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Old 10-28-2015, 11:03 PM   #1
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Tumbleweed travels

Well, we're already a few weeks back from our first big trip in Tumbleweed, it's way overdue I posted some trip reports & pics!
I had so many client inquiries waiting after our return, I spent the first few weeks getting back to work.
I did have great intentions of doing a blog on our trip, but two realities got in the way: I never got the "infrastructure" in place before we left, and I discovered just how spotty (& expensive, especially for Canadians in the US, even WITH special Telus roaming packages) internet access is.
So "after the fact" will have to do for anyone wanting to read about our adventures. I'll try to post a few days worth every couple of days. I did keep a journal on the trip, and will edit & post selected portions of this.
I expect to post mostly route & campsite descriptions, interspersed with personal observations of the people & places we encountered on the way.
Apologies in advance if I offend anyone with any of my more curmudgeonly personal observations! But I am opinionated, so . . .
Trip summary: 5 weeks, Vancouver, BC, to 5 days in Yellowstone, another 5 days in Moab area, Oregon coast, back home, with inter-connecting backroads (mostly). 9,500 km. Mostly boondocking. Mostly paved, because Wendy ended up being rather more reluctant than I to tackle gravel or dirt roads, but minor highways & scenic roads nonetheless.
I've been trying to learn, without success so far, how to mark up a map with our route, and post that. Suggestions welcome.
OK, away we go.
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Old 10-28-2015, 11:06 PM   #2
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Tumbelweed travels

Day 1 Wednesday Sep 2 Qualicum Beach to Vancouver

Is the day you leave on your trip considered Day 1 or Day zero? Part of me thinks of it as Day zero, since it's still -- this trip anyway -- just part of the logistics of actually getting underway. On the other hand, it really IS the first day of this adventure. So, OK, Day 1 it is.

By the time the last-minute packing and checking was done, without stress or hurrying (it is vacation after all) it was almost noon. But we did catch the ferry (just!), so I took that as a good omen for the trip.

First leg of the trip was a stop to visit Mom in Vancouver. Besides a visit from us, gave her a chance to see our new "Wohnwagen" ("rolling home"), reminisce a bit about her own travels with Dad in their Westfalia, and remind us that 5 weeks away was a long time apart so would we phone & keep in touch often while away. Of course.

A bit strange spending the first night sleeping while parked on a residential street in a big city. At least it was a quiet street & was also beside a large grassy green space. I wasn't at all apprehensive about "camping" in the city, until I was awakened by a large thump against the trailer during the night. Thought it was someone outside banging against the trailer, but after checking (all was very quiet outside), eventually realized it was Wendy banging her foot against the bottom of the window blind mechanism. Happened a few more times, startling me awake every time, except the one time I hadn't yet made it back to sleep, allowing me to recognize the source of the noise.
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Old 10-28-2015, 11:14 PM   #3
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Tumbelweed travels

Day 2 Thursday Sep 3 Vancouver to Grand Forks, BC

Waking & preparing to leave in the morning brought the pleasant understanding that the trailer is definitely large enough to allow all the morning rituals & requirements without having to go outside -- useful in the city as well as in the inevitable lousy weather we'll probably encounter at least part of this trip. It's LIVABLE, in a way the Boler couldn't quite achieve. There's room for both of us in here at the same time, without one of us being uncomfortable trying to squeeze out of the way of the other. The small dinette area really helps.

On the road heading out of Vancouver -- AGAINST the morning rush hour traffic! -- by 8AM, and good roads and travelling until a stop in Chilliwack at a shopping mall, for necessary missed supplies -- coffee filters, disposable razors for me because I forgot the charger for my electric, and I was NOT going to spend $200+ for a new one!

First fuel, at $1.129, cheapest gas I've seen for a long time.

Just past Chilliwack, back on the freeway, traffic came to a dead stop. Soon found out there was an accident -- & it was not very far in front of us. Trucker stopped beside us soon told us that it was a fatality accident, and highway was expected to be closed for 5 to 6 hours. Said some prayers for the dead, and for those left behind (does my talking silently to God count as "prayer", unlike the formal prayers we were taught as children or even as adults? I like to think it does, at least I hope so). Turned around, thankfully there was a turnaround near us, and we got to a detour readily. Hwy 9/7, which it turned out was a much pleasanter route anyway, less traffic & more scenic than the freeway. Reminded me make an effort to find scenic & relaxing drives on this trip whenever possible.

