The Blog Returns

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Flowers for Alvaro

The Blog Returns

As with many things in life, it takes a bit of a shock to get us started again – like picking up the needle on the record player (vinyl) and dropping it somewhere else in the grooves. Not unlike ECT – or so I’m told.

In this case, it was the unexpected death of a young man in my arts group. I didn’t know him well, but I remember Alvaro as a gentle man with big dreams – learning French, being in the military, being in Love. When you live long enough, you learn the loss of dreams – a divorce, the failure of a course of study, a sudden disabling condition. But sometimes, the mere course of Living settles us into grooves and we need a shaking up. Speaking solely for myself of course! ; )

I find it hard to believe that it’s been more than 2 years since I set aside this blog – “pandemic years” – I might claim as an excuse. However, I’ve been busy with my photography for much of that time – especially last year – and not only have we resumed our travels but my husband started a vlog about them. And since he often cherry picks my best photos to include with these, I decided I’d best tell my OWN side of the story with yet more GREAT photos! ; )))

I decided to start with our Fall 2021 trip to Wyoming and Montana – so stay tuned for the first entry. I plan to post 2-3 times/week, not daily as in the past because hey! can’t be a slave to this thing after all! I’ll be including the links to John’s YouTube channel “Travels with Trigger” for each relevant post.

Day 19 – 09/24/2021 – Acton Rec Area to Skidway Campground (outside White Sulphur Springs)

After we got up we went back to Billings to get some breakfast and go out to Pictograph Cave State Park. The Visitor’s Center didn’t open until 10, so we went out on the steep walks up to the caves.

I’m sorry to say that overall it was a bit of a letdown as the pictographs are so faded as to be almost invisible. The walk and area was gorgeous though.

We drove out thru Billings and up past Acton Rec Area again thru Lavina, where we picked up Hwy 12. Stopped for coffee and cookies (I tell you these things so you can know we take care of ourselves ;)))

Very pretty driving country, lots of little towns often with rocky bluffs across the river. One particular place – Ryegate – hosts the annual “Testical Festival.”

so sorry to have missed it ; )

Into the town of White Sulphur Springs for hot mineral soaks. There’s a wonderful Castle Mansion that overlooks the town – I’m thinking it’s featured in this video from “Travels with Trigger” on YouTube:

After a bit of back and forthing we DID manage to get into the pools together, but then I think we liked different temperature ranges – there’s even an INSIDE pool that seemed like a sauna (we did NOT try it!). There was a very nice (and commensurately priced) food truck in the parking lot, so we stuck with ice cream : )

Back down along the road looking for a good boondock spot. We turned up into Skidway and picked #13 – outside the main campground area. There was great light and aspens so I wandered happily off with my camera and otherwise armed to the teeth for bears, lol! We did NOT get a photo of that, sadly!

After dinner John flew the drone, hopefully capturing the beautiful Fall colors – the aspen leaves looked on FIRE all backlit by the sun with a little breeze blowing them. There were chokecherries and thistles losing their seed heads.

We were pretty sure we heard rifle shots right out in the more dispersed area after a truck passed our site. Actually, we were glad to hear more than one, as the unfortunate event with Gabby Pettito had just happened in the Tetons pretty much right before we were there : (((

Pretty sure we got some neighbors in the middle of the night – maybe this is a well known spot where folks come in late? We did have some sort of ranger drive by in the evening, as I recall – but otherwise it feels remote from the highway, tho I think it’s not that far off in actuality.

Day 18 – 09/23/2021 – Makoshika SP to Acton Recreation Area

Up to a moon lazily leaving the sky. John hiked all the way up to the high bench – sort of a challenge, I guess, since _I_ hadn’t made it!

I also got some long lens photos of Luna with her owners Andrew and Marlie up there.

We stopped again out in Glendive in our search for fritters – fruitless. So back down I-94 towards Billings. We stopped off on the way at Pompey’s Pillar Natl Monument – what a nice spot! Brand new Visitor’s Center with excellent interactive displays. This is a well-known spot on the Lewis and Clark Trail, and William Clark signed his name and date in the sandstone pillar (which was his nickname for Sacagawea’s son).

