What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
William Least Heat-Moon
Note: I need to acknowledge an oversight in the previous journal that was thoughtfully brought to my attention through a website comment left by Gerry, a friend from back home in Maine. Being of French Canadian descent, Gerry informs me that French trappers first named the lofty peaks in this national park…..“le grand teton” which means “the big teat”. Now, that explains a lot! No wonder I kept staring at them!
How did I miss that tidbit of information in the National Park literature, and what a missed opportunity for some world class punnery! I feel like such a big boob!
Friday, May 29, 2015: Today, we pull chocks and head out of this beautiful National Park campground with a renewed appreciation for Mother Nature and her Grand Teton’s (pun intended).
As on que, to celebrate our departure, the sun has made a spectacular reappearance and the temperature began rapidly rising.
We decided to head north, back up the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway and through Yellowstone National Park. Not only a very scenic drive but with the parallel mountain ranges of The Grand Tetons (giggle) to the west and the Gros Ventre to the east, there are limited road options available.
Entering Yellowstone National Park by the south entrance, the park road skirted the west side of Yellowstone Lake. Fortunately there are many scenic overlooks large enough for us to park our truck and trailer and safely enjoy the views.
Kit and I stopped a number of times along the 22 mile route to Grant Village and walked about to enjoy the spectacular landscape.
Even though this is the same area we explored yesterday, it took on a whole different look in light (no pun intended) of this bright sunny day.
On our drive through the park we noticed the newly restored 1930’s vintage buses being used once again by the Yellowstone Lodge to ferry folks about the park.
Continuing our pleasant drive through the park, we continued to pull over to enjoy the scenery and stretch our legs. One stop was at Hayden Valley, where the majority of the parks Bison call home.
Yellowstone National Park is the only area in the United States where Bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. It is estimated that up until the mid-1800’s the nationwide herd numbered sixty million animals before hunting and disease reduced the population to near extinction. Today 6,000 bison call Yellowstone home.
Five miles from Yellowstone’s north gate lays Mammoth Hot Springs, a large system of geothermal water features that have produced some spectacular natural art.
Wanting to explore this area more thoroughly, Kit and I took a chance there were vacancies at Yellowstone’s northern most campground…..fortunately there was and we selected the best one remaining.
It was situated on the valley floor and featured a nearby hiking trail to a small summit where nice views could be enjoyed.
That evening over dinner, we discussed the next day’s plan before turning in for the night.
Saturday, May 30, 2015: Following a nice breakfast, Kit and I drove the truck and trailer back up the hill to the visitor’s center where we shared parking with the park’s resident Elk population.
After viewing a film and gathering information about the region, we set off on foot to explore the area.
Mammoth Hot Springs geological features are created by extremely hot water from nearby volcanic activity migrating through the earth picking up mineral deposits and organic matter. This mineral rich water finds the surface and trickles down a slopping hillside, depositing the waterborne impurities and creating terraces of Travertine, which is a colorful version of limestone.
There are raised walkways over these deposits shimmering in the sunlight as the spring’s waters flow underneath.
Similar to the formations in a live cave, the springs create colorful and unusual formations which are constantly evolving into new shapes.
Interestingly, wildlife has adapted very well to the geothermal pools.
Birds were frequently seen walking in the very hot water in search for morsels that may have bubbled up from below.
At the top of the hill where the springs emanate, the superheated water pools for a bit before dribbling over the edge.
At this altitude, there are panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and of Mammoth Village below.
Back in the Valley, Kit and I headed for the historic Mammoth Hot Springs lodge.
After touring the lobby, we enjoyed a nice lunch in the main dining room.
There was a lawn outside that held a few Elk and this guy was giving me the old “stink eye”.
I became a bit unnerved when I realized that I might have been dining on his cousin…..yikes!?!?
Later, Kit and I continued to explore the complex, which is largely made up of buildings remaining from Fort Yellowstone now repurposed into national park administration buildings.
In the 1890’s, not having a presence in the newly established park created an environment for criminal activity so the Interior Department transferred responsibility for security to the War Department. As a result, a cavalry outpost was built by the US Army to help protect the first in the nation US National Park.
The fort’s museum features many historic photos and artifacts from when it was a thriving military outpost of four regiments. One such artifact that I thought possessed historical significance was the following:
I include it here to help those of us that still have difficulty discerning the difference!
It was a nice, unplanned stay in the northern reaches of Yellowstone National Park. But we must move on…..so at 1330 we headed the rig north on US-81 following the Yellowstone River and within ten minutes we were crossing into the state of Montana.
A few hours later we descended down from the mountains and started to see some of the prairie lands of the Midwest.
Soon we intersected I-90 and headed easterly. Getting a bit tired, Kit found a camping opportunity at the fairgrounds in Harlowton, Montana where we scored a nice inexpensive campsite for the evening.
Sunday, May 31, 2015: A rather lazy morning as we enjoyed breakfast, then took a walk about the fairgrounds. At 1100 we hit the road under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 70’s. One reason for the late start was we weren’t quite sure where to go next until Kit mentioned she would like to see the town of Two Dot. When I asked what’s in Two Dot, she said “don’t know, I’ve never been there”. Made sense to me…..so we headed west (yes, west) toward Two Dot, Montana.
Unfortunately, we arrived in town during their daily rush hour.
So carefully maneuvering down the main drag, we found the town’s center of commerce…
…and the establishment for all 71 of the town’s citizens to gather and discuss the towns’ doings.
