Where Is Datil And Why Go There?

Very Large Array, Datil, New Mexico, El Morro NM, elk

Panorama Of The Very Large Array

Just a quick entry before we get too far behind and fall off the blog wagon again. Datil, NM isn’t near anything you’d know. It is 60-70 miles west of Albuquerque on US 60. We came here to stay at the Datil Wells BLM CG for the amazing price (senior rate) of $2.50/night. Even full price is only $5. Now it is dry camping but most of the sites are large and private. There is water available and vault toilets. Because of the volume of RV use the stay limit is 7 days in 28 rather than the usual 14 days. There are no reservations. We used our generators early AM and in the evening but kept the residential refrigerator going with the new solar panel during the day.

vla-4

Our reason for coming was to see The Very Large Array nearby and visit El Morro NM which was more of a drive than we expected. We would come back here again just to relax as there are some great trails to explore. The area was a major cattle drive route with wells placed every 10-15 miles to keep the animals watered, hence the name Datil Wells. The Spaniards were the first to call it Datil as they thought the fruit of the local yucca looked like dates. The second ocean to ocean highway came through here during the early days of auto touring. Interesting history kiosks and a small visitor center describe local history. This is ranch country however when the locals need to quench their thirst the local gas station also sells “white lightening” (apparently legal here) as Steve overheard a customer ask openly. Never know what you’ll find on the road!

vla-5

Backside Of Telescope Dish

The Very Large Array is a set of 27 huge radio telescopes used for researching the galaxy and far beyond. The dishes are 92′ across (think 2 school buses wide) and dwarf a person standing alongside. Most pictures you see are of the dishes arranged close together in what is called the A position but they can be spread up to 13 miles apart in the D configuration. The closer they are the more general the information gathered and the further they are, the more detailed the information. When we visited the dishes were in a mid point formation. There are films in the visitor center detailing the array and the discoveries made, how the dishes are moved on rails and maintenance required. After our visit we put the movie “Contact” with Jodie Foster on our Netflix list as it was filmed here

Tracks Used To Move VLA Dishes

Tracks Used To Move VLA Dishes

 

el-morro-1-hdr

El Morro As A Landmark

Another day we drove a backroads route to El Morro NM. This rock formation seems to arise out of no where and served as a landmark for travelers from native Americans, Spanish conquistadors and priests to pioneers. It also was a known source of safe water in this dry land. Many left their mark and the rock is covered with petroglyphs, drawings and names. We’d hoped to also visit El Malpais NM but time got away from us. On the way back we had a National Geographic moment as we came upon a herd of elk. To our left were about 20 elk and one bull. To our right were about 50 cows and one very handsome bull with a huge rack. He knew he was in his prime. He bugled and pranced. It was too dark for photos so we just parked by the side of the road and enjoyed the scene. Now that’s one busy guy!

Time to move along. Next stop Durango.

Cool Cool Water

Cool Cool Water

Shadow On The Rock Is It The Pause That Refreshes?

Shadow On The Rock Is It The Pause That Refreshes?

El Morro Petroglyph

El Morro Petroglyph

Military and Religious Carvings

Military and Religious Carvings

A Pioneer Makes His Mark

A Pioneer Makes His Mark

Life In Death Valley

Death Valley, landscape

Subtle Colors Of Death Valley

From Lone Pine we headed back east over the Inyo Mountains to visit Death Valley National Park. We’d never heard of this range but after going up, over and down pulling a 35′ trailer we certainly will not forget the ride! We knew the road was challenging and stopped at the Lone Pine Visitors Center to check on road conditions and potential problems. They gave us the green light and said “just go slow on the descent”. Not that you could have done anything else! With 20/20 hindsight we should have had the video camera going to accurately give you the feeling of heading down over miles of switchback roads without guardrails. Go slow they said. You bet. At times we crept around curves at 15 mph or less only to find ourselves immediately reversing direction for another curve. I’ve become very confident in Steve’s ability to handle the DreamChaser but…when I’d look down the unprotected chasm on my side my toes would curl and I’d find my palms getting sweaty. I let out a BIG sigh of relief when we finally reached the bottom!! When watching the video be sure and take notice of the surrounding mountains and picture us there.

