Wildflowers of Southwestern Montana

A Sea Of Shooting Stars

A Sea Of Shooting Stars

I’m in heaven with all of the beautiful wildflowers blooming at Red Rock Lakes NWR and nearby Gallatin and Targhee National Forests. This past winter Montana received 120% of the average snowfall providing much needed moisture for wildflowers. They have responded with fabulous displays. Even the weeds are beautiful! 

Since arriving here in early June we’ve seen twenty different types. Most are new to us and identifying them has required research through five wildflower books and an iPad app called Yellowstone/Teton Wildflowers. The manager at Red Rock Lakes NWR was kind enough to loan us some of his personal books. For the ones we haven’t identified we’ll take a cue from a friend of ours who simply refers to plants as “yellow stuff”, “red stuff”, “blue stuff” etc. Even the weeds are beautiful!

This is a time when pictures are worth a thousand words. Hope you enjoy seeing them as much as we did prowling through the fields to get the photos. If you enjoy this post, watch for another one about a Ranger led tour we will take the second week of July to the Gravelly Range Road. Even the locals call it spectacular.

wildflowers, Montana

Shooting Stars

White Mule's Ear

White Mule’s Ear












Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl











Blue Penstemon

Blue Penstemon











Mountain Goldenpea

Mountain Goldenpea


Willow Blossoms Blowing In The Wind

Willow Blossoms Blowing In The Wind









Sticky Geranium

Sticky Geranium







Meadow Death Camas

Meadow Death Camas












Blue Pussytoes

Blue Pussytoes









Yellow Paintbrush From Top

Yellow Paintbrush From Top









Long Plumed Avens aka Prairie Smoke

Long Plumed Avens aka Prairie Smoke























cactus, wildflower, Montana

Prickly Pear Cactus Blossom










Pink Lupine And Strawberry

Pink Lupine And Strawberry







Balsamroot Group

Balsamroot Group












Butterfly On Spurge

Home On The Range

Most of the time we are running way behind in our posts and our trip from North Carolina to Montana is no different. So we take a break to post in real time. We arrived at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Lakeview, Montana just two weeks ago. We will be work camping here until mid August. In exchange for volunteering 32 hours a week each, we receive a free RV site with full hookups and a small stipend. The general topic of work camping will be covered in an upcoming Nuts and Bolts post. Here is a quick overview from our first two weeks. Future posts will allow you to explore southwestern Montana, northeastern Idaho and northwestern Wyoming with us. There will be some bouncing back and forth to complete the many stops we made since the last entry from Arkansas.

Red Rock Lakes NWR, Google Earth

Red Rock Lakes NWR From Google Earth

work camping, volunteer, RV living

Our Home On The Range

Red Rock Lakes NWR is located 40 miles west of West Yellowstone, Montana and 28 miles east of I-15. It is considered part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which along with Yellowstone NP, Gallatin National Forest, BLM land, the Frank Church Land of No Return and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is the largest temperate wilderness area in the world. The refuge covers approximately 60,000 acres in the  45 mile by 8 mile Centennial Valley. The Valley sits at an elevation of 6700 feet above sea level while the snow capped peaks of the Centennial mountains soar another 3,000-3,500 feet above the valley floor. They are the only mountains in the Rockies that run east to west. The Centennials and the Tetons are some of the “newest” (in geological terms) mountains. If you draw intersecting lines between the two ranges you will locate the current Yellowstone hotspot. The Centennial Valley was a fur trapping center and later homesteaded by cattle and sheep ranchers. Lakeview served the ranching community but like many towns in the area became a ghost town. Red Rock Lakes NWR was established in 1935 occupying some of the buildings. Later some of the Lakeview buildings were bought and restored then donated to the University of Utah as the Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities Education.

Lakeview, Montana

Lakeview, Montana


Pronghorn Antelope Cow

It is June and wildflowers are popping out everywhere while pronghorn, elk and moose shelter newly born calves and trumpeter swans sit on nests. Here you can see the same wildlife except for bison, you would see at Yellowstone NP without the crowds. The refuge was created for the protection of trumpeter swans. At that time there were fewer than 100 swans in the GYE and these wetlands were their primary winter feeding ground and nesting area. Since then the local population has rebounded to 500 and increases to several thousand during migration. The refuge sits on major migratory bird flyways offering needed rest and feeding grounds to thousands of birds each Spring and Fall. Now the staff are involved in research for Sage Grouse and Arctic Grayling, both candidates for the Endangered Species Act. The bird list for the refuge lists 237 species that have been spotted here.

