Montana – 27 June – 10 July – Summer 2017

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Little Big Horn Battlefield

Well it’s Tuesday 27 June and we are on our way to Billings, Montana.  Wide open spaces and rolling hills and you can spot mountains in the distance.  Not too many trees, not yet anyways.  We arrived at the Little Big Horn and the battle that happened there is commonly referred to as Custer’s Last Stand and it’s where the US forces were defeated.  This battle was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army.  The battle took place on June 25–26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana.

The Visitor Centre had very nice displays and the 20 minute movie we watched was also well done.  We Paid $20 for an hour-long bus tour with Eric.  Very interesting – he knows his history.  It started to rain towards the end of our tour but that’s okay.  We were able to view the different battle grounds and hear all the stories about the battles.  After the bus tour, we walked up to the Indian Memorial , such a wonderful memorial.  We also walked to where they say Custer died.  Very peaceful place and hearing the stories and seeing the very spots where people on both sides died, it was quite moving.

As a side note I will mention that  we purchased a USA National Parks for about $80 before we left and it was well worth it.

When we left there, we drove to Billings RV Park, site 34, full hookup for $51 a night.  Very nice park, clean and the sites are nice and easy to get into.

Drove through the downtown core, lots of big old brick buildings with wide streets.  Really nice downtown area, we parked and walked to the Montana Brewery for dinner.

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The next day we left for Yellowstone National Park.  Beautiful scenery on the way, more rolling hills, meadows and some hills were covered with trees and some with rocks !  Lots of cattle and horses.  We are getting close to West Yellowstone !  The park is beautiful, stopped for a photo by the sign.  Drove into West Yellowstone; we didn’t have a reservation anywhere and it was a busy town !

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We stopped at the Rustic Wagon Campground and parked on the street.  Went to the office and talked to Ken, the owner.  He said his park was full and would be hard to get a site anywhere in West Yellowstone because most of the campgrounds were already full.  Finally after much consideration he decided he would take us in!  He had one site left, site 1R and it was one of the sites on our trip that we liked the best.  We had to back in and there was a cabin on one side which remained empty during our entire visit and on the other side there was the occasional RV.  Very private.  Full hookup and I think it was about $55 a night.  This is a very clean, very well run park.  I would absolutely stay here again and Ken was awesome.  Clean laundry facilities and washrooms.  Just a great place.

We decided to go “to town” which was not far !  We went to the IMAX theatre to see the movie “Yellowstone’.  It was not what we expected, a little disappointing.  Left there and walked around downtown in the rain and went into a couple of shops and acted like tourists.  Ken had recommended the China Panda restaurant; so we went there for dinner.  Good Food and only two staff; an older man who did the cooking and a younger man who did the rest.  The younger man did not speak English very well and we didn’t speak Chinese AT ALL but we got along !  He was friendly and polite and was attentive to us while we were there.  Another man and woman came in and only ordered tea.  They didn’t drink it and were extremely rude to the young man.  Rolling their eyes and making rude comments.    I would definitely recommend this restaurant and I still feel bad at how badly the young man was treated.

We went back to the IMAX to see the new movie WonderWoman and it was great on the big screen, we really enjoyed it and I didn’t think I would.

The next day we got up super-duper early and drove into the Park.  Trying to beat the lineups !  We went to different geysers, Madison, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Roosevelt and over to the North East entrance.

 

Lots of wildlife in this park, we saw elk, buffalo, deer and coyotes.

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We drove up to Bear Tooth Pass, elevation 10947 and it was only 2 degrees celsius and lots of snow.  It also snowed and hailed while we were driving up there !  The road to get to the top was something else, lots of hair pin turns.  It was a tad scary and we even had to drive through a snow tunnel.

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The day after this, Friday now, we got up early again and packed a lunch and back into the Park about 730.  Highly recommend going into the Park as early as possible.  The lineups later in the morning are impossible !  More on that later……..  We decided to hit Old Faithful but drove the Firehole Drive first and it was quite nice.  There were cliffs on the left and a river gorge on the right with falls at the end.  We also did the Biscuit Basin and then when we arrived at Old Faithful we walked most of the trails and watched Old Faithful gush; actually, we watched it twice.  The amount of people who were there was something else.  Soooooooooo many people.

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Hundreds and hundreds of people at Old Faithful

Left to go to West Thumb Lake and Yellowstone Lake, Bridge Bay, Fishing Bridge, Canyon Falls, and Lower Falls.  What about Upper Falls you may ask?  Well the had closed Upper Falls for some reason.  We ended up back at Madison and saw more elk, buffalo, deer and a brown bear but we couldn’t get photos of him.

