This Land Is Our Land

Grand Teton, national park, Wyoming

A Day At Grand Teton NP

We were delayed two days in leaving Red Rock Lakes NWR due to unusually heavy rain for August. The roads once again became muddy. We spent Friday visiting a friend from North Carolina who spends summer in Jackson, WY. While neither the weather or wildlife were cooperative, we had a good time. We’ve never spent extended time in the area but plan to do so in the future.

Idaho. dry camping

The DreamChaser On Our Lot

By Saturday the roads were dry. We’d planned to leave for Ashton, Idaho via Red Rock Pass however the road had turned into a washboard. So we took the longer “smoother” route to I 15 and Rexburg, ID then north to Ashton. We pulled up onto our property at Twin Rivers Ranch without a problem. We’ll spend two nights here dry camping. Sitting outside enjoying the view of Snake River Butte makes us toy with the idea of building a cabin here.

After dinner we went for a walk down the road. Opal was free to roam as there is very seldom traffic here. We found a new wildflower I (Chari) have yet to identify. All of a sudden Opal took off into the woods. We didn’t think much of it until we heard her yelp. As she reappeared she was spitting out large amounts of frothy saliva and rubbing her face into the ground. I (Steve) knew what happened. She’d found a skunk. It didn’t take but a few seconds for our noses to confirm it. With just a small can of tomato juice on hand we did an emergency treatment. (Opal) How do you get away from the smell? I kept moving but it followed me. My folks never smelled that bad before. I wonder what they got into? Then they decided they should say inside and I should stay outside… in the dark no less! Well, put my paw down and let them know THAT was totally unacceptable! Softies that they are, I was allowed in but not in the bedroom. Score: Opal 0, Skunk 2 for the summer of 2014.

Steve At Twin Rivers Ranch

Steve At Twin Rivers Ranch

We went up to the top of Snake River Butte to take some photos. In the following panorama you can see Henry’s Fork of the Snake River on the left, our trailer in the middle (white rectangle) and our nearest neighbor with the red roof on the right. Then we drove over to Upper and Lower Mesa Falls which are about 5 miles away. These are large waterfalls just upriver from our property. The subdivision is called Twin Rivers because it overlooks where the Warm River and Henry’s Fork merge. The National Forest Service has a Visitor Center and campground with electricity at Upper Mesa Falls. Here is my best shot of the day. Then we went to Warm Springs where we saw two river otters playing in the water. They were too far away for really good pics but so much fun to watch!

Looking Down On Twin Rivers Ranch From Snake Butte

Looking Down On Twin Rivers Ranch From Snake Butte

Upper Mesa Falls 4

otters, wildlife, Warm Springs

Otters At Play


We ended the day and our stay with a campfire watching the sunset and a mule deer cross the property. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Lower Mesa Falls Panorama

Lower Mesa Falls Panorama

Tidbits #1

While we’ve been spending time at our first volunteer job at Red Rock Lakes NWR, we’ve been collecting interesting stories and information that in and of themselves don’t make up a post. However we thought by lumping them together you might find it interesting.

While at the refuge we were asked to compile a list of the historical documents and photos on file here. That meant going back through the annual reports from 1935-present and several other files. We really enjoyed reading about the early years of the refuge.

stagecoach, Yellowstone, Red Rock Lakes NWR, history

Shambow Stage Stop Map

Prior to the refuge the Centennial Valley was settled under the Homestead Act. When we get around to catching up on our time in Nebraska and our visit to Homestead National Monument, you’ll hear more about it. When Yellowstone became our first National Park it was very difficult to get there. Monida, MT (28 miles west of Lakeview where the refuge is located) had a railroad station. The Shambow Stage Stop for the M&Y stage line (Monida-Yellowstone Stage) was established across from present day Shambow Pond in the valley. Travelers would spent the night at the Shambow Pond Stage Stop and continue to Yellowstone (45 miles east) the next day. A long hard trip to be sure. In 1898 the business consisted of 12 Concord coaches that could carry 11 passengers, 4 smaller coaches carrying 3 passengers, 80 horses and 40 employees. By 1915 the business had expanded and carried 40% of the 20,000 people who visited Yellowstone NP. The M&Y Stage offered three different travel packages. While the stage stop is long gone, the Shambow homestead still exists. Plans are for the Centennial Valley Historical Society to restore the run down site  and use it for their Visitor Center and library.

mountain bike, race, Great Divide

Great Divide Trail

Visitors from all over the USA and several foreign countries have visited this summer. We’ve met people from France, Germany, Italy, England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China and Japan. Many were visiting Yellowstone while several others were mountain biking the Great Divide Trail. The trail runs along the Continental Divide for 2745 miles from Banff in Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Some bikers devote the entire summer to riding the whole trail. Others have only a week or two to ride a segment. Steve and the refuge manager responded to an emergency signal from a monitoring company one Saturday. Fortunately it turned out to be a false alarm. However the refuge did assist one unfortunate biker who arrived with a torn Achilles tendon and other ills by driving him to the nearest medical facility about an hour away.  Each June there is a race along the entire trail. This year’s winner completed the race in a bit over 16 days and 2 hours to average 170 miles a day!

Another adventurous duo we met the first day we were here. Two young men arrived at the refuge pulling kayaks along. They had been on the trail for three days and expected their trip to take 5 months. They were doing the Source to Sea Route. This runs from Brower’s Spring (the most distant tributary of the Missouri River) on Sawtelle Mountain to the mouth of the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico. They had to hike from the spring until they reached navigable water. Then they would paddle the rest of the way. One young man just graduated from film school and hopes to make an independent film about their trip.

