Friday September 1 – We finish packing the Suburban this morning for our rather impromptu trip to Utah. This is a business trip related to Clifford’s non-profit, Carnicom Institute. Since it is not meant to be a camping trip as such, we are not taking the camper; in fact, we are not even taking a tent. I have packed camping pads, sleeping bags, and pillows, a couple coolers, some canned and dried food, the picnic bag, and a bag of cooking gear – pans, spatula, and so on, and one suitcase of clothing. Hopefully it is enough.
It is a bit hazy from forest fire smoke as we leave Wallace, Idaho, about noon, but increasingly smokey as we head east. Smoke from the Lolo Peak fire in Montana nearly obliterates the mountains the closer we get to Missoula, but even beyond that, heavy smoke continues to dominate the landscape.
We arrive at the Divide Bridge Campground north of Dillon, Montana, in the early evening, happy to find that it has not been closed due to the fires. Although the sites by the river are taken, we consider ourselves to be very fortunate to get a nice spot on the Friday evening of Labor Day weekend. We unpack food and cooking utensils, making vege quesadillas for dinner. Then I make the back of the Suburban into a comfy bed, the coolers and such are loaded onto the front seats, and we are set for the night.
We watch the sun go down, forest fire smoke coloring the sky.
We made 250 miles today, a good start on our journey.
Saturday May 20th– I feel better than I did yesterday, but still kind of low energy. However, I go off for a walk to gather mountain sage to hang on our clothesline with the intention of making sage bundles for smudging.
Then we get the back of the Suburban cleaned out and repacked in preparation for our leaving tomorrow.
After dinner and cleanup, I do some editing while Clifford studies.
Sunday May 21st – It is so pretty here this morning, I am sorry that we are leaving. This has been a great place and we wouldn’t mind staying longer if we could, but we have obligations in Idaho.
Our destination today is Alberton, about 30 miles west of Missoula, 80 miles from home.
We stop in Missoula on our way through for a Barnes & Nobles fix and supplies at Costco. Then on to Alberton and set up in the lot adjacent to the park.
We have a picnic dinner in the park on the back deck of the historic train museum with my daughter Merri and her little grandson, my great grand-son, Jack, who is a very intense, almost-two-year-old.
This is a lovely spot with a huge expanse of lawn and trees in bloom.
After our picnic, we walk up to Merri’s place to visit awhile, then back to Terry (our camper) for the night.
Thursday May 18th – I decide on a campfire this morning while Clifford runs to Divide to get hold of my cousin Bill in Dillon. Bill had helped us with the Suburban, tightening loose battery cables and such, hoping that would solve the problem of it not starting. But no such luck, so now onto the next plan, which is to go to Dillon again and have the alternator checked. So, I put out the campfire and we head off to Dillon, the snow still pretty on the hillsides.
In Dillon, the alternator checks out as being fine, but a coolant sensor is purchased and Bill installs it for us. Then he makes us another yummy dinner. Nice to have someone else cook and fun visiting with my cousin and his wife Sally.
Back at camp, after walking down to the road to take photos, I make another campfire and hang outside until it is too dark to write in my journal.
After I go in, I finish a blog and do some editing, staying up later than intended. Always so many good things to do in a day.
Friday May 19th – It is partly cloudy today with puffy little cumulus clouds floating across a blue sky and up to 74 degrees. Although snow remains on the hillsides, it is hard to believe all the snow in the valley bottom just a couple of days ago.
I’m feeling a little under-the-weather, so not a very productive day, but I take a few photos and we go out to Divide to make calls and check email and such.
I take a nap in the afternoon, get a few shots of the pretty evening light and go to bed early, leaving Clifford to do his own dinner and cleanup.
We are going to stay a couple more days, so no need to start packing up this evening or tomorrow. Sweet.
Wednesday May 17th – During the night, the rain turned to snow and we are blessed with with a couple inches of the fresh white stuff. I go out to take photos right away, quite enchanted with the beautiful stillness.
