Sunday, September 30, 2012


We arrived in West Glacier and found a nice spot in the Apgar campground.  The fall colors were in full bloom and we practically had the place to ourselves.  We got on our bikes and rode the bike path around to check out the area.  We stopped at Lake McDonald and practiced skipping stones.  Abigayle is still perfecting her technique, so I thought it better to keep by bike helmet on to avoid injury from an errant stone.

We were unable to drive the Going to the Sun road through the park due to construction near Logan Pass, so I had to be content with riding my bike up it as far as I could (yay!).  The views were awesome, save for the wildfire haze, and there was very little traffic.  Later that day, we all went for a hike up Avalanche Creek and around Avalanche Lake.  Again, awesome views and luckily no bear sightings.

The downside of our late season traveling is that a lot of park amenities/services are finished for the season.  This meant the shuttle bus service that normally takes you throughout Glacier was done, so the only way for us to see the east side of the park was to drive around the perimeter to East Glacier.  We arrived at Many Glacier campground in East Glacier in the late afternoon and drove to some of the lookouts to check for bears (the rangers indicated that bears had been spotted in the area).  We did see a black bear down in a valley feeding, but it was pretty far away.

The next morning we hiked up to Redrock Falls before breaking camp and heading for the KOA in St. Mary.  In St. Mary, we took a Red Bus Tour, which are the historic buses that have been running through the park since 1936.  On the tour we saw mountain goats, sheep, a black bear and a grizzly bear!  After the tour, we went to camp and had lunch and then I did a bike ride up to the top of Logan Pass while Abigayle did school.  The next day, we sadly bid Glacier goodbye and headed west, on our way to Seattle.
When teaching a 7-yr old to skip stones, a helmet is highly recommended (you can actually see the skipping rock if you look closely)
Riding the bike path at Apgar Campground 
McDonald Falls.
Glacier carved rocks on Avalanche Creek.
Exposed roots from a fallen tree on the Trail of Cedars Nature Trail.
Avalanche Lake.
Several glacial waterfalls feeding Avalanche Lake.
Earning another Jr. Ranger badge.
A view of the wildlife from the back of the RV.
Wildlife on Redrock Falls trail.

At Saint Mary Lake on the Red Bus Tour.
Riding up the Going to the Sun road on the Red Bus (with the top open).
Logan Pass via the Red Bus.
Hello from the Red Bus Tour.
This guy was just napping alongside the road.
Black bear grabbing some lunch.  Moments later, we captured the grizzly video below.
The lodge at Many Glaciers.  In the winter, the snow will be as high as the 3rd story windows!
View from the top of Logan Pass (it was much easier on the Red Bus).
Riding my bike back down the pass (the road is on the left ridge).
Nice KOA campground in St. Mary's Glacier.
Fall colors at Glacier as we say goodbye.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Intermission....where to now?

We've left Yellowstone and now we are on our way to....??  Well, we planned on going to Glacier, and that is still a possibility.  But for now, we just need a place to hang out and get caught up on some emails, laundry, phone calls, etc. and figure out our next destination.

Our first "rest stop" was Bozeman, MT, a cool little college town.  We stayed in a nice RV park with all the amenities and very few people.  I managed to get in a couple good rides, the weather was not so cold, and we saw some spectacular sunsets courtesy of the wildfires in the area.

We then headed to Missoula for a couple more days and ended up mostly running errands.  The town was pretty socked-in with wildfire smoke, so not much to see.

A cool, 23-mile point-to-point ride in the mountains outside Bozeman. 
Thanks to McKenzie River Pizza for making an Abigayle friendly pie! 
Sylvia especially loved the beautiful farmland, nestled against the mountains.
Abigayle decorated the table with a "fruit family".  Each one (12 in all) had a name and a place at the table.
After deliberating for close to a week, we've decided we should try and hit Glacier National Park, if only for a couple days.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Welcome to Yellowstone! Pee-yew, whats that smell!?!

We finally made it to Yellowstone!
It's been a fun journey thus far, and we made it to Yellowstone before the winter weather set in.  The main road around Yellowstone is setup like a large figure eight, so our plan was to spend a few days exploring the southern loop, and then move on to the campgrounds around the center of the figure eight, and then on to the top.  Unfortunately, like all good plans, reality had something else in mind for us.

