Saturday, October 15, 2016

2016 - Wyoming, Montana, & South Dakota - Part Seven

October 7th Devil’s Tower, WY
On Friday morning we had breakfast in the hotel, packed and started our return for home.  We drove East on I-90 and took the cut-off for Devil’s Tower National Monument.  We arrived at Devil’s Tower around 3:15 p.m.  Upon entering the park the ranger asked if we would be camping there.  When I had done research months ago, I didn’t see anything about a campground.  This was perfect and we said yes.  She gave us instruction and then we found a place to park.  We visited the park visitor’s center, and then took a short hike half way around the Tower.  We were able to get great pictures.  


When we were done we drove to the campground and picked out a great campsite.

October 8th Mt. Rushmore N.M., Crazy Horse Monument, & Custer State Park, SD
We got up early to take some sunrise photos of Devil’s Tower and then we headed for Mt. Rushmore National Monument.  We arrived at Mt. Rushmore mid-morning, visited the gift shop and walked the grounds getting some great photographs.

We then drove to the Crazy Horse Monument.  The entrance fee was $22.00, a bit steep.  The construction started in 1948 and is funded by private funds.  We watched a movie on the construction, walked the grounds and got our photographs.  We visited the gift shop and had lunch before we left.  The face of Crazy Horse was finished and unveiled in 1998.  The family of the original sculptor has continued on with the construction.  I’m afraid it will be completed well after our lifetime.

From Crazy Horse we drove to Custer State Park.  We took the 18 mile nature drive, seeing deer, pronghorn, bison, and donkey’s.

 It was an interesting drive.  The park had their annual bison roundup the weekend before.  Apparently it is a big thing and there are large crowds.  

We then headed for the Needles Drive.  This was a series of switch back roads that take you to the top of the mountain and some very beautiful rock formations that they call “The Needles”.  There are several tunnels that required my pulling my driver’s side mirror in.  Susan said I had an inch to spare on the passenger side.

It was a little before 4pm and we decided to get some highway behind us.  We drove to Wall, SD and got a room at the Best Western.  That was a waste, as Badlands National Park was 5 minutes away.  It was getting dark so the hotel made sense and we wouldn’t have had time to see any of the park the next day (Future trip for sure).

October 9th – 10th Travel Home
We drove to Iowa City, IA and stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn.  We walked across the street to the Longhorn Steakhouse and had a great dinner.  Monday morning we headed for the house, arriving back in Carmel, IN around 3pm

This was a great trip consuming 4,653 miles over and 18 days.  We spent 12 nights in the camper, 4 nights in hotels going and coming, and one night at the Grand Hotel in Big Timber, MT.  In hindsight I wish we had planned some State Park Camping along the way to cut the hotel costs.  My wife likes to mix in some hotels, so I’m sure the before and after won’t go away, but some adjustments can be made.  Thanks for following along.

2016 - Wyoming, Montana, & South Dakota - Part Six

October 4th – 7th Big Timber, MT
We continued on to Big Timber, Mt.  My cousins have several large cattle and sheep ranches, and one cousin was the former mortician, mayor, and fire chief in Big Timber.  We stayed in town at one cousins house.  We stayed in the camper and it was fun listening to the train horn each time the trains passed through town during the night.  Mid-morning we drove to their cabin in the Absorka-Beartooth Mountains.  Their cabin is a concrete log cabin and its features are so real that is hard to tell that it isn’t wood.  15’ from the porch is the Boulder River.


Doug and Jane cooked a huge meal the first night and Sarah was very happy to be in a house and out of the camper.  She was well pampered, spending time laying in front of the fireplace. Later in the afternoon I got my waders on and spent 2 hours fly fishing in several different places.  I again had no bites.  With all of the fishing licenses I figured I paid about $135 per nibble. 

The next day a Bald Eagle flew down stream while I was in the camper getting ready to leave later.  I heard all about it when I walked inside the cabin.  I got my camera out and Doug told me it would be back shortly and sure enough it landed on the rocks in the middle of the river.  It took off flying back down river and my cousin said it would return again.  I sat on the bench for over 30 minutes waiting for that picture of a lifetime.  I went back into the camper for 30 seconds and when I went inside I was told that it returned flying 20’ over the river back upstream.  If I had waited another minute I would have gotten pictures from about 15’ away.  I guess that is what the word patience means.  After 30 minutes I had none.  


             We took a drive up into the Boulder Canyon.  All of the mountains, Crazy Mountains,             Absorka-Beartooth Mountains all got heavy snow At the high elevations on October 2nd

 Hawley Mountain (Absorka-Beartooth Range

Rae Mountain
We returned to Big Timber and had a reservation at the Grand Hotel.  Doug and Jane and my other cousins and their wives all joined us for a great dinner.  The Grand Hotel is one of Susan’s and my favorites and we make sure that we spend at least one night there on each visit.

