Idaho Loop Glacier/Yellowstone/Grand Teton
04 September 2017 | Redmond Oregon
Pat and Melodie
Today is Tuesday August 15 and we are camping in Haystack Campground, a US Forest Service facility just south of Madras OR. We had spent a week back in July scoping out various sites in eastern Oregon, but we ended up here. It is a nice facility and the spots aren’t stacked on top of each other.
Our last blog had us crossing Idaho on our way to Glacier NP. We made it to West Glacier and got ourselves a camp site in Apgar Campground inside the park. We stayed in West Glacier for two nights, taking the free shuttle up to Logan Pass on the “Going to the Sun Road”. Our second day there we hiked up to Avalanche Lake and got the photo attached to this blog post. The park was very busy and we spent a lot of time waiting on the shuttle buses to ferry us around. Still, not having to drive and being about to look around without any concerns about traffic was really nice.
After West Glacier we made our way around the south tip of the park and stopped at the Isaak Walton Hotel in Essex MT. The hotel was completed when they built the Great Northern Railroad from Chicago to Seattle. Some of the rooms are converted rail cars and engines. Lots of old photos and maps are on display. We spent the night at the Summit Campground, another USFS site. It was also time to change the oil on the truck. We were glad the campsite was paved. I’m getting good at changing the oil on the Dodge, but it takes 3 gallons of oil! BTW, we’ve driven over 10,000 miles on this trip so far.
We made it to the east side of Glacier NP and stopped at Two Medicine where we also stayed for two nights. We hiked along the lake on both sides, but did not complete a loop of the lake. We continued up to Many Glacier and did walk around the lake there. We also took a tour of the classic hotel there. We could see a couple of glaciers still present, but many of the glaciers have since disappeared. There were once 120 glaciers in the park, but only about 20 remain. They expect them all to be gone by 2030. During our hike from the east side (we also took the shuttle up the east side of the Going to the Sun Road) we got to see a family of mountain goats. They were grazing only 20-30 feet from the trail.
We left Glacier NP and made our way to Great Falls MT. It was a chance to see some museums, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and the Charles M Russel Museum. Russel specialized in cowboy art and completed his works in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That night we stayed in the Walmart parking lot, across the street from an oil refinery. By far the worst spot we’ve stayed (boy did it stink!). The following day we completed many chores, washed the truck/camper, got propane, I got a hair cut and we got diesel. Then we were off toward Yellowstone.
We stopped in Bozeman MT to visit the Museum of the Rockies. They have the largest T-Rex skull ever discovered. We stayed in a BLM campground south of town and really liked it. We moved to a second BLM spot just north of Yellowstone, along the Yellowstone River. We stayed there two nights and I fixed a leaking exhaust gasket on our generator and lubricated the slide out on the camper (our dinette and refrigerator move about 20” to give us more room inside the camper).
Our week long stay in Yellowstone began from the historic north entrance. We stayed in 4 different campsites inside the park: Mammoth, Tower, Norris, and Lake Lewis. They assign you spots at Yellowstone, no circling the campground looking for an opening. It’s basically, here’s a spot, you get B15, take it or leave it. It got so bad that people were waking campers up in the morning to ask if they were leaving. Most campgrounds we got there early (around 7:00 am) and immediately got a site. At Norris Campground we waited 2 hours (we were #6 in line) to get assigned a spot. They do take reservations, but they fill immediately when they come available six months in advance.
We liked Yellowstone for the wildlife and seismic activity, but did not care for all the crowds and traffic. We got to see huge herds of bison, elk, mule deer, and a black bear. Melodie got to see some wolves, I only saw a black shape that was supposed to be a wolf (ok if you say so).
We continued south to Grand Teton NP. Again they assign you your spot and we were stacked right on the site next to us. The skies were clear and we got spectacular views of the mountains. The next day the smoke from the wild fires in British Colombia obscured the views. We went on some short hikes around the park. We visited a fish hatchery just north of Jackson WY. They grow Cutthroat Trout for stocking purposes. We also stopped at the farmer’s market in the town square in Jackson. This square is famous for the elk antler arches at each corner of the square. Jackson is a very expensive place, judging by the $3 donuts I understand why.
We left Grand Teton and headed for Craters of the Moon National Monument. Along the way we saw signs for the EBR-1 Museum. We had to google it, but found it is the first nuclear reactor to generate usable elasticity. Back in 1951 the reactor came on line and produced enough to light four light bulbs. The reactor stayed on line a breeder reactor, producing Uranium 239, making more fuel than it consumed. The facility is very well preserved and it was neat to see.
We were searching for a spot to stay and Melodie suggested the USAF base in Boise. It’s actually an Air National Guard base that shares the airfield with the civilian aviation. The have a small seven spot RV “park” and we got a spot with full hook ups for only $15/night. It was kinda fun to turn on the TV and watch reruns of the Star Trek series. It was a marathon, Original, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine (we never watched this one) Voyager, and Enterprise. We watched it two nights in a row and two of the shows had Part I and Part II episodes. It was very nostalgic. Also nostalgic for me was our dinner in the base dining facility. For $8/person we had a choice of ham or chicken, a starch and vegetables. All served on a melamine tray (just like on Navy ships in the 1980’s).
We stayed in Boise for two nights, later the next day we “crossed our track” (a sailing term) in Ontario OR where we had driven almost a month to the day. We stopped near La Grange OR and visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. We stayed in an OR State Park NW of La Grange that night.
Lastly we returned to Portland to visit my brother Chris and his wife Carrie. Their new sailboat Darma Girl had arrive and we got a chance to take a tour. The boat was on the hard, still getting some work done since being shipped across country from Florida where they purchase her. She’s a beautiful 1982 Tatoosh 42.
That takes us up to August 15 and Haystack Lake Campground. Look to our next blog entry for our stay here and our viewing of the Solar Eclipse 2017.