A Vast Wasteland

A Vast Wasteland

 

Water In The Desert

Water In The Desert

Our campground would be at Furnace Creek which is mostly dry camping. There are a few full service sites here but they were booked months ago. The only criteria that is a bit difficult to work around is that you must be at your site to run the generator and all generators off by 7PM. In March it isn’t a problem but we sure wouldn’t want to be here much later without access to air conditioning. One evening we were sitting outside when the campground host came by and asked if that was our generator running. I said yes and (looking at my watch) indicated we had 15 minutes to go. No, said the host. You forgot to change your watch. It’s daylight savings time now and you’re 45 minutes beyond the generator curfew. Oops!

Blue-eyed Grass

Blue-eyed Grass

Beavertail Cactus

Beavertail Cactus

Death Valley is a huge park with over 3,000,000 acres to explore. We did a lot of hiking to earn enough points for our bumper sticker, roamed through the Harmony Borax Works and Borax Museum, went on wildflower explorations, watched beautiful sunsets and toured Scotty’s Castle. We joined Ranger led tours for a full moon dune walk and to see Death Valley Scotty’s real cabin home. We made scenic drives to Artists Canyon and Titus Canyon. We explored ghost towns in the park such as Rhyolite and one just outside the boundary on BLM land. Our week went all to fast. Not since visiting The Everglades have I begun a park visit questioning just how much I’d enjoy only to find myself loving every minute. There is so much more to explore so here’ where we say “When we come back…”

Borax Wagon

Borax Wagon

Steve (Spielberg) Maier has created a video of our days in Death Valley. It runs about 25 minutes. So run to the bathroom, grab a beer and some popcorn but most of all enjoy one of our national treasures. As usual, please allow the video to fully upload before playing for best results and click the icon at the lower right corner to bring to full screen.

Steve AT Natural Bridge In Death Valley

Steve At Natural Bridge In Death Valley

 

Dunes at sunset 1

Dunes At Sunset

 

Zabriske Point Sunset

Zabriske Point Sunset

This Place Rocks!

Alabama Hills, panorama, California, photography, Lone Pine

Alabama Hills Panorama

The DreamChaser At Lone Pine

The DreamChaser At Lone Pine

Have you ever heard of Lone Pine, California? Neither had we until looking where we might camp while visiting Manzanar National Historic Site. Right outside of town we found Diaz Lake County Park. At this time of year there were only six other campers however during the summer months it is very popular with folks hiking Mount Whitney. We arrived to find that the water supply was still turned off for the winter. No problem as we have had enough unexpected situations so we always travel with a full fresh water tank. Later on we checked out a BLM campground, Tuttle Creek, for future use. Both spots are dry camping.

Movie Road

Movie Road

You say you’ve never been here and yet at least via your TV or the movies you have. If you ever watched Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza or John Wayne movies or How the West Was Won you saw the Alabama Hills. The hills are named after a Civil War battleship but we don’t know why. Ever watch Gunga Din? Thought you were in India? Nope, Lone Pine, California and the Alabama Hills. Located within easy commute of Hollywood this area was used for numerous westerns and films reaching a peak in the 1950s. We spent most of our first day just driving and walking through the area. The road leading to Mount Whitney, Whitney Portal Road, was still closed but we found a road called Movie Road. Now who could resist exploring that spot? As we drove along it was easy to imagine gunmen behind every rock. At one point I said to Steve, this is where the stagecoach driver gets shot and the passenger has to crawl out of the coach and scramble up to the seat then jump down on the horses and grab the reins, saving everyone from the canyon edge. Home to over 300 movies the Alabama Hills can be seen in recent movies such as Star Trek V and VII, Tremors and Gladiator. Each year the BLM issues 30-40 permits a year for movies, commercials and still photography shoots. You can download a PDF brochure from the BLM to help guide you to some of the movie locations.