Red Rock Lakes NWR

Out For A Drive On The Refuge

Selfie In The Mirror

Selfie In The Mirror

Weather has been cooler than we expected with night time temperatures between 30-38 degrees F warming to mostly sunny days between 45-65 degrees. It is windy much of the time and weather can change several times throughout the day. It doesn’t take long to learn you don’t go out without at least three layers of clothing to handle any weather condition. Since we’ve been here it has rained, hailed and snowed. Our propane furnace and electric fireplace have been well used. Today there was thick fog early but now the sun is shining and it is in the mid 60s.

We must travel over 45 miles to a reasonable grocery store, diesel station and propane fill-up. Before arriving we bought out Costco in Bozeman. The refuge is providing extra freezer space and whenever anyone leaves for town they take shopping lists for fresh items from several people. In the winter there are only 6 staff here. In the Spring seasonal employees, researchers and volunteers increase the number to approximately 50. Besides ourselves there are three other volunteers work camping. Beginning in mid July the University of Utah holds classes in Lakeview adding several more people.

Centennial Valley, Montana, Rocky Mountains

The Centennial Valley In Early June

We have been very warmly welcomed by the staff. Every Wednesday evening is Science Wednesday pot luck dinners followed by a report on a research project at the refuge or other scientific topic.  Our work schedule is M/T/Sa/Sun. Chari is primarily hosting in the Visitor Center and assisting in the office while Steve’s time is split between maintenance and the Visitor Center. We both have had the opportunity to help out on projects, Steve with the Arctic Grayling fry count and Chari with monitoring Mountain Bluebird boxes.

Elk Lake And The Centennial Mountains

Elk Lake And The Centennial Mountains

If you are anywhere near Yellowstone National Park please take time to come see us at Red Rock Lakes NWR. Be sure to see their newly designed webpage at  http://www.fws.gov/refuge/red_rock_lakes .

rainbow, nature

Rainbow Over Lakeview

A Rocking Good Time In Little Rock – Part 1

After spending Easter weekend with relatives in Corinth, MS we cross the Mississippi River into Arkansas. The Dreamchaser is finally heading west. Our first stop will be in the state capitol, Little Rock, and from here we’ll make several day trips. Our “home base” for the next few days will be a COE park called Maumelle. As with all of the COE parks it is beautifully arranged. The sites are placed along the Arkansas River. Our Interagency Senior Pass gives us a 50% discount too.

Bill Clinton, U. S. President, Little Rock

Main Display Hall At Clinton Presidential Library

In keeping with our attempt to see all Presidential homes and libraries we head into town to the Clinton Presidential Library. We spot the museum store and grab a free parking spot nearby. After purchasing a lapel pin we walk three blocks to the library. There is parking at the library but it’s a gorgeous spring day for a walk. There is a large city park along the river and we note it has a wonderful bike path. Already we’re talking about coming back! We arrive just in time to purchase tickets for a tour. We highly recommend you take the tour. Our docent guide was excellent. We first went up to the second floor into a mock up of the Cabinet Room and then on to the main exhibit hall. Floor to ceiling bookcases house most of the papers from the Clinton Presidency. There are many more in storage off site. The panels running down the center feature main events by year. If you are interested in exploring a particular event in depth there are alcoves perpendicular to the main panels that have detailed information. On the third floor are exhibits of White House china, gifts from foreign countries, White House Christmas decorations and other memorabilia, a mock up of the Clinton Oval Office and a special exhibit room. There were special exhibits about Presidential pets and a traveling exhibit from the Spy Museum in Washington, D. C. called Terrorists, Saboteurs and Spies.

