Montana and Idaho

From Yellowstone we headed out through the West Yellowstone, MT entrance and headed northwest towards Ennis.  We passed by Quake Lake, which Dwight and Scott had told me about.  An earthquake in August 1959 caused part of the mountain to slide into the Madison River, covering the campground that was there and damming the river into a new lake.

Quake Lake

We kept on towards Ennis, a cute little town with an expensive grocery store, then east from Norris to a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground on the Madison River.    There weren’t too many folks there, so we got a very nice site right on the river.  I was tired of all the recent driving, so decided to stay for 3 days (Sept. 7-9) and just relax a bit.  There were no hookups at the sites, but I had enough water and my new batteries were doing really well, so knew we would be good for at least 3 days.

Montana BLM Site on Madison River

Madison River Site

The river is pretty fast moving, and there were a lot of folks fishing and tubing.

Madison River

On the last night it was really windy.  I almost thought I would have to move on to Bozeman in the middle of the night.  The next morning there was a beautiful sunrise.

Montana Sunrise

Morning on the Madison

So we headed out for Bozeman.  I needed to do laundry, get a haircut, stop at Walmart and check out the town.  It seemed like a neat town.  It reminded me of Georgetown, TX, although about twice the size.  The plan was to head west, stop in Whitehall for the night, down Hwy. 41 to Dillon to pick up I-15, and then to Clark Canyon Reservoir.  The RV park in Whitehall was a dump, so headed to Butte. We stayed in a commercial campground (Monday, 9/10), then headed down I-15 the next morning.

Clark Canyon Reservoir is a Bureau of Reclamation campground, and is free for up to 14 days.  The lake is low due to drought, but still pretty.  There was a pelican hanging around, but I never could get a good picture of him.

Clark Canyon Reservoir (hazy due to smoke from forest fires)

We stayed 3 days, then headed down into Idaho.  Stoddard Creek Campground is in the Targhee National Forest, but I couldn’t tell from the website if it was still open.  When I got there it was near perfect.  A beautiful forest campground only a mile or so off the highway down a well paved road.  It was technically closed, but they hadn’t actually closed it down yet, so was free camping.

Stoddard Creek, ID

Riley on the Stoddard Creek hiking trail

We stayed one night, then on to Rigby.  I had read that you could see the Tetons from the area, and they had a county campground on a lake with hookups.  Unfortunately, smoke from fires to the north prevented any view more than a few miles, so could barely see a little bit of one of the Teton mountains.  It was a decent park with a nice lake.  OK for one night.

Jefferson County Lake Campground, Rigby, ID

The next day was Sunday, 9/16 and I wanted to stay at a commercial campground so I could watch the Nascar race, maybe watch some football and take care of the tanks.  Found one in Idaho Falls that offered cable and headed over.  After checking in I was unable to get cable.  Turns out you have to get it connected by the cable company.  More of a permanent resident feature.  Oh well, I did get to catch some football.  I decided I would try to do a commercial campground once a week on Sundays to have a “utility day”, then the rest of the week I would be good to stay wherever, off-grid.

On Monday the 17th I headed down I-15 to Utah.  There were several places to see there, especially Bryce Canyon and Zion.  More to come…

Casper, Thermopolis, and Brooks Lake

From Wheatland I headed to Casper, stopping in Douglas for lunch.  They have a city park with overnight RV parking allowed on the banks of the North Platte River.  It was too early to stop for the day so I kept on to Casper.  The highway in central Wyoming is really boring, about like driving through west Texas.  But, I had “This American Life” podcasts on my Ipod playing through my new dash radio.  So, it wasn’t a bad drive.  I planned to go to Stalkups RV in Casper for some parts, then go up to a county park on Casper Mountain where it would be cool.  I’d rather be at elevation with windows open than parked cheek-by-jowls in a commercial RV park in town with A/C running.  Personal preference.  The drive up the mountain was steep and windy, but eventually I was up there driving through the campground looking for a suitable site.  There really weren’t many folks there.  I saw just one RV and a few cars parked with guys just sitting in them.  Most of the sites were small and unlevel.  It just seemed creepy, so I decided to go back down the mountain and find someplace else to stay.  I tried not to think of how many gallons of gas I just wasted going up, then down the mountain.  I did need to go by Walmart, so I just decided to stay there overnight.  RVers stay at Walmarts all the time, but I hadn’t yet.  It was a little noisy, but fine.