There was also a fantastic display of the above artist James Kenneth Ralston’s watercolors of the area from the early-to-mid 1900’s. We highly recommend looking up his work.

We decided it was too late at that point to drive into Billings to see Pictograph Cave SP, so we drove on out to Acton Recreation Area. It’s mostly for mountain bikers out there, so Trigger and I walked out into the trails a bit.

loved this name!

It once again got pretty windy, so I cooked inside. There was a lot of traffic in and out of the bike trails, and we could see campers down further in. Trigger stayed in from the dust, wisely!

Day 17 – 09/22/2021 – Medicine Rocks SP to Makoshika SP Montana

can’t ….. fit…..these horns…..under…..

We had only a 99 mile drive today, so we took our time with breakfast, took some more little hikes with pictures – John had an amusing game of tag with a bunny, apparently!

On our way out and up 7 to Wibaux we saw a male antelope trying and failing to get his head/rack UNDER a fence to his female. For some reason they won’t JUMP the fences, but really…. how does THIS work??

We turned west on I-94 into Glendive (like into a pool) and to two different grocery stores searching for fritters, unsuccessfully. Found something cinnamon-y which we forced ourselves to eat :))))

After much discussion on how to pronounce the name we eventually got to Makoshika State Park and went to the Visitor’s Center – where we were told it was definitely pronounced “ma-KO-shi-ka”. We took turns going in to see the cool fossil exhibits – especially a young female Triceratops skull – still like, 6 feet long! I got my granddaughter a postcard of that and filled it out.

We drove all around the park looking for a good primitive site without success – they were either too crowded or impossible to level. Got to see the park, tho!

We ended up in a group parking lot at Paramount South (I think!). After settling in to #7 – nice spot – John discovered that there was a whole other empty camping lot right across the street, so after some lunch we moved over there to #13. Good views and a great hiking spot.

I took Trigger across the little ravine and up the trail towards the high bench. It’s just barely visible on one of the little peaks in the middle of the picture above. I was trying to video for John, as he didn’t think he would make the hike – which he ended up doing AFTER all, hrmph! It was really pretty back there.

We had some real nice neighbors eventually – a couple with a golden doodle named Stella, who were on their way up to Glacier. Later a little converted school bus pulled in and and we met them and their cattle dog Luna.

Stella AND Luna! ( You might not get that if you haven’t read the children’s book about a sweet little baby bat named Stella Luna)

I found some cool rivulets in the sand, lovely rock flowers and then we had a beautiful sunset.

Day 16-09/21/2021 – Tongue River Reservoir Montana to Medicine Rocks SP #6

There was a lot of bird honking going on during the night, which made it easy (relatively 😉 to bundle up and sneak out early. I found a flock of Canada geese back in the inlet, which wasn’t getting any good light – so I turned a 180 and took photos of the water coming up off the river.

Good Lord be praised the geese decided to do some flybys! The above is a favorite.

Went in once my fingers got too cold, lol! Was very pleased with the morning shoot and made the hot drinks and a quick breakfast scramble. We had left WY when we drove in to the reservoir the previous day, so we continued up into Montana thru Busby, Lame Deer and Ashland. Stopped in at the Red Shale CG where we’d stayed back in 2018, then down to Broadus where we stopped for gas and to check out the store. There was a very nice gentleman there playing solitaire (with cribbage set up, just waiting for a partner) who kindly let me take his photo.

“Will this be on the Internet?” he asked hopefully.

Hello to Don from Broadus, Montana! He had been in the Air Force during the Viet Nam war and did his basic training in San Angelo TX – about 4 hours from where we live, and the hometown of our dear neighbors. Small world! I gave him my business card but no promises as to when he might appear – and here it is now almost a year later : )

Maybe I should call the store (the only one in town) and ask them to tell him? This man had also done the flowers and patriotic display in the store windows – very cool –

The cashier was sporting some 4-5 inch long nails, and let me take her photo as well – but she seemed reticent and so I’ve decided NOT to post her photo. It felt like I had pressured her which looked evident in her facial expression. I don’t want to post unwilling photos, and although I DID think her nails were really cool I don’t think that translated very well…A lesson learned!

