Back to Sloway – August 2019

Thursday August 8: My daughter Becka and I have had a great time visiting long-time friends in Pasco, Washington, but she needs to get back to her summer job in Wallace and it is time for me to see how “holding-down-the-fort” has gone for Clifford at Sloway Campground in western Montana.

When Becka and I leave Pasco, she takes a scenic detour that takes us to a self-serve produce stand where we buy melons, blueberries, and honey, and then to a produce store full of good-to-eat food, where I buy more honey. What a fun detour.

Self-serve produce stand

When we get as far as Coeur d Alene, Becka takes me to this cool place along Coeur d Alene Lake where we sit on a platform above the water to have our very extra delicious lunch and adult beverages. My goodness, traveling with Becka is So.Much.Fun!

A cool place along Coeur d Alene Lake

Back in Wallace, we unload stuff at my daughter Katie’s Bernard Building, as Becka and I will be moving over there from the 4th Street house where she has been staying. Her apartment is next to the big central kitchen and I will spend tonight in a smaller, but very sweet apartment, just down the hall. Becka’s apartment is topsy-turvey at the moment, full of stuff from the previous owners/tenants. I spend the afternoon, while she is at work, cleaning and reorganizing, so by the time she gets off work, it looks quite nice and homey.

Daughter Merri is also in Wallace, working this weekend as a cook at the same place where Becka works. When the girls get off work, we go up on the roof of the Bernard Building, four stories up, relaxing in the cool of the night as we share a bottle of orange muscato. Too late, too tired for anything else, we soon all go off to bed.

Wallace, Idaho

Friday August 9: Becka makes a really great breakfast for me, Merri, and herself. (Katie is sick, so couldn’t join us.) We run errands around town and had planned to go out to eat lunch before I leave for Sloway, but every eatery is either closed or too busy. We buy food at Harvest Foods and have a picnic in Becka’s front room instead, which worked out just fine.

On the way back to Sloway, I stop at the artesian well, Elmer’s Fountain, not far from Wallace. The water there is so good and the place has a pleasing ambiance. I notice a trail that I have not seen before and am tempted to follow it, but instincts tell me that I should head on back to Sloway.

I have a relaxed drive over Lookout Pass, back to Montana, where Clifford is eager to hear about my travels. Traveling was fun, but it is also good to be back “home.”

Clark Fork River at Sloway Campground in western Montana

Sloway to Wallace – August 2019

Friday August 2: Today is a day of walkabouts taking photos, mostly of the Clark Fork River at the Sloway Campground where Clifford and I are camped, just off I-90 and a little east of St. Regis, Montana. Since we have had several travel days, I have a to-do list of things that were put on a back-burner, and most of these are taken care of today. Clifford has his project list, mainly ham radio and playing his dulcimer.

Campsite at Sloway Campground
Clark Fork River
Clark Fork River
Clark Fork River

Saturday August 3: This morning I take coffee and journal and go to the picnic table by the river to sit in the sunshine while I sip and write. After breakfast, I work on more of my projects, including backing a day pack for my trip to Wallace, Idaho, to visit my daughter Katie and her family, and daughter Becka, who is spending the summer in Wallace, working and visiting Montana/Idaho family.

View as I sit and write in the journal

Although I had planned to leave for Wallace tomorrow morning, my daughters convince me that I should come over this afternoon, as there will be a live band playing on the streets this evening. So, I finish packing and getting things ready for Clifford to be on his own for a few days.

It is a lovely drive to Wallace, I-90 winding its way through the Coeur d Alene and St. Joe Mountains and over Lookout Pass into Idaho. At Wallace, Katie and her husband Jeremy show me around the three-story brick apartment building that they have just purchased. It has an interesting history in that a large family lived there and then the building was apparently abandoned with food still in the cupboards, clothing still in the closets, dishes and books and other personal items still in place as if the family expected to return any moment. While there may be a perfectly ordinary explanation, the place has an ambiance of intrigue.

I do laundry while Katie and Becka finish their evening jobs, then we listen and dance to music until the bands wrap things up – late!

Katie and Becka

I stay with Becka at Katie’s 4th Street house, which happens to be the house where Clifford and I lived in the upstairs apartment when we lived in Wallace a few years back. There is a bit of nostalgia in being in Wallace and staying in the 4th Street house. And I love having this time with my girls!

