We spent our first weekend in Wyoming, in Casper. Nice RV park, by the Platte river, with no grass. The “grassy” spots for each site were artificial grass; had not seen that before. The town of Casper, population of 60,000, is a nice town. We went to the Chase Waterfalls at the base of Casper Mountain, then visited the “crown jewel” of the town, a former contaminated oil refinery site that is now a beautiful golf course and subdivision. The city is extremely proud of the cleanup done by BP-Amoco, the Department of Environmental Quality and the city of Casper. We were struck by the straight highways, the big sky and the beautiful mountain backgrounds in Wyoming, WYO, as locals refer to their state.
Our next stop was Sheridan, WY, with a setting against the backdrop of the Big Horn mountains. So beautiful.
In Montana, our first stop was Billings, a city built at the base of beautiful cliffs on one side and beautiful mountains on the other. Spectacular scenery! We are now starting to see more daylight hours, that Huckleberries are a big item in this area, along with Peonies, Iris, Lilacs and “tiny house” coffee shops. I love Lilacs because I grew up with them in Virginia, but they don’t thrive well south of Virginia.
From Billings, we visited the small town of beautiful Red Lodge, the Gateway to Yellowstone, population 2,125, located between Billings and Yellowstone. Fortunately, the roads were all plowed so we could drive to the top of the mountain. Look at the snow banks in the pix below.
In Bozeman, we visited Montana State University Campus and drove through the Gallatin National Forest. Then on to Missoula, a town of 70,000, the only place, other than in North Carolina, where sapphires are mined. And where we noticed an abundance of groundhogs, they were everywhere. Consequently, they were the #1 roadkill, which we increased by one that ran in front of us. And the days continue to get longer, the nights shorter.
In Missoula, where the Clark Fork River runs through it, along with the Blackfoot and Bitterroot Rivers, we drove around the University of Montana Campus, home of the Grizzlies and where we began seeing Magpies, the big black and white birds we first saw in Texas. We were surprised to see them so far north. We also thought the crows were much larger in this part of the country until we figured out they were not crows, but Ravens. Except for size, the two birds are quite similar.
We walked around the Riverfront to the Farmers Market and saw guys “surfing” in the Clark Fork River, (feature image above)! The river runs swiftly and where there are rocks, the water creates a surf when it hits the rocks. So, guys in wet suits were out there on surf boards, surfing – standing still. It was fun to watch.
We toured the National Bison Range, which was established in 1908 to preserve the nearly extinct bison. The one thing we noticed is that Bison dig into the ground to create a “Bison Bowl,” as I have named them, to lay in. These bowls are easily recognizable in the grassy fields.
We also enjoyed a trip to Mission Valley to see the famous Ravalli Hill and snow capped Mission Mountains. On this trip, we saw our first “Animal Bridge” which we learned are not unusual in that part of the US. They are created to provide safe passage for wildlife, making the road safer for both people and wildlife. To increase the chances of wildlife use, the structures were placed in known wildlife-collision locations, where wildlife have been frequently seen near the roadway, or where there are streams or rivers needing a bridge. There is miles of fencing on either side of the roadway to guide animals to the bridge. Great idea…
From Missoula, we went up to Big Sky. We had heard of Big Sky and seen commercials on TV so actually going there was a treat. We learned that Big Sky is really a ski resort – full of condominiums and spectacular views and is quite beautiful.
On our way to Polson, we went through the very pretty towns Cardwell, Whitehall, Butte, Deer Lodge, Drummond and Clinton.
We met up with our travel mates in Polson, they are from Albuquerque and did this same Alaska trip 6 years ago. The RV park where we met was a new RV Resort where you can purchase the spot to use when you want and they will rent it when you are not there. The price range was $100,000 to $180,000. The higher priced ones had outdoor kitchens which were very nice. We stayed in one of the “public” spots that are not for sale and don’t have the outdoor kitchens, but the scenery is beautiful.
Polson is situated on the Flathead Indian reservation, so much of the signage has both English and Indian verbiage. There are no lottery tickets sold in the town because of the reservation. Flathead Cheese is made there so we purchased some from the cutest little store and saw the big vat where the cheese is made.
We spent one of our days in the Polson area visiting Glacier National Park, about 50 miles north of Polson and is so big it crosses over into Canada. The scenery in the park is some of the most beautiful we have seen to date. The rivers, waterfalls, mountains, lakes, are so incredible.
We learned a new plant in Glacier, Bear Grass, so pretty and one of our favorites. Pictures are worth a 1000 words, so enjoy the pictures we have included of Glacier.
Our Alaska journey begins as we head toward Banff and Lake Louise, BC, with our new travel companions…