We came to an especially pretty area with subtle colors running from rose, lilac and light green to rust and tan. As I was taking this picture I just knew it would become one of my favorites. When I had time later I worked with some of the post processing software to change the photo to watercolor and oil paint adaptations. Which version do you like best?

Original Subtle Colors Photo

Original Subtle Colors Photo

Watercolor Version Of Above Photo

Watercolor Version Of Above Photo

Second subtle Colors Photo

Second subtle Colors Photo

Oil Paint Version Of # 2

Oil Paint Version Of # 2

Here are a few more photos from the area. Our second day in the area was cold and windy letting you know that Winter hadn’t released it’s grasp just yet. After warm desert temps we had to scramble to find jeans, sweatshirts and hats.

AH scenery 5

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Winter Lingers On

Winter Lingers On

Brrrrrr!!

Brrrrrr!!

A Cold Day In Black And White

A Cold Day In Black And White

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met our friends Mary and Jeff for dinner at their home. Both are are archeologists. Mary is retired from the US Forest Service and Jeff is the museum director at Manzanar NHS. Almost twenty years ago Jeff was involved in a dig at the Puerco Pueblo site in Petrified Forest NP. We are continuously amazed at the coincidences we find while traveling.

Visitor Center

Visitor Center

Manzanar NHS was established in 1992. Unlike Minidoka NHS that we visited last year, several buildings from the Japanese Internment Camp remain. The park is still being developed and new interpretation exhibits will open soon. The museum and park film located in the Visitor Center are excellent and describe the day to day life of the camp. The camp gymnasium that once held dances is now the Visitor Center.  It is surprising to me that the internees kept such a positive attitude. While we were watching the film, a family from Japan was sitting right behind us. I wish I’d been able to ask them what was their reaction to this park. Among the internees were 400 landscape professionals who turned a bleak, dry area into a lovely Japanese garden with streams and a bridge. Future plans call for restoring the garden. This is the only camp that had an orphanage to care for displaced orphans, foster children and babies born out of wedlock. Of the 10,000 people interned here one went on to be the designer of the 1963 Corvette Stingray. He was twelve years old when his family was sent to this camp. We always learn a lot visiting our National Parks. At Manzanar we learned that the US was not alone in relocating people of Japanese ancestry. Both Cuba and Canada had relocation camps. Here are our photos from Manzanar.

Welcome To Manzanar

Welcome To Manzanar

Everyday Life At Manzanar

Everyday Life At Manzanar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orphanage

Orphanage

Toy Center

Toy Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty In The Desert

Beauty In The Desert

Just about the time we were finishing our visit, the sky cleared and we were able to see Mount Whitney.

Mt. Whitney Appears

Mt. Whitney Appears

Then it was back to the movie theme which dominates the area with a visit to The Film History Museum. While not a large museum it is chock full of memorabilia from the days of silent film through Quentin Tarantino’s Django. Be sure to watch the film if you go. Great music and cuts from lots of shows. We even bought a copy. Younger generations might not enjoy it as much but for those of us who spent Sunday nights watching Roy, Dale and Trigger it was a walk down memory lane. We loved the old posters with headers like the one from Glenn Ford’s “The Violent Men” They Don’t Make Them Like This Any More! As a seven year old I’d get very excited as Roy would get into trouble. My Dad would say to me “Don’t worry. He has to be on next week.” We have just put several of these old movies on our Netflix queue. I’m really looking forward to Steve  McQueen in Nevada Smith. So for your own brief return to the days of Hi Ho Silver! Away!  Here are our photos. Be sure and read the autograph on the last picture. The Lone Ranger just misspelled Chari’s name.