On Saturday we went to Grizzly Bear Discovery Centre and spent some time there.  We watched an hour-long movie on Yellowstone at this place and it was very good.  $10 each to get into Grizzly Park and your ticket is good for two days.  We saw grizzly bears and wolves and lots of displays.  One display talked about Canada’s 11 provinces.  What?  How about ten?  Do I hear ten ?   lol   There was another museum down the street, mostly about transportation,  The Yellowstone Historic Centre.   We watched yet another movie there about a big fire in 1988 in Yellowstone and then ANOTHER movie about Yellowstone mostly showing aerial views of the park.  Really interesting and only $6 each to get into this place !

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Ended up at the Slippery Otter Brewery (no website) for a little libation.  They had a beer called Old Faithful and I really liked it.  Food was pretty good too, pizza and grilled cheese with soup.  We walked around some more stores after and a couple of stores had tons of Smokey the Bear stuffed little toys.  They are really big on Smokey down here, we used to have him in Canada when I was growing up, he was always on TV.  We decided to go for another drive and chose to go to Big Springs, Idaho.  We only drove about 90 minutes total; the drive was kinda boring.  Little bit of FYI – Yellowstone Park is in 3 states, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

Sunday we got up at 6 o’clock and we were back into the Park by 645.  We did the trail at  Black Sand Geyser and also at Midway Geyser Basin.  We decided to go back to Old Faithful and saw it gush again.  There is a beautiful, huge, old inn there called, Old Faithful Inn which was built in 1904.  Very cool place and the architecture is amazing.  We decided to do the Firehole Canyon Drive again and Firehole Lake Drive.  Drove through Madison campground and the sites are really small and really close together.  Drove down a bunch of other little roads and on one road a hawk flew past with what looked like a snake in his feet.

 

When we left the Park about 11 am, the cars waiting to go into the Park were lined up right through town and back past our campground (2-3 miles).  Crazy !   This is a very popular place.   We went back to the Yellowstone Historic Centre and watched another movie on the first USA car trip back in 1903.  Great movie.  The tickets at this museum are also good for two days.

Our weather was pretty good while we were here.  Mid twenties (celsius) and mostly sunny, some clouds and rain one day.  All in all, pretty decent weather !

We left Yellowstone on Monday, 3 July heading to Virginia City and on the way we stopped at Hebgen Lake to view the area.  There was a 7.5 earthquake hit the Madison Canyon River Area, near West Yellowstone August 17, 1959 .  This formed Quake Lake which was created due to the massive landslide of approximately 80 million tons of rock.   People were camping along Hebgen Lake and there were a lot of deaths and a lot of damage.  Very sad story.

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Okay so now we are on our way our campground.  Which we booked as we drove !  We stayed at Virginia City RV Park, site 13.  This is the weirdest layout of a park I have seen, at least the part we were in.  There was a sloping raised narrow gravel driveway by the time you parked your trailer, there was no level ground to access your trailer door.  I stepped off our step as though I were going over the side of a cliff !  lol   the people on the door side “owned” the grass area (where they had a tent) right up almost to our door and the people on the other side of us “owned” the piece of land behind our trailer .  I did get to use our trailer bumper to put my beer on as we did have enough grass for two chairs behind our trailer.  I need boundaries !! But, it will do.

We left and drove into Alder but kind of nothing there really so we left and went to Nevada City.  This is an authentic old town left to look as it did a 100 years ago.   Take a look at their website.  Actually they call it a ghost town.  We paid $8 each to get in and walk around, ($10 on weekends).  I liked it here.  They have one cafe and a Star bakery and one restaurant.  The photos below do NOT depict the cafe and bakery lol.

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We had a nice coffee at the cafe while we waited for the 330 pm train to go to Virginia City.  It’s very cool, they have a little train that goes from Nevada City to Virginia City and back.  Called the Virginia City Shortline Railroad.   $10 roundtrip.    It’s the type of train you sit sideways and it’s all open, it was a fun ride.  It only takes 20 minutes each way.

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When we got to Virginia City you are allowed some time before you have to take the train back.  We went into the Bale of Hay Saloon and had beer and peanuts !  We sat and talked to an 80 something year old couple who had just met on Match.com.  He’s from this area and she was from Palm Springs, California.  He was a professional fishermen and she and her late husband, wrote for TV shows.  Great couple and I wish I had gotten contact information.  They were one of the most interesting couples I have ever spent time with.  We had to catch the 5 pm train back to where our vehicle was so we had to say goodbye to them.

Tuesday, July 4th  we decided to drive to Ennis.  We parked and walked up one side of the downtown and then the other, going into stores as we walked by anything interesting.  We sat outside on a bench in front of Willies Distillery.  We were waiting for the FOURTH OF JULY parade to start !  We have never been to an American 4th of July parade so we were pretty excited.  The number of people waiting for the parade in this small town is astonishing and everyone, well almost everyone, is dressed in red, white and blue and everyone has a flag.  It’s quite something to see.  One lady we spoke to said they usually get thousands here for this parade.  There is only a population of 1000 people in Ennis so they must come from all other areas.  The parade was fun to watch and there were people all over the place.  Bars were open and people were drinking in the street and celebrating.  Like I said, quite something.  When it was over, we went into the Distillery and did a sample or two.  We didn’t really like it though.  But it is a neat place.

