Category Archives: 2017 Summer Road Trip – 4 Provinces and 17 States

2017 Sept 11 – Bozeman, MT to Kalispell, MT

We woke up to thick, heavy, smelly smoke.  Even in the truck with the windows up I could smell it so I spent most of the day wearing my mask. There are hills in the background behind the fields; though you can’t see them.

Today was purely a driving day.  We have been to and through Montana quite a few times.  Our son spent 2 1/2 years in Butte getting his Petroleum Engineering degree so we were here moving him in, going for a visit, attending his convocation and moving him out again.  A couple of our road trips have taken us into parts of Montana as well.

When we were looking at the map we were able to find some roads that would take us from Bozeman to Kalispell that we had not been on before.  Both were smaller, secondary roads and there were no tourist attractions or canyons, or waterfalls, etc.  Our only entertainment on the drive was to stop every hour or so and find a geocache.

Our first cache was hidden at a boat launch at Toston Bridge.  Despite the smoke it was a pretty spot and this lady and her dog had a great place to sit and read. I liked the relief carved into Montana’s historical marker frames. We stopped here to also find a geocache which we assumed would be on or at the base of the sign.  My phone compass said it was off in the field behind the sign.  We looked near some rocks on the left with no luck and finally decided to see if it was indeed in the field.  Can you spot where it was hidden?The container was like a large peanut butter jar and it was buried in the earth right up to the bottom of the lid.  After you removed the rocks the lid was exposed and you could unscrew it to get the log paper to sign.We drove through MacDonald Pass and had a nice view at the summit. The historical sign below is interesting (especially the last bit):See the burn on the hill top? And the retardent?  We passed two other burns, both in the ditches right beside the road which show that they were started by cigarettes being tossed out a window.  Idiots! The fire hazard down here is extreme just like at home.  You can see in my photos how dry all the grasses are.Several large fields in one area had these huge haystacks.  There were also the big round bales, but we saw several dozen of these big stacks.   We don’t know if they are hand thrown or if this apparatus is used to make them. There was a cache overlooking Nevada Lake at one end and another one on top of the dam at the other end. The cache container was tucked behind a rock under the big pipe.

The lower side of the dam was just a small outlet making a stream through the field.We stopped at another historical sign and beside it was a fire status information board.  One of the pages showed the fire, called the Rice Ridge Fire, which, on Sept. 4 was 101,424 acres.Take note of the population details on the town of Ovando sign.Our route on Highway 83 took us right past the burning area.  It is hard to see with all the covering smoke but if you look closely you can make out plumes rising from the forest on the hill.  We had 35 mph speed limit for quite a few miles and there were portable water tanks set up in the yard of every house that could be used for sprinkler protection if the fire came over the hill.  We also passed signs regarding staging areas.  Seeley Lake was looking pretty and there were a couple of boaters having a good day. The community of Seeley is the staging area for the firefighters.  I snapped a bunch of photos as we went by but they were taken without looking through the viewfinder so I didn’t get good shots to show how large the command center and rest area was. There were dozens and dozens of small tents for the firefighters to sleep in. Once we were north of the fire area the sky cleared and I was able to take my mask off.  By then we only had about 70 miles to get to Kalispell. (We traveled about 290 miles today so I was not mask free for very long.) There was a cache – our final find of the day – hidden off in the bush inside an old abandoned outhouse.  How do people find these places anyway? We arrived in Kalispell at 6 pm and, once again, our hotel has a restaurant so we did not need to go out after checking in.  Tomorrow we cross the border into Canada and the next day we should be home.  So…this will be my final blog post since all the rest of the journey is familiar territory.  Thanks for riding along with us.

And John achieved his goal of finding geocaches in 16 new states.  As a matter of fact, tomorrow we will go into Idaho which was not originally part of our route plan, and that will give him a bonus state, making it 17.  We will then have found geocaches in 25 of the US states – that is halfway.  We are just over halfway at 6 out of 10 Canadian provinces.  We may just get them all yet.

2017 Sept 10 – Cody, WY to Bozeman, MT

We woke to cloudy skies and wind in Cody and had some rain as we drove west toward Yellowstone National Park.  It didn’t last too long and by noon we had quite a nice mixed sun and cloud day.  The temperature even got back into the warm range.