How The West Was Won

How The West Was Won

Humphrey Bogart, High Sierra

Car Driven By Humphrey Bogart In High Sierra

Gene Autry, Film History Museum

Gene Autry’s Outfit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve McQueen, Nevada Smith

Steve McQueen During Filming Of Nevada Smith

Gunga Din

Gunga Din Poster

Django Poster

Django Poster

Gunsmoke, Miss Kitty

Gun smoke’s Miss Kitty Wore This Dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuntman's Jerk Vest (used when they are shot)

Stuntman’s Jerk Vest (used when they are shot)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lone Ranger Autigraph

Lone Ranger Autograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food And Fun From Albuquerque To Phoenix

Following the cancellation of the farewell mass ascension due to high winds we headed to a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives restaurant called Cecilia’s Cafe in the historic district of Albuquerque. We’d recently seen this aired on the show and had planned to eat breakfast there. The burritos are HUGE! Steve had his with red chile while I chose green. The red chile was too hot for him to finish the whole thing. So be forewarned. The green chile was great and just right for me. 

Cecilia's Cafe, Albuquerque

A Great Local Eatery In Albuquerque

Diners Drive-ins and Dives

Interior View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

burritos

I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing!

Just outside of Albuquerque is Petroglyph National Monument so we enjoyed a clear if windy afternoon there walking one of several trails with beautiful petroglyphs from the Ancestral Puebloan era (formerly referred to as Anazasi). Little did we know at that time we’d see many more wonderful petroglyphs at Petrified Forest NP.

New Mexico, Albuquerque, petroglyph

An Old Version Of Kilroy Was Here?

petroglyph

Mouse Meets Dachshund?

Folk Art Ancestral Puebloan Style

Folk Art Ancestral Puebloan Style

Then on to a quick visit at Sandia Peak. I’d taken the tram to the top of the mountain and eaten at the restaurant on a previous visit. This was the first time I’d driven up to the Visitor Center. It was a bit windy and hazy but still a lovely view. On our way home we chose, of course, another bumpy dirt road instead of the smooth paved road we took up. Still it was not as bad as Utah!

Sandia Peak, national forest

Fall Color At Sandia Peak

New Mexico, Albuquerque

On A Clear (?) Day….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tent Rocks National Monument, BLM, Cochiti Pueblo

View From Scenic Drive At Tent Rocks NM

All to soon it was our last day in the Albuquerque area and we hadn’t visited Tent Rocks National Monument only five miles away. If like us you thought all national monuments are under the National Park Service, you are wrong. Since 2000 there have been several new national monuments created. Since these lands were already managed by other federal agencies (BLM, National Forest Service or even NOAA) they remained under their control. Tent Rocks NM is on the Cochiti Pueblo lands and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The name is derived from the rock formations created by erosion of softer sandstone under a cap of harder rock. What else can they do with rock? You’ll see. There was also a short but beautiful slot canyon we hiked through.

The Tent Rocks

The Tent Rocks

Hiking Among The Tent Rocks And Tepees

Hiking Among The Tent Rocks And Tepees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

slot canyon

Entering The Slot Canyon

Beautiful Sandstone Formations

Beautiful Sandstone Formations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looks Good In Black And White Too!

Looks Good In Black And White Too!

Originally we’d planned to drive straight from Albuquerque to Phoenix but we changed plans to meet Steve’s nephew and wife who were on their way back from Sedona. We arranged to meet them in Las Cruces, NM where we stayed at Motel Walmart. This time we were the only RV there.

Our stop in Phoenix was primarily for errands, scheduled trailer maintenance and minor repairs. We stayed at McDowell Mountain County Park which was beautiful. We’d hoped to return after our volunteer job was finished in January. By the time we tried to make reservations everything near Phoenix was booked. Arizona is like Florida in the winter. Without reservations, you get what you get. So returning to Phoenix for a longer stay is on the “when we come back” list. We had gorgeous sunsets and a beautiful drive into the Superstition mountains and along the Apache Trail east of Phoenix. Phoenix is like Salt Lake City where east of the city is beautiful and west of the city is, well flat and not so pretty. However we did get to try two Diner, Drive-ins and Dives eateries. The first was a New York style deli called De Falco’s Italian Deli in Scottsdale. Steve found a sausage he loved and said he hadn’t had anything this good since leaving New York. We bought some to take home plus some gourmet goodies like jalepeno flavored avocado oil. The other place was Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert, Arizona. This is a working urban farm owned by the same family since the 1950s. Now it is an organic farm and the old homestead is the restaurant. It is a fast food type restaurant then you sit outside to eat. Both had great food.