Heading West – July to August 2019

Monday July 29: After Clifford and I leave the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival venue in the Bitterroot Valley, we head to Missoula for multiple errands, including new tires for Cougar at Les Schwab, and then spend the night in the Bretz RV & Marine parking lot. We bought Cougar here exactly a year ago, so it’s kind of a fitting one-year celebration.

My car, which I only use during the months in Montana, is making a nasty sound when I use the brakes, so we take it to Les Schwab on Tuesday for an inspection, and as we expected, new brakes are a priority for safety. They can do the work tomorrow morning if I am there before opening, so we spend another night at Bretz.

Wednesday July 31: I set the alarm, make coffee, and leave for Les Schwab, arriving before opening and being the first person in line. It is a good thing I am armed with cell and journal and an AARP magazine to read, as it is three hours later when my car is finally ready.

Clifford and I leave Bretz by noon and meet my daughter Ang in Alberton, thirty miles west of Missoula. It is great to have a bit of time to visit with her and we share a really good pizza before continuing west to Quartzflat Campground, another twenty miles to the west. This is a very convenient stop for travelers along the I-90 corridor, right at the exit to the rest area. We are spending the night here and we make our way to the back loop furthest from the highway and overlooking the Clark Fork River below.

Overnight at Quartzflat
Evening at Quartzflat

Thursday August 1: This morning we leave Quartzflat and continue another ten miles west to the Sloway exit. This is the first time we have camped here, and we pick the more open loop with pull-through spots, more convenient for setting up and also easy access to the Clark Fork River.

The Clark Fork River in western Montana
Camping at Sloway
Easy access to the river from our campsite

Shortly after arriving, my daughter Becka calls; she and her sister Katie and Katie’s boys are at St. Regis, only five miles further west, and they are coming here for a picnic. What a fun fun fun surprise! I am delighted to see my daughters and grandsons. We have a great potluck picnic, mostly yummy stuff that the girls brought, as we sit at a picnic table right near the river. What a happy start to camping here at Sloway.

Picnic with five of my most favorite people in the world
Afternoon light on the Clark Fork River

The rest of the day, I explore and take photos, and then finish edits to Ang’s second trilogy, Emperors and Exiles, (a good read for those who love epic fantasy), while Clifford sets up his ham radios and delves in to flying software.

Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival – July 2019

Friday July 26: A quiet morning walk is a good way for me to start the day, taking photos while everything is quiet and in readiness for the beginning of the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival here in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. Here and there, other early-birds are walking their dogs or already getting together to jam.

The Bitterroot Mountains are the backdrop to the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival
The stage is ready and waiting for the performers

During the day, more and more RV’s arrive… everything from people camping in tents, cars, and vans, to motor homes and travel trailers of all sizes and ages. The smaller rigs go up the mountain to find the best level spots that they can, while the parking area where we are fills up with bigger rigs.

The parking area fills up.

In the early evening, Clifford and I take our folding chairs to the stage area and join my brother Rollie to listen to the bands that will be playing tonight. Over the course of the weekend, there will be many good bands onstage, from local groups to those coming across the country to play here. It is all enjoyable. A big bag of kettlecorn tops off the fun. At sunset, I walk out to the field where great color over the Bitterroot Mountains casts a glow on the field below where day visitors are parked.

sunset color

Saturday July 27: I have a very restless night because of some unexplained beeping. I get up, but I can’t tell if it is us or one of the RV’s next to us, since we are packed in like sardines. I finally get up and go for a pre-sunrise walk.

Pre-sunrise walk

The onstage bands start earlier today. My sister Nancy comes to join us for the day. Rollie and his little dog Ninja are already set up when Clifford, Nancy, and I join him. It is hot in the sunshine, but breaks for water and snacks and more popcorn, as well as listening to the bands, make the day quite enjoyable.

In the afternoon, we join Rollie at his motor home as a member of his little impromptu band brings pie and ice cream. What a treat! The evening bands are especially good and it is late by time Nancy leaves and the rest of us back go back to our campers. Jamming continues into the wee hours.

One of my favorite bands – Kevin Pace and The Early Edition

Sunday July 28: I am up early enough to catch sunrise over the Sapphire mountains to the east, squeezing through a gap in the straw bales at the end of the row.

Sapphire Mountains to the east

Gospel music starts the day, followed by a raffle and several onstage bands before the event winds down. Clifford, Rollie, and I help with tear down before enjoying a treat of root beer floats with a couple of Rollie’s bluegrass friends. By evening, almost everyone has left and the place is but a ghost of what it was. There are only a handful of us who will linger, staying overnight and leaving in the morning.