After tea, journal, and breakfast, I go out again.
My laptop is dead and journal is current, so I read some photography and Aarp magazines that I haven’t yet gotten to on this journey. The snow turns to sleet, and I go for another walkabout, enjoying the crisp freshness of the day while snow remains on the trees.
The new neighbor is there celebrating his birthday and has a campfire going, in spite of the light drizzle that continues into the evening. Since the host is there, I go join them at the campfire, rather than try making one of my own. It is nice to have someone to chat with for a bit while Clifford continues with his research and studies.
After dinner, with no solar power to charge any of our devices, Clifford and I both go to bed somewhat earlier than usual – kind of nice, for a change.
Tuesday May 16th– Although there are winter storm warnings for western Montana, it looks like a good day for hiking. We meet Bill and Sally and their big German Shepherds at the village of Glen before following them out to rugged BLM land that reminds me of the buttes of lower Sun River valley where I lived as my kids were growing up.
The road gets a bit rough and when we stop, we discover that our 5-gallon water jug has tipped and broken, spilling five gallons of water in the back of the Suburban. Not a good thing, but we park on a slope and let as much run out as possible.
Then Clifford and I follow Bill and Sally up a draw and around to the backside of a large mesa, eventually climbing all the way to the top.
It is a bit strenuous, particularly on my knees, but the views are quite spectacular.
We can see the clouds on the mountain across the valley becoming dense and dark, the harbinger of the storm to come. We make good time going back down, not wanting to get caught in the rain on the rocky slopes and draws. Between ticks and rattlesnakes, we have to be on the alert the whole time, but it is a good hike.
Back at the vehicles, we follow Bill and Sally to their place in Dillon, where they show us their pretty flower-filled yard, rock collections, and car restoration projects, followed by a very tasty meal of steak, rice, and the best corn-on-the-cob I’ve ever had.
Back at camp, as we nap, tired out from the hike, it begins to rain, and the rain becomes heavier as the evening progresses. Looks like the winter storm that was forecast is moving in.
Sunday May 14thSkiff of snow this morning here at Divide Bridge Campground. By time I go for a walk, only the snow on the hills remains.
After breakfast there is a knock on the door and some grizzled fellow is there. I ask him if I can help him and it turns out he is my cousin Bill, whom I have not seen in at least 50 years! I have been in recent contact with him through FB and he lives in nearby Dillon, Montana. I told him where we were camping for the night, but it just didn’t dawn on me that he might actually show up on my doorstep! What a fun surprise! He will come again tomorrow with his wife, Sally.
Lots of book editing and photo editing today for me, while Clifford spends the day working on electrochemistry.
Today is Mother’s Day and it is quite wonderful to hear from all of my kids, either calls or texts… well worth the drive to Divide to get cell service.
Monday May 15th– Today is a day of variable weather from sunny with little puffy cumulus clouds, to overcast and rain flurries, and back to sunny.
My cousin Bill arrives with his wife, Sally, and their two very large German shepherds. We sit out at the picnic table to chat for a bit, warm enough when the sun comes through, not quite cool enough to bother with a campfire, and make plans to meet tomorrow for a hike.
In the afternoon Clifford and I go out to Divide to send emails and make phone calls. Back at camp, I explore the other side of the campground, listen to music, and do more editing, journaling, and blog writing, while Clifford continues with electrochemical work.
The passing of a brief rain storm leaves a gorgeous rainbow in its wake, a very nice way to close out the afternoon.
Wednesday May 10th – I am up early getting a thermos and clothes ready in case we need to spend the night at a KOA, as we don’t know how long it will take to fix Terry (our now broken-down camper). We talk to Jason, the manager here at Les Schwab, and learn that we will have to replace both axles, hubs, brakes, and so on. The reason is explained and we see that it is the best way to take care of our situation. The parts are ordered and we carry on as usual until the parts arrive. From the parking lot, I enjoy the snow-capped mountains that border the town.