Through Hope without stopping, then got reacquainted with the Hope-Princeton Hwy which I hadn't driven for probably near a decade. Not as bad as I remembered. And at the Eastern end, major roadworks underway to cut off some of the worst of the switchback corners, although this involves some massive fills. Momentarily back in my roadbuilding days frame of mind, I wondered where all the fill was going to come from? Didn't look like enough in the cuts.

Once over the crest at Alison Pass, the landscape and vegetation did its usual change for the drier. I so much prefer the interior over the west coast landscape, much more open, and I don't have that closed-in feeling. You can actually see some reasonable distance through the trees, not the closed wall of green that identifies the coastal forests. And I find the brown colouring more pleasant than the greens -- to look at, although, briefly back in painter's mode, I DO like the varied shadings of green I'd like to learn -- no, I WILL learn! -- to capture in watercolours.

Stopped for a lunch break by a roadside pullout beside the Similkameen River. Made the (small) effort to dig out the chairs, so we could sit and rest comfortably. First inclination was to just sit in the truck or trailer, but I reminded myself this was a vacation, no hurry, live the moments. The weather cooperated, the sun came and stayed out for the duration, and it was a brief warm spell. Great beginning to the adventure.



More miles rolling endlessly & pleasantly by, through the Similkameen Valley, Keremeos & Osoyoos. It hurt not being able to buy the fresh & cheap Okanagan fruit at the myriad of fruit stands, but with a crossing to the US imminent, it didn't make sense.

After Osoyoos, started trying to plan & decide both where to overnight and where to cross to US. At Osoyoos Tourist Centre, we were advised that anywhere East of Osoyoos we should be safe to avoid the fire activity south of the border.

Bypassed a couple of pleasant-looking but too-close-to the-highway (& thus noisy) Provincial Parks, ended up at the Grand Forks Municipal Campground. Not the most scenic spot, but quiet & empty enough it wasn't bad at all. Smokier in Grand Forks than anywhere else so far, but not too bad.



I'm not yet into any kind of a cooking mode, even if someone else is doing the cooking! My brain is still in "making miles" mode. Just had soup for dinner.

Met Don & Marlouse (from Tsawassen) in their January 2005 Escape 17 (#33 he proudly told us), and had a nice evening visit with them, sharing travel stories and Escape stories. They were quite interested in seeing the changes that had been made to the 17 since their original version. Marlouse says she credits her custom-ordered cabinetry handles for the ones that are still used in ours, in preference to the knobs that were standard when they ordered their trailer. Back when Reece & Tammy were still making the trailers themselves, Don said, instead of managing the business as he does now, directing other builders. Don & Marlouse (hope I'm spelling that correctly) are Canadian & Dutch respectively, have been married for 45 years, and been retired, and Escaping throughout Pacific NW, for 11. Their biggest adventure / longest trip was to Palm Springs for a month a few years ago. They were quite excited at our planned adventure and the time/distance extent of it.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Similkameen River.jpg (319.4 KB, 24 views)
File Type: jpg Princeton hillsides.jpg (205.9 KB, 17 views)
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Old 10-28-2015, 11:25 PM   #4
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Tumbleweed travels

Day 3 Friday Sep 4 Grand Forks, BC to Sandpoint, Idaho

On the road by 8AM. Weather clearer, smoke all but gone. Still mostly sunny.

Had power hookup last night, so had smoothies for breakfast. I could get spoiled with power & water hookups! Although we never bothered with the water connection, still have lots in the fresh water tank. In particular, I was pleased I didn't have to plug in the inverter for my CPAP.

Mid-morning stop at Christina Lake, stopped for advice at Visitor Info Centre. The attendant told me she had grown up in Parksville & gone to high school in Qualicum Beach, there being no high school in Parksville then (!).

