Monday, August 13, 2018

The Gem State

We made it to Idaho; the state that should be as far west as we go this trip but recently we’ve been changing plans as quickly as we make them, resulting in some wonderful surprises. Because of the heat and forest fires we realized going north doesn’t necessarily mean cooler temps but higher elevation certainly helps. Henry’s Lake has the higher elevation we were seeking but could only accommodate us for four nights. We decided it was worth the change so headed to this beautiful park on a beautiful lake. We were excited to discover, when we arrived, that they had an amazing walk in site we could book for two weeks. But that wasn’t the only surprise. After posting our whereabouts, our dear friends, the Thompsons, from Tennessee, informed us they were at their Montana cabin just 24 miles away. We have loved catching up with them, revisiting the cabin that holds so many wonderful memories, from two decades ago, and doing a fabulous mountain bike ride at Big Sky with Mary Claire’s daughter, Laura Ann, and husband Jeff. We knew we would get to see family in Idaho, but what a blessing to get to spend time with old friends in this beautiful setting!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Montana is a Big State

Sometimes, when we get to a new place there’s so much to see and do that Mark and I forget to just take time to relax. Because our last week in Montana happened to be their hottest of the year, we were forced to take a break in the afternoons so we were thrilled to have access to the Jefferson River to cool down. Our favorite way to experience an area is to pick a campground then explore a 50 mile or so radius doing the things we love: meeting locals, eating pie, hiking, biking, playing disc golf and learning the local history. We loved being tourists in the pioneering mining town of Virginia City which is a very much alive ghost town frozen in time. We also loved hiking and biking on trails in National Forests without seeing a single soul. Montana is a big state and even though we stayed ten days with a goal of exploring  the area in and around Lewis and Clark Caverns we barely made a dent  in all the things to do.

Cooling off in the Jefferson

Virginia City frozen in time

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Treasure State

Because of the wildfires in California, when we crossed into Montana, there was a distinct haze obscuring the view. Thankfully, a front pushed through, on our second day, clearing the haze, lowering temperatures and exposing the mountains all around us. We are staying at a park called Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park and as the name suggests, this area is steeped in history surrounding the Lewis & Clark expedition from 1804 to 1806 which was the first American expedition crossing the western portion of the United States. Another cool thing located in this area are the headwaters of the Missouri River which begins as the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers. Without really planning to, Mark and I have found ourselves walking in the footsteps of these two great explorers.

Headwaters of the Missouri 

Natural hot springs 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Maah Daah Hey

The things that make a place special, for different individuals, vary as much as the individuals themselves. For me, natural beauty, hiking and biking trails and a certain level of solitude create an unforgettable environment. Little Missouri State Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit) are two such places. In addition, the Maah Daah Hey Trail, (the longest single track mountain bike trail in the US), located between the two, completes my criteria for an area bordering on  “perfection”. When we started this trip North Dakota was a state to get through to Montana. Now it’s become a place that will be very hard to leave. We extended our stay for a couple more days to enjoy near perfect temps (highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s) and because we’ve just scratched the surface of all the things to do here. Maah Daah Hey is a Native American phrase meaning “an area that will be around for a long time.” I certainly hope that is true!

Made it to the top

Prairie dog town

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Our campsite, at Little Missouri State Park, sits in a meadow overlooking the Badlands. Our first morning here we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise. When our son was small, a family friend went to Paris on holiday and sent Will a postcard of the Eiffel Tower. When I showed him the card he said “it doesn’t look awful!” I’ll never get use to calling this beautiful landscape “The Badlands.” We visited Badlands National Park a few years ago and were in awe of the surreal nature of the park. North Dakota’s Badlands are like South Dakota’s with lots of trees mixed in. Both are stunning and fascinating places to visit. Theodore Roosevelt loved this area and credits his Dakota experiences as the basis for his ground breaking preservation efforts and the shaping of his own character. TRNP is the only national park named after a person. Hiking in the Badlands is unique as trails wind through grassland to expansive views of the Badlands then down into the canyons themselves. It is so cool hiking “in the wild” and seeing Bison  and Elk. What an epic place!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Travel Day

Mark finds the best routes to take, from place to place, and we see the coolest little towns and points of interest. I love old signs like this one, at a full service gas station from the past, on a recent travel day. I also love that we are never in too much of a hurry to stop in unexpected places. Who knew Rugby, North Dakota is home to the geographical center of North America. I loved the three flags that represent the continents countries (Mexico, North America & Canada) and had to admit that if North Dakota is the center, I’ve never really comprehended how big Canada is!

We were happy, after a pretty long day, to make it to Little Missouri Primitive State Park for our last week in North Dakota.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The 50th State

We hated to say goodbye to daily coffee breaks at Caribou (I didn’t realize, until our visit, that the company originated in Minnesota) but we packed up and moved on to a brand new state for both of us. On the USA map, that many RVers add stickers to as they travel, North Dakota is sometimes referred to as “the 50th state” because it is the last state visited. Our camp host, in Minnesota,  joked, when he found out we were headed in this direction, that there were only two trees so hopefully, our campsite would be under one of them. This is a Great Plains State, but the first campground we stopped at, Turtle River State Park, has beautiful cottonwoods and varied topography. We have a great campsite with not only trees, but at nightfall, on our first night here, a visiting wild MINK!

Turtle River

Where did that mink go?