We had spent several days in Yellowstone in 2010 and I would have loved to go to all the basins and geyers again but we do have to get home some day – unfortunately – so we decided that we would make some stops but principally drive through.  We were not geocaching when we were here before either.  No actual geocache containers are allowed to be hidden in Canadian or American National Parks, so people find Earth caches and Virtual caches instead.  Both of these cache types are informational and you must send in answers to questions or a photo to prove you were at the site before you can log the cache as found.

Not far outside of Cody you enter Shoshone Canyon. This tunnel was a normal short tunnel through the rock, but a short distance past it we entered another tunnel that was VERY long. When we exited the tunnel we pulled into the viewpoint for the Buffalo Bill Dam.  There are golf-cart shuttles that will take you over to the Visitor’s Center if you want.  We have toured quite a few dams in our time so we didn’t bother.  The lake/reservoir was nice and there were some interesting pieces of equipment and information boards.   This interesting construction, located on top of a hill, is called the Smith Mansion.  That is all I know.   We entered Yellowstone through the east gate road which we had not traveled on our last visit so that gave us some new scenery and finding the geocaches took us to some spots we may not otherwise have stopped.

First stop was the Butte Lake Overlook. The fumeroles were blowing steam along the lake shore. We saw quite a few Bison today.  This one has some horn decoration. We walked to the middle of The Fishing Bridge (where you are no longer allowed to fish). We were driving slowly along and in a large meadow I saw a big bison all by itself.  Then I noticed something white moving in the grass as well.  I told John to stop the truck because I thought I saw a wolf.  And sure enough this young wolf walks out of the field toward all the cars and people along the road.  It was quite oblivious to us all and was just listening and looking for food.  Then someone spoke loudly, and slammed a car door and rushed closer for a photo and off it went.  Great experience! Because we were on a drive-through we did not make any side trips into the basins to view the pools or geyers.  We drove right past the Mud Pots and Dragon’s Mouth so we had to go see them again. These two lovelies were waiting for mom and dad to return. It may be September and school is back in but Yellowstone is still very busy with sightseers.  Not too far from the Mammoth Hot Springs you drive the Golden Gate.  There is a nice waterfall that is right beside the road and unless you stop and walk over to the edge of the guard rail you don’t see it.

The Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs was a pretty as ever. When we were here before I spent ages walking all the board walks up there and taking dozens and dozens of photos.  I remember the entire side of the terrace being the oranges and white but now over half of it gets no water and has dried up.  I will have to check when I get home.  We drove into the community of Mammoth Hot Springs and got some ice cream before leaving the park, entering Montana, and heading up toward Bozeman.

There wasn’t an earth cache nor a virtual cache at this location but the information about the mountain was very interesting. There was an earthcache called Montana’s Mesa located at a rest stop beside the river.  It was a very pretty place to stretch our legs. John is good.  He just automatically pulls into any Historical Markers so I can read the sign boards.We got into Bozeman at 5ish and checked in to our hotel, which conveniently has a restaurant so we could eat without going out again.  Then it was back slaving away at the computer editing photos, choosing photos, checking email and writing a blog.  Another successful day on the 2017 Summer Road Trip.  Unfortunately there are only about three of them left.

2017 Sept 9 – Lander, WY to Cody, WY

We left Lander and headed northeast to Bonneville on Highway 789 and turned northwest to drive up to Cody.  When we came through Wyoming on another of our road trips in 2010 I wanted to go to Cody but it was too much of a southern detour for the rest of our plans.  It worked out well that we were going through the middle of Wyoming this year and are able to stop.