Took her advice and headed South on Hwy 395, which crossed the US border in about 8 km or so. Typical US Border Agent, absolutely no pleasant public manner. Not unpleasant, but 100% businesslike. Asked only about produce & meat (which we had, in expectation & having read the rules, given to the food bank at Christina Lake), but no other questions about what we might be bringing across. "How long will you be in the US? Shut your car off. Don't get out of the car. Give me your trailer key." She was back within moments, couldn't have looked at much in the trailer (maybe in the frig?). "Here's your key, you may leave." I wasted no time. I understand they have an important job to do, but would it hurt anything for them to less of an automaton? I guess it would. If it weren't for the fact that they are, presumably, trained in observing & interpreting body language, a robot could do their job as well & cheaper.

Hwy 395 (freshly repaved from the border to Hwy 20) goes, eventually, to Spokane. Winds South through grassland dotted with sparse pine forest, very open, very scenic country. We continued East on 20 to Tiger.

At Tiger, I asked for advice at a small local combination rural community-run info station/thrift shop/artisan gallery, and was directed, in preference to continuing on Hwy 20 (although Hwy 20 is a designated Washington Scenic Byway), North for 3 miles to Sullivan Rd, across the Pend Oreille River, then South on North LeClerc Rd. This paralleled the Pend Oreille River and Hwy 20, but on the opposite side of the river from the Hwy, and a much less-travelled, less stressful, and probably more scenic route. Rural Eastern Washington, nothing spectacular but just normal life. But no highway or commercial bustle. Much pleasanter travelling.

From there, we got on a somewhat busier Hwy 20 (still) through the Priest Lake resort country of Idaho. Stopped to stretch our legs at Albeni Falls Power Dam, built by the Army Corp of Engineers & administered by the Bureau of Reclamation (BoR), yet another US Federal entity. But the BoR also had several campsites along the Priest Reservoir, the first three of which were either too shady or were full. So we gambled and lucked out, found a nice site, about 3 PM, at the last of their campsites, at Springy Point, a few miles South of Sandpoint. Across a 4 km long bridge/causeway (hard to tell which it was, narrow shoulders of vegetation along both sides almost the full length) across Lake Pend Oreille South from Sandpoint. The site was shady, but we did spend a few hours soaking up the afternoon & early evening sun on the beach, just a few steps from our campsite. Camping, no hookups but real washrooms & coin (but really cheap, two bits for 5 minutes) showers. The coin deposit for the showers indicated 25 cents for 5 minutes, 20 minutes for 4 quarters, maximum 15 quarters at a time! That's one long deluxe shower! Camping cost $20, and would have cost half that if we had had an InterAgency Pass, which I had forgotten to buy. And of course it being Labour Day weekend, all the agencies selling the passes were closed until Tuesday! I knew the Pass was a good deal for unlimited one-year entrance to all the National Parks, and had planned to buy one before or at Yellowstone, but I hadn't realized it is also good for 50% discount on all federal agency fees -- including camping fees at National Parks, Forest Service, BLM, BoR . . . Bargain! Pick one up ASAP. [Editorial note: found out later -- see Gros Ventre description in about 2 weeks -- this is wrong!]

Ranger advised us that tomorrow was 80% chance of rain, and weather app confirmed clouds & rain throughout Northern Idaho & NW Montana.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Grand Forks Municipal Campground.jpg (287.4 KB, 17 views)
File Type: jpg Kettle River Northern Washington.jpg (337.9 KB, 10 views)
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Old 10-28-2015, 11:35 PM   #5
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Tumbleweed travels

Day 4 Saturday Sep 5 Sandpoint, Idaho to South of Missoula, Montana

Sure enough, day dawned overcast, although no rain yet. I woke early, & sat down to journal around 6AM, to catch up because I hadn't done any since Friday afternoon when I tried to hand-write (OK, hand-PRINT) in the paper journal. But that hurt my hand too much (shame, too, after Wendy bought me especially for this trip a beautiful journal. I had been looking forward to using that, but the hand just got too sore.)

I need the maps handy when I journal, because by the time I sit down to journal, I forget half or more of the routes we used and towns we saw. And even forget the fleeting impressions of what I think at the time are noteworthy observations.