Back in the truck John said “I wonder how long it took her to grow those nails??” Uhhh….

We missed our cutoff to Ekalaka and had to go up out of Alzada on Hwy 23. Great names around here! Pretty scenery with what we call “Georgia O’Keeffe clouds” and rolling hills –

In to Montana’s Medicine Rocks SP – this has great formations with holes bored thru or pitted like cottage cheese. But first, wild turkeys on the drive in to the campsites –

John went for a walk while I popped up the camper and got some drinks out. Loved our spot, nicely secluded from the others – about 1/3 of which were occupied.

Some of the formations –

evidence of the former inland sea!
the photographer participating

Some former visitors added their touch…

While more current denizens live unremarked by all but the closest observers –

John did quite a lot of video on his walks here, and got some more expansive views of the features here :

We DID use Trigger’s new bark collar a bit during this visit, but NOT (of course) when he ran up on 2 young men coming up the path behind our camp! Turned out they were real nice guys also from TX who do some kind of work “checking the pipelines,” and had stopped off to stretch their legs on their way from Ogden to North Dakota. One of them had read up on Medicine Rocks so they came by – to me, it seems pretty far out of the way but then we all have our own concept of distance, don’t we?

If you’re any kind of a hiker there’s a lot to see here- highly recommended!

Day 15 – 09/20/2021 – Lovell City RV Park to Tongue River Reservoir

view down towards Lovell from Alt 14 into the Bighorn Mountains

It was a coldish morning in Lovell – possibly a “Three Dog Night” if the howling of the huskies was anything to go by… We grabbed breakfast at the Maverick up the street and drove east towards the Bighorns on Alt 14. There’s a really lovely area about 6 miles out of town that I’d like to revisit sometime – the Yellowtail Wildlife Management Area, and also the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang center. Both are part of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area which covers this northern part of WY and southern Montana.

Alt 14 up into the Bighorns

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking you won’t be too surprised at what we found in the Bighorns…But first, a few valley views! You saw the one above, here are a few more –

And on up the highway –

We started seeing frost on the ground, then snow on the mountainsides and we turned up the #12 road to the Medicine Wheel and went a ways in the snow before turning back to the main road. We met a man coming in from the west who assured us that we’d be “fine” on the road, as there was sun on the other side.

There was very white an d dramatic scenery for several miles. John expressed some concern about whether or not there’d be BLACK ICE (!!!), but the roads weren’t freezing up and it had stopped snowing – we were just seeing overnight accumulation.

SO GLAD we had not camped up here!

a favorite

Finally the road dried up a bit and there was less snow on the hillsides – and we found a stopping place for potty breaks at the Prune Creek campground. Snow was melting off the outhouse roof, lol! Pretty creek along the side –

Prune Creek, presumably!

We stopped at an overlook coming down out of the Bighorns from the west – fantastic!

Hit a bit of a snag going into Sheridan – John’s Gaia route took us down a gravel road that turned into “Dry Weather Road.” No doubt one of those dirt roads in the photo above : ((

Needless to say, the weather had not been dry enough for ME – but the road turned out fine, just long and a bit tedious. We got to see Elk hunters, sort of …

We were heading in to Sheridan to do laundry, and my plans included finding a coffee…

Not sure what Trigger’s plans had been – but hanging out at the laundromat with Mom while Dad went to Walmart was probably not high on the list!

Got to love dog-friendly Econo Laundry in downtown Sheridan, though!

