Wednesday, September 16, 2015

More Adventures in Montana

So we were ready to leave Great Falls, and as Bob checked the guessed it! The infamous low tire was once again low! Bob filled it and off we went to Havre, Montana about 120 miles north of Great Falls. Now, we didn't actually stay in Havre, we stayed at Fresno Reservoir about 10 miles west of Havre. Walleyes Unlimited, a fishing club in Montana, operates a campground at the reservoir. Not only is the campground open to the public, it is free AND it has free wi-fi! No, it doesn't have hook-ups.
 The campground is on the upper tier of a terraced area. The rooftop is that of the pavilion on the middle terrace, with the lake in the background.
 From the pavilion, you see the steps leading to the campground.
Bob and I visited Havre on our 2010 trip to Alaska. Then, we stayed at a campground in Beaver Creek County Park. The campground we stayed in is no longer listed as a campground.

While in the area we wanted to geocache and visit underground Havre. Our first afternoon we spent geocaching on the way to Beaver Creek County Park. We wanted to see what happened to the campground we stayed at on our previous trip.  Well, it has been turned into a 'day use only area.' We did see a camper there, but we weren't sure is it was staying overnight. There were plenty of geocaches from Havre to the park and most of them were in good shape.

The next day we took the Havre Beneath the Streets tour. Havre began as Bullhook Bottoms--a railroad siding for a fast growing area. Original residents voted on a new, more respectable name and shortened Le Havre--the birthplace of one resident's parents--- to Havre. Most locals couldn't pronounce the French Havre so it gained a new pronunciation---'have her.'

In 1903 or thereabouts, the town was burned to the ground by a disgruntled saloon patron. The residents immediately set up shop in their basements as they did not want to lose their prestigious billing as the hub of northern Montana.  The underground beneath four blocks of the city became a shopping mall. There was an office for the traveling dentist. The chair in the left hand corner had a box under it for the dentist to stow his instruments. The chair folded and was moved from town to town with the dentist.
 Of course, the saloon survived  its move to the underground.
 As did the local bordello.
 There was a meat market, two lawyers' offices, a post office, a bakery, and an opium den. All in all, it was an interesting place.

We spent another day geocaching along the back roads near Havre. We even found 4 caches in Kremlin!  We enjoyed our stay at Walleyes Unlimited, but we needed to move on down the road. Our next stop was Fort Peck Lake.

Now if you ever go to Fort Peck Lake, make sure you have everything you need as there is no longer even a convenience store in town. The closest grocery store is 25 miles away in Glasgow! The Corps of Engineers have several campgrounds in the area. We chose Downstream Recreation Area as it was close to the Interpretive Center and the Power Houses.
Bob and I were excited to see that the area had a great walking trail. We were able to get our steps in each day we were there.
The Power House tour was impressive. The tall structures above each power house will hold between 4.5 and 6.5 million gallons of water in an emergency. We took the Power House tour on Tuesday afternoon. Sorry, no cameras were allowed in the facility which generates electricity for most of Montana and the surrounding states.  Many people think the road next to the lake is the dam, but it isn't. The dam is under the grassy hill behind the power houses. Construction began in the late 1930s by  WPA workers.
In the Missouri River (which is diverted away from the lake by the two tunnels on the left of the power houses), white pelicans like to roost on the rocks.

 Located between the campground and the power houses is the interpretive center for Fort Peck. It includes information on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, the building of the dam and casts of dinosaurs found in the area.
 This T-Rex was found in a local farmer's field in the 1980s.
 The most complete fossilized skeleton of a T-Rex was also found in northern Montana.
 Bob and I went geocaching after touring the interpretive center. There was one fun multi-cache that took us around the small town of Ft. Peck. Another one was located near Boy Scout Camp 1. That one almost did me in! Bob was about 20 feet ahead of me in a slightly wooded area with tall grass along the sides of the trail. Well, Bob spooked a grouse that came flying up out of the grass between the two of us. It was headed straight for me! The grouse quickly changed its flight path, but not before I was thoroughly startled!

Bob and I are anxious to get on with our trip. We plan to travel US 2 through northeastern Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and into western Wisconsin. Our next travel day took us into......