We arrived at Grants Village in the late afternoon and booked a site for 3 days.  We were just getting our motorhome setup when we heard an Elk bugle.  We walked over to the trail around camp, and it wasn't a minute later and a large bull came waltzing by following two cows!  Unfortunately, we hadn't had time to grab a camera.

The first day was spent exploring the West Thumb Geyser Basin, Sulphur Caldron, and Mud Volcano. Like most of the days to follow, it was both an interesting display of vivid colors, beautifully clear pools, gurgling mud pots, and overwhelmingly bad stink.

Deep blue pool at West Thumb Geyser Basin
Eww, that smell.  Bison don't seem to mind, however.
Dragons Mouth Spring, here, let daddy plug that nose for you.
The next day we were off to see Old Faithful, and the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin (of which Old Faithful isn't even the most impressive geyser, just more reliable).  This day was one of the most exciting, with several impressive geyser eruptions and a slightly too close encounter with a couple of bison sorting out their differences (see video link below).

Junior Ranger interactive sign interpretation.
Forgot this one's name, but it was pretty cool.
Old Faithful.
Two bison sorting our their problems.  As we would find out, this was only round one. 
Try not to look nervous.  Unfortunately, the 2nd bison from the above pic shows up and they proceed to go at it again!

The last day in the south loop was spent exploring the Midway Geyser Basin and Lower Geyser Basin.    It was pretty overcast and started raining a bit, so we didn't get to spend as much time exploring as we would have liked.  Also, we didn't have reservations for the next campsite, so we cut the day short so we could find a place to sleep.

A rainbow of colors
Grand Prismatic Springs (we scrambled up the side of a steep hill to get this shot).
Our plan that evening was to stay at Madison Campground, but it, as well as the next couple of campgrounds were all full.  We ended up having to drive about 40 miles out of our way to a National Forest primitive campground about 5 miles outside the northwest gate of Yellowstone.  It turns out that, along with Summer, the Fall elk bugling season is the busiest time of year in Yellowstone.  Each morning was a race to the next campground to try and get a spot before it filled up.

National Forest campground view.  We looked pretty out-of-place among the tents.
Presidents Arch, Yellowstone northwest entrance.
Our next few of days were spent in the town of Mammoth.  I was able to get a good bike ride in, and we had quite the adventure with a herd of elk.

Abigayle receiving the Yellowstone Junior Ranger badge. 
The Mammoth Visitors Center. 
Herd of elk in downtown Mammoth.
Pretty hot springs deposits above Mammoth.
The view down to Mammoth from the hot springs.
While we were taking this shot, we noticed the herd of elk from the above picture had moved in the direction of our motorhome.  Once we hiked back to town, we were (rather unpleasantly) surprised that they had moved to a grassy area right alongside of our RV.  As we watched several cows smelling the drivers side area around the RV, we were hoping that Chloe (our dog), who was sitting in the passenger seat, would remain calm.  The rather aggressive bull that was herding his cows had already rammed one of the National Park vehicles as it drove by, so I didn't want it tearing up the side of my plastic motor home!  I tried to go around to the passenger side to sneak in, but the bull saw me and proceeded to stalk me along the row of cars.  Lucky for me, one of his cows decided to wonder off so he took off to go retrieve her and the whole herd moved on down the road.

Elk guarding the RV.

After Mammoth, we moved on to the Norris Campground.  This was the prettiest campground we stayed at, and we had a great time exploring the Norris Geyser Basin and the Canyon of the Yellowstone River, and spotting wildlife.  In fact, we saw our first grizzly bear, albeit from quite a distance.
Norris Campground view.  We woke up to a bison in the prairie the first morning we were here. 
Chloe striking a pose. 
Norris Geyser Basin.
Coyote munching on a carcass.  The large crowd here said they saw wolves here earlier.
Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
Lower canyon falls (note the people on the platform at the edge of the falls). 
We were proud of Abigayle for hiking up and down this trail. 
Grizzly bear (the black blob on the other side of the river).