tour, Clinton Library

On Tour Of Clinton Library In The Cabinet Room

Presidential campaign, Clinton

Clinton Campaign Photo










photography, Clinton

The Clinton’s At Home

Oval Office, Clinton

Mock Up Of Clinton Oval Office










gifts from foreign countries, Japan

Priceless Jade Sculpture From Japan

Saturday Night Live, Clinton

Puppet Of Clinton Used On Saturday Night Live










Chilhuly, Christmas tree, White House

White House Christmas Tree By Dale Chihuly








White House china, Clinton

A Set Of White House China Used During The Clinton Administration



Olympic Torch, Atlanta

Olympic Torch From 1996 Atlanta Games








Clinton's Presidential Limosine

Clinton’s Presidential Limosine










collage, campaign buttons

Clinton Campaign Buttons

From there we walked to the Old State House which is now a museum. The building has been restored and offers a crash course in Arkansas history.

museum, Old State House, Arkansas

Restored Old State House Museum In Little Rock

One of the most interesting events displayed was about the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874. The gubernatorial race of 1872 between Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter was contested. In 1874 a small group of men following Brooks entered the State House and evicted Baxter. Within hours crowds supporting both sides gathered and federal troops were placed between them to prevent bloodshed. The uprising last a bit over a month during which the Brooks contingent occupied the building with artillery. The building sustained a lot of damage. Governor Baxter finally retook the State House and his office.

Another interesting episode occurred in the early 1900s after the new State House was built. The Secretary of State was attempting to fill the building with tenants and offered University of Arkansas Medical Department space rent free. The human cadaver dissection and anthrax studies requiring animals to be kept on the property were not popular with other tenants. However, the federally funded Crossett Experiment which led to the control of the Anopheles mosquito and malaria was headquartered in the building in 1916.

Mary Stenbergen

Mary Stenbergen With Her Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Dale Evans

Dale Evans









Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash Poster










Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton

Of a more modern theme a special exhibit called Arkansas Stars featured stars of movies, recordings and television who were from Arkansas. These names should sound familiar: Mary Stenbergen, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Billy Bob Thornton and Dale Evans. Of special interest to the Maier family who watch “A Christmas Story” every year is Melinda Dillon who played the role of the mother in that holiday classic.

A Christmas Story

It’s Italian. It’s Fra-gee-lee












Favorite Campgrounds For June 2013-June 2014

Just in time for your summer fun we offer our favorite campgrounds. These represent the best of the 39 campgrounds we used while traveling from the Canadian Maritimes to Florida and then west to Iowa over the past year. It was a very difficult choice as 50% of these campgrounds were in the running. Note: we primarily use federal, state and county/city campgrounds.

New this year are two other categories. Our Hall of Fame consists of campgrounds we’ve used on repeated visits and find to be consistently good. Rather than continue to put them in our Favorites list we now include them in their own category. We also have a Think Twice Before Using category for campgrounds we would not use again and do not recommend.


FAVORITES FOR 2013-2014 

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Broad Cove CG, Nova Scotia, Canada

Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia, Canada

Wellesley Island State Park, New York

Everglades National Park, Flamingo CG, Florida

Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunellen, Florida

South Bay County Park, Florida

Ortona Corps of Engineers CG, Florida

Maumelle Corps of Engineers CG,  near Little Rock, Arkansas

Chautauqua Municipal RV Park, Beatrice, Nebraska

Big Sioux State Recreation Area, Brandon, South Dakota



Kerr Scott Lake, Corps of Engineers Bandits Roost CG,  near Wilkesboro, North Carolina

George Washington National Forest, Sherando CG, near Stuarts Draft, Virginia

Western Village RV Park, Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Mecklenburg County McDowell Nature Preserve CG, Charlotte, North Carolina

Tom Johnson RV Park, Marion, North Carolina

Northern Virginia Park Authority, Bull Run Campground, Manassas, Virginia



Boyd’s RV Park, Key West, Florida – expensive, run down neighborhood, overcrowded, high risk of          accident, arrogant and uncooperative owner

Delaware Seashore State Park – campground is nothing more than a parking lot, site does not allow tow vehicle to be parked, construction noise and mess.

Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida – bug infestation made it impossible to sit outside

Stone State Park, Sioux City, Iowa – not big rig friendly, no dump site