Sunday, August 26, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 4 Helena to Glacier

We awoke to rain.  First it was the light pitter patter and then a bit more.  We had been through this before, but never with a ten person tent.  We proceeded to dump some stuff in the car and then went after the tent.  Amazingly, with only two poles, we were in the car within minutes.
We headed West and North and followed the Madison River through the Gravelly & Madison Ranges valley towards Ennis.  The weather cleared as we went on and stopped in Ennis at the Ennis Lions Park and the Al & Vi Thexton Recreation Area.

It was a great stop on a beautiful morning.  It was our time to break the law, as there were no dogs allowed on the ball field, but what are you going to do.  The dogs were anxious, the sun had broken out and the area was fenced.  No chance of wandering dogs.  We just had to wait for the ladies club, which was meeting there for some type of field trip, to leave the area.  Tom and I took advantage of the rest room and got ready for some ball play with the dogs.

The Road into Ennis
The weather really was on our side for the rest of the day.  We were headed to Helena to see the capital.  Tom had never been in Montana before, so it was kinda fun to mark off another state that the TravelingDogs have seen together.

The capital was only a few hours away, and like Boise, pretty easy to locate with signage and the great dome.  Today was Tuesday, so I was a bit skeptical about finding parking near the capital.  The weather was not too hot and we found a spot under a tree right in front of the Montana State Capital.  Doris Day has nothing on us!

Montana State Capital

We walked from one side of the capital to the other.  On the far side was a small wheeled train offering tours of the area.  A few kids reached out to Luther & BuddyJack as we walked by.  We also walked by an art installation titled, "Herd Bull."  The description and the piece are below.

We walked behind the capital and let the dogs run along the side of the building, through the grass and over to the trees, which, like all other capitals, I guess, housed a multitude of squirrels.  The dogs went sniffing from tree to tree, following the unseen paths of the little critters.  It was a good time to stop and rest for a bit for Tom, so he sat under a tree as I headed towards the capital to get a better look and to go inside.

Civil War Union General Thomas Francis Meagher

The flags have been at half mast since our first capital due to the shooting in Aurora, CO.  This was our second time while traveling when the flags have been a half mast, the last time during the Columbia tragedy in 2003.

I proceeded to go inside the capital, not by the stairs leading to the front doors, but by the side door under the stairs to the right.  As with most capitals I have seen, this building used the natural lighting and the history of the state to accent the interior of the building.  It was quite grand with paintings of early inhabitants of Montana including the Native American, the Explorer, the Gold Miner and the Cowboy on the four sides of the rotunda.

The Rotunda
"Touched by Glacier"

We headed out of Helena and headed toward Glacier National Park, our last stop before crossing the border into Canada, planned for the following day.  The Continental Divide crossed through the park and it was a bit chilly.  The only camping that was available was also over 30 miles back from where we came from, so we decided to head north and find a roadside campsite.

We passed a few, one which was on the water and way windy.  A few more miles up, we saw one which had a native sounding name to it.  We decided to check it out.  It proved to be a good spot and we leashed the dogs and started to unpack.

Luther found a friend and that kept the dogs busy for a while we set up camp.  A few items were still damp from the rain in the morning, so the breeze in the late afternoon air helped dry the items out.

We put the dogs back into the car after we set camp and headed towards the small restaurant they had at the campsite.  We were both hungry after a full day of driving.  We talked to a few people in the restaurant, some of which were playing cribbage.  It was quite friendly, food not so great, but nice enough to enjoy the company.

We finished our meal, paid the check and headed back to the car to let the dogs out.  We had to shoo off Luther's friend, which took a few shoos too many.  Eventually, we were all in the tent, Tom updating the calendar and the dogs passed out.

The following morning, we awoke early, packed up the tent and said goodbye to the states (and Luther's friend).  A few miles more and we will be in Canada, part II of this journey to Alaska.  BuddyJack would have preferred to stay, but we had a schedule to follow, as seen below in my office away from home.

Day 3 Boise to Yellowstone

The day started off better than the night had left us.  We only had 5 hours to get to the Tetons and Yellowstone.  The weather was still working in our favor so it was pretty smooth sailing.

