Heading East Again: Part 1 – Wyoming And South Dakota

After very little rain in August 2017, we left Salmon, Idaho in a downpour and much cooler temperatures in mid September. Our final checking routine includes signal lights. Oops! Nothing on the trailer but the truck is fine. Then we check trailer brakes. Mmmm… not working either. So we creep two miles over to the Chevy dealer. A mechanic comes out and finds a loose connection between the truck and trailer electrical connection. We probably knocked something loose with all of our bouncing around on backroads. He gives it a push in the right direction and Voila! It’s fixed. He wishes us well and doesn’t even charge us. Oh, how I love small town America!

We are headed to an overnight stop at Jefferson County Lake CG just north of Rigby, Idaho. Before we get there we must drive over Gilmore Pass at 8,000 feet. This is where the rain turns to wet snow but thankfully isn’t sticking to the road. The park is good for a one night stop but not much else to recommend it. We push on to Cody ignoring our GPS who thinks we are a truck and tries to detour us around Yellowstone NP. We never get enough of this park! Yesterday’s snow has left the first white blanket of the upcoming winter. Typical Yellowstone wildlife jams allow a bit of fun as buffalo march on past us. A few more high passes to cross then down into Cody for our stay at Buffalo Bill Reservoir State Park. We had a busy schedule planned even if it looked like we picked monsoon season for our visit!

Wyoming, state park, RV, campground

Winter Comes Early To BB Cody Reservoir SP

The first 2 days of our stay were predicting good weather so we planned some outdoor activities. Then the rains would move back in and we had plans for inside attractions. When we were in the area visiting Yellowstone in 2009 (pre RV days and our honeymoon) the drive along the Chief Joseph Highway was a favorite. This leads from just north of Cody toward Cook City and the East gate of Yellowstone. With a fresh coat of snow, the Rockies and vast western scenery we had a great day touring and hopping out to snap pictures.

sculpture, scenic byway, Chief Joseph Highway

Sculpture On The Chief Joseph Highway

Reminds Me Of Yosemite

SNOW? But It’s Only September!

The following day we headed north and east to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. We wanted to make a day trip to check the feasibility of bringing the DreamChaser 2 here in the future. Some of the roads on the map looked rather curvy and steep. We found the route to be fine and look forward to coming back. A great spot for kayaking and fishing.

Big Horn Canyon NRA

Big Horn Sheep At Bighorn Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Desert Landscape at Bighorn Canyon

We stopped at the Visitor Center and watched 3 short films. One was about the wild horses of the adjacent Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Area. That name sounded so familiar. Ah yes, now I remembered watching a show named Cloud of the Pryor Mountains. We were told to keep our eyes open for the horses at certain points along the scenic drive. We were stopped at an overlook when another visitor told us there were horses right along the road about 2 miles up the road. We jumped into the truck and found them easily. There was even a large pull off nearby. We spent the next hour watching and merrily clicking away as the Pryor Mountain horses moved from spot to spot. At one point Steve was up on a hill while I stayed at road level. The horses decided it was time to cross the road. I ran out to get shots as they came toward me. They kept coming closer and closer until at about 50 feet away I jumped to the roadside out of the way. I think they are used to being photographed as they didn’t seem a bit concerned. Another time one stallion had left and reappeared at the top of a ridge. He whinnied and tossed his head looking like a scene from a 50s western.