Our last night at the Hardtimes venue

Leaving Bass Creek – July 2019

Wednesday July 24: I spent last night at my my daughter Ang’s place, sleeping in Terry, the 30-year-old travel trailer that we gave her when we got Cougar a year ago. Ang makes coffee for us and we sit outside to enjoy the freshness of the morning. I help with a few chores around her place before she makes lunch using fresh beets and greens from her greenhouse.

Although I’d like to stay longer, Clifford and I have to get ready for our next move. In the mid-afternoon, I head back to our campsite in the Bass Creek Recreation Area, enjoying the peaceful drive through the mountains. In the evening, Clifford and I organize and pack up as much as possible for an early start tomorrow.

Thursday July 25: I am up earlier than usual this morning and take time to go to Bass Creek, following the path that leads out from the back of our camp. I want to get a couple more photos and spend some quiet time there before we leave. As I walk back toward our campsite, I can hear my brother Rollie’s dog barking, and it turns out that a moose walked right alongside the motor home on its way to the creek. I must have just missed it!

Morning at Bass Creek
Bass Creek

Our destination this morning is the Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival south of Hamilton, Montana, in the Bitterroot Valley. We get a later start than planned, but enjoy the drive down through the valley. The Bitterroot Mountains are impressive, to say the least.

Bitterroot Mountains
Homestead with a view

We arrive at the Hardtimes location in time to choose a spot in the parking area with its boundary of round straw bales. Although it is not one of the pretty spots we’ve been able to find in previous years, this time we have Cougar and need more space, so we have decided to park where it is level with less wrangling and leveling involved. I’m grateful for the tall Ponderosa that will provide shade part of the day.

Cougar and friends in the parking area at Hardtimes Bluegrass Festival

After we get set up, I find Rollie camped almost exactly where we were last year. I am glad he has such a nice spot.

As the afternoon goes on, many other folks arrive and the parking area is side-by-side RV’s. Bluegrass tunes fill the air as musicians get out their instruments and begin jamming. A nice group of folks gather at Rollie’s motor home, and I join them for a bit, but mostly I don’t know the tunes that they play, so after awhile I head back to Cougar to make dinner for us and for Rollie. We sit outside in the shade of the awning to eat, and tonight it is my turn to win at cribbage. Later, I walk out away from the RV’s at dusk to take photos of the mountains and the evening light.

The Bitterroot Valley at dusk

The scheduled on-stage music starts tomorrow, but tonight jamming continues until the wee hours.

Fun with Family Days – July 2019

Wednesday July 17: This morning my brother Rollie and his little dog Ninja come out to the Bass Creek Recreation Area (Charles Waters Campground) in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana where Clifford and I are camped, as of yesterday afternoon. After he arrives and gets his motor home set up, he takes me to our sister’s place where my car has been stored all winter. All we are doing is getting the battery out to trade in on a new one. I say all, as I stand and watch as he wrestles with the tight space and the difficulties of getting the battery out.

Back at camp, we get out our instruments to play some bluegrass music. I’ve gotten better with playing fiddle tunes on the viola, so it is a lot of fun to get together. For dinner, we sit at the picnic table at our site, and I almost get skunked at cribbage.

Getting the instruments out

Thursday July 18: Clifford and I make a trip into Missoula to get a new battery for my car and we go to Barnes & Nobles for our bookstore fix. Back at camp, Rollie and I play music again, dinner at the picnic table again, and I lose at cribbage again. LOL

Friday July 19: Rollie puts the new battery in my car, so now I have wheels. In the evening, several of my siblings and their spouses come to our campsite for a potluck dinner. So fun to chat with all of them, and I am so busy talking and eating that I don’t take enough photos!

The guys at the family potluck

Saturday July 20: Today is Alberton Railroad Days, a money-raiser for the town of Alberton, Montana. My daughter, Ang, is the president of the non-profit that puts on this event. Vendors, music, a parade, an Antique Auto show, and a shoot-out are among the activities. Rollie and I play bluegrass music as our contribution. After he and I play for our allotted time, he goes off to play with the Old Time Fiddlers, while I join up with another daughter, Merri, to look for the Golden Spike, which has been hidden with tricky clues to its whereabouts. No one finds the Golden Spike, so the pot will be bigger next year. It is late by time Rollie and I return to camp at Bass Creek.