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Falls of Great Falls

Ahh, back in the lower 48! Malmstrom AFB, here we come. I hope there are sites available. Yes, there were plenty of sites. And, the Internet provided by the campground worked great! Bob and I got the RV parked and we settled in to spend a week resting and exploring Great Falls. We would also take both vehicles in for check-ups and oil changes. Our first day we spent geocaching. These Canada geese guard the entrance to the USDA office in Great Falls.
 We found caches near each of the falls the week we were there. Great Falls was  a big stop for Lewis and Clark in their search for a northwest passage.
The next day we visited First People's Buffalo Jump about 20 miles south of Great Falls.
 This is the side of the mesa where the buffalo were herded over to their deaths. It is always interesting seeing the history of a place. There are several buffalo jumps in the northwest, but this is the first one we've seen in Montana.
 After visiting the buffalo jump, we went to find the local Sam's store to get a few things they carry that we needed--pretzels! Then it was back to the RV to settle in for the night and do the ever popular laundry.

Bob and I decided we needed to get some steps so we chose to hike the trail next to the north side of the river. Our first stop was next to Black Eagle Falls.
It is the fifth waterfall that Lewis and Clark had to portage around on the Missouri River. Today there are dams in the river, but they do not interfere with the falls. The water drops 476 feet over a 14 mile stretch of the Missouri River. The dams were built to divert the water to hydroelectric plants beside each fall. At Black Eagle Falls there is an island in the river below the falls.
 We met a local there who told us the best fall was at Ryan Dam. The name of the fall---The Great Falls. After walking to the east end of the island, we headed out of town to find Ryan Dam.
After driving on a narrow two lane road for 9 miles, we arrived at Ryan Dam. Much to our chagrin, Ryan Island closed on Labor Day--we were there on Tuesday after Labor Day.  Unless you go out on the island you don't get a good view of the falls. While at the dam, we met another camper from Florida who had also just returned from Alaska. We talked for quite a while. Then another car drove up with a lot of locals--we were all disappointed the island was closed. So if you ever want to visit Ryan Island to view the falls, be sure to arrive between Mother's Day and Labor Day.
Bob and I spent so much time talking to the Floridian at Ryan Dam that we didn't have time to hike or geocache in the area. We needed to head back and get some lunch. The following day we went back to Ryan Dam and found North Shore Trail just before the residential area for the dam workers. We walked the loop and found quite a few geocaches. Then we got in the car and drove to Morony Dam,
3 miles further down the road. There we hiked Sulphur Spring trail.
 The trail followed the river for the most part. We watched these Canada geese enjoying the river.
 We found a few geocaches on this trail, too.
Sulphur Spring was at the far end of the loop. This is the spring where Lewis and Clark sent their men to fill containers with water for an ailing Sacajawea. It is reported that after drinking water from this spring that she recovered from a serious illness.

Across the Missouri River from Sulphur Spring was Portage Creek. Lewis and Clark hiked two miles up the creek to find a place where the cliffs weren't so steep to get the canoes and supplies out of the river to portage around the falls.
  We searched for a cache near the spring, but all we got were burrs all over our clothes.
Enough of looking for that elusive cache, we had a long way to go to get back to our car and it was hot! We had plenty of water, but the sun was shining on us from a very clear sky--something we weren't used to after being in the far north for three months.

We went back to the RV and rested for the evening.And lo and behold, we finally got to see a fantastic sunset!
What a great ending to our visit to Great Falls, Montana.

Banff National Park and Lake Louise

Not far down the road from Icefields is the boundary of Jasper National Park and Banff National Park. Our plan was to stop at Lake Louise Campground and use it as a base to explore both Lake Louise and the town of Banff. We finally had electric hook-ups as the park doesn't have sites long enough for RVs in the non-electric area. The last time we had electric was the night of May 31 in White Horse, Yukon Territory.
It didn't take long to explore the village of Lake Louise. It is a very small town that has two small eateries, several gift shops, and a visitor center. After exploring those, we headed to the actual lake. Once again, there were too many people for me. Lake Louise is a popular tourist stop.Of course, it was still raining, but we bundled up and walked the trail beside the lake anyway.
 Even with the low hanging clouds, the lake was beautiful. The specks you see on the lake are red, family-sized canoes.
 Once we got to the end of the trail, it was really gorgeous.
 I can't say I like the picture looking back toward the parking area. The hotel (chateau) is just too commercialized for me.
The next day we decided to drive to Banff via the Bow Valley Parkway. It is the more scenic route to get from Lake Louise to Banff, or it would have been if the sky had been clearer.
 One of the first sights we came upon was a statue and plaque memorializing Canada's internment camp during World War I. Most of the internees were from Ukraine.