Decision time at the start of the day: North again to Bonner's Ferry and then East into Montana? or? We decided against "doubling back" or adding "extra" miles, so drove Southeast towards Missoula on Hwy 200 (also recommended by the lady at Tiger yesterday). Paralleled the Clark Fork River the whole distance East. Didn't realize until we stopped at a (closed) Forest Ranger Station that everything North of Hwy 200 & West of Hwy 56, which we had just passed) was under evacuation preparedness alert for the Clark Fork Fires Complex, 10,150 acres burning or threatened, in that area.

Today was showery in the early AM, then progressively heavier rain as the day went on. A few brief periods of dry & even short sunny spells, but also a few very intense cloudbursts -- what I think the mountain men &/or cowboys would have called "gully-washers". Even some lightning North & East of us as we drove the last few miles into Missoula. Hope it doesn't exacerbate the fire situation.

Nice scenery driving, despite the rain & limited visibility, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Probably would have been had it been nice enough to stop for photos or leg stretching?

Had a disappointing lunch at Millie's Diner (recommended by several folks in the local grocery store as a good place for lunch) in Thompson Forks. Would have been better off spending the lunch money on groceries! Have to choose our limited dining out opportunities better -- we both want some good Mexican food.

Opted out of St Regis Paradise Scenic Byway, because it would have meant ending up on I90 for about 80 miles, with no routes off until Missoula. Stayed instead on SR200, stopping in Arlee to inquire "local conditions" about SR559, gravel backroad to Seeley Lake. Again, opted out, rainy weather, and time constraints as respects a reasonable route to our destination, deemed it prudent we give it a miss. Again, stayed on SR200 to Missoula, then turned South on SR93. Along there, the distant scenery was spectacular -- Bitterroot Mountains to the West, and the expansive Bitterroot Valley to the East. But the near views, mile after mile of log home builders, taxidermy shops, small industrial enclaves, RV dealers, casinos & saloons, auto detailers & body shops, trucking depots, farm & feed suppliers, and small strip malls, 40 miles of it all the way through Florence, Victor & Hamilton, seemed to me to epitomize hard-scrabble poor-economy life. Thankfully, once past Hamilton, the roadsides finally gave way to ranchlands which were far pleasanter to drive through.

It was already getting later than we like to stop, when we finally found a National Forest Access sign, and headed West up into the Bitterroot foothills on a hope & a prayer. Which were not disappointed. Wasn't very far off the highway, maybe only 3 or 4 miles, but narrow (though paved) road, no turn-around spots, & already past 5PM, I was getting more than a little nervous. Well, not much more, I knew that there was always something to be found, even if it were a commercial RV Park for an emergency late-evening stop. But then we pulled into the Charles Waters campsite at the National Forest Bass Creek Recreation Site. Beautiful site, open pine forest, paved(!) roads and parking spurs, lots of space between individual campsites, and tonight sparsely populated. Wonder why so few campers, middle of the long weekend? Maybe the heavy rain & the cold? I am glad to have a warm dry place to hunker down, because, yes, it was too cold & wet to be outside. Didn't even bring the chairs out of storage. Campsite cost only $10, of which we would have saved $5 had we the pass.

I sat up alone til quite late (10:30, WAY past the past few nights' bedtime) planning tomorrow's route & potential campsites, to avoid a repeat of today's pressure to find a site to stop at. Also read up a lot on Yellowstone attractions, trying to get a handle on what we might fit in in a few days there. And where to travel after Yellowstone.

Had rather too much rum in the process.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Noxon, Montana storm.jpg (70.3 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg Charles Waters USFS campsite, Bitterroot NF 1.jpg (383.7 KB, 18 views)
File Type: jpg Charles Waters USFS campsite, Bitterroot NF 2.jpg (412.8 KB, 10 views)
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Old 10-28-2015, 11:36 PM   #6
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Gonzo th' Dawg and I enjoyed meeting both of you at Ft. Stevens.