Merri and I look for the Golden Spike

Sunday July 21: Today good friends come to visit. Ken and I have been friends since we were in 7th grade orchestra together. Ken, his sweet wife, Shelley Anne, and I hike up the Bass Creek Trail to a lovely calm section below a waterfall. It is so enjoyable to spent time together, having known each other for many decades.

Monday July 22: Today Rollie and I drive out to see our sister, Lillian, who lives not far from where our dad grew up, and about fifteen miles from where we are camped. We have lunch on the patio, appreciating the time together. While Lillian and I do some of my mending, Rollie plays fiddle tunes for us on his mandolin.

Lillian Carol Rollie
Lillian’s daisies

Back at camp, our sister, Nancy, comes out and we hike up the trail, enjoying the sounds of the creek tumbling alongside us. Back at camp, while I make nachos for dinner for all of us, Rollie and Nancy play their mandolins. What fun family days!

Bass Creek tumbles alongside the trail

Bass Creek: We Have Arrived – July 2019

Tuesday July 16: It is a beautiful morning at Divide Bridge Campground, near the small town of Divide in southwest Montana, but Clifford and I are continuing the journey north today. We have a little breakfast, make tea and lemonade for the thermoses, and are on our way by 10:00 a.m. We travel north on I-15 to the junction onto I-90, then northwest all the way to Missoula.

Morning light on the trees at Divide Bridge Campground

Jet trails mar the sky, so I don’t take many photos, but I am happy to catch a glimpse of the Clark Fork River, a very important waterway in western Montana. This portion of the journey is pleasant with enjoyable scenery, as well as not much traffic and not so windy as earlier segments of the trip.

Clark Fork River along I-90
Montana Scenics

Arriving in Missoula, we take Highway 93 south down the Bitterroot Valley, with the great Bitterroot Mountains to the west and the Sapphire Mountains to the east. I feel a connection to this valley, as my mother was born and grew up here, and my father’s parents moved to this valley when he was a child, so he also was raised here. Two of my sisters, as well as cousins, nephews and nieces, still live in the Bitterroot Valley.

Bitterroot Mountains

Our destination is the Charles Waters Campground in the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains about 25 miles south of Missoula. We arrive early enough to have a good choice of spots and are pleased to find a pull-through site that we especially like the looks of. It is a roomy spot with a mix of sun and shade, a view of the woods, and a path to nearby Bass Creek.

Our campsite at Charles Waters Campground

We get set up and then Clifford works with his ham radios while I go for a walk to explore our surroundings. In the early evening, we leave to meet up with a couple of my delightful daughters for dinner at the Lumber Jack Saloon north of Lolo, Montana. It is a bit further than we thought and there is much traffic on highway 93, so we are a bit late getting there, but once we arrive, we have an absolutely marvelous time with my girls!

Delightful Daughters

We have tasty steak sandwiches, good Montana beer on tap, and dance to music from the jutebox. The lighting wasn’t great for photos, but that is a small matter compared to the great fun time there. As Clifford and I head back to our campsite, we catch the last of the sunset over Lolo Peak.

Sunset in the Bitterroot Valley

Back at camp, while Clifford works with his ham radio setup, I edit photos to send to my girls, then read “Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe” until bedtime.

Montana We Are Here – July 2019

Monday July 15: Today is a long day of driving as we leave southern Idaho and cross into Montana, traveling north on I-15, arriving at Divide Bridge Campground in the mid-afternoon.

Southwest Montana

This is a lovely BLM campground in a very scenic area alongside the Big Hole River, just a few miles from the little town of Divide, Montana. The campground is well-maintained with lawns and flowers on one loop, and left more natural on the other loop. Clean restrooms and good water are much appreciated.

We are happy to have arrived early enough to get a spot by the Big Hole River, in fact it is the spot we had the very first time we stayed here. It is not so hot here as it has been thus far on the trip, a pleasant relief. The mosquitoes aren’t too bad when we first arrive, so once we are set up, we sit outside for awhile, happy to be here with time to relax this afternoon.

Enjoying Divide Bridge Campground

When it starts to rain, the mosquitoes become problematic, so Clifford goes inside to take a nap and I walk about to take photos of the river and the flowers. Back at the campsite, since I didn’t have coffee this morning, I make a French press coffee and do some editing before starting dinner. After dinner, dishes are done, awing is in, herbs are in. We are mostly ready for leaving in the morning. We like this campground and wouldn’t mind staying longer, but we have places to go and people to see…. Family awaits in northwest Montana.