2016 Wyoming, Montana, & South Dakota - Part Five

October 2nd – 3rd
In the morning we continued on Quartz Hill Road, descending down toward Dewey on Highway 43, along the Big Hole River.  We passed the Lone Pine Mine and miner’s cabins on the down.  We stopped and walked around and took some photos.

We traveled along Hwy. 43 until we reached the Pioneer Scenic Byway and took this road south.  This was also a road tour with numerous historical markers and a story about the foreigners that settled along the valley.  Upon reaching the end of the byway, we headed Northwest to pick up Hwy. 43 toward the Bitterroot Valley.  We stopped along Hwy. 43 at the Big Hole National Battlefield, where the 7th Calvary fought the Nez Perce Indians in another poorly planned battle.  We watched a video in the NPM Visitors Center and walked one of three trails out to the site where the tepees were located.  This was a very informative stop.  This battle was shortly after the Battle of the Little Bighorn and Custer’s 7th Calvary.

We continued to Hwy. 93 and the Bitterroot Valley.  We drove past Darby, Mt. and up to Hamilton, MT. and the Bitterroot Brewery for an early dinner. 

After dinner we returned to Darby and Lake Como where we camped in Three Frogs Campground overlooking Lake Como.  Nestled in among large Ponderosa Pines, we had a beautiful place to camp.  There is a paved walking trail 30’ – 40’ above the lake and we took Sarah for a 2 mile hike.  Off season camping produced another free night.

 Our Campsite

October 3rd – 4th Hamilton, Skalkaho Pass, Philipsburg, Rock Creek, & Big Timber
Today was Susan’s birthday, so we drove back up to Hamilton, stopped at SafeWay to re-supply and then take Susan for a birthday breakfast.  We had a large breakfast and as we were leaving noticed people looking in the bakery case.  There was a cinnamon roll, larger than a brick.  I now wish I had bought it because it would have been a great breakfast for the next day.

We took Hwy. 93 back south for approximately a mile and picked up Hwy 38, the Skalkaho Pass.  This was a beautiful drive, with rain, fog, and some snow, even though nothing accumulated on the ground.  The pass is through the Sapphire Range.  There were some very sharp turns and had five vehicles pass in the opposite direction.  Again there was nothing painful with the passes on the single lane road.  I surprised Susan with Skalkaho Waterfall.  As we round a curve there it was.  We were able to get some nice photos from the truck.

 Skalkaho Pass, little rain, little fog, and some wet snow

We drove onto Philipsburg.  It was raining and we walked around town before stopping at the Philipsburg Brewing Company.   

They didn’t serve lunch so we walked down to the local barbeque restaurant and pick up lunch to go before returning to the brewery for a beer and our lunch.  After lunch we stopped at the chocolate store and picked some huckleberry taffy and chocolate treats for desert. We visited the local gem store and I got Susan a gift for her birthday If we had more time we could have spent several hours walking through town and visiting the old mining operations.

It was time to head on for Rock Creek and our campground.  I had a date with the creek and wanted to get a couple of hours of fishing in.  It rained the rest of the day and the roads were muddy and filled with pot holes.  It was a pretty drive even with the rain.  We passed the Morgan-Case Homestead Cabin and the Hogback Homestead Cabins on our way to Bitterroot Flat Campground.  We found a nice place in the campground.  The rain continued and I located a place to access the creek.  After getting my waders on I had to climb down a steep embankment.  Once I got down I put my rod together and waded out.  I fished for approximately 1-1/2 hours.  The temperature started dropping and by the time I decided to put the rod up it was 37 degrees and raining.  My hands were numb.  I again didn’t get even a nibble.  We spent the night huddled in the camper and fell asleep listening to the rain hitting the roof.

 Raining, 37 degrees, the old college try

In the morning we packed up and headed north up Rock Creek Road.  The road was worse than we had ever seen.  I was probably averaging 4-5 mph.  The pot holes were deep and the road not maintained.  It was a blessing when we hit paved road for the last 11 miles.  It took us almost 2 hours to get from our campsite to I-90.  We continued east on I-90 to Hwy 1 (Piltner Veterans Scenic Byway) and turned South.  We climbed to approximately 8,500 feet over one mountain pass.  The snow was sticking on the ground and in the pine trees. 

The Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route is a scenic alternative to plodding down Interstate 90 in Montana. The sixty-four mile drive, which runs between Drummond and Interstate 90 outside of Anaconda, is a “must-do” drive for anyone passing through Montana on the Interstate. While the scenic drive takes a bit more time to do than sticking on the Interstate, in terms of mileage the distance is almost the same.

 Pass through the Flint Creek Range

The route follows the northern shoreline of Georgetown Lake, a beautiful mountain lake tucked away at the base of the Anaconda Range. The route also passes through the beautiful Philipsburg Valley and follows Flint Creek. In short, the drive is one heck of a lot nicer than following trucks down Interstate 90.
The Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route is a designated Montana scenic route. The full length of the route is sixty-four miles (between Interstate 90 outside of Anaconda and Drummond, Montana). The actual designated scenic route, though, is fifty-five miles in length and runs between Anaconda and Drummond.