We left and drove into Virginia City.  We had only seen the inside of a bar when we were here yesterday !   We parked and as usual, we walked up one side of the street and down the other !  We don’t like to miss anything.   Oh did I mention it’s stinking hot today ? This town is pretty cool, it’s what I had imagined Deadwood to be like but it’s better.

 

 

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We wanted to take the Nelson Off Road Tours for a tour.  They use an M923 military vehicle.  Very rugged and big;  perfect for getting to those hard to get to places.  We paid $20 each and the tour was over 90 minutes.  The husband drove and he told us history of the area and what to look at on the way up and on the way back his wife who was also on the vehicle,  talked about mining days and the area.  They were both very well-informed, friendly, professional and we really enjoyed it.

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Old Mine Shaft Entrance

After the tour was over, we walked around the town some more and had dinner at Bob’s Place.

We drove up to Boot Hill cemetery overlooking the town.

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So the next day is hot hot hot  and we are leaving for Butte, Montana.

We took two highways to get there, 187 and 40 as we were told the interstate was really steep.  It was a nice drive except for when a deer jumped right in front of our truck !  and then we saw a groundhog sitting on the side of the road licking his foot.  Or maybe he was hitchhiking?

We stopped at the Visitor Centre to get some info and the KOA is literally right next door.  We were given site #1 next to showers and bathroom but it’s a nice site.  We set up and decided to go out and when we got back another trailer was beside us and they had come on our site and taken our picnic table.  Who does that?  Weirdos.   But I digress, we went out for the rest of the day and first stop was the Mai Wah Chinese Museum.

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Mai Wah Chinese Museum

 

The history of the Chinese people here in Montana is interesting to say the least and we really enjoyed the museum.  $5 entry fee

 

 

 

We went to view the Berkely Pit which was a copper mine and we saw the “big pit” and big it was.  You can walk through a gift shop and then a tunnel to get a view from the platform.  This Pit was  started in 1955 and by 1980 nearly 1.5 billion tons of material had been removed,  including more than 290 million tons of copper ore. It was called the Richest Hill on Earth.

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Berkely Pit

 

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Tunnel to Berkely Pit

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This tour made us thirsty so we made our way to Butte Brewery and we tried some beer but it was so-so and therefore we felt the need to try another brewery so we headed out.

 

 

Now we are off to Muddy Creek Brewery !    This brewery was upstairs in an old building, did I mention they have a lot of old style buildings in Butte?  I love the look of them.  Anyways, we sat with a father and son from France who were on vacation in Butte to do fly fishing.  We chatted with them for a long time.  We  have always wanted to go to France so were getting some good tips.

 

When we left there, we drove to the Miners Memorial, beautiful memorial to commemorate fallen miners.

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We ended up at Sparky’s Garage for dinner.  What a unique restaurant; we sat outside and ordered a hamburger and pulled pork sandwich with potato skins.  Good food and I love how they decorated it as an old garage.  Very cool.  Too much food though so we brought half of it home to have for dinner tomorrow night, which is a good thing.

 

 

When we went to bed, it was windy and started to rain a bit.  We were woke up at 1233 a.m. by our trailer shaking like crazy.  I have never been in an earthquake but knew immediately it was one.  Didn’t last too long but was scary and there were a couple of aftershocks later.  Apparently the earthquake centre hit Helena which is about an hour drive from Butte.  On the radio they said it was the largest quake, in this area, since 1962.  It registered 5.8.  It was something else.

The next day and it was a hot day,  we hit the Miners Museum.    8.50 each admission fee and most of the displays are outside.  It was laid out like a little town and lots of old mining equipment laying around.  They also had a doll museum with displays of dolls from different TV shows like Star Trek, Bond, Charlies Angels, you name it, they had it.  We really enjoyed it.

 

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We went downtown to Headframe Distillery.  Clint tasted 3 whiskeys and I had a vodka orange creamsicle drink.  Well it was tasty !  Apparently they have a drink that started here; they sell a Cream Bourbon called Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur and it’s a nice liqueur, but if you mix it with root beer it’s called a Dirty Girl.  I know that sounds weird, I thought so too but we tried it and IF you like root beer, it’s really good.

We went to another brewery downtown called the Quarry  and sat at the bar for probably two hours talking to the owner.  Chuck was his name and he was also the brewmaster.  He told us he had been in the military and when he was released he started the Brewers Guild in Washington State and then opened this brewery.  Interesting guy and he told us all kinds of stories, we had a great visit with him and enjoyed his brewery.