It is interesting to watch how they tow Terry into the bay with a forklift, not dragging the injured part. We spend the afternoon in the waiting room with wifi and our thermos of tea. I take care of email, post blogs, and edit, while Clifford studies.
It is after 6:00 p.m. by time Terry is ready to roll. Expensive for us, but very reasonable considering all that has been done. We will be much safer on the road now.
We head north to the Walmart at Orem. There is no Walmart in Provo; the address in the book was listed as Provo, but the Walmart is in Orem. How ironic: we were looking for a Walmart in Provo that didn’t exist and broke down less than a block from the place that could truly fix the problem. Life is full of mysteries.
Thursday May 11th – We get a few groceries in Orem before continuing north through Salt Lake City, stressful with all the traffic, but uneventful.
As we cross Idaho, we see the lava fields that the area is known for.
We stop in Idaho Falls for a late lunch and the salad I ordered was so bad I couldn’t eat it. Ugh.
We find the Walmart in Idaho Falls and park in a quiet corner alongside a nice strip of green grass with trees, a pleasant enough place to spend the night once I pick up a bit of trash.
I don’t feel great – too much stress, too many miles in the last few days, and lack of proper meals. Clifford is tired from all the driving, so we head to bed earlier tonight.
Friday May 12th– We are up early and continue north, soon crossing into Montana. Our plans to camp at Grasshopper Creek Campground west of Dillon have changed, as my cousin, who lives in Dillon has a weather forecast indicating SNOW at that elevation. Seeing a BLM campground indicated on the map just a few miles off the interstate outside the tiny town of Divide, we head for that, not knowing what we will find. Some BLM campgrounds are quite inaccessible for towing vehicles, but we are pleasantly surprised to find a well-maintained campground with several lovely sites right along the Bighole River.
In fact, it is such a nice campground, we decide to wait out the cold weather that is forecast and stay at least five days rather than heading further north right away.
After getting set up, we drive back out to the town of Divide, close enough to the interstate to have cell service, and notify family and friends where we are. Back at camp, after admiring the river, I explore a bit, bringing back some fragrant sage.
There are few gusts and sprinkles through the later afternoon and heavier rain in the evening. I’m feeling very happy to be here rather than continuing north fighting the weather.
Monday March 20th – Today we go to St. George, across the state line in Utah, for errands and supplies. It is a very windy day and we when get back to camp, our awning has blown down. We don’t bother to put it back up, as it is still too windy and the forecast is for cooler weather, so we won’t be needing it so much.
Glad to be back out at camp, chatting with Becka when she calls, and seeing a cell video from Ang showing melting snow creating a small river down her driveway. I love hearing from my kids!
Tuesday March 21st– This morning on my way back from my morning walk, the neighbor Glen invites me over for coffee; we wave David over to join us and I go see if Clifford wants to come over, also. What fun! In the afternoon, we meet a couple who pull into the spot next to us for a view of the canyon, but noticing Clifford’s ham antenna gets a conversation started. We chat for about an hour like we have been friends forever. After exchanging contact information, they head on their way home to St. George. Maybe we’ll see them again – who knows?
My son Fin, who lives in China, has just successfully run a marathon! That is an inspiration to all of us, and in talking to Becka this afternoon, (she also runs regularly), she encourages me to start running. So, in the late afternoon I run, rather than walk down the road to the lower campground. Even downhill, it is tiring, and I end up fast-walking much of the way. From the lower campground I hike on down to the river, catching light on the mesa to the east as I go, returning to our campsite on the below the rim trail.
I check the sunrise photo contest on FB: quite a few people have responded, but no clear winner yet.
Wednesday March 22nd– Coffee with Glen and David again this morning. I am noticing a pattern of calm in the morning and increasing wind in the afternoon, so today I take the cello out earlier and have a good playing session before the wind comes up.
There are some real clouds today. I run down to the lower campground, making it a bit further than yesterday before running becomes fast-walking and hike down to the river again,
…and back to camp on the below the rim trail. I really like this private quiet trail surrounded by the great walls of the Virgin River Canyon and all the desert vegetation.