Black Stallion of the Pryor Mountain Herd

Brown Horse With Distinctive Markings of the Herd

Pryor Mountain Horse and the Landscape

We’d heard from several other folks that the Buffalo Bill Museum of the West was a “Do not miss” stop and that we should allow 2 days there. All we can say is “Ditto”. This is really 5 museums in 1: natural history, Buffalo Bill Cody, western art, Plains Indians and firearms. Just in case you don’t have enough to see there is the raptor show at 1 PM and the western music show at 6:30 PM. Each section of the museum has it’s own curator who ranks among the top in their field. This was the Centennial year for the museum and they had a few special exhibits such as the one about one of the early directors and his adventures in Alaska in the 1920s. The taxidermy in the natural history section was so well done you really expected them to move. At the Buffalo Bill section you are greeted by a hologram of BB Cody. We saw his jacket and photos of him wearing it, Annie Oakley’s guns and costumes, artifacts belonging to Sitting Bull when he performed with the Wild West Show and a map showing hundreds of locations where the show performed. Did you know that Buffalo Bill Cody was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient? The art museum is fantastic and Chari could have spent a whole day there. One of my favorites was a sculpture by Solon Borglum, lesser known brother of Gustav Borglum, the creator of  Mount Rushmore. The Plains Indians section was especially interesting to us after having worked at the Sacajawea Center this past summer. Of special note was the buffalo skin tipi on loan from the Smithsonian and one of only three known to exist. Steve could have spent his entire visit in the Firearms section. It is the world’s largest collection of firearms, some dating from the 1200s. Of special note were the guns from TV shows, a whole gallery of decorated guns and air guns from the same manufacturer that made the one used by Lewis and Clark. We had talked to visitors about the air gun just a week earlier in Idaho. There are only 4 known to exist and this museum has 2 of them. During our first visit we watched the raptor show with a red tailed hawk and owl. On our second visit we passed on the buffet but attended the music show. This museum is worth a trip to Cody by itself!

Fox

Grizzly

Sage Grouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Art 1

Western Art 2

Bronco Buster by Solon Borglum

Hologram of Buffalo Bill

Annie Oakley’s Guns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Of Cody Wearing Jacket Seen At Museum

 

Cody’s Embroidered Jacket

Buffalo Skin Tipi

Elk Tooth Child’s Dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of Several Chief’s Headdresses On Display

 

Little Joe’s Gun From Bonanza

Other sights around town were the Irma Hotel, the Buffalo Bill Dam and  huge breakfast at Granny’s Diner. The Irma Hotel was built by Buffalo Bill Cody and named after one of his daughters. The present day restaurant was originally the gambling hall but the ornate bar is original. He might have been a great guide and showman but he wasn’t great at marriage. I felt very sorry for his wife who was left to raise the kids alone while he galavanted all over. The Buffalo Bill Dam was built between 1905-1910 and was the tallest dam until surpassed by Boulder Dam. The view of the Shoshone River Canyon from here is great.

Shoshone Canyon From Buffalo Bill Dam

Buffalo Bill Cody Reservoir

Next stop is Belle Fouche, SD and our third visit to the Black Hills area. Belle Fouche is pronounced as if there is an r in it, like Forshe. We stayed at the state park there in a large site with a water view. Knowing we would be back in SD next year to renew our driver’s licenses we purchased a yearly pass. SD like several western states charge a daily entrance fee on top of the camping fee. You break even at 6 nights so we are already ahead of the game! On previous visits we’d stayed at Custer State Park and Angostura State Park. We’d already seen the big tourist sites of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse so this time we concentrated on the city of Spearfish and the Belle Fouche area.

We have volunteer friends who had worked at the DC Booth Historic Fish Hatchery in Spearfish so we thought we’d visit and see if we might enjoy volunteering there sometime in the future. It was one of the first fish hatcheries in the west and much of the science and fish culture processes used today were developed here. One of the most interesting displays is the replica train car used to transport fish to release sites prior to using truck transport. A few years ago this site was almost closed and the historical artifacts were to be moved to West Virginia. The community and advocates were able to mount a “Save DC Booth” movement and the historic structures were preserved, at least for now. We spoke with one of the volunteers and the director. We look forward to returning here.

Touring The D. C. Booth Home

 

A Salute To The Early Days of the Fish Hatchery

While talking to the volunteer, he mentioned a local art gallery called Termesphere. Although we’d never heard of him, the artist is well known for his unusual medium of using globes. The process he uses involves taking his original artwork and through digital means turns it into 3D spheres. I liked the graphic patterns but some of it was just too weird for my taste. His wife is a well known puppeteer and has a small display there as well.

The Thermosphere Galley

The weather improved for one day and we had a lovely day driving along Spearfish Canyon including lunch at the Spearfish Lodge. We drove passed a site used in the film Dances With Wolves. We’ve been to several movie locations in our travels and I wish I’d kept a list of them. The Canyon is only 35 miles long but when you add exploring some backroads it is an all day trip. Early Fall colors gave the area a special charm.