Smiling and on the road

Along the way, heading East on Rt. 22 in Wyoming, we ran across Burbank Creek.  What better place to stop and take a picture!

Burbank Creek

We continued on the road to Jackson and took a left up to Grand Teton National Park.  As you take the left towards the park, the traffic gets congested and you pass by an archway made from elk racks.

Nice Racks!

We stopped at the National Elk Refuge before driving through the Tetons headed toward Yellowstone.  The weather was starting to change, as it often does, high in the mountains.  The Tetons, were just that, The Teton Range.  They were impressive with Grand Teton reaching 13,770 feet.

Grand Teton National Park

We stopped at the Visitor Center to check out their interactive exhibits.  Interactive may not have been the right word as instead of touching and feeling things, there were lots of stuffed animals.  Not the plushy kind, but the taxidermy kind.  There were elk, beer, wolf, rams and even a porcupine.

Watch out for animals!

Our first non-stuffed animal.

Yellowstone National Park was pretty big.  It is also the home "Old Faithful" and the majority of the world's geysers.  We decided to spend our time to the west of the park and head towards Old Faithful.  It was cool enough outside that we could leave the dogs in the car, as dogs are not allowed off of paved roads.   We parked the car and headed towards the crowds of people sitting on benches and standing around a collection of geysers.  I passed this sign along the way and thought it to be very amusing:

No Standing on Geysers!

There were a few geysers steaming in a few locations.  The crowds were patiently sitting with parents talking to their kids about the timing of Old Faithful.  Signs were posted about no dogs and no smoking.  People, of course, paid no heed and were carrying their small dogs and smoking.  Grrrr!

There were also a few buildings surrounding the area, all which sold $10 ice cream and $4 sodas.  Parents were talking about this, too.

The crowd was from all walks of life.  Families, Bikers, Young & Old.  Even a large troop of Boy Scouts, which I looked with disdain as this was a few days after the Boy Scouts reaffirmed their "No Gays Allowed" stance.

And then Old Faithful started to go off.  At first a few spurts.  The gurgling continued and more spewing.  The crowds were taking pictures and videos, pointing and smiling.  Tom had gone off to get his National Parks Passport stamped and practically missed the whole thing.

I caught some of it on video, which I post below:

Old Faithful Video

We got back into the car and headed towards the West Entrance.  We got a few miles and found ourselves in one heck of a traffic jam.  We looked ahead and found the crowd stopped for a herd of bison.  There are a few rules that we are asked to do while visiting within the parks:

1.  Do not stop along the road to view the wildlife, pull off.
2.  Do not get out of our car to see the wildlife.

I guess today's visitors were from a different country and could not read or understand english, between the dogs at old faithful and the young woman on the side of the road going click, click, click!

It took us a good half hour to get by the bison.  I stuck my head out the window and took a few shots while we passed by.  Luther was curious as to what was going on, but appeared unfazed by the huge mammals.

A few more miles down the road, after passing more and more geysers, we ran into another traffic jam. This time, we were a bit more antsy.  Tom was driving and has little patience for this stop and go.

Come to find out, the traffic was for the deer above, as well as a few others munching on grass.  It was pretty lame, we thought, as we see deer often on the sides of the road in the Central Coast of CA.  I guess others are not that fortunate.

We finally got out of Yellowstone and headed down the road towards a few campgrounds.  Yellowstone was booked for the night but there were a few other USDA Forest Service campgrounds just outside the park.  We headed to the first we saw and there was, again, no room.  They did have a sign telling wayward travelers to go a few miles north to Rainbow Point.

We arrived after traveling down a gravel road a few miles and then another for a few miles more.  We ran into the camp hosts, who stated that they, too were very close to selling out.  They directed us to a site, and if that was no good, we could go the HC site a few sites down.  We got to the original site, which was in a dense area of forest.  The time of day was perfect for mosquitoes and they were swarming.  We put up the tent in a heartbeat, put all we needed inside the tent and took a breather.

Tom cooked some dinner as I walked the dogs.  Spam and eggs was on the menu and we all woofed it down.  We slept fairly well, until the rain started in the morning.  Our first rain!