Great start on your adventures with Tumbleweed. I'm keeping tuned for the next episodes and to hear of the adventures after you left Ft. Stevens.
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Old 10-28-2015, 11:48 PM   #7
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Tumbleweed travels

Day 5 Sunday Sep 6 Missoula, Montana to Grasshopper Valley, Montana

Saw the morning sunrise filtering through both the few remaining clouds and the trees when I woke up. Delightful, especially after yesterdays almost constant rain with occasional cloudbursts.

Shortly after we started South again, we noticed that the higher and even the medium peaks of the mountains, not far above where we'd camped, were covered in fresh snow. We hadn't seen it last night in the cloud & rain, or we might have chickened out & stayed at lower elevations!

More, but smaller, ranches as we headed South, the Bitterroot Valley narrowing as the Sapphire Range angling South from the East closed in on the Bitterroots. The road became windier & hillier and started to climb significantly through a spectacular canyon where first the West and then the East Fork of the Bitterroot River meandered. Now THIS was wild west country! I could picture the mountain men coming down from the high mountains to winter in the more protected valley & canyon bottoms, wintering beside streams flowing fast enough to not freeze up, good supply of cottonwoods & pines for fuel & cabin building.

Small town of Sula at the southern end of the canyon, presumably a (very small) ranching service centre as we saw no tourist-type amenities. We didn't stop.

Then some serious climbing as we rapidly ascended to the Continental Divide at Chief Joseph Pass, aka Lost Trail Pass (7264') on the border with Idaho.

Rest & lunch stop at the summit, where SR93 continues South to Salmon, ID (but that's for another trip!), and where this trip took us East & downhill on SR43. Much gentler descent than the climb up the pass had been, dropping down into the Big Hole Valley. That's another name & place that figures prominently in many of the Western novels I read.

Stopped for a "cultural experience" at Nez Perce National Historic Park & Big Hole National Battlefield site. Learned a little bit more than the tiny amount I knew before about the shocking mistreatment of the Nez Perce people, both by the US government as well as by some of their own people who "sold them out" in some of the treaty negotiations. And of course, the details of the battle at Big Hole and the slaughter of the non-combatants, by the US troops.

I wonder what, if anything, happened to John Gibbons, the commander of the US forces who engaged in this slaughter? History seems to be silent on this point.

I wonder also about the political leadership of the US at the time, and their reasons for their forced relocation of the few remaining Nez Perce peoples to Oklahoma, so very far way from their ancestral homes. Very disturbing.

Not that Canada's record in their treatment of First Nations peoples is much better, but I find it interesting that Canada was seen as a safe haven for Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce, because that's where they were apparently fleeing to, & within 40 miles of, when they were overrun by US troops and, under duress, forced to surrender.

Big Hole Battlefield site, and the Big Hole River valley, is also where the "open range & big sky" country of Montana first became evident in our travels. That is one vast & open valley! Seemed much much wider, perhaps because it was emptier, that the Bitterroot Valley.

Yes, there are still more mountain ranges East of us, but the Big Hole River Valley is high desert, with sparse rocky soil, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, stunted willow along the watercourses, although I saw no cactus.

At Wisdom fueled up in a town with little beyond an open (& patronised at noon!) saloon & a closed gas station which nevertheless accepted credit card pay-at-the-pump purchase. Maybe the proprietor was at the saloon?

Then North again, continuing on SR43, along the Eastern side of the Big Hole River Valley, with views of the Anaconda Range to our left and the Pioneer Range to our right. Ranch country -- but little vegetation, rocky high desert country.

Saw a bunch of cows clustered on a small island in the river, must have swum or at least waded the river channels to reach it -- probably because it actually had grass growing on it!

At Wise River, almost missed our planned turn on FSR (Forest Service Road) 2471, also known as Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway. Recommended by our Montana Tourism guidebook, we decided to try it.

Had a few apprehensions as just after the turn we passed another Fire Incident Centre (housing almost 1,000 personnel!), and further along several Fire Closure signs blocking FSR access roads. But a ranger we saw a ways down the drive told us there was a 6,000 acre fire, now fully contained & no more threat, thanks to the rain & snow, West of the road we were travelling.

It was worth it, very scenic drive, although not really any more noteworthy than some other back roads (& even major highways) we've travelled in the last few days.