Most of the rest of the pullouts along the Bow Valley Parkway didn't have views because of the weather so we continued on to Banff. It is much larger than Lake Louise, but just as touristy. Bob and I opted to find Banff Springs Hotel and Golf Club. The hotel  looked much older than the one at Lake Louise. It was also more impressive. Bob took this photo from the golf course.
This is the 15th tee. To reach the fairway, you have to hit across the river. The  15th tee was the first tee before a new clubhouse was built.
This was the original clubhouse. It is now Waldhaus Restaurant on one side and Waldhaus Pub on the other. Bob and I ate lunch in the pub and sampled a couple of local beers.
Then we headed back to Lake Louise and our home away from home.After a rest, we drove to Moraine Lake to check it out. I liked the views at this lake as much or ore than at Lake Louise. It might be because there were fewer people.
 This is a photo of the south side of the lake.
 This photo looks back toward the parking can't see the lodge hidden in the trees on the left.
 When you get to the end of the lake trail, water cascades down around the trees and into the lake.
Bob and I would have liked to hike to one of the tea houses at Lake Louise, but the weather didn't cooperate. We decided to leave Lake Louise after a three day stay. The only bad thing I can say about the Lake Louise Campground is.....TRAINS. ALL. NIGHT. LONG!

As usual, Bob checked the air in the tires before we took off, but one of them was completely flat and wouldn't hold air at all. We found a place in the village to have the tire checked. They scheduled us to bring the RV in at 1:30 that afternoon. The tech looked at it and said it was the valve stem extender letting air out. He replaced it and we were on our way late in the day. Bob wanted to drive all the way to Montana, but I said it was too late and it would be dark before we got close to the border. Just south of Calgary we got behind this tractor blocking both lanes of southbound traffic. There was a pickup truck behind the tractor and when the traffic backed up too far, the truck would signal the tractor driver to pull over to free one lane of traffic.

We decided to stop for the night in Lethbridge, Alberta, at the ABS Casino. It was a good decision as we were both tired. Unfortunately, the casino parking lot was crowded with other RVs! The only spot open was one next to a guy who ran his generator until after midnight! And it wasn't a quiet gennie, it was one of those loud commercial ones. UGH!

The next morning, Bob and I took our time and made our way to the border at Sweetgrass, Montana. After a wait of about 20 minutes, we were finally at the crossing. Since we were the only Americans in line, the customs agent asked a minimum number of questions and we were on our way in less than two minutes!

Next stop:  Great Falls, Montana!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Icefield Centre

Icefield Centre is a giant tourist stop! Bob and I thought there would be information on the formation of the area, mountains, glaciers, streams, etc., but it was just a big tourist stop. We got a late start from Wapiti Campground in Jasper, but that was okay as the weather turned nasty just before we got to Icefield Centre. We hunkered down and got warm for the night at the Icefield Centre  RV campground and I will say that it was cold!
In fact, we went to bed with sleet on the RV and awoke to snow!
 Yes, there was snow! It happened the last time we visited Icefield Centre so we weren't surprised.
We had decided to be 'tourists' and booked a tour of Columbia Icefield on one of the ice explorers. Once we got to the icefield and went outside, it was miserable---the snow was blowing so hard you couldn't see!
 And did I mention that it was very cold--even colder than the parking area where we left the RV!
 The tour was supposed to last 30 minutes on the icefield, but everyone boarded the bus sooner as they were just too cold. Bob and I walked around for a bit, got a picture by the glacier ice and immediately got back on the bus!
 Our driver had a hard time defrosting the front windshield so we could leave the icefield.
 Our ice explorer parked near the first ice explorer. I don't think it had heat so I'm glad they have the new explorers.
 As we were leaving Icefield Centre, the weather started to clear and we were able to get a picture of the entrance sign.

 Once out of the icefields, it was on to Lake Louise!