Arizona to Montana
17 July 2017 | Polson Montana
Pat and Melodie
Today is Sunday July 16, 2017.
Melodie and I have been making our way across the western US over the last few weeks. We began to make our way to California beginning on June 1. We took the scenic route through southern Utah, canyon country, and stopping in Zion and Pinnacles National Park.
After attending to a few doctor visits (all routine) we had a chance to visit with family and friends. Melodie flew back to Milwaukee and I hung out at my sister Cheri's in Oakland CA for a week. We made a quick trip down to Santa Cruz to see our friends Bill and Charlene. Unfortunately, we did not have time to see everyone. Please don't take offense if we didn't get a chance to see you.
On June 30 we left the Bay Area and began our trek toward Oregon. Our plan was to head north out of Tahoe and make our way to Crater Lake in Oregon. We did head north, but from Placerville, after seeing our friends Keith and Dana in Cameron Park. We looped west of Tahoe on HWY 49 and then took the grand volcanic tour. We stopped at Lassen National Park where most of the road was closed due to snow. We also stopped at Lava Beds National Monument. We spent three days at Lava Beds over the 4th of July weekend. What a great place! We hiked into several lava tubes. These caves are not lighted and you must use flashlights (bring a spare or two as well) as they are VERY DARK...not a bit of light once past the entrance. Hiking up to the Schonchin fire look-out built in 1942 gave us a great view of many of the lava flows on the landscape. The volunteer lookout explained what he does. It was interesting to learn/see that they put glass insulators on the cot legs and on the legs of a little stool. When lightening is nearby the lookout squats on the stool. We had a special treat during an evening Ranger Program when they brought out 3 telescopes. We were able to look at the details on the moon and Jupiter with its moons and could even see the bands on Jupiter.
We've seen many National Parks and Monuments so far this summer while stopping along the way if something looks interesting. For example, we stopped at Klamath Wildlife Refuge. There was one overlook in particular where you could hear nothing but birds and frogs and insects; getting just a glimpse of what the countryside used to be like. We traveled on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic By-way. We stopped at Crater Lake, but did not camp there. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground and half of the road around Crater Lake was still closed due to snow. We saw the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and took a few hikes through lava flows. One was through huge masses of obsidian. It seemed like a different planet. We travel up through Oregon; staying on BLM land often. One especially nice place was right on the Deschutes River in a valley between Volcanic hills. We visited my brother Chris and his wife in Portland OR.
After Portland we spent a week checking out central and eastern Oregon. On August 21, 2017 there will be a total eclipse of the sun. They are expecting HUGE crowds to come and Madras Oregon will be an epicenter for viewing. Mostly because of the possibility for clear weather, rural country side and it's near the path of the max eclipse. After checking things out in Eastern Oregon we think we've found a spot.
We visited the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument with some spectacularly colored hills. The drive near there was enjoyable, with nice valleys through cliffs of volcanic rock. Once our eclipse research was complete we began working our way east toward Glacier National Park. We found out that Idaho has great little camp sites next to rivers, mostly for the fisherman we think. Anyway, we got a great spot next to the Little Salmon River in Pollack ID. We both woke up during the night thinking "what is that running? Then we remembered it was the river, and not the a/c, refrigerator, etc.
We crossed Idaho and are now in Montana. This is my (Pat's) first time in the state of Montana. It's really beautiful. There are just over 1 million people in Montana, I think that's one reason we like it. It was nice to see the historic Lewis and Clark sights along the way. I did not realize they traveled this far north in 1805-1806. We've been making a point to push the schedule and see the little roadside attractions. We toured a historic Forest Service compound from the 1920's that was used until the 1970's. Cool stuff! Today we took a self-guided driving tour (stay in your car for safety) through the US Fish and Wildlife preserve for Bison and other animals. We saw lots of Bison; some were huge and there were also many calves. We also saw some elk, deer and pronghorn antelope. There were reports of bighorn sheep, but we didn't see any.
We find our internet is only good when we pass through towns and we have no service at our campsites. We are doing well following our USFS and BLM camping model. Most of the places we stop are free. The challenge is to be among the vacationers and not the "urban campers". We have found several sites strewn with trash, obviously used by homeless and they left a big mess. We really like the quiet, deserted spots, especially along a river or stream. We even camped in a spot and were visited by four wild horses...The ranger had told us where a band of 50 had been hanging out lately. They came fairly close to us, but were very wary. We find we are eating in a lot more. In Mexico we eat out all the time. It's good and it's cheap. Not so, here in the good ol' US of A. So lots of sandwiches roadside in the camper and always breakfast to ourselves. We did go out to lunch the other day and treated ourselves to fresh baked pie!
I was not intending on keeping the blog going over the summer. But I was surprised to hear from so many that they read our blog. So I hope you have enjoyed hearing about our travels so far. We have so many good photos, but we only get to post one with each blog.