Back at camp, I do some book editing and download my camera. Always fun to take a look at the newest round of photos. I post the winning sunset photos on FB, happy that so many people voted.
In the evening the wind increases and rain obscures views of the mesas to the east.
We watch a western movie segment on our little DVD player while we eat dinner.
Sure enjoying our time here at Virgin River Campground.
Being gone for six months requires a lot of planning and preparation, both as what to take and what to leave behind. Decisions based on last year’s experience: What to do with the houseplants, which I love and some of which I have had for many years? Although someone came to tend them, being left all last winter in a 50 degree apartment was too hard on them; I decided it would be better for them to go to homes where they will be warm and looked after. Gradually over the summer I gave them away, but it was sad to pack up the last of them. Many of them will be with my daughters and hopefully wood-heated cabins will stay warm all winter. Which cello to take? I find the most joy in playing the Snow cello, but fear that the camping venue will be too hard on it. I couldn’t get it insured, so I finally decided on the old stout German cello, but the good bow, and a wide selection of pieces to work on.
Journey from Wallace, Idaho, to the Rest Stop near Anaconda, Montana
We leave Friday, October 7th, more than a month earlier than last year.
Hopefully we’ll avoid the snow that accompanied us all the way to Arizona last winter. We spend the night in Alberton in the parking lot next to the park and walk up to Merri’s in the rain for dinner. Good conversation and good food; bed late.
The next day, Saturday, October 8th, we drive out to Ang’s place. I lend a helping hand with the greenhouse construction, a drop in the bucket compared to what they have done so far and have yet to do, but at least I can say I helped.
Sunday, October 9th is bottle-cutting day – a demonstration that Ang is doing using wine bottles that will become “bricks” in a straw/clay-built wall, the tops becoming wind-chimes. Raining hard most of the day.
Monday October 10th, Rama and Luther, Ang’s property-mates, help us figure out some electrical issues we have with Terry (our 19’ Terry Resort camper); a new converter is ordered and will be shipped to Katie’s house in Missoula. We say our good-byes and head for Missoula.
As we are going down Reserve (a main thoroughfare across town), our winter travels come within an inch or two of a complete disastrous halt as a vehicle in the oncoming lane of traffic makes a left turn across traffic right in front of us. Clifford swerves sharply to avoid a collision, Terry fishtailing like crazy. We pull over as soon as we can to assess damage. Miraculously, we did not hit the car that cut in front of us, nor did the fishtailing camper sideswipe anyone. Clifford thought he may have hit the guy and as we look closely, we see a new scuff mark on the bumper that could have been caused by a fast brush against something. Literally an inch or two difference between a serious wreck and the continuation of the journey. On to Katie’s house and park in front of the vacant lot next door.
Tuesday, October 11th, I am invited to join Katie and Justice on an outing that includes a trip to Saddle Mountain to secure things on their property there. I had dressed to run errands with Clifford, so do a bit of tip-toeing through the snow to take photos in my street shoes.
Then we go on to Quinns’ Hotsprings to soak in the hot water and savor an adult beverage before driving back to Missoula.
Wednesday, October 12th is errand day. We take Terry to Les Schwab to have tires flipped, run errands, and then out to see Mom. She is doing much better. She shows us her current projects and then while Clifford naps, she and I visit and play cribbage, which she wins. The hardest part of being gone all winter is not being able to see her until spring. Then on back to Les Schwab to pick Terry up and back to Katie’s place.
Thursday, October 13th, Rollie comes and helps us put in the new converter in trade for a cup of fresh-made organic French press coffee. By 1:00 we are packed up and ready to roll. Very pretty autumn colors along the Clark Fork River as we drive I-90 east toward Deer Lodge, our first gas stop. From there onward, it is quite windy; we are glad to reach the junction of I-90 and hwy 1, as there is a rest stop near the junction where we will spend the night.