What struck me particularly about this, though, is the realization how much the US Forest Service, through the National Forests, is involved in recreation. This is a Forest Service administered & maintained road, 66 miles long, paved, with about a half-dozen waysides with interpretive signage (we only stopped at two or three of them, though, and every time I pass one by, I feel vaguely guilty, as if I'm giving up an experience that won't take much effort but I'll probably never have again). I can't do it all, but I can do more!

Along this section of road alone the USFS provides and maintains six campgrounds. Many have paved roads and even parking spurs, and are every bit as nice, and in many cases much nicer, than BC Provincial Parks campgrounds. And certainly better than what the BC Forest Service does, or at least once upon a time, did, provide. Prices are typically $10 or $8, with half-price discounts available.

Beyond the paved roads like this one, many other FSR's are paved, and a vast network of well-marked and well-mapped roads, paved and gravel, provide access to the National Forest backcountry, with fishing access, many ATV activity areas, and even "dispersed camping".

Dispersed camping is permitted in most National Forest areas, within certain modest restrictions: you must be at least 100 yards from a road and 300 yards from a body of water. If you can drive your tow vehicle & trailer, or your truck & camper, or your car & tent, off the road, you can camp there. But with the vast network of established campgrounds they provide, for most campers the dispersed camping shouldn't be necessary. We did pass quite a few groups of dispersed campers "in the middle of nowhere" in the woods on our travels, both on this byway as well as earlier in our trip.

Before coming on this trip, I had been aware of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy of permitting dispersed camping, but hadn't been aware that the practice is permitted on National Forest lands as well. That opens up a huge recreational boondocking resource!

We opted to take a chance on space availability at the last of these six, at Grasshopper Campground at the South end of the byway. And we were lucky. Grasshopper is smaller than the others, 21 sites, and according to the ranger we spoke with along the route, the most popular. But arriving at about 4PM, there were still two open sites, and we quickly snagged one. We had time to sit in the sun (albeit also in a cold wind) before retiring early. Other campers had camp-fires, and several told us that since the past two days of heavy rain, and yesterday's snow!, the fire ban had been lifted. Interestingly, USFS permits the burning of dead-and-down timber in campfires, the prohibition is only against cutting down standing timber & vegetation. Especially given the widely-available camping opportunities in the National Forests, I find this a surprising, and surprisingly-tolerant, policy. Apparently they have no fears about the resulting modification of the natural processes on the forest floor.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Big Hole Battlefield 1.jpg (199.1 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg Big Hole Battlefield 2.jpg (322.2 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg Big Hole Valley antelope.jpg (190.5 KB, 5 views)
File Type: jpg Chief Joseph Pass.jpg (290.2 KB, 8 views)
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Old 10-28-2015, 11:49 PM   #8
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Tumbleweed travels

Pioneer Mts Scenic Byway
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Old 10-29-2015, 12:10 AM   #9
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Tumbleweed travels

Day 6 Monday Sep 7 Grasshopper Valley, Montana to Bannack, Montana

Today dawned cold & clear. Not a cloud in sight, and frost on the picnic table, the truck, some rocks on the ground. I was awake early enough to watch the sun rise above a small gap in the mountains, so the three lower campsites, ours included, got the rising morning sunlight long before anyone else. No, I didn't plan that, but wonderful that it turned out that way.

I spent the morning catching up the journal, up to & including last night, while Wendy read a novel.

Still, we were on the road by 10AM, there being nothing specific to keep us at that particular campground.

We had seen, yesterday, a lot of ATV traffic going by on the road. This morning we discovered they weren't on the road at all -- there was a ATV track (and presumably in winter a snowmobile track?) running along the road shoulder. They even had their own separate bridges beside the vehicular traffic bridges. I guess ATV (or OHV - off-highway vehicles as they're called down here) are popular enough to have the USFS go to great lengths to accommodate them.