I whipped up some wrap sandwiches for us after switching to the dryers, and then we headed out of town to our buddy Mark’s long-touted “cheapest” Common Cents Liquor Store. Fortunately it was ALSO a gas station with good coffee and hot cocoa, because the liquor prices were nothing to tout about ; )

After our slow drive through the snowy pass and our “scenic” route in to Sheridan on the “Dry Weather” road, there was no way we were going to make the 200 more miles in to our planned destination for that night, so we went to the Tongue River Reservoir campground.

What a great spot it turned out to be! The marina was closed due to the lateness of the season, so we stayed there in Loop C1 – windy but sunny WITH electric! There were other people, but off on another loop so it was very private.

A pretty little rain storm across the way – windy enough for us not to worry about it – followed by some great sunset light.

Bighorns in the distance

Beautiful views in all directions!

you can’t make this stuff up

Sandhill cranes and geese were sounding overhead, and I kept checking the inlet behind us. Found a heron, 2 Canada geese and a seagull (!). I keep being surprised by seagulls so far inland (as well as pelicans, for goodness’ sakes) – and then John points out that the California gull is the state bird of Utah and I think “WT absolute Heck?!”

It turns out that by popular acclaim the CA Gull was named the state bird in 1848 (ish) after they ate up all the crickets that were destroying the crops. This still doesn’t explain what the gulls were doing in Utah to begin with (barring an Act of God) – but maybe they go for the cuisine?

good night!

Day 14 – 09/19/2021 – Chalk Bluffs CG to Lovell City RV Park, WY

The night at Chalk Bluffs continued windy – so at least the no-see-ums were driven away! We got up and had drinks while driving around Casper to the Shoshoni Road. Pulled in to a gas station/convenience store with “2 Breakfast Tacos/$8.”

They were HUMUNGOUS! I only ate about 1/3 of mine. We stopped off at one of our destinations – Hell’s Half Acre. Access from the parking lot is now blocked off with a chain link fence – and one can see why!

If you know what you’re doing (so many don’t, sadly) and can get down there it might have some lovely hiking –

nice for mountain goats maybe!

John’s got some excellent footage here, plus the next bit of our journey up thru the Wind River Canyon – SUCH a beautiful drive!

Our route took us thru Shoshoni up to Thermopolis – long a favorite of mine and home to the free state hot springs. I had a wonderful soak while John stayed out with Trigger, then we switched.

This is not the best picture, but you can just make out the larger open pools in the back of the building. The interior has a small pool, with the locker rooms and showers. If I lived here I’d be here every day, I swear! I don’t know about anyone else, but I happen to LOVE the sulfur smell some hot springs have…

While John was having his shower, Trigger and I enjoyed the little grassy park and tended the solar panel. It was becoming increasingly cloudy, then began to pitter-patter, so I packed things up. When John came out we drove by the fountains and pools so he could get out and film.

We left Thermopolis and drove north thru Greybull and Worland – both nice little towns. The weather was looking so grey and “iffy” so we decided NOT to go up into the Bighorn Mountains to camp near the Medicine Wheel – but rather to check out our secondary choice, the Lovell City RV Park.

(a wise choice as you will see tomorrow!)

We found the park, which is quite utilitarian – you can tell from the campsite photo above – but has heated bathrooms and separate heated shower rooms. Pretty amazing for a free city park with no electric, but it had its downside. Located on a residential street, there was one house with several dogs apparently being kept in a one-horse trailer in the front driveway – huskies by the sound of their wailing and howling during the night : /

Our camp neighbors consisted of a guy in a (loud) old pickup who was tent camping, a “generator” trailer and a popup trailer. Oh, and a site where only the picnic table was occupied by a cooler and a chair – which 3 different pickups came to visit but no one stayed … Rule #1 of City RV Parks must be “Mind Your Own Business”!

Also a place where you take a phone shot of this sign before going to bed.

The horse trailer dogs went ballistic with frenzied barking when I took Trigger for a walk around the block. Interesting mix of well-tended versus falling-down old homes, but with also VERY loud barky dogs in the backyards! Must not be a lot of canine socialization going on here in Lovell Wyoming.