With both the DreamChaser and ourselves cleaned up and stocked up we head northeast to Petrified Forest NP where we will stay until the end of January 2015.

rainbow, sunset

Arizona Rainbow

sunset, cactus, Phoenix

Sunset and Cactus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

restaurant, Phoenix, Diners Drive-ins and Dives

Joe’s Farm Grill

A Week In O’Keeffe Country

Sorry for the delay in posting but our Jet Pack we use for internet died and we had to get a new one. On a good note we want to say thanks again to everyone who follows us or has stumbled onto our blog. We have now hit 25,000 views! That was a goal we’d set for 2014. With your help we made it. Where will we be on the total views for 2015? You’ll have to check in and see.

We now start on our way up and down US 50 through Colorado and then turn south into New Mexico. Our last day at Curecanti was a rainy one but high in the mountains it came down as snow covering the peaks. It was magical! The DreamChaser climbed it’s highest point at Monarch Pass, reaching 11,200 feet. The decent was “interesting” as we negotiated a ten mile 7-8% grade.  At one point Steve said “The transmission temperature is getting hot. I’m going to pull over and let it cool down.” That gave us a chance to get out and snap a picture or two. I only had my iPhone which handled the contrasty situation OK but not great. We continued on without incident.

Colorado, US 50, Monarch Pass

The View At Monarch Pass

Before long we reached flatter ground. Soon we found ourselves out of the woods and into the desert. The Chama Wild and Scenic River, Santa Fe National Forest and Carson National Forest along with beautiful rock formations make the northern New Mexico landscape appealing. We arrived at our campground on Abiquiu Lake. This is a Corps of Engineers park and a beautiful place to stay. With our Interagency Pass it was also very inexpensive. In fact for the next two weeks we’d be in Corps parks and our total cost was less than $150. In the summer you have to reserve an electric site way ahead. This time of year there were still vacancies. There is a beautiful view of the Pedernal from the campground. This was Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite mountain. She is quoted as saying “Maybe if I paint it often enough someday God will give it to me.”

Abiquiu Lake, Corps of Engineers campground,

Abiquiu Lake

Pedernal, Georgia O'Keeffe, art, New Mexico

View Of The Pedernal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2008 before Steve came into my life, I’d visited Santa Fe with friends. We’d driven up to Abiquiu to see where Georgia O’Keeffe had lived. We learned you could tour her home through the O’Keeffe Museum but weren’t able to fit it in on that trip. I put it on the “someday” list. This week is “someday”. We choose the regular tour which costs $35 as the curator led tour for that week was already full. We were fortunate to have as our guide a retired fine arts professor who was also a painter. He said he’d been doing tours for only a month but you’d have thought he’d done it for years. He’d certainly done his homework. The tour did talk about her art but centered more on giving you insights into O’Keeffe as a person. Our guide talked about how she’d found the run down building belonging to the Catholic Church and how it took her ten years to convince the Church to sell it, the restoration and design of the home, her relationship with the community and the healthy lifestyle she followed. O’Keeffe lived to be 96. Many of the people who work on the estate today are grandsons and granddaughters of people who worked there when she was alive. Steve and I both loved the story about her relationship with her gardener. O’Keeffe collected rocks from many areas in the southwest and displayed them on her living room window sill. Of course being an artist she had them arranged aesthetically. Without ever speaking about it to each other occasionally the gardener would move a few rocks. O’Keeffe would spot the change and move them back. This went on for years. Neither of them ever acknowledged the game. Unfortunately no photos are allowed on tour. The photos used here are from the O’Keeffe Museum website.