Only just a few miles out of (and down from) the campground, we came through a last gap in the mountains, and the world opened up into the Grasshopper Valley. Draining, you guessed it, Grasshopper Creek (except it was a pretty large "creek"). Stunning wide-open vistas of ranchlands, but much greener & grassier than what we drove through yesterday. Except for the Pioneer Mtns we'd just come out of, the beside- and ahead-of-us mountains were in the very far distance. Looking at the map after told me these were the Cobalt & Forney Mtns in Idaho to the Southwest, and the Tendoy & Blacktail Mountains in Montana to the Southeast. We didn't approach either of these.

Instead we turned East, left, onto SR278 and, after a mere 10 miles or so, came across the turnoff to Bannack State Park. Stop or not? We'd only just started what we'd promised ourselves would be the last leg to Yellowstone before stopping for the night.

We stopped. And stayed. Bannack is a wonderful spot -- both the beautiful campground and the preserved/restored ghost town of Bannack.

We settled in a campsite and immediately went to the townsite to both pay the camping fees ($28 for non-residents of the State -- ouch!) and to tour the town. We spent over three hours exploring the town buildings & history, and even at that it was a quick tour. Very briefly, Bannack was created when gold was discovered in Grasshopper Creek in July of 1862. Within weeks, the population grew to 400, and by the following spring had swelled to 3,000.

The park preserves large parts of the ghost town, with most buildings being open to the public for viewing, and contemplating what life was like in this town 140 years ago. On a warm fall day like the one we visited in, it was pleasant enough (albeit some of the homes were rather rougher to live in than we're used to today), but I sure wouldn't want to spend a 40-below winter here! There is an interesting contrast between some of the buildings: from the simple, rough (but meticulously-crafted of handhewn logs) cabins of some of the miners & settlers, to the much more elaborate homes, of milled timbers and even including Victorian decorations, verandas, and picket fences, of some of the obviously-wealthier settlers' families. Some buildings in particular stand out, such as the large two-story brick Meade Hotel, complete with giant curving stairway with carved balustrade & bannisters, and the combination school (on the first floor) and Masonic Temple (occupying the second foor).

What a sense of history. So glad we stopped here.

And the campsite was spectacular and inviting. It was emptying out from the Labour Day weekend crowd, and by the time we got back from the townsite, we were the only campers aside from the host. Beautiful grassy spot immediately beside the creek. We set up the camp chairs and rested in the sunshine. Looking around occasionally to view the surrounding sage- and pine-dotted hillsides, or to watch two mergansers paddling up, and a few hours later, back down, the creek, diving often to feed on . . . what? Creek-bottom vegetation? Mayflies (which were here in abundance)? Minnows?

Pretty soon, though, the first of the next group of campers arrived -- 28 cyclists and their support crew, travelling the Great Divide Bicycle Route. The GDBR is a long-distance cycle route assembled and mapped by the American Cycling Association (ACA), from Banff, Alberta to the Mexican border at Antelope Wells, New Mexico. This particular group today was a commercial tour following the ACA route, but a rather more ambitious one than most people attempt: 49 days, average 65 miles and 4,500' elevation gain per day for the entire trip. And 90% forest trails or gravel roads, following as much as possible the spine of the Rockies. That's pretty hardcore cycle touring!

The park ranger and the campsite host both told me they get lots of cyclists staying here who are doing the route, almost entirely solo and fully self-supported. Both mentioned their surprise at how many of them were single women (well, at least solo female cyclists) in their 60's and 70's!

I chatted a bit with a few of the riders -- a doctor from Canberra, two "mates" from the "posh side" and the "other side" of the UK (I forgot to ask what these were!) and a municipal firefighter from Fairbanks. They also told me their group also included riders from Spain, Germany, New Jersey, and Portland Oregon.

We had our first campfire of the trip. Pleasant sitting around the fire as the sun went down, but then it rapidly got too cold, even with the fire. Time for an early night in bed again. Too tired (why? Didn't do much today besides the town tour.) to read for long, although I did make a one-chapter dent in Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire", getting myself in the mood for Utah.
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg Behind Bannack.jpg (232.6 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Meade Hotel 1.jpg (357.8 KB, 8 views)
File Type: jpg Meade Hotel 2.jpg (180.6 KB, 13 views)
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Old 10-29-2015, 12:13 AM   #10
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