As usual we stopped at all the historical markers along the road.There was a cache hidden about 50 meters from the road along the fence line. The Boysen Dam created a huge resevoir and lake that is enjoyed by many.  There was even a fellow out fishing today. We drove the Wind River Canyon through some sharp cliffsides and tunnels. This pillar is just standing out all by itself.We followed the Wind River for miles. It is amazing what some water will do. We stopped to get a cache called Amelia Earhart #2 in the little town of Meeteetse.  We were wondering why the cache was named for her way out west.  We got our answer. This was a nice golden hill.We arrived in Cody at 2 pm and drove right to the Buffalo Bill Museum Complex.  There are actually four museums (each with two floors) and an art gallery. The place is so big your ticket is good for two days. As usual I took a photo of the things I found most interesting and I am just going to insert most of them in the blog.  We were 2 1/2 hours in the museum.  We did a quick tour of both levels of the Natural History Museum as we are very familiar with the animals of this area.  We did not go to the Plains Indian Museum or the art gallery. We spent the majority of our time in the main Cody museum. These are Annie Oakley’s, saddle, outfit, rifle, pistol and trunk. Some of Bill Cody’s clothing items. We stopped about half-way through the Firearms Museum.  It was huge and after awhile they all look the same to me.  I just keep wondering why we have to make so many different versions of the same thing used to kill animals and people.  Some of them though, I will admit, were beautifully made. The museum was very busy.  I was surprised at how many people were wandering in each of the galleries.  Also downtown when we went for dinner.  There was a constant stream of people entering our restaurant while we were eating and the streets had cars parked on both sides and many people walking on the sidewalks.  We have both commented several times at how many people are still about doing the holiday thing even though school has started.  Although, a lot of them are retirees like us that travel when school is in to avoid all the crowds.  I am not sure that is working now that so many baby boomers are retired.

Tomorrow we head west and into Yellowstone National Park.  I am going to try very hard to be good and not ask John to stop everywhere. We are really only passing through on our way into Montana (Yellowstone is located in the far northwest corner of Wyoming almost at the Montana border) and it is not another sightseeing trip in Yellowstone.  We only have about 200 miles to drive to Bozeman, MT so we will have some time to see all the wonderful sights in Yellowstone.  I do hope the smoke continues to stay away.

2017 Sept 8 – Craig, CO to Lander, WY

Today was another mostly driving day.  We looked for geocaches every 40-50 km, or if there was one hidden at an historic marker, since we stop for all of those anyway.  The smoke was still hazing the distance but I couldn’t smell it and it didn’t bother me.

As we were leaving Craig I snapped a quick pic of these adorable foxes.We often see this type of sawtooth ridge jutting out of the ground. Very few signs in these parts escape target practice.

Craig is not too far south of the Colorado/Wyoming border so it wasn’t too long until we entered our 15th state of this trip.  I counted up the states I have been to and only need to go to 14 more to have been to all 50.  I guess I will have to work on that.In this type of country, where there is not a lot of visual changes, I tend to read my book and pop my head up every now and again to check on the scenery.

We encounter small bits of painted hills – brown ones. There was a geocache hidden at parking lot in the middle of nowhere. Well, we were able to park in the parking lot then we had to go down into a dry wash and up through a bunch of sage scrub to find the cache.  Which we did.Another cache was hidden at an historical marker and the landscape around it is flat, flat, flat.  I was able to count four gas well sites from where I was standing. We were planning to tour the old Territorial Prison in Rawlins, WY but they only do tours three days a week and Friday is not one of those days. This lovely four-season mural was at the edge of the prison parking lot. There is a walking path beside the prison and there were a couple of geocaches hidden along the trail so we took a walk and found a them.  We also found a couple at the nearby cemetary before we had our lunch. It is easy to understand the struggle the early homesteaders must have endured to coax water and crops from this land.  There was a cache at an historical site called Split Rock. Apparently this unusual break in the mountain was a prominent marker for trappers, homesteaders, and gold seekers heading west.  There were several placards of interest located at the base of a large clump of huge rocks.  You cannot see the split in the rock that all the information talks about.  What you see from this spot is the side of the mountain. And, of course, when there are pathways leading to a pile of big rocks one must go and climb them. About 5 km down the road we pulled over where we could plainly see Split Rock. It was very noticable even with the smoke in the air.

Another historical marker and geocache.We even saw a few more red rocks.And some pinkish ones.John waded into the tall grass for the cache at this old marker.  I told him to walk heavily so as to not surprise a snake or scorpion. We arrived in Lander in time to eat an early dinner and then I spent the evening trying to catch up on photos and blogs.  There is so much pressure, you realize, to provide this material every day.  Sometimes i don’t know how I stand up to the strain.  Sigh.