Abiquiu O'Keeffe Home

O’Keeffe Home Living Room Looking Onto Garden

Studio Annex

Studio Annex

Courtyard Of O'Keeffe Home

Courtyard Of O’Keeffe Home

We spent time exploring the Ghost Ranch, a large workshop and conference center now owned by the Presbyterian Church. When O’Keeffe lived there it was a private ranch where she stayed and painted prior to obtaining the Abiquiu house. Today they hold self improvement, art and literature, paleontology and other workshops. They also rent rooms and cabins and have hiking trails and two museums on the property. We took a hike, visited the museums and enjoyed the gorgeous New Mexico fall weather. Toward the front of the property there is a log home. Does it look familiar? This was left on the property after being built for the set of “City Slickers”, the classic Billy Crystal movie. And yes, the sky was really that blue!

Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Hiking At Ghost Ranch

A River Runs Through It

A River Runs Through It

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

movie prop, wagon

A Wagon From The Movies

A Tree Grows In New Mexico

A Tree Grows In New Mexico

movie, City Slickers, Billy Crystal

Cabin Used In “City Slickers”

At the suggestion of our campground host we took a drive to Echo Amphitheater in Carson National Forest and then to a monastery along Forest Road 151 in the Santa Fe National Forest. In other parts of the country these would be prominent sites. Here they compete with so many other beautiful sites that they are hidden gems. Echo Amphitheater true to its name creates a voice Echo, echo echo… The drive out FR 151 was amazing as we passed rock formations that looked like hobbit houses, the Chama River and at the end of the road the beautiful  Christ In The Desert Monastery of the Benedictine order that just celebrated fifty years in this location. Georgia O’Keeffee came here often to paint. The monastery was designed by renowned architect and woodworker George Nakashima. When I lived in the Washington, DC area I took a day trip with the Smithsonian to Nakashima’s home and workshop in Pennsylvania. The monastery uses solar power as the only source of electricity. The monastery runs the only monastic brewery in the US, the Abbey Brewing Company. In 2006 a five part television series, The Monastery, was made for TLC about five laymen living and following the monastic life for forty days. It is a place of total peace and serenity. While we were there no services were being offered but if you are lucky you might hear the monks performing Gregorian chants. Amazon offers a CD of the chants but we were not able to locate the TLC program.

New Mexico, Echo amphitheater

Inside echo Amphitheater

Rt. 151, scenic drive

The “Hobbit” Houses

Chama River, scenic drive

Chama Wild And Scenic River

church, landscape

Christ In The Desert Monastery

Monastery Gate

Monastery Gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

church, Christ In The Desert

Inside The Monastery Chapel

Another day we headed over to Bandelier National Monument. If you can get in before 9am you can drive right to the Visitor Center.  After that you must park in the satellite lot and take a shuttle to the park. This is because the parking in the park is so limited. We got ourselves up and going. The drive up the canyon is worth the trip all by itself. We arrived just in time to take a special tour given by volunteers telling about the work the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).  Until the CCC built the current road the monument was very difficult to access and had low visitation. We didn’t know at that time we’d be giving similar information about the CCC at Petrified Forest National Park. Following the tour we walked the trail through the cliff dwellings and posed for a picture.

Bandelier, national monument, scenic drive

Driving To Bandelier NM

Along The road To Bandelier

Along The road To Bandelier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frijoles Canyon Scene

Frijoles Canyon Scene

CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps

CCC Buildings At Bandelier

rock formations

Tree In The Rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Amongst The Ruins

Walking Amongst The Ruins

Posing In A Cliff Dwelling

Posing In A Cliff Dwelling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way back we decided to go through Los Alamos and see the Bradbury Museum which tells the story of the Manhattan Project and current studies at the laboratory. It was strange to go through a security check point to enter a city. The museum was very interesting even though we were pushed for time.

atom bomb, Manhattan Project, Bradbury Museum

Display At Bradbury Museum About The Manhattan Project

Delivery Of The Nuclear Capsule For The Trinity Device

Delivery Of The Nuclear Capsule For The Trinity Device

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trintinite

Trintinite Formed From Heat Of Nuclear Blast

 

 

 

 

Our week went very quickly. Now we make a short move down to Albuquerque for an event we’d been anxiously anticipating for several months.