Red Rock Lakes NWR is the setting for E. B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan, a well known children’s book. When a teacher from Arkansas called asking for any material we had that she could use as her class would be reading the book this year, we made a DVD from our photos showing where Louis, the swan with a trumpet, lived. It is short, only 7 minutes so we are including it here.

We have made new friends not only among the staff here but visitors as well. One couple from New Mexico shared our interest in photography. We sat and visited for over an hour one Saturday and have established e-mail contact. We certainly hope our paths will cross again. Another full time RV couple visited the refuge and shared a touching story. They began their RV life after losing their previous home about three years prior to a Texas wildfire. Having decided they could not rebuild and live happily in the charred land that was once so beautiful, they bought a RV and set out in search of a new home town. After six weeks of being on the road they decided they loved the lifestyle and were already “home”.

flamingo, Pink Floyd, children's books

Pink Floyd In Flight

However, our most memorable visitors were a couple who came in and asked “what do you know about a flamingo that used to live here?” I thought to myself, sure, a flamingo in Montana! I asked the Office Manager who had been here for 25 years. Surprisingly she said “You mean Pink Floyd?” Yes, there really was a flamingo here! The story goes like this. A flamingo escaped from an aviary in Salt Lake City, Utah and set up a new home on an island in the Great Salt Lake. In the summer his mixed flock of gulls and snow geese would migrate to Lima Reservoir about 25 miles west of the refuge. Occasionally the flock would come over to the Red Rock Lakes. Pink Floyd summered in southwestern Montana from 1988-2005. The wife of this couple, Sheila Parr Taylor, has written a children’s book called Pink Floyd, the Flyaway Flamingo.  It’s a beautifully illustrated book by J. Kenneth Allein. For more information write the author at P.O.Box 1455, East Lansing, MI 48826-1455 or email her at

duck banding, Montana

Chari Waiting For The Duck Drive

Driving A Brood

Driving A Brood

As a farewell activity we participated in the initial week of Lesser Scaup (duck) banding on Lower Red Rock Lake. This lake is very shallow with numerous grassy islands making it prime habitat for water birds. While waiting for the roundup to begin Steve captured a trumpeter swan family out for a swim (see blog header). He also took a pic of me, as he says, waiting to head them off at the pass. A net trap is set up and several canoes/kayaks and a rowboat are used to gather small groups of ducklings into a large group and guide them into the mouth of the trap where they are scooped up and placed in boxes. The day we went we gathered two groups for a total of close to one hundred birds. They are transported to shore and we split into two groups. The ducklings were separated by sex and whether they had been previously marked. Data on all birds is recorded such as length of the tarsus, back of head to tip of beak and weight. The smallest birds are placed in a cone to weigh while larger birds are hooked by the leg band. Smaller ducklings were web tagged with a staple like numbered clip. Larger ducklings were given a leg band. The largest females also were nasal tagged with plastic markers making it easier to track them without having to recapture them. Of course the ducks had their own way of letting us know what they thought of all this! At the end of the day we set them free and watched them swim happily away.

Working At The Trap

Working At The Trap

Recording Data Onshore

Recording Data Onshore










Measuring The Tarsus

Measuring The Tarsus

Donald Or Daisy?

Donald Or Daisy?










The scenery and wildlife have been spectacular but the history and interesting people we’ve met have been an added bonus. This is our last post from the refuge  It’s been a wonderful Summer at Red Rock Lakes NWR.



Where Next #6

With less than two weeks left at Red Rock Lakes NWR we drew up a plan for our next two and a half months of travel en route to Petrified Forest National Park. We are continuing to make seeing more National Park sites a priority. Our route will take us to or near 12-15 more parks. We’re getting close to our goal of having visited 33% of the NPS sites by the end of 2014. Will we make it? You’ll just have to follow along and find out.

For easiest viewing, click on the picture of our route to enlarge.

travel, RV living, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, National Parks

RV Travels For August-November 2014

The View From Here #1

panorama, photography, Montana

A View With Room

We’ve seen so many gorgeous places in southwestern Montana and we are sure that’s only the start that this post is a new category for us. On one of our days off we climbed a steep ridge that gave us a breathtaking view of the Centennial Valley. Just a bit of history on how the valley got it’s name. One of the homesteaders moved into the valley in 1876. Thinking this place summed up what the USA represented his wife called it the Centennial Valley as that year was our country’s centennial. So it has been called ever since.

hiking, nature, national wildlife refuge

Looks Like A Long Way Up

The day was sunny but very, very windy. At times when we were on top of the ridge we had to crouch down so the gusts wouldn’t blow us off balance. The air was hazy and we wondered if more wildfires in Oregon, Washington and Idaho were the cause. Later we learned that a small fire known as the Fish fire was burning in the Centennials near the Sheep Research Station.

Steve Leading The Way

Steve Leading The Way

I’m not a strong hiker on inclines so this off trail climb was, at least for me, a strenuous one. On the lower level the sagebrush was high enough for it to hit me mid thigh. There were places where the rocks were loose and made our footing difficult. We were climbing to a bit over 7,000′ so rest breaks were definitely needed. I was glad to reach the alpine area where I could easily step over the sage. About 80% of the way up I began to wonder if I could make it and found myself humming the theme to “Rocky”. So when I finally got to the top, yup, just had to do a “Rocky” pose.  It was just a “little walk” for me. 



hiking, achievement, theme from "Rocky"


The view was definitely worth the effort as you can see. Lichen covered rocks and butterflies offered intimate photo ops as well.

orange butterfly


The way back down was tricky because of the steepness and the loose rock. We had to zig-zag back and forth. So glad we brought the hiking sticks along. Happy and tired we returned home. The Centennial Valley is a very special place indeed.