2017 Sept 7 – Grand Junction, CO to Craig, CO

There were no stops-of-interest on our journey today.  Well, that is what we thought.  It turned out that we drove down a corridor called Pintado Canyon which has many ancient Native Amerian pictograph and pectograph sites.  One never knows what will be around the next bend on a road trip.

We woke up to more smoke and it hung around all day.  We are heading northward toward Canada, in a zigzag course through the sort-of center of Wyoming. The Rabbitbrush is blooming all over the place.  Reminded me of the sunflowers that brightened our days in Arkansas and Louisiana.I don’t know whether this stuff is a white lichen or alkali leaching from the rocks.We drove through Douglas Pass and did a huge curve at the end with a significant grade to climb. The back curve of the pass was cut out of the mountain face and exposed all this white rock. We stopped at a picnic area in Rangely to have lunch and, lo and behold, the car we parked beside belonged to a couple from Victoria.  They were on their way to Santa Fe and said the smoke was so bad in SW Wyoming they couldn’t even see the Tetons and they only had one good day in Yellowstone.  This does not bode well for the rest of our trip.The first rock art site was called Waving Hands.  Unfortunately, as is always the way, idiots could not resist defacing the ancient art. The birds like the overhanging ledges for their nests. After we left Waving Hands I spotted another sign that said White Birds, but John hadn’t seen it so he drove by.  We turned off onto a gravel road for a couple of miles to go see the rock art at Cow Canyon (I don’t know why it was named that but there were plenty of dry cow patties around). There was also a geocache in this huge rock pile at Cow Canyon. I decided I would like to see the White Birds site as well so we made a short backtrack.  The viewing platform at the rock art was up at the end of a steep pathway. We eventually arrived at Highway 80 at a little town called Dinosaur.  I was not surprised to learn there were fossils in this area.  It looks very much like the landscape around Drumheller, Alberta which has a huge dinosaur museum and preservation site.

Just down the road is one of the entrance points to Dinosaur National Park.  We could see on the map that much of the park was some distance from the highway so decided to go in and ask how many miles it was before deciding whether or not to venture further.  The main, easily accessible area was the Quarr,y which was 25 miles in the opposite direction.  We made a mental note to stop on another trip someday and carried on to Craig for the night.

2017 Sept 6 – Grand Junction, CO (Colorado National Monument)

This blog will be 90% photos of red rock formations and canyons.

We awoke in Grand Junction to a smoke haze from the wildfires in Steamboat Springs, CO and Montana.  Our only plan for the day was to visit the Colorado National Monument which is located just a few miles SW of Grand Junction. Rim Rock Drive is 23 miles long and contains 19 view points.  We arrived at the monument at about 10:30 and it was close to 4 by the time we left.  The road winds around the top of the canyon and its various branches and climbs from 4930′ (1503 m) above sea level at the east entrance to a high point of 6479′ (1975 m) and down to 4690′ (1430 m) at the west entrance.

Once again I will just insert photographs of the placards so I don’t have to write out any of the information.  This was quite a cut through the rock. There are three tunnels along the rim road; one near the beginning of the route and two close together near the end. You can sort of see Fruita Valley through the smoke.  But the distant hills are pretty blurry.The road was fun for John to drive. There is a hike you can do through the bottom of this canyon.  You are advised though not to walk the river channel but stay on the path beside it in case of rain and flash floods. John is off in the distance at the overlook. There is a road that enters the park just after this area and there were geocaches on it;  just outside the park boundary.  We took a short drive down the road and found three caches before returning to the rim road.

John had to climb this dead tree to get one of the caches and a hummingbird was not happy about it.  It kept diving in and out and flying around the top of the tree.

The big arch cut into this cliff face looks like it should be a doorway or window.  Wind and water are amazing sculptors.  We have seen coke ovens just like the ones in the picture on the sign board a couple of times on our travels. There is a path you can take to the end of the ridge where the coke oven formations begin.  You can just make it out as the whitish line in the middle of the photo below. And you can just see a fellow and his son walking on that path.