Waterfall In Spearfish Canyon

Driving The Backroads of Spearfish Canyon

Autumn In Spearfish Canyon

On our last day we toured the Center of the Nation Museum and Monument. The geographical center of the USA used to be in Kansas until Alaska and Hawaii were added. Now the actual center is a few miles outside of Belle Fouche in a farmer’s field. We spoke with a museum docent about going there. She said “It is down dirt roads and with the rain it is very muddy AND there are a lot of rattlesnakes.” WHOA! You know how I am about snakes. Staying in town at the monument is just fine with me! The local historical museum was fun as well. I always find some bit of local interest that amuses me or where I learn about the local culture. Here it was about a few of the “houses of ill repute” from the 1870s-1890s and a few amazing women who made history on the rodeo circuit (the two topics are not related!)

At The Center of The Nation Monument

Then we made a straight through drive across I 90 with a one night stop at Vermillion Lake SP. Next stops: Wisconsin and Illinois.

Morehead City, NC Celebrates Veterans Day 2017

Just a quick post so that we are more timely than our usual posts. We have just begun a 5 month volunteer position at Cape Lookout National Seashore. As our first activity we participated with two park rangers and other volunteers in the Morehead City Veterans Day Parade. Some communities have big parades for July 4th or Christmas but in Morehead City the big parade is on Veterans Day. It is the type of parade where you are either in it or watching it. We were entry number 152 and I don’t know how many more there were behind us.

Yes, of course we took pictures! Steve made a short (4 minute) video of the event. We are both veterans and proud to have served even if we were not in combat situations. Thanks to all who have served.

Total Eclipse 2017

Never To Old To Be A Junior Ranger

Our Facebook friends have already seen our eclipse photos but we wanted to add a post to the blog about our Nat Geo experience of seeing the total eclipse while camping on BLM land in Idaho this summer. We experienced the event with millions of others in total solitude!

We had worked at our volunteer job at the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho all day on the 20th of August. We were scheduled to work on Monday the 21st but our supervisor was able to get coverage for us. So we headed about an hour and a half south to BLM land. We arrived with just enough time to set up our tent and eat dinner. The valley was filled with smoke from numerous forest fires in Idaho and Montana. Oh, please don’t let it ruin the Eclipse!

Hazy Skies On August 21, 2017

This was one of our Once in a Lifetime events. We’d bought new cameras and a 100-400mm zoom lens just to photograph the eclipse. We’d read an e-book on shooting an eclipse. We’d bought special filter material and with a bit of ingenuity we made our own filters. We were READY!

Eclipse Morning Sunrise

After a night of sliding downhill in our sleeping bags due to poor siting of the tent, we awoke to a glorious sunrise peeking over the mountains. We were in place with a tarp strung out from the truck to act as a sun shield by 10AM. Shortly thereafter the magic began. Ever so slowly at first the moon nibbled away at the upper right corner of the sun. As it progressed the world grew dimmer. Then the temperature started to drop. A breeze started. We reached for our jackets and guessed the air was twenty degrees cooler. We tried to remember to look up and just enjoy the event as well as take the long anticipated diamond ring and totality shots.

Eclipse Day Camp

Our Photo Shelter

Losing The Light

It’s Starting!

Diamond Ring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totality!

Going..Going..Gone

Composite Of The Eclipse

And then the world began to lighten and warm as the moon moved on to the left. The eclipse was over but would be replayed in our hearts and memories for years. We may have a chance to experience another one but we will always remember this, our first total eclipse.

Summer 2017 And The River Of No Return

Our four months in central Idaho are coming to a close so it is time to get a post up on our wonderful summer. We’d been in most other areas of Idaho but never the center of the state. When we saw a volunteer position for the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho we applied and were accepted for Summer 2017. Not only was this a gorgeous area but a stop along the Lewis and Clark Trail, a favorite subject of ours. If you like mountains, small western towns and free running rivers then the Lemhi Valley is for you. The town of Salmon has a population of about 3,000. Community pride and a high percentage of resident involvement is reflected by volunteerism and community participation. The major businesses are cattle ranching and ecotourism. Salmon is located at the confluence of the Lemhi and Salmon Rivers. In the past it was an area of mining and timber harvesting so it is rich in history as well. Today a large percentage of the valley is either land managed by BLM or the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The valley is surrounded to the east by the Beaverhead Mountains, to the south by the Lost River Range, to the north and west by the Bitterroot Mountains. Also to the west is the the largest wilderness area in the lower 48, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.