Big Hole River at Divide Bridge Campground

Diamond to Southern Idaho – July 2019

Sunday July 14: As soon as we get up, I make tea and coffee for the thermoses. After yogurt and fruit for breakfast, we pack up the little that needs packing – we weren’t here long enough to really unpack much. Everything is in place and we are ready to leave Diamond Campground, south of Spanish Forks, Utah, by 9:00 a.m. This was such a beautiful spot, I am sad to leave.

Packed and ready to leave Diamond Campground, south of Spanish Forks, Utah
Leaving the campground toward Highway 6

Heading north on Highway 6, we soon enter I-15 and everything is good until we get to Provo. Without warning, we enter a construction area where the lanes narrow and curve this way and that, and the speed limit does not slow traffic down nearly enough. We are nearly side-swiped by a semi trying to come alongside, but he pulls back and we make it through okay. After miles and miles of fast-paced traffic, it is such a relief when we finally make it through the Salt Lake City complex.

We stop for lunch at Tremonton, Utah, then continue on north, still on I-15 until we reach the Devils Creek Reservoir, north of Malad City in southern Idaho.

Southern Idaho landscape north of Malad City

We pull off to check out boondocking here, and driving past the marina and the RV park, we find a fishing access at the far end of the reservoir. We park here and while Clifford naps, I walk down to the reservoir to take a few photos. The water is low, but the hills are very green for this time of year. I talk to a nice family of grandparents, parents, and kids playing and fishing at the water’s edge.

Devils Creek Reservoir

Clifford is refreshed from his nap and we continue on.

Heading north on I-15

A big thunderstorm near Pocatello, Idaho, cools the air from upper 90’s to mid 70’s, but once we are out of the storm, the temperature climbs again.

Thunderstorm near Pocatello, Idaho
The landscape changes as we near Idaho Falls
Beneath the sagebrush are glimpses of great lava fields

We are grateful to arrive at the Idaho Falls Walmart and find a spot to park along the edge of the lot where there is strip of grass, a few trees, and thistles blooming on the ridge above. We stock up on supplies and sundries at Walmart, then walk to the nearby Panda express for dinner.

Thistles bloom at the edge

Back at Cougar, we sit outside to enjoy the lovely sunset and the pleasant coolness of the evening, chatting as we watch the moon play hide ‘n seek with the clouds.

Great sunset seen from Idaho Falls Walmart parking lot

A hiss gives us but a second warning before the sprinkler system comes on. Our backsides are soaked by water hitting us full-blast as we dash inside, rescuing cell phones and books as we go.

It is not a restful night, as each time the sprinkler comes on, the water hitting the side of Cougar is deafening. There is also a lot of traffic, lights, and city noise – but it is convenient and free.

Diamond Campground-Utah – July 2019

Saturday July 13: Clifford and I are spending today camped at Diamond Campground off highway 6, south of Spanish Forks, Utah. This is a beautiful campground and a day here is a day of restoration before we continue the northward journey for the summer.

For a morning walk, I hike to the bluff above the campground, walk the length of it, enjoying thistles in bloom and various meadow grasses that live here. In the distance are the mountains of northern Utah.

Bluff above Diamond Campground
Mountains of northern Utah in the distance

Eventually I find a trail that leads down off the bluff, coming out at the far end of the campground. As I walk back to our campsite, I notice the great variety of trees that grow here, providing beauty, shade, and privacy for all of us who are camped here. After breakfast, Clifford and I hike a ways on the Discovery Trail, which runs along the creek and parallel to the campground. Kiosks along the way provide the history of the area, as well as describing the plants and animals that live here.

A trail off the bluff to campground below
Discovery Trail

In the afternoon, while Clifford works with his ham radios, I edit manuscripts for the authors I am working with. Sitting outside, Clifford plays his dulcimer and I review photos taken this morning. A thunderstorm with wind and rain causes us to take the awning in and move our activities inside. However, after the storm passes, we are treated to a most gorgeous double rainbow.

Double rainbow after the thunderstorm

Right at sunset, I head out for one more walk, taking the Discovery Trail up an incline to a different bluff. My feet and legs are thoroughly wet from the grasses along the trail, but it was well worth the effort for the view.

Dusk on the hillside above camp
Fading colors of sunset