This town came by its unusual name because of an old cattle rancher named Two Dot Wilson. Old Two Dot donated some of his land to build a town around an existent rail stop on the old Milwaukee Rail Line and was rewarded with naming rights. So…..how did Two Dot Wilson come by his name? Why, that was his cattle brand of course…..two dots, side-by-side seared into the rumps of his herd. So if you ever find yourself traveling down US-12 in this rugged and desolate region of Montana, pull into Two Dot for a visit…..and tell them that Bill and Kit sent you.
Pulling out of town and heading east on US-12 we enjoyed rolling through some very pretty and very flat countryside.
A stark contrast to mesmerizing and lovely Grand Tetons (giggle).
At about 1530 hours I encountered I-90, and continued east until about 1700 when we rolled into Miles City, Montana and found lodging at the Big Sky RV Park for the evening.
Interesting but tiring day, so after a light meal we head off to slumberland.
Monday, June 1, 2015: Following a good sized breakfast, Kit and I jump back on I-94 under sunny skies and warm temperatures. It’s predicted to be near 90 degrees today so we make the decision to head north as soon as possible. That’s just one of the nice things about traveling in an RV; don’t like the weather, or your neighbors, move on.
Shortly after noon, we crossed into the state of North Dakota which marked a major milestone for Kit and me. We now have visited 47 of the lower 48 US states…..care to guess which one we have missed?
A half hour later, a sign was encountered that announced we were entering the Little Missouri National Grasslands.
Twenty minutes later we noticed a road sign for Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Kit and I had decided a few days ago to bypass this opportunity to explore another national park and save it for a future trip. However, as we motored along it became apparent that the visitor’s center was right off the interstate, and since Kit and I were due for a break, we decided to reverse our earlier decision that had reversed our initial decision and tag the park after all.
This 110 square mile park is in three parts, each distinctive from the rest. The South Unit that we visited features part of the famed badlands area.
Teddy Roosevelt came to this area often to hunt Elk and Bison. He also built Elkhorn Ranch which, interestingly, was managed by two woodsmen from Maine. Following Roosevelts death, President Truman designated the area as The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park…..the only such facility in the National Park System.
After a nice stop at the visitor’s center, Kit and I enjoyed a walk down a short path to a scenic overlook.
And returned to the camper for lunch before easing back onto I-94.
At 1430, we crossed into the Central Time Zone and a few minutes later made a stop for fuel. Obtaining diesel with a trailer in tow hasn’t really been an issue. I can either use the standard fuel islands or the truckers lanes, which I decided to do in this case.
The fuel islands for truckers are wide, tall, and feature high capacity fuel pumps on both sides so maneuvering around a fuel station to get the trucks fuel door on the correct side isn’t necessary. The high capacity pumps have larger nozzles and will fill my 36 gallon tank very rapidly.
Back on I-94, I drove another couple of hours before pulling into Bismarck, North Dakota and finding our way to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park for the evening.
And being early in the season, we were able to select a nice secluded site.
After a quick meal and some computer time, it was time to hit the sack.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015-Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park: Up relatively early for a walk about the campground. Since we have recently been on the go a lot, Kit decided that this will be a down day. Agreeing, I rode my bike back to the gate and paid for an additional night’s stay.
Fort Abraham Lincoln, as most non-commercial park campgrounds we have stayed, is in a natural, historic and beautiful part of the state.
The area was originally an Indian encampment called On-A-Slant Village, where tribe families lived in earthen lodges.
Which were structurally supported by cottonwood logs, and willow branches.
Once covered with mud, these homes would remain relatively comfortable in all seasons.
Being near where the Northern Pacific Railway was planned to cross the Missouri River, a fort was built by the US Army for protection from hostile Indians. The first commander of this fort was LTC George Armstrong Custer…..his family’s quarters are on a hillside overlooking the fort and it has been carefully restored.
It was from this fort that the young army officer set out with his cavalry battalion of 700 men toward the Little Bighorn River, and his ultimate demise.
While here, Kit and I enjoyed the many walking paths that paralleled the Missouri River.
Where we noticed the residual effect of the 2011 flood that inundated this area and caused massive destruction.
However, aquatic critters cause damage to the parks trees as well, regardless of the futile attempts park personnel make to discourage the little busy beavers.
The state park is honeycombed with multi use trails that range from river front, woodland to open prairie.
I had a blast riding these trails, that were very well marked and maintained…..even to the point of stone steps to climb the steeper portions of the trail.
Um, yea…..I walked the bike over these, but they did appear ridable.
What a great find…..one of many that we unexpectedly stumbled across during our travels and decide to stay on for an additional day. We absolutely love traveling without an itinerary!
It is getting very near our 50th anniversary and we have discussed where to spend the major milestone day. Kit and I were in agreement that it really doesn’t matter as long as we are together and happy…..so where might the next few days take us? We don’t know! Guess we all will find out together…..stay tuned!
Kit’s Bit’s: I absolutely loved the Grand Tetons! Somehow, we missed seeing them on our last trip to Yellowstone which was in 1974. I suppose we were so focused on getting to Yellowstone and were also on a “schedule” that year that we didn’t even realize what we were missing. The entire area is so incredibly beautiful! Also, I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. It was neat camping right on the Missouri River. Once we realized how bad the big flood had been, we were looking all around the park for evidence of it. The rangers have done a wonderful job restoring the park to full service. This was one of the nicest parks we’ve ever seen during our travels. I would love to stay there again for a week!