The Sacajawea Center was built through the cooperation of federal, state and local groups for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration in 2004-2006. Then it was turned over to the City of Salmon and is run by the city today. The Lemhi Valley is the traditional homeland of the Agaidika (Lemhi Shoshone), Sacajawea’s people. Agaidika, in the Shoshone language, means “salmon eaters” and refers to one of their main food sources. The Interpretive Center where we worked tells the story of Sacajawea from living in the valley to her capture by the Hidatsa,  her role with the Corps of Discovery, after the expedition and the removal of the Shoshone to the Fort Hall Reservation. The valley is referred to by the Lemhi Shoshone as Agai Pah. We researched and developed Discovery Center talks: (Steve) Mapping the West and The Language Chain, (Chari) Medicine Along The Lewis and Clark Trail and a Trivia Quiz. We erected a traditional tipi, worked in the native plant and community garden and did light maintenance. One of our projects was a slideshow for the Interpretive Center. It runs about 26 minutes but you can forward through the sections for a shorter time. This captured the feel of the area and many of the sights we enjoyed so we are posting it here for you to view in lieu of still photos. As with most videos it is a good idea to let it load at least 3/4 of the film before viewing so you will have a smooth playback. That may take some time so please be patient (or it may just be our wifi connection).

We were asked by the Sacajawea manager to film our Discovery Center talks as tutorials for future volunteers. We include them here so that if you have interest in the topics you can watch. Chari’s talk runs about 30 minutes. Steve’s talk involved more technical material about using navigational equipment and required more detail. His talk runs about an hour and is split into two parts.

We haven’t had time to do a video for our out of Lemhi County trips so it is back to still photos. The star of our days off trips was the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. We packed up our tent and what seemed a ridiculous amount of other stuff for two wonderful trips there. After all, we are at the age where comfort is primary! The mountains, lakes/rivers and wildflowers were breathtaking! We took the Custer Motorway on the way back home locating both tent and RV camping spots and seeing the Custer and Bonanza ghost towns.

A Favorite Sawtooth Scene

Along The Custer Motorway

Reflection of The Sawtooths

For our wedding anniversary this year (that’s number 8), we took a rafting trip with Rawhide Outfitters. This was a 3 hour trip with a short gold mine stop and BBQ lunch. The day use stretch of the Salmon River has up to Class 3 rapids. We had a wonderful guide and enjoyed ourselves. I don’t know if I can work up courage to do the multi-day trip with level 4 and 5 rapids through the Frank Church Wilderness on the Middle Fork of the river. I’m ready to go. What are you waiting for? That’s why the Salmon River is called The River of No Return. Until the invention of jet boats and powerful gasoline engines the Salmon River current was too strong for men to paddle or row back upstream. Traffic could only go downstream. 

Floating On The Salmon River

Steve “Riding The Bull”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anniversary Rafting Trip

Another favorite area was the Spar Canyon Road south of Challis, Idaho, nearby Herd Lake and oddly named Road Creek Road. On our first trip here we found a new to us plant. It took me a long time to identify it. Now we know it is called Sobol, a member of the agave group and in the asparagus family. This is BLM land and great for rockhounding. We returned here for the Eclipse 2017 and had no crowds. Steve has written an account of this which we’ll post separately. To say it was a National Geographic moment is an understatement! Also in the area and worth a mention is Land of the Yankee Fork State Park. The park is devoted to mining history of the area and a visit to the Bayhorse Ghost Town in the park is a must.

Driving Spar Canyon Road

The Many Colors Found In Spar Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sobol Growing In Spar Canyon

We attended two festivals: Bannack Days at Bannack State Park (old mining ghost town) and Logger Days in Darby, MT. We’d been to Bannack in 2014 but it was fun to see the town “come alive” through living history. They had everything from pack mules to an old mining stamp machine and a “shoot out”.  Steve spent a long time talking to a surveyor about historical instruments and was able to use this information in his talk.