Fortunately the RV park was also bounded on one side by the local Little League Field, where I could take T off the leash and throw his ball for him a little bit and let him stretch his legs. This was nicely tended and fenced in, so I’d think baseball is popular here in the warm months. Too bad it wasn’t the season, cuz I’d like to try to attend local sports events when we’re traveling, but we rarely get the chance.

Took Trigger further on down Quebec Street to its terminus at the railroad tracks. Sandhill Cranes were flying and honking overhead, and I discovered the next day that there’s a wildlife refuge just outside town. Lowering clouds confirmed the wise decision to stay the night here vs the mountains…

Immediately next door to the park was a storage lot, with mysterious green lighting…I thought the vibe fit the overall mood ; )))

Why?

As it was too windy again for outdoor cooking, I frypanned our chicken cutlets inside. SO glad to have a camper where this is possible, because sometimes you just NEED to! Plus I’d not be going outside to make our hot drinks in QUITE such a good mood every morning! Been there, done that – back when we just had the cap.

Day 13 – 09/18/2021 – Packer Lake to Chalk Bluffs cg (outside Casper WY)

Windy!

I DID manage to get up early and sneak out for some misty water photos, light on the milkweed pods and then a heron came flying over the water…

(Big ol’ spider middle right down about 2/3)

A bit of internet searching had found a Mexican food restaurant in Scott’s Bluff that opened at 7 am – El Molcajete. Huevos Rancheros were on the menu so we packed right up and left.

It’s been so cold and windy on this trip – with no relief in sight – so my usual trip 5# weight loss is NOT going to happen!

We heartily recommend El Molcajete!

We went off to Scott’s Bluff Nat’l Monument next, and it was fine – really interesting history. Drove back on Hwy 26 thru Mitchell and over to Ft. Laramie Historical Site. We walked thru the buildings and got to see a cannon demonstration (light mountain howitzer??) – very cool.

Barracks life

Next we drove in to Douglas to see the (formerly) Largest Jackalope –

And a cool old theater in the downtown –

Plus some color-coded construction workers –

It was very windy up to Casper, where we went in for gas and waters plus some groceries – then around the loop to the road out towards our campground for the night. It was SO windy and grey here that I ended up just cooking chili dogs inside.

Unfortunately when the wind died, the bugs started in! No see-ums made it thru our screening, I have to believe! There were literally hundreds of them dead all over the counter and in the sink – thank God for the electric bug zapper!!!

Just the beginning!!!

Day 12- 09/17/2021 – Vedauwu Rocks to Packer Lake (west of Scott’s Bluff)

It was really windy during the night at Vedauwu and down to 33 degrees, so all we did in the morning was pack up and go. Over to Cheyenne where with some difficulty we found McDonald’s and yet another Walmart (don’t ask ; ) Back downtown to film the capitol and other cool buildings –

Then out to Nebraska, lol! A very small incursion into the state’s southwest corner. Pretty drive towards Scott’s Bluff and the Chimney Rock National Monument (or Historic Site, whatever). It’s a very cool spire of rock and the most-mentioned landmark on most of the overland trails. Continued very windy out there.

They had cool educational bathroom stalls in the Visitor’s Center –

We drove over the top of Scott’s Bluff to 29N up to Agate Fossil Beds – another nice drive. They had a wonderful display inside of gifts the Red Cloud gave to (?) Packer, I think. John no doubt explains it all better –

at Agate Fossil Beds

I chatted with a young woman from Maryland traveling alone, at one of the overlooks. She had just graduated from college in Rhode Island, she said. I remember thinking that it was “cool when young women are brave enough to travel alone”- and then I realized that should make me ANGRY that it has to be a “brave” thing to do…

Anyway, we drove back into WY to find our campsite for the night at Packer Lake – it was a bit of an adventure out the county roads and waiting at a train crossing for a long coal train. Once we found the lake it was really pretty with lots of dispersed camping around it – we found a good spot with room for Trigger to run and space to set up the solar panel.

There were some local trucks that came in – I guess there’s good fishing in the lake!