North Platte River in Douglas

On the way back down Casper Mountain. It is steep.

The next morning I got my oil changed, then stopped for gas and propane on the way out of town, heading to Thermopolis.  There is a state park there with hot springs.  Supposed to be good soaking, and I had never had a dip in hot springs.  The propane guy gave me the name of an RV park with their own hot springs pool.  Seemed like a good place to stay.  I would need electric hookups for A/C and needed to do laundry.  When I got there I checked in and parked.  If I had paid attention I would have noticed it didn’t look like a nice place.  It wasn’t well kept up, and the laundry room hadn’t been cleaned recently.  I need to remember to drive through and inspect before setting on an RV park.  Oh well, I did get my laundry done, and had a soak or 2.

The drive to and from Thermopolis is through the Wind River Canyon.  It’s a really nice drive, and I wished I wasn’t driving so I could have enjoyed it more.

Wind River Canyon

Wind River Canyon

From there it was on to Dubois and then Brooks Lake Campground.  Brooks Lake was a location I saw RVSue visit a few months before.  I remember showing Sue’s posts/pictures to my folks on my Ipad, saying I wanted to visit a pretty place like that on my travels.  Since it was on the way to Yellowstone/Tetons I would have the chance.  The road to Dubois runs along the Wind River and there was interesting rock formations, too.  At one point we had to stop for a cattle round up crossing the road.  As we passed I noticed they were cowGIRLS herding the cattle.  Giddy-up!!   I stopped at the visitor center in town and the Shoshone Forest office to get info on the forest and fires in the area.  (There were a couple of fires, but not where I would be going.)  Forest road 515 gains about 2,000 feet elevation to 9,200 feet, and is about 5 miles of washboard road.  I really did not enjoy the road to the campground.  But, when I got up there it was really pretty and worth the drive.  The good sites in the main loop by the lake were taken so I drove up a small hill on a spur where there were 3 more sites.  They had recently cut down dead or dying trees and left the wood for campers to use.  There was a nice stack of wood at my site!

Brooks Lake Site

Brooks Lake

On one side of the lake was The Pinnacles and the other side had the Breccia Cliffs.  There was a fire past the lake and the smoke makes interesting sunset color on the Pinnacles.  There was also a trail leading from the lake that is part of the Continental Divide Trail.

Start of Trail and Breccia Cliffs. Across the lake is smoke from the fire.

Pinnacles at Sunset

I got to talking to the Richard, the Camphost.  He said there was a trail branching off that went to Jade Lake, a really beautiful lake.  He had seen a bear in the area, so lent me his bear spray for the hike Riley and I would take the next day.  It was a pretty hike, longer than I thought, and when I got to the lake I was really disappointed.  It seemed really small and unimpressive.  But the sign said Jade Lakes, so maybe there would be another if I kept walking.  After a bit more walking there was still no 2nd lake.  Some folks came walking along and said yes, it was just a little way further.  It was truly a storybook looking lake, so I’m glad we kept walking.

Jade Lake

At Jade Lake

We stayed 3 nights.  On the last night some women pulled up to the site next to me, several women, several trucks.  Turns out they were having a bachelorette party for their friend that works at the fancy lodge/dude ranch next door.  I had seen a cowgirl herding some horses on the trail a day or 2 before, and she was the guest of honor.  It seemed quite ‘Wyoming’ to have a campout bachelorette party.

The next day was Saturday, September 1st, time to head out to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  I would take highway 26 over the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass, through Moran Junction and then to Jackson, as I needed gas and groceries.  Then we would visit Tetons, getting to Yellowstone after Labor Day (when hopefully the crowds would be smaller).

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