Scenic Drive: Big Sheep Creek National Back Country Byway

scenic drive, Big Sheep Creek National Back Country Byway, BLM, Montana

A Panorama Of The Big Sheep Creek National Back Country Byway

Montana

Changing Plans On A Frontage Road Just Off I-15

What happens when you put three adventurous, self confessed photography buffs in a truck and send them off to Bannack State Park? They stop for gas near Lima, Montana and take a look at the map. Their eyes wander over to a car symbol indicating a scenic drive. They look at each other and take about ten seconds to change plans for the day. After all the Big Sheep Creek National Backcountry Byway is only two miles up the road.

 

BLM, scenic drive, Montana

Entering The Big Sheep Creek National Back Country Byway

This 55 mile scenic drive begins a mile and a half south of Dell, Montana. It swings west/southwest then heads north ending at Clark Canyon Reservoir with easy access to I-15. This is BLM land mixed with private ranches. There are several BLM campsites and hiking trails throughout the route. We checked two of the campgrounds and our trailer would fit some sites so we saved the location on the GPS. These are free campgrounds without facilities and are on a first-come-first serve basis.

As you will see in the photos the weather was sunny when we first started the drive. By the time we reached the end in the late afternoon it was overcast with threatening storms. That’s not unusual for Montana. The weather can change several times in a single day.

We drove along a valley with sage and tree covered hills on one side and a fast running Big Sheep Creek on the other. In one I used Steve to give you an idea of scale for the height of the hills (back East we’d call them mountains). The texture and colors were beautiful. We didn’t need the sign to tell us to go slow since we were stopping for photos every few minutes.

A Long And Winding Road

A Long And Winding Road

 

 

 

Our Truck On The BSCNBB

Our Truck On The BSCNBB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Sheep Creek Rushing Down The Canyon

Big Sheep Creek Rushing Down The Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Gives Scale To The Rocky Landscape

Steve Gives Scale To The Rocky Landscape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along the way we found wildflowers, what appeared to be an abandoned eagle nest and an unidentified structure built into the hills: An old mine shaft? A root cellar? A sod house? Then there was a talus field from what we think was an avalanche area.

cactus, wildflowers

Pear Cactus Were Blooming Profusely

penstemon, wildflowers

Penstemon Growing Among The Rocks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Type Of Structure Is This?

What Type Of Structure Is This?

 

 

 

photography, Montana, scenic drive

A Talus Field

 

 

 

 

 

 

mountains, landscape photography

Nature Is An Artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winding Our Way Along The Byway

Winding Our Way Along The Byway

 

 

 

 

A Slower, Meandering Section Of Big Sheep Creek

A Slower, Meandering Section Of Big Sheep Creek

 

 

 

 

 

As we drove further the canyon flattened out to a fertile valley full of cattle ranches with mountains in the distance. Before leaving the scenic drive we passed an elk ranch with some large bulls showing off new antlers.  The last leg of our trip brought us around Clark Canyon Reservoir where Lewis and Clark camped. This was where Sacajawea realized she was back in Shoshone country and was reunited with her brother. The park offers some historical information, a life-size model of a Corps of Discovery dugout canoe, fishing, boating and camping. If you ever are heading through Montana on I-15, take time to get off the interstate and enjoy this scenic drive.

Entering The Valley

Entering The Valley

A Handsome Bull Elk

A Handsome Bull Elk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clark Canyon Reservoir

Clark canyon Reservoir