Sneaking up on this fellow in his cowboy hat and waders, I discovered one of my favorite things – milkweed pods! Spent quite a bit of time photographing them, lol!

There were a LOT of great birds here, especially as the sun went down. An owl hooting up in a dead tree above us – I tried to get him with my phone flash, unsuccessfully – but got some rather arty ones of some herons (I think!) nearby –

The lake is near private ranch land – apparently – as during the night there was much cow mooing and coyote yipping – hopefully NOT related! More crazy bird sounds – geese? And the owl was carrying on – I’ll try to sneak out early!

Big thumbs up for Packer Lake!!!

Day 11 – 09/16/2021 – Cottonwood CG to Vedauwoo Rocks dispersed camping

Gorgeous day driving out of the Green Mountains down to Rawlins. We figured we’d find food there and indeed there were 2 Mexican food restaurants – but not open until 11 am :((( We drove around downtown – very nice 1911 Catholic Church with an onion spire, and a wonderful old train station where we walked a bit.

Trigger and I found this great building with outside seating and I hope it’s a thriving restaurant whenever it’s open!

We ended up at McDonalds – but sadly at 10:35, ie NO breakfast :(( Across the highway to Walmart for cheap(er) gasoline and a few shopping items – John is suffering from dry eyes and I needed some fingernail hardener because mine are breaking like glass in this dryness.

Wyoming WalMart

We drove down 80 to 130 and over to Saratoga to visit Hobo Hot Springs (which is apparently formally named Saratoga Hot Springs).

We took turns staying outside with Trigger, which was fine because there were a lot of interesting people passing by. There were Amish/Mennonites just packing up to leave – one woman I was chatting with told me “yes indeed” they kept their head coverings on in the water (wish I had seen their suits!). There were 2 pools to choose from – I chose the smaller, “cooler” one. Chatted with a delightful family with 5 kids + 3 extras who were all out Elk hunting for the weekend. The children were all friendly and talkative and wanted to hear about Texas. Of course I didn’t take pictures in the pool but did shoot all their cute little girl cowboy boots under the changing bench!

Wyoming cowgirl boots!

It was a great soak, but I kept my swim suit on in the open showers as the littler boys came in with the mom, and I’m sensitive to not traumatize small children with my double mastectomy scars. Myself neither, with the stares and whispers they inevitably invite – or maybe it’s the chest tattoo, lol!

John got some good video in his YouTube for this day –

ahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4q3gNfRoVk

We then drove out 130 and across the Snowy River Range – wow, such amazing views! Little alpine lakes – some no larger than 6 feet in diameter. This drive certainly deserves it’s “green dot scenic drive” designation! We stopped at the pass overlook – over 10,000 feet – to view Medicine Bow Peak. It was incredibly windy up there…

There was a plaque there commemorating a tragic 1955 passenger plane crash on the peak – a very sad story.

Down into the town of Centennial and across the valley to Laramie – such gorgeous light from the clouds! I googled and found a homemade ice cream shoppe in town, so we drove downtown to Ivinson St to the Big Dipper. Conveniently there was also the Cowgirl yarn shop ;)) – where I got some local alpaca fiber. I can NOT explain why I cannot find photos of the ice cream place OR the yarn shoppe! It’s a mystery to me – however I highly recommend BOTH places!

Out of town past the University of Wyoming – Go Cowboys! Down the road to Vedauwoo Rocks – about 14 miles. Very reminiscent of the rock formations at Joshua Tree – and also popular with rock climbers – but more bumpy, rough and orange/pinkie. Granite, maybe? Definitely easier to grip but also road-rashie. The main campground itself was pretty crowded, so we drove out to check the dispersed camping on the spurs. MUCH better and REAL extensive!

we were maybe in #5?
these are about 15 feet high?
great rocks for kids!
gorgeous sunset

Trigger got to run and play with the 3 tennis balls he found in Cottonwood yesterday! Other than being dispersed (ie, no potties) it was really preferable out this good gravel road to being crammed into the campsites.

one tired puppers