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Well now it’s Friday morning, 7 July and we are leaving Butte and heading to Glacier National Park.  We didn’t take the interstate, we took a shorter route with some elevation changes.  Beautiful scenery, spectacular actually.

 

We arrived at Johnsons RV Park in St Marys…We took Site 32 which was in the back on an angled site.  There were 3 sites in a row and all grassy and pretty shady.  I believe it was $45 a night for 20 amp and water.  We set up and sat outside to have a relaxing brew and a guy from Alberta came in and set up beside us.  They ended up moving as that site had no hydro, it was really hot and they wanted their A/C to be able to work.  Too bad, they were a nice family.  Then we went into St Mary’s small town.  Went into a couple of stores and then picked up a pizza and went back to our site.  It was a long day of driving, only about 5 hours I believe but with stopping here and there and being such a hot day, it was tiring.  This is a very quiet park so far and it’s pretty full, like probably 90% full.

We got up really early the next morning and we were in Glacier National Park by 630.  We drove straight to Logan’s Pass and got a parking spot.  I know that doesn’t sound too exciting and why would I mention it?  Because probably by 830-9 you will not get a parking spot at Logan’s Pass.  A very popular place and very busy, just like Yellowstone, go as early as you can in the morning.

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I love Logan’s Pass, there is a Visitor Centre, couple of trails and you can see snow around the Visitor Centre and you can see glaciers in the distance.  Great place.  And they also had Rock Squirrels !  I have never even heard of them but they are some cute and run around all over the place.  I knelt down in one spot for probably 45 minutes watching one little guy and getting photos.  He was quite the little character and I swear he was posing for me.  We walked a part of one trail and the scenery is beautiful.

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When we left there we went to the “Going to the Sun” Road.   This drive was incredible !  The roads are super narrow and there are rocks jutting out and rock overhangs; we had to pull our side mirrors in on our truck.  They do have vehicle restrictions;  no vehicles over 21 feet, 10 feet high or 8 feet wide are allowed.  It’s about a 50 mile drive total but you can stop at different spots and we also drove through some campgrounds.  Speed limits are 25 to 46 miles per hour and there are no gas stations on this part of the road.

We drove to West Glacier and made a visit to the Alberta Visitor Centre.  It’s a busy Visitor Centre.  We walked around West Glacier and went into a couple of stores and on the way back we stopped at a picnic area for our lunch. We pack a lunch most days.  The spot we picked for our lunch was nice and we spotted some deer in the river.    Oh Yes ! when we were driving past Apsgar, a baby bear ran across the road in front of us, so tiny and cute.  Wonder where mom was?   We drove to Many Glaciers Resort , what a beautiful spot.  We walked around the resort and watched a bunch of horses being walked over the hills, I guess they were done their trail rides for the day.  We should have done a trail ride.

The next day we were up at 515 a.m. yup that’s right 515 a.m.  We were in the Park before 7.  Just after we entered, there were cars stopped and 3 bear cubs were playing in the middle of the road.  Same spot where we saw the little cub yesterday.  Mom was on the ledge watching them.  They didn’t care who else was watching them.  Just playing and having fun and then back up the hill to Mom.

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We ended up at Logan’s Pass again.  Spent a good hour or two photographing the adorable Rock Squirrels.

We thought we would do the Highline Trail.  Holy Cow this started out like a normal trail and then it was a very narrow trail, two people would barely be able to pass each other.  One side was a rock cliff and the other side was literally straight down the mountain.  They had a big long piece of rubber attached to the cliff side to hang on to.  Scary trail !  We did see a mountain goat just hanging around.  I have only two other times been on scary trails like this, once in Newfoundland and once on a trail at Halfway Lake Provincial Park in Ontario.  I was glad to get off it !

 

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We stopped at one of the stops on the way back (Piegan pass) and walked a trail along this river and up into the woods for quite a long way.  We did not do Piegan Pass route, it’s very long.  These flowers were all along the river and up the trail and they  were so unique, I have never seen these before either.  They are called Bear Grass.

We drove to Sun Point and had lunch and then stopped here and there for picture-taking before heading home.  We ended up going back to the “baby bear” spot after dinner to see if they would be around as we have seen them in the same spot three times now but alas, they weren’t.

We leave tomorrow for Alberta.  And it is still stinking hot; when we call home to Ontario, all they are getting is rain and cool weather.  So I guess I prefer the stinking hot lol.

 

2 thoughts on “Montana – 27 June – 10 July – Summer 2017”

  1. The couple at the Chinese restaurant sound like jerks! And that’s so cool that you met someone who used to write for TV. Did she mention which shows she wrote for?

    Liked by 1 person

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