Bannack Scene

Living History Brings Town To Life

The Dentist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shoot Out

The Darby, Montana Logger Festival was the first of its type that we had attended. Just as a rodeo is a competition based on skills a cowboy uses, the Logger Festival uses a chainsaw and skills loggers need. There were several events but our three favorites were the Cookie Stack, the Obstacle Pole and one we call the Climb and Cut.

In the Cookie Stack a beer mug of water is placed on an upright log. Then the logger cuts several slices aka cookies. The stack is then picked up on the chainsaw blade and moved to an adjacent log. Lastly the chainsaw is removed. All of this without spilling the mug! The gal who won was amazing. She placed in every event.

After Cutting The Cookies

Moving The Stack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Removing The Saw

 

 

Success!

The Obstacle Pole starts when the logger picks up the saw and runs around the obstacle. Then he/she runs up an angled log to the end. They balance on the end, start the saw and then lean over the end and cut off a section. Lastly they turn and run down the log to the ground.

Off And Running

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start Your Saw

 

 

 

 

 

Starting To Cut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Fall Now!

 

Turn And Run!

We don’t know the official name of this event but it involves making an axe cut about 4′ off the ground and inserting a board. Then the logger jumps up on the board and repeats the process. Standing on the second board and bouncing a lot the logger chops thru the top log. The man shown here was a former World Champion Logger. While he didn’t win, he did place well… at age 75! No more excuses! You rest… you rust.

 

Strong At 75

 

Up On The First Board

 

Now On The Second Board

 

Chopping Away At The Top

 

Lest we forget to mention our visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument. We’d made a quick visit in 2011 but always wanted to spend more time and see wildflowers growing in the lava. A great photo opportunity. The plants are all low growing so some shots required us to sprawl on our tummies. Bet that was a curious sight to other visitors!

June Wildflowers At Craters of the Moon

Nature As Sculptor

 

Time as usual has gone all too fast. We will miss the wonderful staff at the Sacajawea Center and the local volunteers who devote so much time year after year. We explored only some of the backroads. Of course, it is our stomachs that will miss 80 mile bread from Odd Fellows Bakery, free range eggs bought roadside on the honor system, Sacajawea Stout from Bertram’s Brewery and the huge ice cream cones at the Baker Country Store.

Now on to new adventures!

Evening Blues On The Salmon River

 

 

 

Roadside Humor #7

It has been a while since we posted a Roadside Humor item. Not that we haven’t seen a few good ones but just didn’t think to publish them. Last week as we were traveling from Salmon, ID to Idaho Falls, ID we spotted this windmill and water tower. Anyone else willing to say they remember this show? Now we know where the real Petticoat Junction is.

The REAL Petticoat Junction

Where To Next? #10

Four months seemed like a long time to be in one place when we arrived at the Sacajawea Center in Salmon, Idaho last May. In the blink of an eye, here we are in mid August and it is time to plan our next journey.  All but one of these stops is new to us. We will be returning to Bandits Roost in NC where we visited often while waiting for our house to sell in 2012. We’ll be heading back east to volunteer at Cape Lookout National Seashore and in February 2018 celebrate Steve’s Mom’s 90th birthday. Although I spent 20 years in North Carolina, I never visited the southern part of the Outer Banks. Now we’ll have 5 months to play and explore. Along the way we’ll spend time in Cody, Wyoming and meet up with RV friends in Yellowstone NP, see the Black Hills of SD for the third time but in the Spearfish area, stop to see Steve’s brother in Wisconsin, visit 8 National Park Service sites, eat in 3 Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, take a steamboat cruise for Ocktoberfest and continue Seeing America Through A Bug Splattered Windshield.

From Salmon, ID To Cape Lookout NS, NC

Our Best Campgrounds From September 2016-May 2017

It is that time of year again when we select the best campgrounds we used over the past year. In the past we have limited it to the top 10. This year we travelled more miles and used more campgrounds so we have over 25 to recommend. We also are color coding them. GREEN means new location we recommend, YELLOW means a previous selection we used again and still recommend (Our Hall of Fame) and RED means not recommended for big rigs like ours (40′ 5th wheel). For easier reading, bring the picture zoom in 3-4 times.

Over the past 5 years we have stayed in over 150 campgrounds and approximately half of these have made it to the annual list. For past recommendations refer to posts in July of each year.

Happy Camping Everyone!

Our Top Campgrounds For Sept. 2016- May 2017