of the country, so those in the poverty category actually have it a lot better than you’d think. She was also upset about the number of people who expect the government to help them as soon as they have a baby. And too many poor folks were running over to Jackpot NV to gamble, squandering the little money they did have. All Food for Thought.

Decided to do my charity thing today as well. Loaded up 6 bags of “stuff” to give to the Salvation Army. Clothing, books, kitchen stuff I never use. Things I’ve had in the camper forever and was not using. It’s amazing the things we keep and just don’t use or need.

Someone told me a tip: take everything out of your kitchen drawers and throw them all in a box. As you use each item, put it back in the drawer. After two months, give the stuff still in the box to Good Will. You’ll be surprised at the amount of stuff you can live without.

This part of the country is steeped in history. It’s where Sacagawea  was born, Lewis and Clark passed through this area on their journey to find a water passage to the west coast. Trappers, hunters and pioneers searching for gold and silver all came through this area Wagon trains carrying settlers to California and Oregon all passed through this area. The Indian Chief Pocatello and his Shoshone tribe were pushed off their land onto smaller and smaller reservations. With no means for providing for his family, he at one point was forced to beg for food. Arrested and tried for “begging in a hostile manner”, he was sentenced to be hanged. The commissioner of Indian affairs sent a message to Abraham Lincoln during the civil war requesting a pardon. Lincoln did pardon him and Chief Pocatello went on to lead his tribe during a most troubling time.

Pocatello ID was named after the Chief and is the only town to have that name.

I’m heading on up to Montana next and then into Canada on my journey to Alaska. I have no idea what to expect. The adventure is both exciting and a bit scary as I go into the unknown. What will I find. What will I discover. What challenges will I meet along the way. At least I’m taking you along with me. So together we’ll meet the challenges head on.